Most people know the impact of the student loan crisis in their professions but might not know how it affects occupations all across the nation. For instance, the tax bomb doesn’t impact all jobs equally. You might not have to pay it if you’re in the education sector, but the tax bomb isn’t so cut and dry in the healthcare industry.
At Student Loan Planner, we’ve advised $1.2 billion in student loan debt. Creating custom repayment strategies for our over 5,000 clients gives us a unique perspective on how to navigate student loans best.
Here’s a breakdown of occupations and the best repayment strategy tips for student loans.
Student loans are a major issue in the medical sector, with most student loan debt being $200,000 to $500,000 depending on where you go to school.
Physicians could save a lot of money on student loans by simply understanding how to file taxes separately, how to set up their loans and choose the right repayment plan for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) and – for the ones going into primary care or private practice jobs – how to get forgiveness in the private sector.
Dentists are interesting because the student loan balances vary so much. A borrower who goes to an in-state school in Texas might end up owing $150,000, but one who goes to NYU could owe $700,000.
Most dentists make $110,000 to $150,000 as an associate and have several options for their career, but we see many dentists who are private practice owners.
Because they have their own business, dentists have the opportunity to “hide” more of their income by reducing taxable income than other professions. You could open profit-sharing plans or 401(k) plans, depreciate assets and own a building and write it off.
Most dentists refinance their debts because they go into private practice. But depending on your business and income, taxable forgiveness might be a better option.
The vast majority of veterinarians lean towards a 20-year loan forgiveness program under Pay As You Earn (PAYE).
Veterinarians might end up with $150,000 to $400,000 in student loan debt but tend to have limited income opportunities, depending on where they live.
People in rural areas don’t generally spend as much on their pets as people who live in the city. You need to be in a place with a lot of wealth and culture where people spend a lot of money on pets to make significant money as a veterinarian.
Student loan repayment strategy for lawyers varies by career path. As a lawyer, you have a few career options:
- Big law – Earn a lot of money, work in the big city and work long hours
- Corporate law – Work in-house and earn good money
- Smaller firms – Earn between $60,000 and $80,000 and probably work in a suburb
- Public servants – Public defendants and assistant district attorneys where earnings are considerably less
Lawyers have fewer paths to PSLF compared to physicians, but many end up going for loan forgiveness.
Chiropractors are one of the most challenging professions when it comes to student loans. In my opinion, chiropractic colleges are the most deceptive and with the most aggressive advertising toward potential students.
Out of the 233 chiropractor clients we’ve had, I count maybe ten that earn a six-figure income.
The good news is that if you enjoy work as a chiropractor, you can make a decent living and pursue forgiveness for your student loans.
Most pharmacists owe between $100,000 to $300,000 in student loans while earning around $100,000. Income is generally stable, even during the pandemic, but there’s limited income growth.
Forgiveness is the most common repayment path for pharmacists.
High student loan debt for teachers is primarily from doing a master’s program and taking out loans for tuition and living expenses.
A lot of teachers could benefit from PSLF. But watch out for the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program. It’s named after teachers, but it’s a lousy loan forgiveness program if you have more than $20,000 of student loan debt.
Psychologists are treated differently depending on the state. Most owe large amounts of student loan debt and opt for loan forgiveness programs.
You might think orthodontists are better off refinancing student loan debt and paying it off. But they might earn between $500,000 to $800,000 and only earn somewhere around $200,000 to $400,000.
Orthodontists student loan strategy depends on income. If you’re an orthodontist earning a massive income, refinancing is the best strategy. Otherwise, forgiveness makes the most sense.
Many nurses are eligible for PSLF, and it’s a more popular option for them than for physicians.
The biggest thing to watch out for is the accelerated programs with their high tuition rates – unless you’ll pursue PSLF.
A physician assistant (PA) generally pays back their debt because most work in a private practice environment. They might be eligible for PSLF, but the debt-to-income ratio is a little better because the programs tend to cost less.
The physical therapy sector now requires every physical therapist (PT) to get a doctoral degree. The change from master’s to doctorate degrees didn’t include a change in reimbursement rates or incomes, so there wasn’t any benefit to the PTs themselves.
Because of the higher student loan debt and lower-income potential of around $60,000 to $80,000, most go for a loan forgiveness strategy.
I talk about many additional occupations and the typical student loan repayment strategy in the podcast episode:
- Social work
- Pediatric dentist
- Nurse practitioner
- Speech-language pathologist
- Oral surgeon
- Mental health counselor
- Occupational therapist
- Real estate broker
- Dental anesthesiologist
- Human resources
These aren’t the only professions that have used our student loan services. Other occupations that have struggled with six-figure debts include graphic designers, healthcare administrators, principals, auditors, business owners, chemists, construction workers, the unemployed, marriage counselors and many more.
Tips to successfully repay student loans
For many borrowers, the problem with repaying student loans isn’t the lack of income to make the monthly payment. It’s expenses. That’s because most of these professions earn more money than the average American household.
No matter how much you owe, most student loan debt can be managed by thinking of it as a tax. After reductions, you pay 5% to 10% of your income into the federal system and 5% or 10% for the tax bomb. It allows you to control the expense to a moderate level.
If you’re struggling with debt repayment, with any of these occupations, reach out to our team of student loan consultants. Get guidance from experts on how to deal with debts and finances, which can be especially helpful in the post-COVID-era.