Being a pharmacist can be a rewarding, lucrative career. According to PayScale, the median salary for a pharmacist is $108,267. While pursuing a career in pharmacy can lead to a six-figure salary, it can also lead to six-figure student loan debt.
According to the 2014 National Pharmacist Workforce Survey, pharmacists with less than five years of experience reported graduating with an average of $108,407 in student loan debt. Luckily there are options for student loan forgiveness for pharmacists.
Here’s a complete guide to pharmacist loan forgiveness and repayment options:
National Health Service Corps program
The Pharmacy Times notes that in 2012, the National Health Service Corps program extended their funding to support pharmacists. Through the organization’s State Loan Repayment Program (SLRP), they are able to support pharmacists working in designated Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA). Specific requirements and funding options vary by state.
Pharmacist loan forgiveness options by state
Alaska’s SHARP program offers pharmacists working in underserved communities loan repayment assistance. Through the SHARP-II program, pharmacists can receive up to $35,000 per year. In some cases, if the position is hard to fill, pharmacists may be eligible for up to $47,000 per year.
In order to qualify, pharmacists must work full-time or half-time and commit to serving for at least three years. After that, eligible candidates may qualify for an additional three years of loan repayment assistance.
Through the Arizona State Loan Repayment Program, pharmacists can receive loan repayment assistance by serving at an eligible nonprofit or designated HPSA. Funding varies depending on a variety of factors, such as HPSA score, years of service, and more.
Pharmacists can receive up to $50,000 in loan repayment assistance for a two-year contract and can receive additional funding by committing to additional years of service.
The California State Loan Repayment Program offers loan repayment assistance to pharmacists who commit to working in a designated HPSA. Pharmacists who work full-time can receive up to $50,000 for a two-year service agreement — $25,000 from the program and a $25,000 match from the provider site.
Full-time pharmacists may be eligible for one-year extensions for a total of four years, which could result in an additional $60,000 maximum in loan repayment assistance. Half-time applicants are also eligible for awards.
It’s important to note that pharmacists working in a retail setting are not eligible for the program. In order to qualify, pharmacists must work in an approved site, such as an outpatient or ambulatory setting.
Under the Colorado Health Service Corps program, clinical pharmacists working in a designated shortage area may be eligible for loan repayment assistance. Pharmacists must commit to three years of service and work either part-time or full-time.
Full-time pharmacists are eligible for up to $50,000 while part-time pharmacists are eligible for up to $25,000.
The Idaho State Loan Repayment Program offers funding for pharmacists working in designated HPSAs and nonprofits. This is a matching program, so for every dollar provided by the program, the work site must also match the contribution.
Eligible candidates who work full-time may receive between $20,00 to $50,000 for serving a two-year commitment. It is possible to extend the contract for an additional two years as well.
Through the Kentucky State Loan Repayment Program, pharmacists may be eligible for student loan funding. This is another matching program, but with a twist. For every federal dollar spent, an employer, family member, friend, or state foundation can match the contribution.
Qualified candidates that work at a designated HPSA and work full-time may be eligible for up to $80,000 and must serve a two-year commitment.
Under Minnesota’s Rural Pharmacist Loan Forgiveness Program, eligible candidates can receive loan repayment assistance if they work in a designated rural area. Pharmacists may be eligible to receive up to $20,000 per year, for a maximum of four years, totaling $80,000.
Interested candidates must work at least 30 hours per week, for 45 weeks or more per year and commit to three years of service.
Through the Nebraska NHSC State Loan Repayment Program, pharmacists that work in designated HPSAs can receive loan repayment assistance. Qualified candidates can receive between $25,000 to $50,000 per year. In order to qualify, candidates must commit to at least two years of service.
Another program that is available in Nebraska is the Nebraska Loan Repayment Program for Rural Health Professionals, which offers pharmacists loan repayment assistance if they serve in rural communities in a designated shortage area. This is another matching program and a local entity must match the dollars you receive.
Eligible candidates can receive up to $30,000 per year and must commit to three years of service. There are opportunities for full-time workers and half-time workers, though benefits are reduced if working half-time.
The New Mexico Health Professional Loan Repayment Program offers health professionals loan repayment assistance if they serve in a designated shortage area.
The maximum award eligible candidates can receive is $25,000 each year, however, the award amount depends on a number of factors, including your student loan debt balance and the program’s available funding. In order to qualify, candidates must work full-time for two years at an eligible site.
Pharmacists may be eligible for the program, but funding priority is given to other healthcare professionals.
The North Dakota Loan Repayment Program, in conjunction with the Department of Health, offers loan repayment assistance to registered pharmacists who work in designated shortage areas.
Eligible candidates can receive up to $50,000 a year. This is a matching program where work sites must match the dollars provided. In order to qualify, candidates must commit to two years of service.
The Oregon Partnership State Loan Repayment Program offers pharmacists who work in designated shortage areas loan repayment assistance.
Eligible candidates can receive repayment assistance amounting to 10 to 20 percent of your qualified debt. The award amount depends on the HPSA score of the site. The program requires a two-year commitment, with the possibility of two additional one-year extensions.
Through the Rhode Island Health Professional Loan Repayment Program, pharmacists in Rhode Island who work at a qualified site in a designated shortage area could be eligible for loan repayment assistance.
There are award options for full-time and half-time employment. Candidates must commit to two years of service, or four years of service if they are working part-time. The program doesn’t specify exact award amounts, though funding is available for pharmacists as well as other healthcare professionals.
The Virginia State Loan Repayment Program offers pharmacists loan repayment assistance in exchange for serving in a designated HPSA at a qualified site in Virginia. The program requires a dollar match from the community work site. In order to qualify, eligible candidates must commit to two years of service. Candidates are eligible for a maximum award of $140,000 for a four-year commitment.
Under Washington’s Health Professional Loan Repayment Program, pharmacists who work at an eligible site may be eligible for loan repayment assistance. Pharmacists can receive up to $75,000 in exchange for three years of service. This program does require pharmacists to work at a designated HPSA.
Through the Federal-State Loan Repayment Program, pharmacists can receive up to $70,000 in exchange for two years of service.
Additional pharmacist loan forgiveness options
While there are pharmacist loan forgiveness options by state that offer loan repayment assistance, there are also federal options for student loan forgiveness for pharmacists as well.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness program
Through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, eligible candidates that work in the public sector, either at a government organization or nonprofit are eligible for student loan forgiveness.
In order to qualify, you must work full-time (which is classified as 30 hours per week) and make 120 qualifying payments.
The payments do not have to be consecutive in order to qualify, however, if you do make consecutive payments, you can get your loans forgiven in ten years. If you’re looking for student loan forgiveness for pharmacists, this is a great option because your loans could be completely forgiven in ten years and you will not have to pay tax on your forgiven balance.
Pharmacy Times notes the following jobs may be eligible for the program:
- Working for a government agency such as the US Food and Drug Administration or a state board of pharmacy;
- Serving as a pharmacist in one of the branches of the US military or with the Veterans Administration;
- Working for the US Drug Enforcement Administration or a state-level law enforcement agency related to controlled substances; and
- Practicing with the US Public Health Service or a state or local public health department.
NIH Loan Repayment programs
If you’re interested in pursuing a career in medical research and have a pharmacy degree, The National Institute of Health (NIH) offers several programs that help. There are eight programs, five of which are for researchers not employed by NIH, with three available to researchers employed by NIH. The program offers $35,000 per year in exchange for research related to the NIH’s mission. In order to qualify, your student loan debt must be 20 percent of your base salary when you receive the award.
Indian Health Service Repayment program
Through the Indian Health Service Loan Repayment program, health care professionals who practice in facilities serving American Indian and Alaska Native communities may be eligible for loan repayment assistance. The program offers up to $40,000 in exchange for two years of service.
U.S. Army Pharmacist Health Professions Loan Repayment program
If you’re interested in working for the US Army, you could get significant loan repayment assistance. Qualified candidates can receive up to $120,000 in assistance to pay back your pharmacy school loans.
Another option aside from the repayment program is the Pharmacist Accession Bonus. Qualified pharmacists may be eligible for a sign-on bonus of $30,000. The best part? It’s paid in a lump sum at the first duty station.
There are a variety of programs that offer student loan forgiveness for pharmacists at the state and federal level. Many of these options require you to work in certain areas or at qualified sites, so it’s important to weigh your choices before pursuing loan repayment assistance or pharmacist loan forgiveness.
In the end, it could be a rewarding experience and also help you get a good chunk — if not all — of your loans paid back.
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