When it comes to careers that qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), most people think of members of the police force, military servicemembers, and social workers. But those positions aren’t the only public service jobs eligible for loan forgiveness.
Dottie Graham found that out herself after accepting a position in a call center. After learning that her time there counted toward PSLF, she said, “It was a big surprise to me. I had no idea that kind of work qualified.”
In fact, many different career paths count toward the program. If you plan on entering public service, you can find a wide range of jobs that qualify for loan forgiveness.
Qualifying for loan forgiveness
Through PSLF, the government will forgive the balance of your federal student loans after you make 10 years of making qualifying payments while working full time for a nonprofit organization or government agency. Qualifying payments include payments you make under an income-driven repayment plan, making your loans more affordable on a nonprofit salary.
Because she struggled to find a job in her field, Graham ended up working full time as a call center representative for the Military Order of the Purple Heart, a nonprofit organization.
“My job was to call people in the area to schedule donation pickups of things like clothes and toys,” she said.
While she sometimes found the work tedious, the job paid the bills and covered her monthly student loan payments. After two years, she was finally able to secure a job with another nonprofit organization in her chosen field of accounting. However, she still worried about paying off her $30,000 loan balance.
Graham researched loan forgiveness programs. She found out that her work as a call center representative counted toward PSLF because her employer was a nonprofit organization. Because the government would include that work, she was two years closer to eliminating her loans than she thought.
“[Finding out my work in the call center counted] was huge,” said Graham. “I was so relieved to find out I just had eight years left before my loans would be gone.
As Graham discovered, many roles qualify for PSLF beyond direct service positions like social workers or firemen.
PSLF does not require you to work directly with people in need. You can work in a traditional office setting like any other business. Accountants, graphic designers, and administrative assistants can all qualify for PSLF, as long as they work for a nonprofit.
5 unusual Public Service Loan Forgiveness jobs
PSLF doesn’t limit your career choices. You can qualify for PSLF even if you end up in a field completely different from what you studied.
Here are five unconventional jobs that could be eligible for PSLF:
1. Call center representative
Like Graham, you could work as a call center representative and qualify for PSLF. Many nonprofit organizations operate hotlines, such as 2-1-1, to help people in their service area find resources and information.
Some organizations even use their call centers to fundraise. Workers might call people at home to request donations of either money or gently used items.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median hourly wage for a person working in a telephone call center is $13.53.
Depending on the role, you might need specialized training beyond a bachelor’s degree. For example, if you will be working for a suicide or domestic violence hotline, you will be trained on how to handle specific scenarios.
If you hate the idea of working in an office, you might enjoy working as a groundskeeper or landscaper for nonprofit organizations or government agencies.
Local museums, universities, organizations, and government centers often have grass, plants, and even gardens on their grounds. As a groundskeeper, you’re responsible for keeping the grounds looking presentable by cutting the grass, weeding, replacing dying plants, and trimming back hedges.
There’s high demand for grounds maintenance workers. The BLS estimates the field will grow by 10 percent by 2026. As of 2016, the median pay for a maintenance worker is $12.90 per hour.
As you build experience, you can use your degree and skills to become a landscape designer or landscape architect, boosting your earning potential.
3. Animal shelter caretaker
Many animal lovers dream of spending their working days loving on cats, dogs, and other creatures, but might worry about low wages and issues paying off their student loan debt. However, your passion for animals can allow you to take on a meaningful job while qualifying for PSLF.
Many rescues and animal shelters are nonprofit organizations. In your role, you could clean kennels, walk dogs, meet with prospective adopters, and screen applications. If you work there full time and keep up with your minimum payments, your time there will count toward your 10 years of public service.
Although a bachelor’s degree is more than enough to enter the field and progress in your career, animal caretakers are some of the lowest-paid workers on this list, with a median wage of $10.69 per hour.
Geoscientists study the physical attributes of our planet to help predict future behaviors and changes. It’s a job that never has a typical day; you often split your time between office work and outdoor projects, and you might have to drop everything to head to a crisis location.
Although some geoscientists work for private, for-profit companies, many others work for government offices, universities, or research hubs.
Jay Wellick, a research geophysicist, studies volcanic activity at the Cascades Volcano Observatory. In an interview published by the BLS, Wellick explained what his job entails:
“What I do depends on the time of year, but it boils down to three main duties: researching, crisis response, and training with foreign counterparts,” he said in the interview. “I look at fundamental questions, such as why volcanoes erupt and what signals might forecast an eruption.”
Geoscience is one of the highest-paying jobs on this list. The median pay is $89,780 per year. However, you will likely need a master’s degree as you progress in your career, which can add to your education costs and student loan balance.
If you are fluent in a second or third language, you can make a living and qualify for PSLF by working as a professional translator or interpreter.
You could use your skills to serve in different areas, including:
- Courtrooms: Both civil and criminal courts hire translators to translate testimonies and complaints.
- Hospitals: When there is a medical problem or emergency, time is of the essence. Language barriers can be a huge issue. Many hospitals hire medical interpreters to be the go-between for doctors, patients, and their families.
- Direct service organizations: Social workers and case managers work directly with children and families to help them find food, shelter, medical care, and more. However, in some families, there is no English-speaking person or only the child speaks English. In those cases, nonprofit organizations use translators to facilitate the conversation.
The BLS reports that translators earn a median salary of $46,120 per year.
Planning a career in public service
When looking for public service jobs, it’s important to keep your options open. Many unconventional jobs qualify for loan forgiveness, so you can pursue your passions while still eliminating your loans with PSLF.
If you’ve decided to pursue PSLF and need to enroll in an IDR plan, we can help you through the process for free.
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