7 Student Loan Repayment Strategies for Pharmacists

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For many new graduates, a starting salary of $103,874 is just a dream. But if you’re a pharmacist, that’s the median pay you can expect for an entry-level position. In fact, the median salary for pharmacists of all experience levels is a comfortable $122,230, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But here’s the catch: Before you can snag that high income, you have to spend four years in pharmacy school. The average pharmacy student graduates with $108,407 in student debt, according to the 2014 National Pharmacist Workforce Survey.

Even with a high salary, your net worth could fall well below zero for years to come. Fortunately, there are ways to make your debt more manageable. Here are the best student loan strategies that will get you out of debt as fast as possible.

1. Refinance your student loans with a private lender

One reason student loans are so difficult to pay off is their constant accrual of interest. Let’s say you graduated with $108,000 in student loans. Altogether, the weighted average interest rate on this hypothetical debt is 6.80%.

On a 10-year repayment plan, you’d end up paying over $41,000 in interest alone. But if you refinance your loans, you could keep much of that $41,000 in your bank account.

When you refinance, you work with a private lender that assumes all your old debt and issues you one loan with better terms. Often, this can include a lower interest rate. With a high loan balance, lowering your interest rate by just one percentage point can mean the difference of thousands of dollars over the life of your loan.

Let’s say you refinance your student loans and score a fixed interest rate of 4.99% on your $108,000 ball-and-chain. Over 10 years, you’d pay just over $29,000 in interest — almost $12,000 less than you would at a 6.80% rate.

And with an interest rate of 3.50%? You’d save about $21,000 over the life of your loan.

Some lenders offer fixed rates as low as 1.95% and variable rates starting from 2.47%. Variable rates can decrease or increase over time, depending on what the market is doing, so they are a riskier choice than a fixed rate. They’re typically best for borrowers who aim to pay off their debt fast.

Want to see how much you could save with a lower interest rate? Use our student loan refinancing calculator to find out.

2. Changing the length your repayment period can help, too

Besides snagging a lower interest rate, refinancing also lets you change your repayment terms. So once you’ve chosen a refinancing offer, you can select a repayment period between five and 20 years. You can choose a shorter or longer term depending on your goals.

If you choose a shorter term, you’ll get out of debt faster and pay less in interest overall — but your monthly payments could increase. On the other hand, a longer term could lower your monthly payments and give you back more spending money from month to month. But it also means you’ll stay in debt longer, possibly paying more in interest over the life of your loan.

Ultimately, refinancing student loans is a strategic move for many pharmacists. Because you have high income — and ideally, a decent credit score — you could qualify for competitive loan terms. With your high student debt, you could see major savings from restructuring your loans with a new lender.

3. Consider an income-driven repayment plan

If you’re struggling to make monthly payments on your student loans, an income-driven repayment plan could help. Income-driven repayment plans adjust your monthly payments based on your discretionary income.

There are four main income-driven plans, all of which apply exclusively to federal student loans:

  • Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE)
  • Pay As You Earn (PAYE)
  • Income-Based Repayment (IBR)
  • Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR)

Though they all work a little differently, all of these plans cap your payments at 10, 15, or 20 percent of your monthly income. Because they lower your bills, they also extend your payment terms to 20 or 25 years. If you still have a balance after all those years, the government may forgive some or all of your remaining debt.

Note that any forgiven balance will be considered taxable income. You could still have a final tax bill to settle after your term is up, but you won’t have to make any more payments toward your student loans.

Also be aware that your monthly bills could increase if your salary goes up. On the PAYE and IBR plans, your payments could go back to what they were on the standard 10-year plan. And on REPAYE and ICR, your payments could actually exceed what you’d pay on the standard plan.

These income-driven plans reduce your payments when your income is low relative to your debt. But they may cease to be helpful if and when you start making more money.

4. Negotiate a signing bonus and put it toward your loans

Not only do pharmacy jobs command a high salary, but many also come with a substantial signing bonus.

Many companies woo new pharmacists with $10,000 signing bonuses and gifts in the mail, according to ABC News. The U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps also offers a $30,000 signing bonus, as well as an annual $15,000 retention bonus. But to qualify, you must commit to four years of active duty.

If you’re on the job hunt, look for positions with generous signing bonuses. If you get an offer, try negotiating the terms for more money. Most hiring managers expect some level of negotiation before finalizing a contract.

If you put that bonus toward your student loans, you can pay off a significant chunk all at once.

5. Be cautious about student loan deferment and forbearance

By this point, you’re well aware of the danger of student loan interest. The longer you have debt, the more you’ll pay in interest. That’s why you should be cautious about putting your student loans into deferment or forbearance.

Deferment and forbearance are short-term solutions for people who go back to school or run into financial hardship. Both options pause payments on your student loans for a set period of time. But interest may continue to accrue, depending on your situation and loan type.

Deferment and forbearance can be a useful, temporary solution if you can’t make your monthly payments. However, the danger with both options is that your student debt could balloon out of control. Because you’re not chipping away at the principal, the amount will just continue to grow.

Depending on your situation, most federal student loans are eligible for deferment and forbearance. The rules around deferring private student loans are up to the individual lender — though many lenders offer some form of deferment for borrowers.

For many borrowers, deferment and forbearance are the last resort. Both options provide immediate relief, but they have long-term financial consequences.

6. Prepay your student loans when you can

If you score a six-figure income straight out of grad school, it’s easy to ramp up your spending. You might move to a bigger apartment or eat out at restaurants every night. While you deserve to celebrate after all your hard work, you should also be aware of your cash flow.

Instead of succumbing to “lifestyle inflation,” try to keep your expenses low. That way, you can throw extra payments at your student loans. You might make an occasional extra payment or even set up regular bi-weekly payments.

Beyond tracking your spending, calculate what would happen if you ramped up your student loan payments. When you have an idea of how much you could save by paying your loans off early, you might be motivated to take a more aggressive stance.

Let’s revisit that example of $108,000 in loans at a 6.80% interest rate. You could pay $1,243 a month for 10 years. But if you paid an extra $100 a month, you’d be out of debt one year earlier and save over $4,500 in interest.

If you could swing an extra $200 a month, you’d be free in eight years with an interest savings of $8,200. When it comes to tackling student loans, even a small extra payment goes a long way.

Once you’re working, it’s easy to set your loan payments on autopilot and forget about them. But if you make paying off your debt a priority, you could be free of your loan payments years ahead of schedule.

7. Learn about your options for loan forgiveness and assistance

Pharmacists have dozens of options for student loan forgiveness and assistance, as well. The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, for instance, forgives federal loans after 10 years of service in a qualifying organization. The National Institute of Health (NIH) offers $35,000 of loan repayment assistance each year to pharmacists conducting qualifying research.

Beyond these national programs, many states offer loan repayment assistance to healthcare professionals. Most of these programs require two or more years of service in a high-needs area.

Depending on the nature and location of your work, you could qualify for major assistance toward your student loans. Check out our full list of student loan forgiveness programs for pharmacists to learn more.

Find the strategy that works best for you

Earning your Doctor of Pharmacy is a great achievement. However, the journey to get this degree often comes with a huge price tag.

Once you graduate, you need to figure out how to approach your student debt. The best strategy depends on factors like your income, debt-to-income ratio, credit score, and professional goals.

Before acting, make sure to explore your options and identify your needs. With this knowledge, you can find the right prescription to cure your student loan debt once and for all.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 6 lenders of 2018!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.

Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate 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 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of Month/Day/Year, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.

Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.

The information provided on this page is updated as of 08/21/18. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at hello@earnest.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent loan refinance product.

© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.


2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

Savings example: average savings calculated based on single loans refinanced from 9/2013 to 12/2017 where borrowers’ previous rates were disclosed. Assumes same loan terms for previous and refinanced loans, and payments made to maturity with no prepayments. Actual savings for individual loans vary based on loan balance, interest rates, and other factors.

Application detail: 5 minutes indicates typical time it takes to complete application with applicant information readily available. It does not include time taken to provide underwriting decision or funding of the loan.

Instant rates mean a delivery of personalized rates for those individuals who provide sufficient information to return a rate. For instant rates a soft credit pull will be conducted, 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.

Total savings calculated by aggregating individual average savings across total borrower population from 9/2013 to 12/2017. Individual average savings calculation based on single loans refinanced from 9/2013 to 12/2017 where borrowers’ previous rates were provided. Assumes same loan terms for previous and refinanced loans, and payments made to maturity with no prepayments. Actual savings for individual loans vary based on loan balance, interest rates, and other factors.


3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student loan Refinance:Fixed rates from 3.899% APR to 7.804% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.470% APR to 6.990% APR (with AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.470% APR assumes the current index rate derived from the 1-month LIBOR of 2.08% plus 0.64% margin minus 0.25% ACH discount. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, and the term of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. *To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Soft credit inquiries allow SoFi to show you what rates and terms SoFi can offer you up front. After seeing your rates, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries (or hard credit pulls) are required for SoFi to be able to issue you a loan. In addition to requiring your explicit permission, these credit pulls may impact your credit score.
  2. Terms and Conditions Apply. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)

4 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.


5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

  1. Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). The following table displays the estimated monthly payment, total interest, and Annual Percentage Rates (APR) for a $10,000 loan. The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) shown for each in-school loan product reflects the accruing interest, the effect of one-time capitalization of interest at the end of a deferment period, a 2% origination fee, and the applicable Repayment Plan. All loans are eligible for a 0.25% reduction in interest rate by agreeing to automatic payment withdrawals once in repayment, which is reflected in the interest rates and APRs displayed. Variable rates may increase after consummation. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.08% effective July 25, 2018.

6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Education Refinance Loan Rate DisclosureVariable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of October 1, 2018, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.22%. Variable interest rates range from 2.72%-8.32% (2.72%-8.32% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the borrower’s loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Fixed interest rates range from 3.75%-8.69% (3.75%-8.69% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Lowest rates shown require application with a cosigner, are for eligible, creditworthy applicants with a graduate level degree, require a 5-year repayment term and include our Loyalty discount and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. The maximum variable rate on the Education Refinance Loan is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%. 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. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of their loan.
  2. Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer with the Education Refinance Loan. Borrowers should carefully review their current benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans and replace those with the benefits of the Education Refinance Loan. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision at http://www.citizensbank.com/EdRefinance, including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
  3. Citizens Bank Education Refinance Loan Eligibility: Eligible applicants may not be currently enrolled. Applicants with an Associate’s degree or with no degree must have made at least 12 qualifying payments after leaving school. Qualifying payments are the most recent on time and consecutive payments of principal and interest on the loans being refinanced. Primary borrowers must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or resident alien with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. Resident aliens must apply with a cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The cosigner (if applicable) must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a cosigner will be required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at anytime. Interest rate ranges subject to change. Education Refinance Loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/consumer credit agreement, verification of application information, certification of borrower’s student loan amount(s) and highest degree earned.
  4. Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  5. Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
  6. Co-signer Release: Borrowers may apply for co-signer release after making 36 consecutive on-time payments of principal and interest. For the purpose of the application for co-signer release, on-time payments are defined as payments received within 15 days of the due date. Interest only payments do not qualify. The borrower must meet certain credit and eligibility guidelines when applying for the co-signer release. Borrowers must complete an application for release and provide income verification documents as part of the review. Borrowers who use deferment or forbearance will need to make 36 consecutive on-time payments after reentering repayment to qualify for release. The borrower applying for co-signer release must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. If an application for co-signer release is denied, the borrower may not reapply for co-signer release until at least one year from the date the application for co-signer release was received. Terms and conditions apply.
  7. Estimated average savings amount is based on 14,659 Education Refinance Loan customers who saved on loans between August 1, 2017 and July 31, 2018. The calculation is derived by averaging monthly savings across Education Refinance Loan customers whose payment amounts decreased after refinancing, calculated by taking the monthly payment prior to refinancing minus the monthly payment after refinancing. We excluded monthly savings from customers that exceeded $4,375 and were lower than $20 to minimize risk of data error skewing the savings amounts. Savings will vary based on interest rates, balances and remaining repayment term of loans to be refinanced. Borrower’s overall repayment amount may be higher than the loans they are refinancing even if monthly payments are lower.

2.47% – 6.99%3Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit SoFi
2.47% – 5.87%1Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Earnest
2.47% – 8.03%4Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Lendkey
2.95% – 6.37%2Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Laurel Road
2.48% – 6.25%5Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit CommonBond
2.72% – 8.32%6Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Citizens
Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.