Loan forgiveness for doctors typically requires agreeing to practice in the public sector or an underserved area for a certain period of time.
If there’s a program that aligns with your career goals, forgiveness can help reduce or eradicate your medical school loan balance.
Moving to a remote location in exchange for loan forgiveness might sound like a no-brainer when you have six-figure medical school debt, but be careful about making career decisions solely based on forgiveness opportunities. If you decide doctor loan forgiveness isn’t for you, consider other strategies like income-driven repayment or student loan refinancing.
Loan forgiveness for doctors
You likely won’t get full medical school loan forgiveness. Most programs require that you make a certain number of payments before qualifying, or limit the amount of debt that can be forgiven. With that in mind, make a plan for how loan forgiveness fits in with your overall strategy for paying off medical school debt.
1. Find loan forgiveness opportunities
The Department of Education and federal and state agencies sponsor dozens of programs offering loan forgiveness for doctors. Generally, you must:
- Work for the government or a nonprofit for at least 10 years, or
- Commit to practicing in an underserved area for at least two years.
Review all of the medical school loan forgiveness programs to see if there’s one with requirements that match your career goals.
2. Check if your loans qualify
Some loan forgiveness programs, including Public Service Loan Forgiveness, are only for federal student loans. Other programs will discharge any qualifying education loan, including private student loans.
Find out if your student loans are federal or private, and what type of loans are eligible for the program you’re interested in.
You have federal loans if you got them by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, each year. You have private student loans if you borrowed from a bank like Sallie Mae, Wells Fargo or Discover. You may have a mix of both federal and private student loans.
3. Maximize your loan forgiveness
You may be able to maximize the amount of loan forgiveness you can get by first refinancing or switching to income-driven repayment. The type of student loans you have — federal or private — dictate the payoff strategy you should pursue.
- Income-driven repayment. Switch to a federal income-driven repayment plan if the program you’re pursuing is for federal loans only, such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness. An income-driven plan will reduce your monthly payments while you work toward meeting the program requirements, increasing the amount that is forgiven.
- Student loan refinancing. Consider medical school loan refinancing if the program you’re pursuing is for both federal and private student loans. Many of these programs cap the amount they’ll forgive, so minimizing interest will maximize the amount of principal that will be forgiven. Double-check with the forgiveness program to make sure that refinancing won’t disqualify you.