Student Loans and Debt

The Average Pharmacist Student Loan Debt in 2023 Will Surprise You

According to the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP), nearly 85% of students borrow money to pay for their pharmacy degree. Further, the average pharmacist student loan debt is $166,528 by the time they graduate (source).

Are you happy about your career as a pharmacist, but overwhelmed by your student loan debt? Do your monthly payments wreak havoc on your quality of life, or are they simply too high to afford?

Student debt is stressful and exhausting. And if you’re struggling, you’re not alone.

If you are a pharmacist carrying a large load of debt, read on to learn more about how you can reduce it.

Average pharmacist student loan debt comparison

The average pharmacist’s debt after graduation is $166,528, but how does that compare to the debt of a physician, a dentist, a lawyer, or the average Ph.D. graduate? What about salary? What return on investment does a pharmacist degree provide when compared to a master’s degree or a law degree?

As you can see, a pharmacist degree is on the expensive end of the spectrum. Pharmacists have a 132% debt-to-income ratio. Although it is modest compared to dentists (183%), it is higher than that of physicians, lawyers, and the average Ph.D. graduate. If you attended a private institution, the cost is even higher — a whopping $193,396 — compared to the average of $137,356 in debt acquired from a public institution.

Pharmacists graduate with nearly $68K more in student debt than the average Ph.D. graduate. However, it is a solid investment. The median pharmacist has a higher salary ($126.1K) than the median lawyer ($120.9K), Ph.D. ($119.6K), or master’s degree graduate ($72.9K).

Looking for a way to minimize your costs? Consider the following options.

3 ways to manage pharmacist student debt

If you’re carrying a lot of debt, it’s crucial that you consider your management options early on. Making a change could potentially save you a ton of money.

Here’s how you can lower your payments and/or lower your overall cost.

1. Pharmacist student loan refinance

Loan refinancing is the process of taking out a new loan (ideally with more desirable rates and terms) to pay off an old loan. There are several reasons why this might be advantageous. First, refinancing can help you consolidate multiple loans into one, making for a simpler, more streamlined monthly payment. Second, if you secure a loan with a lower interest rate, you’ll reduce your overall cost. And third, if you can afford to shorten your loan term, you can save more overall by paying off your debt sooner.

While Public Service Loan Forgiveness and income-driven repayment plans (more on those below) are only available for federal student loans, refinancing is available for all types of student loans. That means that whether you have federal student loans, private student loans, or both, there are refinancing options available to you.

Compare student loan refinance lenders here:


Before refinancing, you should know that in trading one loan for another, you’ll give up any features or benefits you have with your current lenders. For example, if you refinance federal loans, you will lose your eligibility for federal loan forgiveness programs.


When you apply for a loan to refinance your student debt, lenders will look at your credit history, credit score, job history, and annual income. To qualify, you must meet the lender’s minimum requirements. Further, to get access to the highest loan amounts and lowest interest rates, you’ll have to surpass the minimum requirements with a good-to-great credit score.

Find your best rates

Want to find out what you qualify for? SuperMoney’s student loan refinance engine makes the process easy. Just answer a few quick questions to get personalized offers from top lenders. And prequalifying for a refinanced loan won’t hurt your credit score.

You can compare rates and terms side-by-side to see which one offers the best value for your situation. If you currently have a cosigner but can qualify without one, refinancing can also give you the opportunity to remove their liability for your loan.

Find your best rate here without hurting your credit score.

2. Income-driven repayment plans

Income-driven repayments plans are only available for federal loans. They reduce your monthly payment to a set percentage of your income. After the loan term ends, any remaining balance is forgiven.

Income-driven repayment plans are great for lowering your monthly payments, and they can also provide some debt forgiveness. However, there are a couple of downsides.

First, any forgiven debt may be considered taxable income. Factor in this additional cost when you make your decision.

Second, depending on your income level and your chosen repayment plan, you might end up paying more than your original balance by the end of your plan’s term. Of course, if you’re struggling to make your payments every month, securing lower monthly payments might be worth the cost.

What income-driven repayment plans are available to you? Your options include:

Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE)
  • Monthly payment amount: 10% of your discretionary income divided by 12. (Note: Your discretionary income is your adjusted gross income minus 150% of the state poverty guideline for your family.)
  • Balance Forgiven: After 25 years of eligible repayments (for graduate and professional degrees).
  • Eligible loans: Direct Loans, Direct PLUS Loans (for professional or graduate students), and Direct Consolidation Loans (that did not repay PLUS loans to parents).
Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan (PAYE)
  • Monthly payment amount: 10% of your discretionary income divided by 12.
  • Balance Forgiven: After 25 years of eligible repayments.
  • Eligible loans: Direct Loans, Direct PLUS Loans (for professional or graduate students), and Direct Consolidation Loans (that did not repay PLUS loans to parents).
Income-Based Repayment Plan (IBR)
  • Monthly payment amount: 10% to 15% of discretionary income, divided by 12. New borrowers (whose loans were originated on or after July 1, 2014) make monthly payments equal to 10%. Old borrowers (whose loans originated before July 1, 2014) make payments equal to 15%.
  • Balance Forgiven: If you are a new borrower, your balance will be forgiven after 20 years of eligible repayments. Old borrowers will have their balance forgiven after 25 years.
  • Eligible loans: Direct Loans, Direct PLUS Loans (for professional or graduate students), Direct Consolidation Loans, Federal Stafford Loans, FFEL PLUS loans (for graduate or professional students), FFEL Consolidation Loans (that did not repay loans to parents).
Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR) plan
  • Monthly payment amount: 20% of your discretionary income divided by 12, or what you’d pay over a 25-year term with a fixed monthly payment.
  • Balance Forgiven: After 25 years.
  • Eligible loans: Direct Loans, Direct PLUS Loans (for graduate or professional students), and Direct Consolidation Loans (can repay all other loan types whether they have a student or parent borrower).

Are you eligible for an income-driven repayment plan?

The REPAYE and ICR plans are available to any borrower with eligible federal student loans. However, the PAYE and IBR plans have an additional stipulation. To qualify for PAYE or IBR, your payments on the new plan must be lower than what you would pay under the Standard Repayment Plan with a 10-year term.

Learn more about the four plans. 

By lowering your payment and extending your loan term, you may lower your monthly cost significantly. And any remaining balance is forgiven at the end of the loan term. Just be sure to factor in the cost of taxes on the forgiven debt as well as the overall interest costs.

This route can be helpful if you are in a residency program, or would prefer to pay less per month at the cost of possibly paying more overall.

3. Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)

PSLF is available if you have federal Direct Loans and have worked in public service for 10 years while making repayments. You can maximize your loan forgiveness by getting on an income-driven repayment plan. After the 10 years, your remaining balance is canceled tax-free.

Find a solution for your pharmacist student loans

Although pharmacist student loans can be expensive, there are ways you can reduce the impact. Consider the above three options to find the best fit for you, and browse industry-leading student loan refinance companies below!