4 careers that could lead to student loan forgiveness

Choosing a career in public service could help you qualify for federal loan forgiveness so you can get out of student debt faster

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Teaching, nursing, and practicing law are examples of careers that may qualify for federal student loan forgiveness.  (Shutterstock)

If you work in the public sector, your federal student loan balance could be wiped clean after you make 120 eligible student loan payments under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program. To qualify, you must make payments while working full-time for the government or a not-for-profit organization.

Besides PSLF, other programs exist to help professionals in certain fields get rid of student debt. Read on for four careers to pursue that qualify for federal student loan forgiveness. 

Student loan refinancing is also a possibility if you’re not eligible for student loan forgiveness. By visiting Credible, you can learn more about student loan refinancing and compare rates from multiple private student loan lenders.

Student loan forgiveness for teachers

Teaching full-time at a not-for-profit school can qualify educators for the PSLF Program. In addition to PSLF, here are two other forgiveness and cancellation options for teachers:

  • Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program — With this program, up to $17,500 of your Direct Loans or FFEL Loans can be forgiven after you work for five consecutive years at a qualifying low-income school.
  • Perkins Loans Teacher Cancellation — You can qualify to have up to 100% of your Perkins Loans canceled if you’re a special education teacher, a teacher that specializes in a subject that’s understaffed, or you’re working at a low-income school. You can search the StudentAid.gov Teacher Cancellation Low Income Directory for low-income schools that qualify.

Note that Perkins Loans are no longer issued since the program ended in September 2017. But if you have unpaid Perkins Loans, joining the teaching profession could help you qualify for loan forgiveness on the balance. 

Student loan forgiveness for nurses

Nurses who work in the public sector may also be eligible for PSLF, although other repayment options could help nurses get rid of debt faster. Here are other cancellation and student loan repayment assistance plans to consider:

  • Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program — This program repays up to 85% of nursing school debt for nurse faculty members and nurses. You must work for two years in a nursing school or facility located in an area with a shortage of medical professionals.
  • National Health Service Corp (NHSC) Loan Repayment Program — This program repays loans for licensed clinicians, including nurse practitioners and nurse midwives. You must work for at least two years in an NHSC-approved facility. If you work full-time for two years, you may qualify for up to $50,000 in loan forgiveness, and working part-time can qualify you for up to $25,000.
  • Perkins Loans Cancellation — If you work full-time for five years in the nursing field, you may be able to get up to 100% of your Perkins Loans canceled.

Student loan forgiveness for lawyers

If you have an interest in law, you could pursue a law degree and work for a not-for-profit or government agency to qualify for PSLF. But that’s just one of many options.

  • Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program (ASLRP) — Lawyers who work for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) may also be eligible for this program. The DOJ matches your federal student loan payments up to $6,000. To qualify, you must have at least $10,000 in federal loans and commit to three years of service to the organization. Attorneys are selected each year to receive the benefit.

Aside from federal programs, individual states may offer loan repayment assistance to help attorneys with debt. For example, the D.C. Bar Foundation has a loan payment assistance program where attorneys can get up to $12,000 to put toward loans if they work at a nonprofit organization that supports low-income families in Washington, D.C.

Refinancing your student loans may be an option if you’re not eligible for student loan forgiveness. You can easily compare prequalified rates from multiple lenders using Credible.

Student loan forgiveness for doctors

Making the decision to pursue a medical degree is a big commitment. It can take years of study and more than $100,000 in medical school bills before you’re able to put "M.D." at the end of your name. But if medicine is your calling, practicing at a not-for-profit or government facility could make you eligible for PSLF. Here are a couple other loan forgiveness programs for doctors to consider:

  • NHSC Loan Repayment ProgramThis program offers clinicians up to $50,000 for working two years full-time at an NHSC-approved site. If you work part-time, you may get up to $25,000.
  • NHSC Students to Service Loan Repayment Program Medical students in their last year of medical school could also qualify for this program, which offers up to $120,000 in student loan repayment assistance. To be eligible, you must commit to working at an NHSC-approved site where there’s a shortage of healthcare professionals.

Lastly, if you’re interested in joining the military, branches may have their own loan repayment programs that help pay off medical debt for active-duty service members who are health professionals.

If you pursue forgiveness, be sure to understand the terms

Pursuing a career path that offers student loan forgiveness or payment assistance opportunities is a strategy that can help you eliminate debt. But it’s important to understand loan eligibility requirements and double-check that your workplace qualifies, especially for PSLF.

Keep in mind that private student loans aren’t eligible for forgiveness under federal government programs. And not working with the right employer or not having the right type of federal loans could cause your PSLF application to get denied. If you have questions, reach out to your loan servicer.

If you decide to refinance, visit Credible and compare prequalified rates from multiple lenders.