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6 Best Pharmacy School Loans of April 2024

Government programs can make federal loans the best choice for most pharmacy students.

NerdWallet
By
Last updated on August 29, 2023
Edited by
✅ Fact checked and reviewed
Des Toups
Edited by
✅ Fact checked and reviewed

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Featured lendersSee all partners
College Ave Pharmacy Loan
College Ave Pharmacy Loan
College Ave Pharmacy Loan
4.5
NerdWallet rating
Best for students who'll need extra time before starting repayment.
Visit Partner

Best Pharmacy School Loans

Lender
NerdWallet Rating
Min. credit score
Fixed APR
Variable APR
Learn more
Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan

Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan

Read review
Best for All borrowers as a first option + Manageable payments post-graduation

None

5.50-7.05%

N/A

Federal Grad PLUS Loan

Federal Grad PLUS Loan

5.0
/5
Best for Manageable payments post-graduation

None

7.54-7.54%

N/A

College Ave Graduate Student Loan

College Ave Graduate Student Loan

Check rate
on College Ave's website
on College Ave's website
COMPARE RATES
on Credible’s website
on Credible’s website
5.0
/5
Best for Private loans for borrowers with excellent credit

Mid-600s

4.07-14.49%

5.59-14.49%

Check rate
on College Ave's website
on College Ave's website
Ascent Graduate and Health Professions Student Loan

Ascent Graduate and Health Professions Student Loan

5.0
/5
Best for Private loans for borrowers with excellent credit

Low-Mid 600s

5.09-14.76%

7.22-15.18%

Sallie Mae Undergraduate Student Loan

Sallie Mae Undergraduate Student Loan

Check rate
on Sallie Mae's website
on Sallie Mae's website
4.5
/5
Best for Private pharmacy school loans

Mid-600's

4.50-15.49%

6.37-16.70%

Check rate
on Sallie Mae's website
on Sallie Mae's website
PNC Private Student Loan

PNC Private Student Loan

3.5
/5
Best for Private pharmacy school loans

Does not disclose

4.74-11.44%

4.84-11.54%

Our pick for

All borrowers as a first option

Federal direct unsubsidized loans should be your top choice if low-cost federal health professions student loans aren’t available for your pharmacy program.

Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan
Read review
Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan

Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan

5.0
Min. credit score

None

Fixed APR

5.50-7.05%

Variable APR

N/A

Key facts

Graduate students qualify for unsubsidized federal loans only.

Pros
  • More flexible repayment options for struggling borrowers than other lenders.
  • Subsidized loans do not collect interest while in school or during deferment.
  • Lower interest rates than many private lenders.
Cons
  • You pay an origination fee.
Qualifications
  • No credit check or minimum income is needed to borrow.
  • Loan amounts for undergraduates: $5,500 year one, $6,500 year two, $7,500 year three and thereafter, up to a total of $31,000
  • Independent students and graduate students have higher loan limits.
  • Undergraduate interest rate fixed at 3.73%, while grad students get higher 5.28% rate
Available Term Lengths10 to 25 years once repayment begins, depending on the repayment plan.
Read Full Review

Our pick for

Manageable payments post-graduation

If you want to ensure your payments are manageable after pharmacy school, you can base them on your salary with a federal income-driven plan.

Federal Grad PLUS Loan

Federal Grad PLUS Loan

Min. credit score

None

Fixed APR

7.54-7.54%

Variable APR

N/A

Key factsBest for graduate students who need to borrow beyond the federal unsubsidized loan limit.
Pros
  • More flexible repayment options for struggling borrowers compared with private lenders.
  • All borrowers who attend a school authorized to receive federal aid can qualify.
Cons
  • May have higher interest rates compared with private lenders.
  • You pay an origination fee.
  • You can’t see if you’ll qualify without a hard credit check.
Qualifications
  • Grad PLUS loan borrowers must not have adverse credit history.
  • Borrowers with adverse credit history can still receive a grad PLUS loan by enlisting a co-signer without adverse credit history or documenting extenuating circumstances for their credit history.
  • Loan amounts: Total cost of attendance minus other financial aid.
Available Term Lengths10 to 25 years once repayment begins, depending on the repayment plan.
Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan

Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan

Min. credit score

None

Fixed APR

5.50-7.05%

Variable APR

N/A

Key factsBest first option for all student loan borrowers.
Pros
  • More flexible repayment options for struggling borrowers than other lenders.
  • Subsidized loans do not collect interest while in school or during deferment.
  • Lower interest rates than many private lenders.
Cons
  • You pay an origination fee.
Qualifications
  • No credit check or minimum income is needed to borrow.
  • Loan amounts for undergraduates: $5,500 year one, $6,500 year two, $7,500 year three and thereafter, up to a total of $31,000
  • Independent students and graduate students have higher loan limits.
  • Undergraduate interest rate fixed at 3.73%, while grad students get higher 5.28% rate
Available Term Lengths10 to 25 years once repayment begins, depending on the repayment plan.

Our pick for

Private loans for borrowers with excellent credit

Key factsBest for graduate students who'll need extra time before starting repayment.
Pros
  • You can see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.
  • International students can qualify with a co-signer.
  • Nine-month grace period is longer than other lenders offer.
Cons
  • You must be at least halfway through your repayment term before you can request a co-signer release.
Qualifications
  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: Mid-700s.
  • Minimum income: $35,000 per year.
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 up to the total cost of attendance.
Available Term Lengths5, 8, 10 or 15 years
DisclaimerCollege Ave Student Loans products are made available through Firstrust Bank, member FDIC, First Citizens Community Bank, member FDIC, or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC.. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply. As certified by your school and less any other financial aid you might receive. Minimum $1,000. Rates shown are for the College Ave Undergraduate Loan product and include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. If a payment is returned, you will lose this benefit. Variable rates may increase after consummation. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Flat Repayment Option with an 8-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 7.78% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 54 monthly payments of $25 while in school, followed by 96 monthly payments of $176.21 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $18,266.38. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 8.35% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $179.18 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $21,501.54. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary. Information advertised valid as of 3/7/2024. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Approved interest rate will depend on the creditworthiness of the applicant(s), lowest advertised rates only available to the most creditworthy applicants and require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.
Ascent Graduate and Health Professions Student Loan

Ascent Graduate and Health Professions Student Loan

Min. credit score

Low-Mid 600s

Fixed APR

5.09-14.76%

Variable APR

7.22-15.18%

Key factsBest for graduate students who want flexible payment options.
Pros
  • Forbearance of 24 months is longer than many lenders offer.
  • Grace period of 9 months is longer than many lenders offer.
  • You can see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.
Cons
  • You must be enrolled at least half-time to qualify.
Qualifications
  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: Not available.
  • Minimum income: Not available.
  • Loan amounts: up to $400,000.
Available Term Lengths7, 10, 12 or 15 years
DisclaimerAscent’s undergraduate and graduate student loans are funded by Bank of Lake Mills or DR Bank, each Member FDIC. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions. Certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. For Ascent Terms and Conditions please visit: Ascent Services Terms of Use - Ascent Funding . Rates are effective as of 4/1/2024 and reflect an automatic payment discount of either 0.25% (for credit-based loans) OR 1.00% (for undergraduate outcomes-based loans). Automatic Payment Discount is available if the borrower is enrolled in automatic payments from their personal checking account and the amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month. For Ascent rates and repayment examples please visit: Affordable Rates & Repayment Examples (APR) | Ascent Funding . 1% Cash Back Graduation Reward subject to terms and conditions. Cosigned Credit-Based Loan student must meet certain minimum credit criteria. The minimum score required is subject to change and may depend on the credit score of your cosigner. Lowest rates require interest-only payments, the shortest loan term, a cosigner, and are only available for our most creditworthy applicants and cosigners with the highest average credit scores. Actual APR offered may be higher or lower than the repayment examples above, based on the amount of time you spend in school and any grace period you have before repayment begins.

Our pick for

Private pharmacy school loans

These lenders offer private loans with unique features for pharmacy students, like higher loan limits and letting you defer payments during residency.

Sallie Mae Undergraduate Student Loan
Check rate
on Sallie Mae's website
on Sallie Mae's website
Sallie Mae Undergraduate Student Loan

Sallie Mae Undergraduate Student Loan

Min. credit score

Mid-600's

Fixed APR

4.50-15.49%

Variable APR

6.37-16.70%

Key facts

Rating and details displayed are for Sallie Mae's private student loan. Sallie Mae’s health professionals student loan lets you defer payments for up to four years during a residency or fellowship.

Pros
  • One of the few lenders to provide loans to part-time students.
  • Non-U.S. citizens, including DACA students, who live in the U.S. and attend school in the U.S. can apply with a qualified co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
Cons
  • You can't see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.
Qualifications
  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: Does not disclose.
  • Minimum income: Did not disclose.
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 up to 100% of the school-certified expenses.
Available Term Lengths10 to 15 years
DisclaimerLowest rates shown include the auto debit. Advertised APRs for undergraduate students assume a $10,000 loan to a student who attends school for 4 years and has no prior Sallie Mae-serviced loans. Interest rates for variable rate loans may increase or decrease over the life of the loan based on changes to the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of one percent. Advertised variable rates are the starting range of rates and may vary outside of that range over the life of the loan. Interest is charged starting when funds are sent to the school. With the Fixed and Deferred Repayment Options, the interest rate is higher than with the Interest Repayment Option and Unpaid Interest is added to the loan’s Current Principal at the end of the grace/separation period. To receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate discount, the borrower or cosigner must enroll in auto debit through Sallie Mae. The discount applies only during active repayment for as long as the Current Amount Due or Designated Amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month. It may be suspended during forbearance or deferment. Advertised APRs are valid as of 2/26/2024. Loan amounts: For applications submitted directly to Sallie Mae, loan amount cannot exceed the cost of attendance less financial aid received, as certified by the school. Applications submitted to Sallie Mae through a partner website may be subjected to a lower maximum loan request amount. Miscellaneous personal expenses (such as a laptop) may be included in the cost of attendance for students enrolled at least half-time. Examples of typical costs for a $10,000 Smart Option Student Loan with the most common fixed rate, fixed repayment option, 6-month separation period, and two disbursements: For a borrower with no prior loans and a 4-year in-school period, it works out to a 10.28% fixed APR, 51 payments of $25.00, 119 payments of $182.67 and one payment of $121.71, for a Total Loan Cost of $23,134.44. For a borrower with $20,000 in prior loans and a 2-year in-school period, it works out to a 10.78% fixed APR, 27 payments of $25.00, 179 payments of $132.53 and one payment of $40.35 for a total loan cost of $24,438.22. Loans that are subject to a $50 minimum principal and interest payment amount may receive a loan term that is less than 10 years.
PNC Private Student Loan

PNC Private Student Loan

Min. credit score

Does not disclose

Fixed APR

4.74-11.44%

Variable APR

4.84-11.54%

Key facts

Rating and details displayed are for PNC's private student loan. PNC’s health and medical professions student loan may let you defer payments during residency.

Pros
  • Interest rate discount for autopay is larger than most lenders offer.
Cons
  • No formal forbearance options.
  • You can’t see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.
Qualifications
  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: Did not disclose.
  • Minimum income: Did not disclose.
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 to $50,000.
Available Term Lengths5, 10 or 15 years.

What is the best pharmacy school student loan?

1. Health Professions Student Loans

You may be able to receive a health professions student loan for pharmacy school from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). These loans have a fixed 5% interest rate and don’t accrue interest while you’re in school or during a 12-month grace period, making them the only subsidized loan for graduate students.

You must demonstrate financial need to get a health professions student loan, and not all schools participate in the HRSA’s loan program. Funding amounts vary, so you may need to take on additional debt to pay for your Doctor of Pharmacy, or Pharm.D., degree.

2. Federal Graduate Student Loans

Pharmacy students are eligible for two types of federal student loans.

  • Federal unsubsidized loans. Unsubsidized loans have lower interest rates and fees than PLUS loans, so max these out first. You can get up to $20,500 annually.

  • Federal graduate PLUS loans. If unsubsidized loans won’t cover all your costs, you can take out up to your cost of attendance, minus other aid received, in PLUS loans.

All government loans — including those from the HRSA — can qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Roughly 30% of pharmacists in the class of 2020 plan to work for an employer that could qualify for PSLF, such as a hospital or university, based on data from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy. Stick with federal loans if you’ll be among them.

Federal loans also offer income-driven repayment plans that tie payments to a percentage of your discretionary income, typically 10%. This option can be useful during periods in which your salary might be low, like if you plan to do a one- or two-year post-graduate residency.

If you don’t need federal loan benefits, you can refinance pharmacy school loans with a private lender to save money when you start working.

3. Sallie Mae Health Professions Student Loan

Sallie Mae offers a specific private loan for aspiring health professionals such as pharmacy students. PNC also has a similar products.

Sallie Mae’s health professions loan stands out because it offers options that future pharmacists may value. For example, you can defer payments during residency. You can also apply to remove the co-signer from your loan after making 12 on-time payments, which is faster than the other lenders allow.

4. Ascent Graduate Student Loan

Ascent’s graduate student loan isn’t just for health professionals, but it sets itself apart from other graduate loans by offering more forbearance (24 months) and a longer grace period (nine months). Those benefits may come in handy when repaying pharmacy school loans.

Consider private loans if you don’t need federal benefits and you or a co-signer has excellent credit. You may qualify for a lower rate than the government offers on PLUS loans. Most private lenders also don’t have origination fees, while PLUS loans charge over 4%.

If you don’t need the features of a private health professions loan, shop around to find the least expensive loan possible. Many lenders offer graduate student loans, including College Ave and SoFi.

How to get student loans for pharmacy school

  • Complete the FAFSA to get federal student loans. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is the gateway to most types of federal student aid, including unsubsidized loans, graduate PLUS loans and, typically, health professions student loans.

  • Submit any paperwork for federal health professions loans. If your school participates in the HRSA loan program, it may require a different application form than the FAFSA. Contact your school’s financial aid office to ask about its process.

  • Apply directly with a lender to get private loans. If you’re considering a private pharmacy school loan, look for lenders that let you prequalify. That way you can compare rates without affecting your credit score. Once you’ve found the best option, you’ll likely be able to start the application process on the lender’s website.

Last updated on August 29, 2023

To recap our selections...

NerdWallet's Best Pharmacy School Loans of April 2024

  • Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan: Best for All borrowers as a first option + Manageable payments post-graduation
  • Federal Grad PLUS Loan: Best for Manageable payments post-graduation
  • College Ave Graduate Student Loan: Best for Private loans for borrowers with excellent credit
  • Ascent Graduate and Health Professions Student Loan: Best for Private loans for borrowers with excellent credit
  • Sallie Mae Undergraduate Student Loan: Best for Private pharmacy school loans
  • PNC Private Student Loan: Best for Private pharmacy school loans
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