By Kat Castagnoli
Did you know that 7 in 10 college students take out loans to pay for school? While it can take a long time to pay back student loan debt, there is a way to get your balance wiped out: by qualifying for a student loan forgiveness job.
If you work for a certain amount of time in a job with this option, you could get your student loan debt completely cancelled. While these types of jobs aren’t always the most high-paying, there’s often plenty of opportunity due to a shortage of workers to fill them. And what you might sacrifice in income, you could potentially make back with loan forgiveness after a few years.
Below is a list of 11 jobs that offer student loan forgiveness so you can decide if any would be a great fit for you:
1. Federal agency employee
Here’s a little-known fact that applies to federal agencies: If they are having a hard time finding new employees to fill open slots, they are allowed to offer student loan repayment assistance. To qualify, the new employee must sign a contract to work for the federal agency for a minimum of three years. The agency is allowed to pay up to $10,000 per year per employee for federally insured loans, but the total assistance given cannot exceed $60,000 per person.
2. Public service worker
If you work in a qualifying organization, such as a government agency or nonprofit, you could qualify for loan forgiveness. Full-time public service employees with Perkins loans can get full cancellation of their loans, as long as they haven’t consolidated them. Potentially eligible workers include family and child services employees, law enforcement and correctional officers and public defenders. Public servants with Direct loans (also known as Stafford loans) could pursue loan forgiveness through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program. PSLF is available to any worker in a government organization at any level, as well as tax-exempt organizations or for-profit organizations with a qualifying service.
There are several options for doctors in need of student loan repayment help. The Association of American Medical Colleges maintains a list of loan assistance programs for doctors by state. Additionally, medical professionals who serve in the military have access to forgiveness programs as well. For example, through the Navy Financial Assistance Program (FAP), medical residents receive an annual grant of $45,000 on top of residency income, which can be put toward medical school debt.
In addition to public service forgiveness options targeted specifically at graduates working in law, there are some other sources of loan repayment help for lawyers. For instance, every spring, the Department of Justice opens up its Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program (ASLRP) to help recruit and retain new talent. Justice Department employees must have at least $10,000 in federal student loans to qualify. For those who want to work as public defenders, the John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program provides loan assistance of varying amounts, depending on where you live. In addition, there are dozens of programs for borrowers with law school debt.
5. Automotive professionals
Any automotive aftermarket industry manufacturer who is an employee of the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) can apply for the SEMA Loan Forgiveness Program. The SEMA program awarded $272,000 to 97 winners in 2019 in scholarships and loan forgiveness. To be eligible, you must have been a SEMA employee for at least a year, hold a degree or certificate of completion from a college or technical school and have graduated with at least a 2.5 GPA.
If you are a registered nurse, an “advanced practice registered nurse” (such as a nurse practitioner) or a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) facility nurse, you may be eligible for student loan repayment assistance through the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program. The nurses chosen to receive assistance through this program will get 60 percent of their qualifying student loan balance forgiven, in exchange for a minimum two-year service commitment. Also, qualifying participants may receive an additional 25 percent off their original loan balance if they complete a third year of service. Please note that in this program, the full loan award amount is taxable.
If you’re a special education teacher, teach in a low-income school district or work in an underemployed subject area or a teacher shortage area, you may qualify for the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program. If you qualify, you could receive up to $5,000 or $17,500 in loan forgiveness, depending upon what subject matter you teach and your number of years of service. Note that to qualify, your student loan debt must be from federal direct loans or Stafford loans.
However, if you have Perkins student loans, you could be eligible for the Perkins Loan Teacher Cancellation program, where you could potentially receive cancellation of up to 100 percent of your loans.
8. AmeriCorps, Peace Corps and other qualifying volunteer organizations
Did you know that certain volunteer organizations offer student loan forgiveness opportunities? Don’t let high student loan debt deter you from taking the opportunity to help others. Certain volunteer organizations like the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps and Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) all have student loan awards or repayment options. You can apply for these after you have completed your term of service with the organization.
Although dentists tend to make a high income — a median of $156,240, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — they also accrue a huge amount of debt before they start working. The American Dental Education Association found that the average dentist with student loans in the Class of 2019 left school owing a whopping $292,169. Luckily, there are some loan repayment assistance programs, or LRAPs, for dentists, such as the Ohio Dentist Loan Repayment Program and Maryland Dent-Care Loan Assistance Repayment Program. Programs such as these offer significant loan assistance to dentists who work in qualifying areas or workplaces.
Like dentists, pharmacists take on a lot of education debt to earn their degrees. According to the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, pharmacists in the Class of 2019 who borrowed student loans took on an average of $172,329 to finance their education. Here, too, assistance is available: Several national LRAPs provide financial help to health care providers, including pharmacists. Plus, some state programs, such as the California State Loan Repayment Program, will pay back all or a portion of your loans if you establish residency and practice in a qualifying area.
Not only could working with animals be a fulfilling career, but it could also help you get forgiveness for your student loans. The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers $25,000 per year for three years in student loan repayment assistance to vets who work in underserved areas. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 44 percent of veterinarians in the Class of 2018 left school owing more than $200,000 in student loans, while the average debt for all graduates was $143,111.
Should you pursue jobs that offer student loan forgiveness?
Most student loan forgiveness jobs have strict requirements, contracts and a minimum term of employment to qualify for loan cancellation. Also, you have to be current on your student loan payments — your loans can’t be in default. But once you meet the requirements, you will receive debt repayment, cancellation or forgiveness. Giving just two or three years of your professional life to a qualifying job may be the answer to your student loan problems and the key to your financial freedom.