Student loans can be very expensive and sometimes take years — even decades — to pay off. But getting a job that offers student loan forgiveness could potentially wipe out your total student debt at less cost than full repayment.
Consider Public Service Loan Forgiveness jobs, for example. Certain government and nonprofit positions could qualify you for the PSLF program — a special benefit for federal student loans that allows complete forgiveness after 120 payments.
You might also find that your occupation has specific forgiveness options, such as the Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program or the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program.
Here’s what you should know about public service loan forgiveness jobs and other employment that could lead to freedom from your educational debt:
Many employers offer student loan forgiveness after you’ve worked with them for a specified time. The specific loan forgiveness details will vary based on the type of job, but they can generally help erase most or all of your student loan debt.
The following 11 jobs offer some type of college debt forgiveness if you meet their criteria:
1. Federal agency employee
2. Public service worker
5. Automotive professionals
8. Volunteer (AmeriCorps, Peace Corps and others)
1. Federal agency employee
Here’s a little-known fact that applies to federal agencies: If they’re having difficulty finding new employees to fill open slots, they are allowed to offer federal student loan repayment assistance.
To qualify, the new employee must sign a contract to work for the federal agency for a minimum of three years. The agency can pay up to $10,000 per year per employee for federally insured loans, but the total assistance given cannot exceed $60,000 per person.
2. Public service worker
You may qualify for loan forgiveness if you work in a government agency or certain types of nonprofit organizations.
For instance, full-time public service employees with unconsolidated Perkins loans can receive full cancellation of their loans. Potentially eligible workers include family and child services employees, law enforcement, correctional officers and public defenders.
Public servants with direct loans (also known as Stafford loans) who have met the payment requirements could also pursue loan forgiveness through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program.
PSLF is available to any worker in a government organization at any level (federal, state, local or tribal), as well as tax-exempt organizations or for-profit organizations with qualifying service.
PSLF wipes away whatever’s left of your debt after 120 qualifying payments (even if your payment is $0, due to an income-driven repayment program or the student loan forbearance that began in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic).
However, there’s a lot to know about PSLF before you pursue it — see below for more details.
There are many options for doctors in need of student loan repayment help. In fact, the Association of American Medical Colleges maintains a list of state-based loan assistance programs for doctors.
In addition, medical professionals who serve in the military also have access to even more forgiveness programs. For example, the Navy Financial Assistance Program offers medical residents an annual grant of $45,000 to go toward medical school debt.
For more options, check out our full guide to student loan repayment for doctors.
In addition to public service forgiveness options targeted specifically at graduates working in law, there are other sources of loan repayment that can help reduce your graduate school debt.
For instance, the Department of Justice opens up its Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program (ASLRP) every spring to help recruit and retain new talent. To qualify, Justice Department employees must have at least $10,000 in federal student loans.
For those who want to work as public defenders, the John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program provides loan assistance of varying amounts, depending on where you live.
There are even more programs for borrowers with law school debt. Check out our full guide for student loan forgiveness for lawyers, as well as our list of loan repayment assistance programs by school and state.
Any automotive aftermarket industry manufacturer who is an employee of the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) can apply for the SEMA Loan Forgiveness Program.
The SEMA program awarded $296,000 in scholarships and loan forgiveness to 119 winners in 2021. Some of the loan forgiveness eligibility requirements include:
- Currently employment at a SEMA member business
- A passion for the automotive field
- Holding a degree or certification from a college, university or tech school in the United States
- At least $2,000 in outstanding student loans
If you’re in the nursing field — whether as a registered nurse, advanced practice registered nurse or nurse practitioner or a facility nurse in a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) — you may be eligible for student loan repayment assistance through the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program.
The nurses who receive assistance through the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program will get 60% of their qualifying student loan balance forgiven in exchange for a minimum two-year service commitment. Qualifying participants may receive an additional 25% off their original loan balance if they complete a third year of service.
Please note that the entire loan award amount in this program is taxable. The amount you’ll pay in taxes will be far less than the amount of the loans, but it’s still a consideration to bear in mind.
If you’d like to review the qualifications and fine print of the program, check out the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment program requirements. And for even more options, head to our complete guide to student loan forgiveness for nurses.
If you’re a special education teacher, teach in a low-income school district or work in an underemployed subject area or a teacher shortage area, you may qualify for the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program.
If you qualify, you could receive up to $5,000 or $17,500 in loan forgiveness, depending on the subject matter you teach and your years of service. To qualify, you must have direct loans.
If instead you have federal Perkins student loans, you could be eligible for the Perkins Loan Teacher Cancellation program. Through this program, you could potentially have up to 100% of your Perkins loans canceled.
To qualify, you’ll need to teach at a low-income school, teach an underemployed subject area or serve as a full-time elementary or secondary school special education teacher.
The cancellation of your Perkins student loan debt will come in steps. You’d receive a 15% cancellation of your loan for the first and second years of teaching. For the third and fourth years, you’d receive a 20% loan cancellation. For the fifth year of teaching, there’s an additional 30% cancellation.
Notably, each amount canceled annually also includes the cancellation of any interest accrued through the year.
8. Volunteer (AmeriCorps, Peace Corps and other organizations)
Did you know that many volunteer organizations offer student loan forgiveness opportunities?
Volunteer organizations like the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps and Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) are three such groups with student loan awards or repayment options. You can apply for these after you’ve completed your term of service.
The terms and conditions of these programs vary, so visit the organization’s websites to learn more about their student loan programs for volunteers.
Although dentists tend to make a high income — a median of $163,220, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — they also accrue a considerable amount of debt before they start working. The American Dental Education Association found that the average dentist with student loans in the Class of 2020 left school owing a whopping $304,824.
Luckily, there are some loan repayment assistance programs (LRAPs) for dentists, like the Ohio Dentist Loan Repayment Program and Maryland Dent-Care Loan Assistance Repayment Program.
Programs such as these offer significant loan assistance to dentists who work in qualifying areas or workplaces.
Like dentists, pharmacists take on a lot of education debt to earn their degrees. According to the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, pharmacists in the Class of 2021 who borrowed student loans took on an average of $173,561 to finance their education.
Here, too, assistance is available: Several national LRAPs provide financial help to health care providers, including pharmacists. Plus, some state programs, including the California State Loan Repayment Program, will pay back a portion of your loans — if not all — if you establish residency and practice in a qualifying area.
Not only could working with animals be a fulfilling career, but it could also help you get forgiveness for your student loans.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers $25,000 per year for three years in student loan repayment assistance to vets who work in underserved areas. There are other, similar opportunities, such as the North Dakota State Veterinarian Loan Repayment Program, that help veterinarians who agree to work in shortage areas.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the average veterinary school graduate in 2021 owed $186,430 in student loans. Any program that offers relief in the form of forgiveness or repayment assistance could be a tremendous help as you work toward financial independence.
Pros and cons of student loan forgiveness jobs
Most student loan forgiveness jobs have strict requirements, contracts and a minimum term of employment to qualify for loan cancellation. Plus, you’ll typically have to be current on your student loan payments — that is, your loans can’t be in default.
However, you’ll receive debt repayment, cancellation or forgiveness once you meet the requirements. Giving just two or three years of your professional life to a qualifying job may solve your student loan problems.
Every student loan repayment and forgiveness program has its own set of qualifications and eligibility requirements, so make sure to do your research before pursuing any of these or other loan forgiveness programs.
A good starting point for your search could be our full guide to student loan forgiveness.
Of the programs mentioned above, PSLF might be one of the more popular. But qualifying can be tricky, so it’s worth some extra discussion here.
You can find updated details regarding PSLF eligibility at studentaid.gov. The main requirements to receive forgiveness are having a full-time job (minimum of 30 hours a week) with the U.S. federal, state, military, local or tribal government or a nonprofit organization and having federal direct loans or consolidated loans.
To see if your current job counts for the program, you can use the Department of Education’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness Help Tool to check for PSLF qualifying employers.
Once you’ve determined your eligibility, you can start the process by filling out the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Employment Certification form. After completing 120 qualifying monthly payments, your remaining student loan balance is forgiven, tax-free.
Recent changes to PSLF
The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program began in 2007. However, between November 2020 and January 2022, only 2.16% of applicants were accepted.
In October 2021, the Department of Education rolled out changes to the PSLF program to try and raise the acceptance rate. Included in the plan’s overhaul was the creation of a limited PSLF waiver, which temporarily allowed previous student loan payments to count retroactively toward your PSLF eligibility, so long as they were applied before Oct. 31, 2022.
If you can’t find an employer who offers student loan forgiveness or qualifies you for PSLF, here are a few other options to consider as you manage your overall student loan debt:
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