If you’re a doctor or studying to be one, chances are you have student loans. A typical medical school graduate has an average student loan debt of $202,450, according to the Education Data Initiative. That’s seven times as much as the average college student owes.
Paying back the loans can be a challenge for doctors during residency and the early part of their career. But the good news is, the profession tends to pay well. In 2023, a typical entry-level doctor earned around $210,000 per year.
Ways to Pay Off Medical School
No matter how much you owe, it’s smart to have the right repayment strategy in place. This can help ensure your monthly loan payments are manageable and your financial health is protected.
Let’s take a closer look at the various student loan payment options available.
Choose a Repayment Plan
When it comes to federal student loans, borrowers have four different repayment options. No matter which plan you choose, your monthly loan payment will be based on your income and family size. If you need to change your plan at any time, you can do so without incurring fees.
• Standard Repayment Plan. This plan spreads out payments evenly over 10 years. For example, if you have a loan balance of $200,000 at 6.54%, your monthly payment will be about $2,275.
• Graduated Repayment Plan. With a graduated plan, your payments start out lower and then gradually increase over time, typically very two years. Repayment takes place over 10 years.
• Extended Repayment Plan. You can choose either fixed or graduated payments, and repayment takes place over 25 years.
• Income-Driven Repayment Plans. There are four types of income-driven repayment plans: Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR), Income-Based Repayment (IBR), Pay As You Earn (PAYE), and Revised Pay As You Earn (RPAYE). Repayment takes place over 20 or 25 years, depending on your income and the plan you choose. At the end of the repayment period, the remaining balance is forgiven, though this amount may be taxable.
As you weigh your options, think about the length of the repayment term and the monthly payment amount. With a longer repayment term, your monthly bill is lower but the amount of interest you pay over the life of the loan is higher. With a shorter term, you pay less in interest over the life of the loan but your monthly payment is higher. A student loan payoff calculator will give you an idea of your monthly payment for different repayment terms.
Loan Forgiveness Programs
Loan forgiveness programs can wipe out some or all of your medical student loan debt, provided you meet certain criteria. If you work for an eligible nonprofit or public service agency, for example, you may qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. Considering a job with a local, state, tribal, or federal government organization or with a nonprofit organization? You could be eligible for federal Direct Loan forgiveness after 10 years in an income-based plan.
You may also qualify for a federal or state loan-repayment assistance program if you provide service to certain areas or segments of the population. For instance, the National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment program will erase as much as $50,000 of eligible student debt, tax-free, if you work for at least two years in an approved medical facility.
Student loans from private lenders do not qualify for PSLF.
Student Loan Consolidation
If you’re paying off more than one federal loan, federal student loan consolidation may be an option worth exploring. Consolidation lets you combine different federal student loans into a single new loan with a fixed rate. The new rate is a weighted average of all your federal loan rates, rounded up to the nearest eighth of a percent. This may result in a slightly higher rate than you were paying before on some loans.
When you consolidate, you have the option to choose a new repayment plan that extends the life of the new loan up to 30 years. Keep in mind that you can’t include any private student loans in this type of consolidation loan.
Student Loan Refinancing
With student loan refinancing, you combine private and federal student loans into one new loan with a private lender, and then refinance the balance at a potentially lower interest rate. This in turn can lower how much you pay in interest over the life of your loan. Refinancing can also make it easier to manage student loan payments. Instead of bills from different lenders, you get one bill each month from one lender.
You can choose a new length for your loan, which lets you adjust your monthly payments. This may be especially helpful if you choose to refinance during your residency.
Recommended: A Guide to Private Student Loans
Attending medical school isn’t cheap, and it’s common to graduate with significant student loan debt. The good news is, there are several repayment options that can help you tackle your debt more efficiently and protect your financial health. For example, if you have federal student loans, your monthly payments are based on your income and family size. You may qualify for a forgiveness program, which could erase part or all of your balance.
Have more than one loan? Consolidation lets you combine multiple federal loans into a single loan with new terms and a new fixed rate. With student loan refinancing, you combine private and federal student loans into a single loan with a private lender and then refinance it at a potentially lower interest rate.
Refinancing can be a great choice for working medical school graduates who have higher-interest PLUS loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, and/or private loans.
SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.
SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.
Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.
Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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