Medical School Student Loan Repayment for New Doctors
Updated On September 11, 2022
Editorial Note: This content is based solely on the author's opinions and is not provided, approved, endorsed or reviewed by any financial institution or partner.
Earning a medical degree is an incredible professional achievement, but the thought of medical school student loan repayment may appear daunting for new doctors. The average medical school student loan debt is approximately $200,000, and some student loan borrowers have even more student loan debt. The good news is that there are several options for medical school student loan repayment and medical school student loan forgiveness for doctors.
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In this guide, we will teach you the best options for student loan repayment and student loan forgiveness for med school debt:
- Refinance medical school loans
- Enroll in an income-driven repayment plan
- How to get medical school student loan forgiveness
- Public service student loan forgiveness for doctors
- Military programs for medical school student loan repayment
- National Institutes of Health student loan repayment
- Medical school student loan repayment: state programs
Refinance medical school loans
Student loan refinancing is a smart way to get a lower interest rate on your student loans, a lower monthly payment, or both. The goal with student loan refinancing is to save money. Since medical school can result in significant student loan debt, refinancing student loans could help you save thousands or tens of thousands of student loans depending on your student loan balance. When you refinance student loans, you take out a new student loan with a private lender, and that new loan is used to pay off your old student loans. The good news is that you can choose new student loan terms, including your repayment period. Many doctors choose to refinance student loans during residency. If you haven’t refinanced your student loans, it’s a popular option to consider now. Even if you refinanced your student loans residency, you can refinance again to get a lower interest rate. The good news is there’s no limit to the number of times you can refinance, and there are no application, origination or prepayment fees.
With student loan refinancing, you can choose a fixed or variable interest rate. You can also choose a student loan repayment period from 5 to 20 years. You can compare rates and lenders to find the best student loan refinancing option for you. You can refinance federal student loans, private student loans, or both. You can also refinance both college and medical school debt.
This student loan refinancing calculator can show you how much money you can save when you refinance medical school student loans.
For example, let’s assume that you have $300,000 of student loans at a 7% interest rate and 10-year repayment period. Now, let’s assume that you refinance your student loans at a 3% interest rate and 10-year repayment period. Student loan refinancing would save you $586 each month and $70,372 total.
Make sure you understand the advantages and disadvantages of student loan refinancing. You’ll also want to confirm which student loans to refinance, including federal student loans, private student loans, or both. For example, if you are pursuing public service loan forgiveness or using an income-driven repayment plan, you shouldn’t refinance federal student loans. (Here are 10 questions to ask before student loan refinancing). To get approved for student loan refinancing, you’ll need to meet several requirements, including having at least a 650 credit score. You also need to be employed with steady income or have a signed job offer. Lenders also may evaluate your debt-to-income ratio to ensure that you have enough discretionary income to pay your student loans, other debt and living expenses.
Enroll in an income-driven repayment plan
One option for medical school student loan repayment is to use an income-driven repayment plan. These student loan repayment plans are available for federal student loans, and set your monthly student loan payment based on your discretionary income, family size and state of residence. There are four main income-driven repayment plans:
- Income-Based Repayment (IBR)
- Pay As You Earn (PAYE)
- Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE)
- Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR)
If you’re struggling to pay medical school student loan debt, it’s possible to get a monthly student loan payment as low as $0. You won’t get a lower interest rate with an income-driven repayment plan, but you could qualify for a lower monthly student loan payment. You will need to recertify your income each year, which means your student loan payments could vary over time. After 20 year of college student loan payments or 25 years of medical school student loan debt payments, you could qualify for federal student loan forgiveness.
How to get medical school student loan forgiveness
It’s possible to get medical school student loan forgiveness. Typically, medical school student loan forgiveness is only available for federal student loans. These types of student loan forgiveness may be available through the federal government, for example. That said, it’s possible that your employer or a non-profit organization, for example, may offer student loan forgiveness for other types of student loans too.
Make sure to check the eligibility requirements for any student loan forgiveness program for medical school student loan debt. Each student loan forgiveness program may have its own requirements. For example, you may have to work at a health care non-profit or in an under-served community for a certain time period. The student loan forgiveness program also could require a certain specialty as well.
Some student loan forgiveness programs may require that you enroll your federal student loans into an income-driven repayment plan such as IBR, PAYE, REPAYE or ICR. You can use our student loan calculators to determine which income-driven repayment plan may be right for you.
Public service student loan forgiveness for doctors
Doctors who work for a qualified public service or non-profit employer could get total federal student loan forgiveness through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. This is a federal program that Congress created in 2007 to help physicians and other public servants get student loan forgiveness. There are many opportunities to get public service loan forgiveness. For example, you could work as a physician for the federal government or at a non-profit in an under-served community.
To qualify for student loan forgiveness, you must meet several requirements, including working at least full-time and making 120 monthly federal student loan payments while working for a qualified public service or non-profit employer. Importantly, it’s your employer that matters, not the role or service that you perform. You can check with the U.S. Department of Education to confirm that your employer qualifies for public service loan forgiveness.
Military programs for medical school student loan repayment
In addition to public service loan forgiveness, physicians who serve in the military also can qualify for medical school student loan forgiveness. Before you pursue student loan forgiveness, make sure you understand all the requirements of any military programs that offer student loan forgiveness.
U.S. Army: student loan repayment assistance for doctors
There are several options for doctors to get student loan repayment assistance from the U.S. Army:
- Loan Repayment Program: Each year, the Army will repay 33 1/3% of the outstanding principal student loan balance, less taxes, or $1,500, whichever is greater. The Army will pay up to $65,000, less taxes, of your student loans, up to three years total. Your student loans can’t be in default before entering active duty and during student loan repayment.
- Active-Duty Health Professionals Loan Repayment Program: The Army offers up to $120,000 toward medical school student loan repayment. Physicians must be on active duty, and they can get up to $40,000 each year for three years.
- Financial Assistance For Medical Residents: You can get a grant of up to $45,000 per year, plus a monthly stipend of $2,000 if you are a medical resident.
- Army Reserve Health Professionals Special Pay: Active-duty physicians and physicians who serve in Army Reserve and have completed their residency in a specialty that qualifies that can get up to $50,000 a year toward student loan repayment.
U.S. Navy: student loan repayment assistance for doctors
There are several options for doctors to get student loan repayment assistance from the U.S. Navy:
- The Health Professions Loan Repayment Program (HPLRP): This program provides medical students, residents and physicians up to $40,000 annually for student loan repayment of federal student loans, less federal income taxes.
- The Navy Loan Repayment Program: This program pays up to $65,000 for federal student loans. The program is offered to members of the Navy’s Delayed Entry Program who eventually enlist in the Navy full time. Under this program, the Navy will pay 33.3% of your federal student loans or $1,500, whichever is greater, for up to three years of service.
U.S. Air Force: student loan repayment assistance for doctors
There are several options for doctors to get student loan repayment assistance from the U.S. Air Force:
Air Force Financial Assistance Program: This program helps doctors in the U.S. Air Force with medical school student loan repayment. You can earn up to a $45,000 each year you participate in the program, and there is a monthly stipend of $2,000 to cover living expenses.
National Institutes of Health student loan repayment
The National Institutes of Health student loan repayment program can help with medical school student loan repayment. Congress created the NIH Loan Repayment Programs (LRPs) and they repay up to $50,000 annually to physicians who engage in NIH’s mission-relevant research. The goal is to attract highly-qualified researchers to agree to a two-year minimum commitment, and it can apply to medical school, graduate school or college student loan debt. There are opportunities to get student loan repayment assistance while working for the NIH as a physician or physician researcher as well as for external organizations. There are also opportunities to get student loan repayment assistance for medical school student loans if you are practicing physician.
Medical school student loan repayment: state programs
Doctors can look beyond the federal government for medical student loan repayment options. For example, states may offer student loan repayment assistance that could help you pay off student loans faster. Here are a few to consider:
- National Health Service Corps: The National Health Service Corps (NHSC) offers State Loan Repayment Program (SLRP). Through this program, clinicians can get student loan payment assistance for working in a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA).
- Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC): If you are searching for medical student loan repayment, make sure to check the AAMC database for a list of Health Professional Shortage Areas. You can find state student loan forgiveness in exchange for service in these areas.
- Student Loan Repayment Assistance: You can also check with your state government on options for student loan repayment assistance (LRAP).