What Is a Public Service Job? Here’s What to Know Before Pursuing One

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If you’re wondering what a public service job is, you may have federal student loan debt hanging around your neck.

Yes, this type of employment could help you receive relief from the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program (PSLF). It’s a program designed to forgive government-held education debt for workers at certain public and nonprofit employers.

Before you jump headfirst into this specialized career track, let’s review the basics of public service employment, and pose 9 questions to ask yourself before pursuing a public service job.

What is a public service job?

If you’re asking this question because you’re looking to vanquish student loan debt, you’re asking the right question. Working in public service is one surefire way to qualify for federal loan forgiveness, as well as repayment assistance programs proffered by states and employers.

A public service job is a position at a government or nonprofit employer,and there are a lot of roles and organizations that fall into this category. Here are some examples:

  • Federal, state, local and tribal government agencies
  • Americorps (full-time) and Peace Corps
  • Military and public health services jobs
  • Law enforcement positions or public service law
  • Public school, college and university jobs, including administrative and teaching roles
  • Private schools, colleges and universities that operates as not-for-profit organization
  • Other positions in 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organizations

The easiest way to determine if the employer is eligible for PSLF is to ask its human resources department before accepting the position. To double-check its eligibility, you could also complete a PSLF Employment Certification Form via the Department of Education.

Image: Education Department

Not all nonprofits are eligible employers. Labor unions and partisan political organizations, for example, don’t fall into this category. Working for a company holding a government contract with a PSLF-eligible employer also wouldn’t allow you to qualify.

What is a public service job at a nonprofit employer? It must provide one of the following…
● Emergency management
● Military service
● Public safety
● Law enforcement
● Public interest law service
● Early childhood education
● Service for individuals with disabilities, the elderly
● Public health
● Public or school library services

9 more questions to consider before working in public service

1. What is a public service job’s eligibility requirements for PSLF?
2. How much will I earn, and what effect does that have on my student loans?
3. Does my salary affect my eligibility for PSLF?
4. Does my loan qualify for PSLF?
5. Do I have to stay in a public service job until the loan is paid off?
6. Can I consolidate my loans after accepting a public service job?
7. Does my consolidated loan with my spouse affect my loan forgiveness eligibility?
8. Will the PSLF program still be available after I’ve made the 120 qualifying payments?
9. Is it worth pursuing Public Service Loan Forgiveness?

1. What is a public service job’s eligibility requirements for PSLF?

To qualify for PSLF, you need to be a full-time employee of an eligible employer. This means you work at least 30 hours per week — if your company defines full-time as working fewer hours, you will still have to work the 30 hours to qualify.

Luckily, you could still meet the threshold if you work multiple part-time public service jobs that add up to 30 hours.

As of 2020, if you work for a religious employer, you could meet this requirement by including time spent on:

  • Religious instruction
  • Worship services
  • Proselytizing

Regardless of how you meet the required number of hours, you will also have to put in 10 years of service to be eligible for PSLF. This decade requirement was determined by the number of payments you’d need to make to qualify. You must make 120 payments, which breaks down to one payment per month for a decade.

2. How much will I earn, and what effect does that have on my student loans?

Your salary depends on your employer and line of work. What’s important to consider is your salary-to-student loan debt ratio. If you have high loan balances compared to your salary, applying to public service jobs would be valuable because you could pay less under income-driven repayment (IDR) — and have more forgiven via PSLF.

To figure out if the math works, estimate the possible salary for public service jobs you are considering. You might employ tools like PayScale or the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ data.

Once you know what level of salary you could expect to earn, input the figure into our debt-to-income calculator.

Debt-to-Income (DTI) Calculator

3. Does my salary affect my eligibility for PSLF?

Your income level has no bearing on whether or not you qualify for PSLF.

Still, you are required to make 120 monthly payments over 10 years on an IDR plan, so your income level could be a determining factor of whether you have a remaining loan balance to be forgiven at the end of a decade.

4. Does my loan qualify for PSLF?

Even if your potential public service job is eligible for PSLF, your student loan might not be.

Eligible Ineligible
● Direct Loans ● Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL)
Perkins Loans (borrowed from your school)
● Private or alternative loans (borrowed from a non-federal lender)

Fortunately, you could consolidate ineligible federal loans (FFEL and Perkins) into a Direct Consolidation Loan eligible for PSLF (see question 6, below).

5. Do I have to stay in a public service job until the loan is paid off?

The short answer is yes. Still, the 120 payments don’t have to be consecutive — they just have to be made while you are working full-time under a qualified employer.

For example, if you decide to leave a qualifying public service job, you won’t lose credit for the payments you’ve already made. So, if you leave and come back to a public service job to fulfill the 10-year, 120-payment requirement, you could still be eligible for PSLF. However, in this situation, the paperwork trail can become just that much more difficult.

Notably, though, if you’re at the 120-payment mark, you must apply for PSLF before leaving your public service job. You can only receive forgiveness if you are currently working at an eligible employer.

6. Can I consolidate my loans after accepting a public service job?

Consolidating loans may sound appealing and can certainly be helpful with organizing debt payments, but it could affect your PSLF status.

FFEL and Perkins loans might be eligible if you consolidate them into a Direct Consolidation Loan. This allows you to take multiple federal loans and combine them into one new loan (of the same balance and average interest rate) for a single monthly payment.

With that said, only payments made toward the new consolidated loan will count towards the 120-payment requirement for PSLF. Any previous payments you made on the non-eligible loans will not qualify — you’ll be at square one of your 120-payment schedule.

The clock would also reset on payments previously made on Direct Loans that could be included in consolidation. So if you’ve already made 24 qualifying payments on eligible Direct Loans (and put in two years of employment service), for example, you should think twice about consolidating those loans.

One possible solution is consolidating your additional federal student loans separately. The Education Department’s PSLF Help Tool can help you evaluate whether to consolidate some or all of your government-held debt.

7. Does my consolidated loan with my spouse affect my loan forgiveness eligibility?

While being married doesn’t affect accepting a public service job, it can change your eligibility for PSLF.

Unfortunately, joint FFEL Consolidation Loan borrowers can’t reconsolidate their shared debt into a Direct Consolidation Loan, according to the Department of Education.

If you have a joint Direct Consolidation Loan, on the other hand, you still could qualify for PSLF with some caveats:

  • You and your spouse must work full-time with a PSLF-eligible employer while the 120 required payments are submitted.
  • If you work an appropriate public service job (but your spouse doesn’t), only the original debt you borrowed (before consolidation) in your name may be forgiven.

8. Will the PSLF program still be available after I’ve made the 120 qualifying payments?

Since the Congress created the PSLF program (and then-President George W. Bush signed it into law in 2007), they could change or end it at any point.

Changes also occur with little notice. For example, in 2016, the Department of Education disqualified some lawyers working for the American Bar Association (ABA) from receiving PSLF. The Department said that even if you received approval that your employer meets the requirements for PSLF, that doesn’t mean it’s an official approval for PSLF.

Federal government action on PSLF…
May 2017: The current administration’s budget proposal called to end PSLF for federal loan borrowers taking out loans after June 2018.
December 2017: House Republicans pitched the PROSPER Act, which would eliminate PSLF (and IDR-related forgiveness).
March 2018: Congress financed a $350 million expansion of PSLF that allowed the Education Department to reconsider program applicants who were denied for using the wrong repayment plan.
April 2019: Senate Democrats proposed a “PSLF 2.0” that would expand eligibility, simplify the application process and award partial forgiveness at the five-year mark.

This tenuous status of PSLF is something graduates who haven’t yet entered the workforce might want to consider before pinning their hopes on relief awarded a decade away.

9. Is it worth pursuing Public Service Loan Forgiveness?

Only you can answer this question, as every individual is different. If you’re naturally drawn to government or nonprofit work, PSLF could simply be a bonus to pursuing the career you’ve already desired.

If you’re weighed down by federal student loans and are open to all sorts of employment, on the other hand, PSLF might not be reason enough to start a career in public service.

As you weigh your options, consider this parting advice:

Andrew Pentis contributed to this report.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 9 lenders of 2021!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
1.88% – 6.15%1Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Splash

1.88% – 5.64%2Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Earnest

1.88% – 5.64%3Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit NaviRefi

2.50% – 6.85%4Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit CommonBond

2.25% – 6.39%5Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit SoFi

1.90% – 5.25%6Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Lendkey

1.89% – 5.90%7Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Laurel Road

2.39% – 6.01%Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Elfi

2.13% – 5.25%8Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit PenFed

Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.

Splash Financial Disclosures

Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. If approved, your actual rate will be within a range of rates and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, income and other factors. Refinancing or consolidating private and federal student loans may not be the right decision for everyone. Federal loans carry special benefits not available for loans made through Splash Financial, for example, public service loan forgiveness and economic hardship programs, fee waivers and rebates on the principal, which may not be accessible to you after you refinance. The rates displayed may include a 0.25% autopay discount

The information you provide to us is an inquiry to determine whether we or our lenders can make a loan offer that meets your needs. If we or any of our lending partners has an available loan offer for you, you will be invited to submit a loan application to the lender for its review. We do not guarantee that you will receive any loan offers or that your loan application will be approved. Offers are subject to credit approval and are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rates, which are available to the most qualified borrowers. Participating lenders, rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice.

To check the rates and terms you qualify for, Splash Financial conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, the lender will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.

Splash Financial and our lending partners reserve the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen and meet our lending partner’s underwriting requirements. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. This information is current as of June 1, 2021.


2 Rate range above includes optional 0.25% Auto Pay discount. Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

Interest Rate Disclosure

Actual rate and available repayment terms will vary based on your income. Fixed rates range from 2.59% APR to 5.79% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Variable rates range from 1.88% APR to 5.64% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 36% (the maximum allowable for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate student loan refinance loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 2.04% and 5.8% to the one month LIBOR. Earnest rate ranges are current as of 6/8/2021, and are subject to change based on market conditions.

Auto Pay Discount Disclosure

You can take advantage of the Auto Pay interest rate reduction by setting up and maintaining active and automatic ACH withdrawal of your loan payment. The interest rate reduction for Auto Pay will be available only while your loan is enrolled in Auto Pay. Interest rate incentives for utilizing Auto Pay may not be combined with certain private student loan repayment programs that also offer an interest rate reduction. For multi-party loans, only one party may enroll in Auto Pay.

Student Loan Refinancing Loan Cost Examples

These examples provide estimates based on payments beginning immediately upon loan disbursement. Variable APR: A $10,000 loan with a 20-year term (240 monthly payments of $72) and a 5.89% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $17,042.39. For a variable loan, after your starting rate is set, your rate will then vary with the market. Fixed APR: A $10,000 loan with a 20-year term (240 monthly payments of $72) and a 6.04% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $17,249.77. Your actual repayment terms may vary.Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest. com/terms-of-service, e-mail us at [email protected], or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.

Earnest Loans are made by Earnest Operations LLC or One American Bank, Member FDIC. Earnest Operations LLC, NMLS #1204917. 535 Mission St., Suite 1663, San Francisco, CA 94105. California Financing Law License 6054788. Visit earnest.com/licenses for a full list of licensed states. For California residents (Student Loan Refinance Only): Loans will be arranged or made pursuant to a California Financing Law License.

One American Bank, 515 S. Minnesota Ave, Sioux Falls, SD 57104. Earnest loans are serviced by Earnest Operations LLC with support from Navient Solutions LLC (NMLS #212430). One American Bank and Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.

© 2021 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved.


3 Important Disclosures for Navient.

Navient Disclosures

1. NaviRefi loans are made by Earnest Operations LLC, a member of the Navient family of companies, subject to individual approval and underwriting criteria. California residents only: Loans made or arranged pursuant to a California Finance Lenders Law license. Additional terms and conditions apply.

– To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or non-citizen permanent resident of the United States, reside in a state we lend in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.navirefi.com/help-and-questions. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Loan terms are subject to eligibility. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application. Loan approval is subject to confirmation that your debt-to-income, free cash flow, credit history and application information meet the minimum requirements. You must have a minimum FICO score to be considered.

– You can choose between fixed and variable rates. Fixed interest rates are 2.75% – 6.04% APR (2.50% – 5.79% APR with Auto Pay discount). Starting variable interest rates are 2.13% – 5.89% APR (1.88% – 5.64% APR with Auto Pay discount). Variable rates are based on an index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) plus a margin. Variable rates are reset monthly based on the fluctuation of the index. We do not currently offer variable rate loans in AK, CO, CT, HI, IL, KY, MA, MN, MS, NH, OH, OK, SC, TN, TX, and VA.

– You can take advantage of the 0.25% Auto Pay interest rate reduction by setting up and maintaining active and automatic ACH withdrawal of your loan payment. The interest rate reduction for Auto Pay will be available only while your loan is enrolled in Auto Pay. Interest rate incentives for utilizing Auto Pay may not be combined with certain private student loan repayment programs that also offer an interest rate reduction. NaviRefi rate ranges are current as of June 1, 2021 and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.

– The information provided on this page is updated as of 06/1/2021. Earnest Operations LLC reserves the right to modify or discontinue (in whole or in part) this loan program and its associated services and benefits at any time without notice. Check www.navirefi.com for the most up-to-date information. Terms and Conditions apply. Call 855-284-4893 for more information on our student loan refinance product.

– Earnest Operations LLC – NMLS #1204917, CA CFL #6054788 – 535 Mission St., Suite 1663, San Francisco, CA 94105.
Navient Solutions, LLC – NMLS #212430 – 123 Justison St., Wilmington, DE 19801. Visit https://navirefi.com/lending-licenses for a full list of licensed states.


4 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900), NMLS Consumer Access. If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. ‍All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 0.15% effective Jan 1, 2021 and may increase after consummation.


5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

Fixed rates from 2.74% APR to 6.74% APR (with autopay). Variable rates from 2.25% APR to 6.39% APR (with autopay). All variable rates are based on the 1-month LIBOR and may increase after consummation if LIBOR increases; see more at SoFi.com/legal/#1. If approved for a loan your rate will depend on a variety of factors such as your credit profile, your application and your selected loan terms. Your rate will be within the ranges of rates listed above. Lowest rates reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers, or may become available, such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp. or an affiliate (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license #6054612; NMLS #1121636 (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org). Additional terms and conditions apply; see SoFi.com/eligibility for details. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.


6 Important Disclosures for LendKey.

LendKey Disclosures

Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it  endorse,  any educational institution.

Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of  5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.

As of 04/07/2021 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.90% APR – 5.25% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.95% APR – 7.63% Fixed APR with AutoPay.


7 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

All credit products are subject to credit approval.

Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.

As used throughout these Terms & Conditions, the term “Lender” refers to KeyBank National Association and its affiliates, agents, guaranty insurers, investors, assigns, and successors in interest.

  1. Checking your rate with Laurel Road only requires a soft credit pull, which will not affect your credit score. To proceed with an application, a hard credit pull will be required, which may affect your credit score.
  2. Savings vary based on rate and term of your existing and refinanced loan(s). Refinancing to a longer term may lower your monthly payments, but may also increase the total interest paid over the life of the loan. Refinancing to a shorter term may increase your monthly payments, but may lower the total interest paid over the life of the loan. Review your loan documentation for total cost of your refinanced loan.
  3. After loan disbursement, if a borrower documents a qualifying economic hardship, we may agree in our discretion to allow for full or partial forbearance of payments for one or more 3-month time periods (not to exceed 12 months in the aggregate during the term of your loan), provided that we receive acceptable documentation (including updating documentation) of the nature and expected duration of the borrower’s economic hardship. During any period of forbearance interest will continue to accrue. At the end of the forbearance period, any unpaid accrued interest will be capitalized and be added to the remaining principle amount of the loan.
  4. Automatic Payment (“AutoPay”) Discount: if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically from a bank account, the interest rate will decrease by 0.25% and will increase back if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically from the borrower’s bank account. The 0.25% AutoPay discount will not reduce the monthly payment; instead, the discount is applied to the principal to help pay the loan down faster.

Assumptions: Repayment examples above assume a loan amount of $10,000 with repayment beginning immediately following disbursement. Repayment examples do not include the 0.25% AutoPay Discount.

Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): This term represents the actual cost of financing to the borrower over the life of the loan expressed as a yearly rate.

Interest Rate: A simple annual rate that is applied to an unpaid balance.

Variable Rates: The current index for variable rate loans is derived from the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) and changes in the LIBOR index may cause your monthly payment to increase. Borrowers who take out a term of 5, 7, or 10 years will have a maximum interest rate of 9%, those who take out a 15 or 20-year variable loan will have a maximum interest rate of 10%.

KEYBANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.

This information is current as of April 29, 2021. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.
 


8 Important Disclosures for PenFed.

PenFed Disclosures

Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Fixed Rates range from 2.89%-4.78% APR and Variable Rates range from 2.13%-5.25% APR. Both Fixed and Variable Rates will vary based on application terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. For Variable Rate student loans, the rate will never exceed 9.00% for 5 year and 8 year loans and 10.00% for 12 and 15 years loans (the maximum allowable for this loan). Minimum variable rate will be 2.00%. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.