Eighty-five percent of 2019 pharmacy school graduates took out loans to pay for their pharmacy degree program, according to a survey by the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy. Among them, the estimated average pharmacist student loan debt at graduation was $172,329.
With a $172,329 student loan balance, you’d owe about $1,935 a month on the standard, 10-year federal repayment plan, assuming a 6.25% average interest rate.
Average pharmacist student loan debt
The average pharmacist student loan debt is higher ($198,560) among those who attended a private college and lower ($144,083) among those who attended a public school.
Pharmacy school graduates tend to have larger student loan balances than people whose highest level of education is a bachelor’s degree. But compared with some other health professionals, pharmacists have less student debt, on average.
Compared with some other health professionals, pharmacists have less student debt, on average.
Here’s how the average pharmacist student loan debt compares with other fields for the class of 2018, the most recent year all of the data is available.
- Average pharmacy school debt: $163,494.
- Average medical school debt: $196,520.
- Average dental school debt: $285,184.
- Average veterinary school debt: $183,014.
- Average bachelor’s degree debt: $29,200.
Sources: Association of American Medical Colleges, American Dental Education Association,American Veterinary Medical Association, The Institute for College Access and Success
How to tackle pharmacy student loan debt
Repaying pharmacy school debt can feel overwhelming. But there are several options for repaying pharmacy school loans. The best repayment approach for you depends on your post-graduation plans.
- If you’re doing a residency program: Switching to a federal income-driven repayment plan can help make payments more affordable on a pharmacy resident’s stipend. These plans cap monthly payments at 10% to 20% of your income and forgive any amount that remains after 20 or 25 years, depending on the plan. Once you complete a residency, consider pursuing a loan forgiveness program or refinancing.
- If you’re working in the public sector or in an underserved area: You may be eligible for a pharmacist loan forgiveness program. The most popular program is Public Service Loan Forgiveness, which offers tax-free forgiveness after you make 10 years’ worth of payments while working for the government or a nonprofit. To maximize forgiveness, make qualifying payments on an income-driven repayment plan.
- If you’re working in the private sector: Student loan refinancing can save you money in interest and help you become debt-free faster. To refinance student loans, you typically need good credit — at least a score in the high 600s — and a debt-to-income ratio of 50% or lower. Once you refinance, you’re no longer eligible for income-driven repayment and federal forgiveness programs, including Public Service Loan Forgiveness.