Survey: Top 10 Professions More Likely to Pursue Student Loan Forgiveness
For many people, student loans are a path to get the necessary educational requirements to pursue a certain profession. While student loan debt amounts vary based on school, such as public vs private, or in-state vs out-of-state, and level of education, it’s possible to take on a lot of student debt relative to your income.
If paying back student loans feels out of reach, student loan forgiveness is something to consider. The U.S. Department of Education has federal programs where federal loan borrowers may take advantage of Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) or forgiveness after 20 to 25 years through an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan.
We’ve compiled the top 10 best loan forgiveness jobs, based on data from our April 2022 forgiveness and refinancing survey.
Physicians have a high average salary, but also a high average debt load thanks to the many years invested into their education. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), a medical education often results in median debt levels of $200,000.
It’s no surprise that 72% of physicians in our survey are pursuing forgiveness, with 64% opting for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). This includes physicians who may work at nonprofit or government hospitals that are eligible for PSLF.
The remaining 8% are pursuing 20 to 25 year forgiveness, or income-driven repayment (IDR) forgiveness.
Average salary: $208,000
Total pursuing forgiveness: 72%
Percent pursuing PSLF: 64%
Percent pursuing IDR forgiveness: 8%
Veterinarians have a unique specialization in helping furry friends. Unfortunately, the high debt levels don’t equate to as high of a salary as other medical professionals. Additionally, many veterinarians may work in private practice and not qualify for PSLF, therefore must rely on IDR forgiveness instead.
Our survey found that 74% of veterinarians are pursuing student loan forgiveness with the majority (63%) pursuing IDR forgiveness. Only 11% are working toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF).
Average salary: $100,370
Total pursuing forgiveness: 74%
Percent pursuing PSLF: 11%
Percent pursuing IDR forgiveness: 63%
Therapists and counselors are in high-demand as they’re filing a much-needed role (thanks to the pandemic’s mental health toll). Unfortunately, therapists and counselors tend to have high debt-to-income (DTI) ratios. They may need to obtain a higher level of education, such as a master’s degree and still may not earn more than around $50,000. It makes sense that a high number, 77%, are pursuing student loan forgiveness.
There’s a fairly even split between PSLF and IDR forgiveness for therapists and counselers. We found that 47% are pursuing PSLF, whereas 30% are pursuing IDR forgiveness.
While many therapists who work in eligible organizations may qualify for PSLF, those who work in private practice need to opt for IDR forgiveness.
Average salary: $48,520
Total pursuing forgiveness: 77%
Percent pursuing PSLF: 47%
Percent pursuing IDR forgiveness: 30%
7. Nonprofit employee
Being a nonprofit employee is one of the signature loan forgiveness jobs for PSLF. So, while a total of 78% of nonprofit employees surveyed are pursuing forgiveness, 65% are pursuing PSLF.
It makes sense considering the main qualification for PSLF is working for a qualifying employer, such as nonprofit organizations or government entities. The remaining 13% of respondents are pursuing forgiveness through an IDR repayment plan.
Average salary: $58,000
Total pursuing forgiveness: 78%
Percent pursuing PSLF: 65%
Percent pursuing IDR forgiveness: 13%
Teachers play a pivotal role in educating future generations. Despite such an important function, many teachers earn a relatively low salary. Depending on the level of education and debt levels, teachers may struggle to pay back student loan debt. The combination makes student loan forgiveness an attractive option.
A total of 79% of teachers surveyed are pursuing forgiveness, with the majority (63%) pursuing PSLF. Some teachers may be confused and opt for Teacher Loan Forgiveness instead of PSLF.
Fifteen percent are pursuing IDR forgiveness but should check to see if they qualify for PSLF, which offers forgiveness after 10 years of service instead of 20 to 25 years.
Total pursuing forgiveness: 79%
Percent pursuing PSLF: 63%
Percent pursuing IDR forgiveness: 15%
5. College faculty or staff
College faculty or staff tend to earn a bit more than those that work in elementary, middle or high schools. On the other hand, those in this profession may need to obtain a master’s degree or doctorate degree to teach at the university level — resulting in higher debt levels with a nominally higher salary.
Because of that, 81% of college faculty or staff surveyed are pursuing forgiveness. In this case, 70% are opting for PSLF, making it one of the top loan forgiveness jobs.
Those who work at a private school won’t qualify for PSLF and may need to turn to IDR forgiveness. Eleven percent of college faculty or staff are pursuing this type of forgiveness.
Average salary: $79,640
Total pursuing forgiveness: 81%
Percent pursuing PSLF: 70%
Percent pursuing IDR forgiveness: 11%
Chiropractors have some of the highest debt-to-income ratios in any medical profession. Despite their level of education, earnings may not reach six-figures. On top of that, unlike physicians who may work at a government or nonprofit hospital, many chiropractors may be in private practice.
While 81% are pursuing forgiveness, it makes sense that the majority, 72%, are pursuing IDR forgiveness, which is available to most federal loan borrowers regardless of their job. Only 9% are pursuing PSLF, which has the employment component that is necessary to qualify.
Average salary: $75,000
Total pursuing forgiveness: 81%
Percent pursuing PSLF: 9%
Percent pursuing IDR forgiveness: 72%
Psychologists may pursue a PsyD or Doctor of Psychology degree and work in a variety of settings. Given the higher level of education and advanced degrees, there may be a high amount of student loan debt as well.
However, psychologists earn less than other medical professionals or health care providers. The high DTI psychologists face makes it one of the major loan forgiveness jobs.
Psychologists may work at a nonprofit or government entity and qualify for PSLF or work in private practice and qualify for IDR. We found that 83% of borrowers in this profession are pursuing forgiveness, which is a good mix of those doing short-term forgiveness with PSLF (52%) and those doing long-term forgiveness through IDR (31%).
Total pursuing forgiveness: 83%
Percent pursuing PSLF: 52%
Percent pursuing IDR forgiveness: 31%
2. Government employee
One of the most prominent loan forgiveness jobs is being a government employee. Though this umbrella term can refer to many different positions, working for the government may mean qualifying for PSLF.
Eighty-six percent of government employees surveyed are pursuing forgiveness, but a whopping 76% of them are opting for PSLF.
That makes sense given that this is the target demo for PSLF. Another 10% are opting for IDR forgiveness. If you fall in this camp, look to see if you qualify for PSLF, which can give you forgiveness after a much shorter time frame.
Average salary: $63,659
Total pursuing forgiveness: 86%
Percent pursuing PSLF: 76%
Percent pursuing IDR forgiveness: 10%
1. Social worker
Social workers perform a meaningful, yet taxing, job that can also include high student debt levels and a low income. Due to the high DTI, 88% of social workers from our survey are pursuing forgiveness, with a total of 69% pursuing PSLF.
Social workers may be employed by a nonprofit or government entity that qualifies. Another 18% are pursuing IDR forgiveness after 20 to 25 years. When it comes to loan forgiveness jobs, social workers come out on top.
Average salary: $50,390
Total pursuing forgiveness: 88%
Percent pursuing PSLF: 69%
Percent pursuing IDR forgiveness: 18%
How to know if you’re eligible for student loan forgiveness?
Whether you find yourself in one of these professions or not, you may wonder if you qualify for student loan forgiveness.
Private student loans don’t qualify for PSLF. However, federal student loans from the federal government can make you eligible for student loan forgiveness.
As part of the eligibility requirements for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program, you must work full-time at an eligible organization such as a nonprofit or government or federal agency. Part-time work can qualify if you work a combined average of 30 hours per week and all of your part time employers meet PSLF guidelines.
It’s possible to get forgiveness that isn’t tied to your job through an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan. The IDR options can also make student loan payments more affordable. If you have a remaining balance at the end of the 20 or 25 year repayment term, the rest will be forgiven.
It’s best to talk to your loan servicer to see what types of forgiveness you may qualify for and do any associated paperwork, such as the Employment Certification Form, to make sure you’re on track.
In general, federal Direct Loans qualify. If you have federal Perkins Loans or FFEL loans, you may qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness if you consolidate your loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan first.
3 ways COVID relief helps you get forgiveness faster
There’s also the PSLF waiver and IDR waiver which have expanded the eligibility requirements for forgiveness. For example, under the PSLF waiver, periods of forbearance of one year or more count toward forgiveness.
Also, repayment on other types of loans aside from Direct loans now count as well as repayment under any previous repayment plan. This is for a limited period of time until October 31, 2022.
If you don’t have Direct Loans, you’ll need to consolidate your loans first. Make sure to fill out the Employment Certification Form and use the PSLF Help Tool.
The IDR waiver also expands eligibility and will do a one-time assessment and count payments on other repayment plans, periods of forbearance for one year, and more.
Through COVID forbearance, PSLF waiver and the IDR waiver, you have clear paths to get forgiveness faster. Check out these opportunities and take necessary steps to qualify. If you qualify, learn how to apply for forgiveness. If you’re not looking for forgiveness, you can look at student loan refinancing as well.