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Becoming a pharmacist can be a lucrative and rewarding career, but getting there is far from easy — or cheap.
It typically takes four to six years to earn a doctorate of pharmacy degree, or PharmD. And the annual cost ranges from just under $5,500 per year for an in-state school up to $84,000 per year to attend pharmacy school out of state, according to American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy data. That doesn’t even include fees and other non-tuition costs.
Pharmacy school loans may be able to help would-be pharmacists who can’t afford these high costs out of pocket. Here’s what you need to know about this financing option.
If you’ve exhausted your federal student loan options and still need help paying for pharmacy school, Credible lets you easily compare private student loan rates from various lenders.
Where to get student loans for pharmacy school
You have two options if you need to borrow money as a pharmacy student:
- Federal student loans — The federal government issues federal student loans, and in many cases, they’re not based on financial need or a credit check. They also have fixed interest rates and come with a number of repayment and hardship options. You should exhaust all your federal student loan options before turning to private loans.
- Private student loans — Private student loans are another way you can pay for pharmacy school. Private lenders issue these, and they often allow you to borrow more than you could with federal student loans. They may also offer interest rate discounts for having high credit scores or setting up automatic payments.
You can use Credible to compare private student loan rates in minutes, and it won’t affect your credit.
8 best student loans for pharmacy school
If you need private student loans for your pharmacy school tuition and fees, the following eight Credible partner lenders are a good place to start. You can use the Credible platform to compare your prequalified rates.
Ascent: Best for repayment options
Ascent offers a number of valuable rewards to borrowers, including 1% cash back at graduation and a 0.25% to 1% rate discount for setting up automatic payments. Loan terms range from five to 20 years (including a seven- and 12-year term), and loan amounts go up to $200,000. Ascent offers both fixed- and variable-rate loans.
Citizens Bank: Best for parent loans
If you’re a parent looking to take out a loan on your child’s behalf, Citizens Bank offers up to $350,000 in funding. Loan terms range from five to 15 years, and only fixed-rate loans are available. You may also qualify for a number of interest rate discounts, and Citizens doesn’t charge application, origination, or disbursement fees.
College Ave: Best for low interest rates
College Ave is a good choice if you want a wide variety of repayment options and low fixed and variable rates. The lender offers repayment terms ranging from five to 20 years (including a rare eight-year term), and you can borrow up to your school’s certified cost of attendance.
Custom Choice: Best for discounts
Custom Choice may be a good option if you want to save some cash. The lender offers loans of up to $99,000 annually ($180,000 total) and provides a number of cost-reducing perks, like a 0.25% autopay discount and a 2% reduction of your principal balance if you graduate with at least a bachelor’s degree.
EDvestinU: Best for high-credit–score borrowers
EDvestinU requires a credit score of at least 750, but provides perks for those who qualify. The lender currently offers a 0.50% interest rate reduction (double what many lenders offer) if you set up automatic monthly payments. Both fixed- and variable-rate loans are available, and terms range from seven to 15 years.
INvestEd: Best for students in Indiana
INvestEd’s loans are only for Indiana residents or students attending Indiana schools. If you meet this requirement, you can borrow up to 100% of your school’s cost of attendance. The lender also offers a 2% principal reduction if you graduate in six years or less. You’ll need a credit score of at least 670 to qualify for an INvestEd loan.
MEFA: Best for public college students
The Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority offers loans only for students at public and nonprofit colleges, so if you attend a private university you’ll need to look elsewhere. If you can qualify, MEFA offers fixed-rate loans up to your cost of attendance (minus any financial aid). Only two repayment terms are available, 10 and 15 years, and you must have a 670 credit score to qualify.
Sallie Mae: Best for borrowers with a cosigner
Sallie Mae is a great choice if you plan to apply with a cosigner. Cosigners can apply for release after just 12 consecutive months of on-time payments, versus the 24- to 36-month cosigner release period many lenders require. The lender also offers autopay discounts, and you can borrow up to your school’s total cost of attendance. Both fixed- and variable-rate loans are available.
Other lenders to consider
The following three lenders aren’t Credible partners, so you won’t be able to easily compare your rates with them on the Credible platform. Still, they may be worth considering if you’re looking for a pharmacy school loan.
Earnest offers a variety of private student loan types, including parent loans, grad school loans, cosigner loans, and medical school loans. The lender offers fixed- and variable-rate loans, as well as a 0.25% autopay discount. Earnest student loan borrowers can defer payments for nine months after they graduate, and the lender doesn’t charge origination, late payment, or prepayment fees.
PNC Bank’s student loans come with a 0.50% autopay discount and three terms to choose from: five, 10, and 15 years. The lender offers deferment and interest-only monthly payments while you’re in school, as well as discounts and fee waivers specifically for military members and veterans. Loan amounts are limited to $50,000 annually and $225,000 total.
With SoFi, you’ll pay no fees and can apply — even with a cosigner — entirely online in minutes. You can get a 0.25% autopay discount and defer student loan payments until six months after you graduate. The lender also offers a rewards program that lets you earn points to put toward your loan balance.
Credible evaluated private student loan lenders in 10 different categories to determine the best lenders for private student loans. This included interest rates, repayment options, terms, fees, discounts, and customer service availability, as well as eligibility requirements and cosigner release options.
How to pay for pharmacy school
To find financial assistance in paying for pharmacy school, follow these steps:
1. Fill out the FAFSA
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is the application you’ll use for federal student loans, as well as federal grants, work-study programs, and other aid. Schools use this form to determine how much aid you might qualify for.
The FAFSA requires details like your Social Security number, tax returns, and other financial documents. If you’re a dependent, you’ll also need to provide your parents’ financial information. Once your application is processed, you’ll receive an award letter detailing what assistance you’re eligible for.
You can complete the FAFSA on the Federal Student Aid website.
2. Apply for scholarships and grants
You should also apply for outside scholarships and grants, as these can help reduce your pharmacy school costs too. Many nonprofits, corporations, and community organizations offer these, as do individual colleges and universities.
Most grants and scholarships are based on either merit or need, and you typically don’t have to repay them. Ask your school’s financial aid office what options might be available.
3. Explore employer tuition assistance
Many employers offer assistance with tuition and other educational costs, so if you’re employed, talk to your HR department. An employer tuition assistance program may not cover your schooling entirely, but it could help offset your costs and reduce the amount of aid you need.
4. Take out federal student loans
Federal loans are your next-best option if you can’t cover your full costs in free scholarships, grants, and employer assistance. Look at your award letter and accept any federal loans that can help. These will come at a lower cost and with more flexible repayment options than private loans offer.
5. Use private student loans to fill the gaps
Finally, apply for private student loans to fill in any gaps or when your other options expire. You’ll want to keep the amount you borrow from private lenders to a minimum.
You should also shop around and compare loans from multiple lenders to make sure you’re getting the best rate and terms for your situation to help reduce your long-term interest costs.
Credible let you see your prequalified student loan rates from private lenders, all in one place.
Student loan forgiveness for pharmacists
If you have federal student loans, you may be able to have your student loan debt forgiven under certain circumstances. For example, if you work in the public service sector, you could be eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program after you’ve made 120 qualifying monthly payments while working for a qualifying employer full-time.
For information about the PSLF Program, visit the Federal Student Aid website.
Depending on where you live, you may be able to find state-based pharmacy student loan forgiveness programs, particularly if there’s a shortage of healthcare workers in your area. For example, Alaska’s SHARP-1 Program provides partial financial support to clinicians who commit to two years of service in a designated health professional shortage area.
You can also contact your loan servicer for more information and ask if it offers any loan forgiveness options you can take advantage of.
Student loan repayment for pharmacists
With federal student loans, you’ll have many repayment options at your disposal. You can choose an income-based repayment plan, which bases your monthly payments on your earnings, or you can even defer your payments (and pay them at a later date) if you fall on hard times.
Some state-based programs also help with student loan repayment, like Washington Health Corps and Oregon Partnership. And if you teach at a health professions school, you may qualify for a Health Resources and Services Administration Faculty Loan Repayment Program, which offers up to $40,000 toward your federal or private student loan debt.
Other employment-based repayment programs include the National Health Service Corps Substance Use Disorder Workforce Loan Repayment Program (if you work three years in substance abuse treatment) and the Indian Health Service Loan Repayment Program (if you serve American Indian or Alaska Native communities for at least two years).
Again, if you have private student loan debt, talk to your loan servicer for more information. Your options will vary depending on your loan and lender.
Is pharmacy school worth it?
The average pharmacy school debt clocked in at more than $173,000 in 2021, according to an American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy graduating student survey. Fortunately, pharmacy graduates often make nearly that annually. The median salary for a pharmacist in 2020 was nearly $129,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
As long as you choose the right financing options, pay your loans as scheduled, and remain in your career for the long haul, the investment should more than pay off over time.