According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual pay for pharmacists in 2018 was $126,120. That may sound exciting if you’re considering a career in pharmacy. But it’s also important that you have a realistic expectation of what a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree will cost you.
In a 2017 survey of over 10,000 pharmacy school grads, the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) asked about student debt. Among students that borrowed to help pay for pharmacy school, the median debt was $163,494. The median debt from public college graduates was $136,328, and private institution grads had a median debt of $189,317.
So yes, pharmacy school can be very expensive. If you’re able to graduate without any student loans, that’s fantastic. But it’s also rather unlikely.
If you do need to take out student loans for pharmacy school, make sure you’re getting the best deal. Here are the best student loans for pharmacy school.
1. Federal student loans
Student Loan Planner highly recommends whenever possible that you take out only federal student loans for pharmacy school. This is especially true if you’ll owe more than your starting salary, as taking out anything but federal loans in this situation will put you in a bind.
One of the biggest benefits of federal student loans is that they qualify for income-driven repayment (IDR). With an IDR plan, your payment will generally be 10% to 20% of your discretionary income, and you’ll be eligible for student loan forgiveness on any remaining balance after 20 to 25 years.
You’ll also need federal student loans if you plan to apply for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. If you intend to work at a nonprofit hospital or clinic after graduation, PSLF could be your best student loan repayment option.
Direct Unsubsidized Loans
The federal loans with the best interest rates and terms are Direct Subsidized Loans. But they’re only available to undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need.
For graduate and professional students, Direct Unsubsidized Loans are your best option. Currently, the interest rate on Direct Unsubsidized Loans for graduate students is 6.08%.
The problem with Direct Unsubsidized Loans is that they have borrowing limits. Currently, graduate students can borrow up to $20,500 per year in Direct Unsubsidized student loans. With pharmacy school often being so expensive, you may end up with a funding gap. And you might need to turn to Grad PLUS Loans to cover the deficit.
Grad PLUS Loans
Grad PLUS Loans are different from Direct Unsubsidized federal loans in several ways. First, there’s no hard borrowing cap. Instead, you can borrow up to the cost of attendance.
Second, you’ll need to submit to a credit check when you apply. If you have poor credit, you may have difficulty qualifying.
And finally, Grad PLUS Loans come with a higher interest rate of 7.08%.
Grad PLUS Loans could still be a good decision if you will owe more in student loans than your salary or plan to pursue PSLF. But you may want to consider private loans instead for modest amounts in certain situations.
2. HRSA Loans
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) offers loans for pharmacy students: HRSA Health Professions Student Loans.
Both come with a 5% interest rate, which is lower than the current rates on both Direct Unsubsidized and Grad PLUS Loans. And repayment terms range from 10 to 25 years.
To qualify for either of these loans, however, you’ll need to demonstrate need. If you’re applying for a HRSA Health Professions Student Loan, you must prove your financial need. Additionally, to qualify for the Loans for Disadvantaged Students program, you’ll also need to show that you came from a disadvantaged background.
3. Private student loans
Once you’ve hit your funding cap on Direct Unsubsidized Loans, you’ll have two main options (unless you qualify for a HRSA loan): You can apply for a Grad PLUS Loan or for private student loans.
If your funding gap is large, you’ll probably want to choose Grad PLUS Loans, since they come with the federal benefits mentioned earlier. But if you’re funding need is small, private student loans could be worth considering.
A private student loan may be able to offer you a better interest rate if you have a good credit score. Despite the fact that Grad PLUS Loans require a credit check, a high score won’t have a positive impact on your rate. But it can with private student loans.
If you’re thinking about taking out private student loans, make sure to shop around for the best deal. The interest rate is definitely important. But you’ll also want to consider things like origination fees, payment flexibility and customer service.
To get you started, check out our complete list of private student loan lenders for 2019.
How to pay for pharmacy school with scholarships
Before taking out student loans for pharmacy school, exhaust any other financing options that may be available to you.
For instance, there are several scholarship and grant programs that could help you pay for pharmacy school. Here are a few programs worth looking into:
- American Pharmacists Association Foundation Student Scholarship Program
- American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) Clinical Skills Competition Award
- ASHP Student Leadership Award
- American Foundation for Pharmaceutical Education fellowships, scholarships and awards
Having a game plan to pay for pharmacy school can make a huge difference in how much debt you end up with. That’s why you may want to set up a predebt consultation with one of Student Loan Planner’s expert consultants.
It’s important to be informed before you take out huge student loans for pharmacy school. One of our consultants can give you perspective on the financial implications of your pharmacy degree. Book a predebt consultation today.