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What Is the Average Student Loan Debt for Veterinarians?

Veterinarians in the class of 2018 who took out student loans finished school with an average debt of $183,014.
Oct. 30, 2019
Loans, Student Loans
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The average debt for veterinarians in the class of 2018 who took out student loans was $183,014, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association — an increase of almost 10% from borrowers in the class of 2017.

Including students who didn’t borrow drops the average student loan debt for veterinarians to $152,398. Neither total includes any loans from undergraduate studies. The cost of vet school typically exceeds $200,000 on average.

A veterinarian with the average student loan debt of $183,014 would have monthly payments of more than $2,130 on a standard, 10-year repayment term, assuming current federal student loan interest rates. The total amount repaid would be $255,900.

» MORE: How to pay for vet school

How veterinary school debt compares

The average student loan debt for vets is substantial, but they’re far from the only health professionals who finance a large portion of their education. Here’s how veterinarians’ debt stacked up against other medical professions in the class of 2018:

Sources: Association of American Medical Colleges, American Dental Education Association, American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy.

Veterinarian totals exceed the average debt for some other advanced degrees, such as for law school or an MBA, though those programs take less time to complete.

Undergraduate students in the class of 2018 with loans borrowed an average of $29,200, according to The Institute of College Access & Success.

Managing veterinary school loan debt

Most health professionals borrow student loans, including almost 83% of veterinarians in the class of 2018. Managing debt can be especially difficult for vets because they make less money than those in other medical fields.

Managing debt can be especially difficult for vets because they make less money than those in other medical fields.

For example, pharmacists take on roughly $16,000 less in debt than veterinarians on average. But the median pharmacist salary in 2018 was $126,120, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — about $32,300 more than the median pay for veterinarians of $93,830.

That median salary represents what all vets earn; those just starting out make much less. The AVMA reports an average starting salary for veterinarians of $76,633. Vets struggling with debt because of their salaries should consider these repayment options for vet school loans:

  • Look for loan forgiveness programs. Because vet hospitals are usually privately owned, most veterinarians can’t qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness. But those who work for a nonprofit or government entity, such as the USDA, can have their loans forgiven tax-free after 10 years of qualifying payments. Some states offer forgiveness programs as well. For example, Minnesota veterinarians can receive up to $15,000 forgiven annually by working with large animals in rural areas.
  • Enroll in an income-driven repayment plan. Federal loans are typically the best vet school student loan because you can make payments based on your income. For example, under the Revised Pay As You Earn, or REPAYE, income-driven plan, a vet with the average starting salary of $76,633 could expect to pay less than $500 a month. These plans will forgive any remaining debt after 20 or 25 years, but that amount is taxable.

» MORE: PAYE vs. REPAYE: Which is right for you?

If you feel comfortable with your loan payment — or just want to get rid of vet school debt — you can look for ways to pay off loans faster. For example, depending on your salary structure, you could work more hours or perform additional procedures and put that extra money toward your debt.

If your debt-to-income ratio is manageable, and you don’t need federal loan benefits, refinancing vet school loans could make sense and save you money as well. Generally, refinance lenders look for borrowers with a DTI below 50%.

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