What is a merit scholarship & how to get one

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There are many avenues to fund higher education that one could take. Grants offer money to help college students cover the cost of their education, usually based on financial need.

 

Money received by grants does not typically need to be repaid. Student loans, on the other hand, refer to a lump sum of money that is loaned out for the purpose of covering educational costs upfront. Student loans require repayment on a specific schedule and with added interest.

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In addition to grants and student loans, another possible way to fund your college education is to receive a merit-based scholarship. Merit scholarships are generally awarded based on some type of merit, such as academic performance or achievement, and usually do not need to be repaid. Unlike grants, merit scholarships are typically awarded independently of financial need.

 

Related: Are scholarships taxable?

What is a Merit Scholarship?

A merit-based scholarship is awarded to an individual on the basis of academic excellence, or other non-academic criteria , such as talent and/or certain achievements. As mentioned, while some scholarships may review the financial needs of the student, it’s not typically the primary focus of the application.

 

Merit scholarships for college exist to acknowledge things like academic, athletic or artistic promise and success.

 

They could also apply to specialty and niche interests, such as a specific degree program. The money could either come from the academic institution itself or an outside individual or organization.

Getting a Merit Scholarship

So what are merit-based scholarships able to do for the total cost of your college education? These scholarships could help cover a portion of (and, in certain cases, the full amount of) tuition, room and board, therefore helping decrease the overall cost of college. Like grants, the money from scholarships does not need to be repaid.

 

Recommended: A guide to unclaimed scholarships and grants

 

Here are a few common types of merit scholarships:

1. Colleges and Universities

Many colleges and universities have merit aid awards that are offered to students. Programs may vary from school to school. Some schools may consider all students for a merit award without any further applications. In some cases, there may be an additional application required. Select merit aid awards may be designed to cover the full cost of tuition, while others will only cover a portion.

2. Academic Merit Scholarships

Academic merit scholarships award money to students who demonstrate significant academic achievement in high school. Often, academic merit scholarships may consider a student’s GPA, standardized test scores, class rank or other factors.

 

Depending on the school, you may not need to submit or do anything extra to be awarded a merit-based scholarship. Instead, the school may decide based on your application alone. Note that the exact criteria considered can vary based on the school.

3. Athletic Merit Scholarships

NCAA Division I and II schools may offer athletic scholarships to select student-athletes. If you’re interested in an athletic scholarship, keep in mind that getting recruited can be a time-intensive process. Depending on the sport you play, you may need a highlight reel or video that shows off your skills. Coaches may also review your stats.

 

Most schools will also want to see your academic records and SAT or ACT scores as well. You might also consider reaching out to coaches at the schools you are interested in attending.

4. Merit Scholarship Options from Member Organizations

Member organizations are special interest groups, typically requiring some sort of membership fee. Some examples include the National Association of Flavors and Food-Ingredient Systems (NAFFS), Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) and The Society of Women Engineers (SWE).

 

Oftentimes, these organizations provide scholarships to students. In some cases, they are awarded to members of the organization. One example of this is the Boy Scouts of America. In order to qualify for their Eagle Scout World Explorer, applicants must be an Eagle Scout.

 

Other times, awards are available to students who are pursuing a specific course of study. For example, the NAFFS offers an annual scholarship to “outstanding food science students.” The DAR Richard and Elizabeth Dean Scholarship is awarded to students who are pursuing an undergraduate degree in American Studies. Scholarships from the SWE  are available to applicants who are studying at an accredited university and pursuing a career path in engineering, engineering technology, or computer science.

5. Private Companies

Another source of merit scholarships is private companies. Companies like Coca-Cola, Burger King, Google and more have annual scholarships. Like many other scholarship opportunities, the application requirements and eligibility criteria will vary based on the company and/or scholarship. Here are a few examples:

  • Coca-Cola Scholars Program Scholarship: This program awards 150 scholarships annually worth $20,000 each. This scholarship is available to graduating high school seniors who plan to enroll in an accredited U.S. college or university.
  • Burger King Scholars Program: The Burger King Scholars program offers scholarships to high school seniors who have a GPA of at least 2.5 on a 4.0 scale, demonstrate community involvement and plan to enroll in an accredited college in the U.S. Since it was established in 2005, the program has awarded over $50 million to 43,000 students.
  • Generation Google Scholarship: The Generation Google Scholarship program is targeted at students pursuing degrees in computer science. For the 2022-2023 school year, recipients will get a $10,000 scholarship. This scholarship is open to students enrolled in an accredited Bachelors, Masters or Ph.D. program who are studying computer science or computer engineering, or another “closely related technical field.”

6. National Merit Scholarship Corporation

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) has run the National Merit Scholarship Program since 1955. This award is open to high school students who meet the NMSC’s eligibility requirements, which are published online. Students interested in pursuing the National Merit Scholarship program must also take the PSAT/NMSQT, generally during their junior year. This is the qualifying test to apply for the scholarship program.

How to Apply

The process for applying to a merit scholarship can vary quite dramatically from scholarship to scholarship. Some merit scholarships, such as those offered by colleges and universities, don’t require students to fill out any additional paperwork beyond their application to the school.

 

Applying for merit aid from a source other than your school can be more time-consuming and will likely vary depending on the organization offering the award. In addition to an application detailing basic personal information, students may be required to write an essay or personal statement, gather letters of recommendation or go through an interview process.

 

If you’re interested in applying for a private merit scholarship, check in with the organization directly so you can be sure that you understand exactly what the application requirements are.

What Can Merit Scholarships Pay For?

Frequently, if the merit scholarship is offered by the school, the award will go directly to pay your tuition bills. If there is any money left over after tuition is paid for, it can be used to pay for other educational expenses including room and board, books, or other fees. Each school will have its own procedures for how merit aid is awarded to students, so confirm any questions directly with the financial aid office.

Merit Scholarships and Income Taxes

Generally speaking, merit scholarships are not taxed by the IRS. According to the IRS, scholarships and grants are considered tax-free so long as the following conditions are met:

  • The student is pursuing a degree at an educational institution; and
  • The award money is used to pay for tuition and fees or other expenses related to requirements at the educational institution, such as fees, books and supplies.

There are some situations in which a merit scholarship may be taxed. If a grant or scholarship meets the following criteria, it may be taxable, according to the IRS:

  • The scholarship is used to pay for incidental expenses, such as room and board, travel or optional equipment.
  • The scholarship is awarded as payment for teaching, research or other services. This excludes money received for services required as a part of the National Health Service Corps Scholarship Program, Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship and Financial Assistance Program or a comprehensive student work-learning-service program at a work-college, as defined in section 448(e) of the Higher Education Act of 1965.

If you have any questions about whether or not a scholarship you’ve received is considered taxable income, consider consulting with a tax professional who can provide advice specific to your personal circumstances.

Finding Merit Scholarships

Check in with your college or university to find out if there are any school-specific awards available and determine how to file an application (if an additional application is required). Online resources and databases abound to help you identify merit-based scholarships across the United States. For students who are pursuing graduate degrees, there are also some scholarships and grants for graduate students.

 

It could be a good idea to make a running list or spreadsheet of all of the merit-based scholarships that you are interested in so you can keep the specific due dates and application requirements organized. This could potentially help relieve some stress as you go through the application process.

Consider Starting Early

Many merit-based scholarships look for demonstrated excellence over the course of an applicant’s entire four years of high school. Therefore, it could be a good idea to start thinking about what types of merit scholarships you’re interested in applying for as early as possible.

Maintaining Your Scholarship

It is important to note that some merit-based scholarships could require the scholarship recipient to maintain a certain grade point average (GPA) and/or require specific campus or community involvement to continue receiving consistent scholarship funding.

 

If you do decide to apply for a merit-based scholarship, it’s a good idea to be prepared to not only do the hard work to secure the scholarship, but also maintain it once you get to campus.

Other Ways to Help Finance College Tuition

If you do not meet the requirements for any merit scholarships for college, there are still many financing options available to you. Often the first step for students looking to secure aid is by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Students must fill this out in order to receive any federal aid, including federal grants and scholarships, work-study and federal student loans.

 

The federal work-study program sets students up with part-time jobs where they can earn money to put towards their educational costs.

 

New federal student loans boast consistent fixed interest rates, expectations for repayment, income-driven repayment plans and possible forgiveness programs. Depending on your level of need, you may qualify for either subsidized or unsubsidized student loans. With a subsidized loan (for undergrads only), the federal government pays for any accruing interest on your loans while you’re in school; with an unsubsidized loan, you have to pay for the interest yourself.

 

If federal aid and merit-based scholarships aren’t enough to cover the cost of college education, private student loans could be an option to consider. These loans are offered by banks and private institutions. Students and their co-signers (if applicable) apply for private student loans as if they were applying to other types of loans, such as auto and home loans.

 

Since they are not beholden to the same criteria as federal loan terms, private student lenders are able to determine their own unique term lengths, interest rates and repayment plans; thus, private loans could fill in any gaps between the cost of attendance and the amount of federal aid and scholarships they receive. However, because they don’t offer the same borrower protections as federal student loans, private student loans are generally considered only after all other sources of funding have been exhausted.

The Takeaway

Merit scholarships are awarded to students based on some sort of merit, such as academic or athletic. This money does not typically need to be repaid by student recipients. Some sources for merit scholarships include your college or university, member organizations, private companies or the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.

 

If merit awards and federal aid aren’t enough to pay for college, private student loans may be an option to consider.

 

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Average student loan debt by profession

 

What do a doctor, a lawyer, and a dentist have in common? It sounds like the setup to a joke, but the punchline is anything but funny. All of these professions may come with a staggering amount of student loan debt.

 

That’s because college costs have risen much faster than wages, and the average cost of a four-year degree has far outpaced the rate of inflation in the past 15 or so years. Meanwhile, in some cases wages have remained stagnant or have even dipped when adjusted for inflation, as certain industries have radically shifted over the past decade.

 

The COVID-19 pandemic created further volatility, especially for recent graduates, who may have entered an employment landscape with fewer job opportunities.

 

The pandemic and the 2020 election also brought student loan debt into the spotlight, with lawmakers calling for reducing the debt held by 45 million Americans. Professional organizations have also lobbied for measures to curb ballooning student debt and provide smoother pathways for repayment.

 

Related: A guide to student loan forgiveness for nurses

 

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

What do a doctor, a lawyer, and a dentist have in common? It sounds like the setup to a joke, but the punchline is anything but funny. All of these professions may come with a staggering amount of student loan debt.

 

That’s because college costs have risen much faster than wages, and the average cost of a four-year degree has far outpaced the rate of inflation in the past 15 or so years. Meanwhile, in some cases wages have remained stagnant or have even dipped when adjusted for inflation, as certain industries have radically shifted over the past decade.

 

The COVID-19 pandemic created further volatility, especially for recent graduates, who may have entered an employment landscape with fewer job opportunities.

 

The pandemic and the 2020 election also brought student loan debt into the spotlight, with lawmakers calling for reducing the debt held by 45 million Americans. Professional organizations have also lobbied for measures to curb ballooning student debt and provide smoother pathways for repayment.

 

Related: A guide to student loan forgiveness for nurses

 

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

Student loan debt cuts across demographics and economic achievement, yet there are nuances.

Upper-income households are responsible for a disproportionate share of student loan debt. The highest-income 40% of households (those making over $74,000 a year) hold 60% of all student loan debt, accounting for three-quarters of all student loan payments, according to the Brookings Institution, citing recent data from the Fed’s Survey of Consumer Finances.

 

And while graduate programs enroll only 15% of all higher education students, the programs account for 40% of all federal student loans issued each year, according to the Center for American Progress. In other words: The more education you have, the more debt you may have as well, and a high salary only tells one part of someone’s financial story.

 

While it’s true that jobs for people with higher degrees can pay in the six figures, student loan debt can make a significant cut into earnings. Considering student loan debt, along with salary, can give a more complete picture of what kind of financial future many graduates face.

 

Here are professions whose graduates, on average, owe the most. This list is not exhaustive, and rankings can change based on different data sets.

 

Ta Nu/ istockphoto

 

Student loan debt cuts across demographics and economic achievement, yet there are nuances.

Upper-income households are responsible for a disproportionate share of student loan debt. The highest-income 40% of households (those making over $74,000 a year) hold 60% of all student loan debt, accounting for three-quarters of all student loan payments, according to the Brookings Institution, citing recent data from the Fed’s Survey of Consumer Finances.

 

And while graduate programs enroll only 15% of all higher education students, the programs account for 40% of all federal student loans issued each year, according to the Center for American Progress. In other words: The more education you have, the more debt you may have as well, and a high salary only tells one part of someone’s financial story.

 

While it’s true that jobs for people with higher degrees can pay in the six figures, student loan debt can make a significant cut into earnings. Considering student loan debt, along with salary, can give a more complete picture of what kind of financial future many graduates face.

 

Here are professions whose graduates, on average, owe the most. This list is not exhaustive, and rankings can change based on different data sets.

 

Ta Nu/ istockphoto

 

Graduating with hundreds of thousands of dollars owed can be daunting. Even with a relatively high salary, oral surgeons with a large student loan burden find that the debt has a significant effect on their professional and personal decisions for decades to come, according to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons.

 

The organization has lobbied for student loan reform, including halting interest accrual on student loans during an internship or residency, making sure fair income-based repayment structures are in place, and allowing qualified participants in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program to have remaining loan balances forgiven earlier than the standard 10 years.

 

  • Average student loan debt: can top $400,000
  • Median salary: $291,100

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

Graduating with hundreds of thousands of dollars owed can be daunting. Even with a relatively high salary, oral surgeons with a large student loan burden find that the debt has a significant effect on their professional and personal decisions for decades to come, according to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons.

 

The organization has lobbied for student loan reform, including halting interest accrual on student loans during an internship or residency, making sure fair income-based repayment structures are in place, and allowing qualified participants in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program to have remaining loan balances forgiven earlier than the standard 10 years.

 

  • Average student loan debt: can top $400,000
  • Median salary: $291,100

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

Like other dental school graduates, orthodontists may face substantial student loan debt. After dental school, orthodontists train for orthodonture during a residency that can last several years. A while back, an orthodontist named Mike Meru garnered worldwide headlines for racking up over $1 million in student loan debt.

 

The American Association of Orthodontists has supported legislation aimed at student loan reform: “Reducing interest rates and fees and allowing refinancing for today’s graduates are critical steps to helping them repay these loans sooner and more efficiently so they can begin to invest in their futures and careers,” Dr. Nahid Maleki, a former association president, has said.

  • Average student loan debt: $365,000
  • Median salary: $208,000

 

wutwhanfoto/istockphoto

 

Like other dental school graduates, orthodontists may face substantial student loan debt. After dental school, orthodontists train for orthodonture during a residency that can last several years. A while back, an orthodontist named Mike Meru garnered worldwide headlines for racking up over $1 million in student loan debt.

 

The American Association of Orthodontists has supported legislation aimed at student loan reform: “Reducing interest rates and fees and allowing refinancing for today’s graduates are critical steps to helping them repay these loans sooner and more efficiently so they can begin to invest in their futures and careers,” Dr. Nahid Maleki, a former association president, has said.

  • Average student loan debt: $365,000
  • Median salary: $208,000

 

wutwhanfoto/istockphoto

 

Less than 3% of all dentists are endodontists, according to the American Association of Endodontists, a specialty that requires two to three years of education and training beyond dentistry. This means that endodontists may shoulder a greater debt burden than their dental school counterparts.

 

“The high cost of a dental or medical education is a crippling problem and threatens the future of our specialty,” Dr. Keith V. Krell, then president of the American Association of Endodontists, said. The organization has supported legislation to “funnel more money into dental schools so that unreasonable tuition costs can be offset.”

  • Average student loan debt: $533,000
  • Median salary: $228,443

 

istockphoto/Harbucks

 

Less than 3% of all dentists are endodontists, according to the American Association of Endodontists, a specialty that requires two to three years of education and training beyond dentistry. This means that endodontists may shoulder a greater debt burden than their dental school counterparts.

 

“The high cost of a dental or medical education is a crippling problem and threatens the future of our specialty,” Dr. Keith V. Krell, then president of the American Association of Endodontists, said. The organization has supported legislation to “funnel more money into dental schools so that unreasonable tuition costs can be offset.”

  • Average student loan debt: $533,000
  • Median salary: $228,443

 

istockphoto/Harbucks

 

Many dental students bite off a lot of debt. While the dental industry can be thought of as relatively recession-proof (your aching tooth doesn’t care about market fluctuations), dental spending may become flat during and after lean times while the supply of dentists rises.

 

Navigating insurance as a dental practice can also be tricky for practice owners, and the field can be competitive and crowded for new dentists.

  • Average student loan debt: $292,169
  • Median dentist salary: $155,600

 

AntonioGuillem / istockphoto

 

Many dental students bite off a lot of debt. While the dental industry can be thought of as relatively recession-proof (your aching tooth doesn’t care about market fluctuations), dental spending may become flat during and after lean times while the supply of dentists rises.

 

Navigating insurance as a dental practice can also be tricky for practice owners, and the field can be competitive and crowded for new dentists.

  • Average student loan debt: $292,169
  • Median dentist salary: $155,600

 

AntonioGuillem / istockphoto

 

While radiologists can be high earners in the medical field, they also may hold a staggering amount of debt that accumulates during medical school and residency. The American College of Radiologists has supported legislation to halt interest accrual during residency.

 

Currently, residents can request deferment or forbearance on loans, depending on their circumstances, but even if granted, interest accrues. This can add thousands or tens of thousands of dollars to the balance of a radiologist’s student loan debt.

  • Average student loan debt: $241,600
  • Median salary: $509,000

 

peakSTOCK/istockphoto

 

While radiologists can be high earners in the medical field, they also may hold a staggering amount of debt that accumulates during medical school and residency. The American College of Radiologists has supported legislation to halt interest accrual during residency.

 

Currently, residents can request deferment or forbearance on loans, depending on their circumstances, but even if granted, interest accrues. This can add thousands or tens of thousands of dollars to the balance of a radiologist’s student loan debt.

  • Average student loan debt: $241,600
  • Median salary: $509,000

 

peakSTOCK/istockphoto

 

For many medical students, residency is when student loan debt balloons. Unlike their high-earning counterparts who may immediately begin earning six-figure salaries after grad school, med students earn an average of $61,200 during residency.

 

During this time, interest may accrue on loans. Increasing patient loads, malpractice vulnerabilities, and more have led to burnout in this profession. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a shortage in the speciality may be on the horizon.

  • Average student loan debt: $241,600
  • Median salary: $303,000

 

Inside Creative House/istockphoto

 

For many medical students, residency is when student loan debt balloons. Unlike their high-earning counterparts who may immediately begin earning six-figure salaries after grad school, med students earn an average of $61,200 during residency.

 

During this time, interest may accrue on loans. Increasing patient loads, malpractice vulnerabilities, and more have led to burnout in this profession. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a shortage in the speciality may be on the horizon.

  • Average student loan debt: $241,600
  • Median salary: $303,000

 

Inside Creative House/istockphoto

 

Residency requirements can cause interest accrual to add to the debt load of these medical professionals. The American Society of Anesthesiologists supports legislation that would allow borrowers to qualify for interest-free deferment on loans while in residency.

 

The legislation has been introduced to Congress but has not gained traction. The work of an anesthesiologist can be grueling: Some reports have shown that anesthesiologists have a higher risk of burnout than other physicians.

  • Average student loan debt: $241,600
  • Median salary: $395,000

 

Andrey Shevchuk

 

Residency requirements can cause interest accrual to add to the debt load of these medical professionals. The American Society of Anesthesiologists supports legislation that would allow borrowers to qualify for interest-free deferment on loans while in residency.

 

The legislation has been introduced to Congress but has not gained traction. The work of an anesthesiologist can be grueling: Some reports have shown that anesthesiologists have a higher risk of burnout than other physicians.

  • Average student loan debt: $241,600
  • Median salary: $395,000

 

Andrey Shevchuk

 

Also called a doctor, primary care physician, or family practitioner, a physician is an essential element of primary care of all ages, and can be a point of contact who works with other doctors to diagnose and treat patients. Not a medical specialty, this umbrella term can also refer to pediatricians and internal medicine doctors.

 

While the career path may not be as lucrative as some specialized medical careers, it offers intangible benefits, such as control over your hours worked and the ability to get to know your patients, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP).

 

But the salary compared with student loan debt can make the debt burdensome. The AAFP has advocated for federal loans and scholarship programs that target primary and family care as well as interest deferment during residency.

  • Average student loan debt: $241,600
  • Median salary: $206,500

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

Also called a doctor, primary care physician, or family practitioner, a physician is an essential element of primary care of all ages, and can be a point of contact who works with other doctors to diagnose and treat patients. Not a medical specialty, this umbrella term can also refer to pediatricians and internal medicine doctors.

 

While the career path may not be as lucrative as some specialized medical careers, it offers intangible benefits, such as control over your hours worked and the ability to get to know your patients, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP).

 

But the salary compared with student loan debt can make the debt burdensome. The AAFP has advocated for federal loans and scholarship programs that target primary and family care as well as interest deferment during residency.

  • Average student loan debt: $241,600
  • Median salary: $206,500

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

Members of one of the fastest-growing segments of health care, according to the American Osteopathic Association, osteopaths take a whole-person approach to medicine. Osteopaths may practice all medical specialties, but attend an osteopathic medical school where they receive specialized training in the musculoskeletal system.

 

The osteopathic association found that 86% of osteopathic medicine graduates have student loan debt. Like their medical school counterparts, osteopath students can be susceptible to burnout.

  • Average student loan debt: $240,331
  • Median salary: $208,000

 

ronstik/istockphoto

 

Members of one of the fastest-growing segments of health care, according to the American Osteopathic Association, osteopaths take a whole-person approach to medicine. Osteopaths may practice all medical specialties, but attend an osteopathic medical school where they receive specialized training in the musculoskeletal system.

 

The osteopathic association found that 86% of osteopathic medicine graduates have student loan debt. Like their medical school counterparts, osteopath students can be susceptible to burnout.

  • Average student loan debt: $240,331
  • Median salary: $208,000

 

ronstik/istockphoto

 

Pharmacists require undergraduate and graduate school degrees, and the career path can be varied upon graduation. Some pharmacists enter research and development, while others choose to work with patients in hospitals, clinics, or commercial settings.

 

This can allow for career flexibility for pharmacists, as they can balance family and personal obligations with a career. But student loan debt can become a burden for pharmacists that can affect their financial decisions for decades.

 

As with other professions, the challenge becomes balancing debt with future financial goals such as saving adequately for retirement.

  • Average student loan debt:$179,514
  • Median salary: $125,000

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

Pharmacists require undergraduate and graduate school degrees, and the career path can be varied upon graduation. Some pharmacists enter research and development, while others choose to work with patients in hospitals, clinics, or commercial settings.

 

This can allow for career flexibility for pharmacists, as they can balance family and personal obligations with a career. But student loan debt can become a burden for pharmacists that can affect their financial decisions for decades.

 

As with other professions, the challenge becomes balancing debt with future financial goals such as saving adequately for retirement.

  • Average student loan debt:$179,514
  • Median salary: $125,000

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

Educated at the master’s degree level, a physician assistant can diagnose, treat, and prescribe medication to patients and can often be a patient’s main health contact. A physician assistant does not have to go through the years of medical school and residency training of doctors but still must have hours of clinical experience.

 

The career is in demand, with three-quarters of graduates receiving multiple job offers after graduation, according to the American Association of Physician Assistants. But the student debt burden can be intense.

  • Average student loan debt: $112,500
  • Median salary $112,260

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

Educated at the master’s degree level, a physician assistant can diagnose, treat, and prescribe medication to patients and can often be a patient’s main health contact. A physician assistant does not have to go through the years of medical school and residency training of doctors but still must have hours of clinical experience.

 

The career is in demand, with three-quarters of graduates receiving multiple job offers after graduation, according to the American Association of Physician Assistants. But the student debt burden can be intense.

  • Average student loan debt: $112,500
  • Median salary $112,260

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

“Lawyer” has come to mean “high earner,” but the truth is much more nuanced. Lawyers have a large income discrepancy based on the type of law they pursue and the state they practice in. Nearly 75% of law school graduates have some form of student loan debt, and the average debt has risen in the past several decades.

 

For example, in 2000, law school graduates came out of the gate with an average of $59,000 (nearly $88,000, adjusted for inflation) in student loans, while today, new graduates have an average of $160,000 in cumulative debt. The American Bar Association has lobbied the government to provide student loan debt relief for lawyers.

  • Average student loan debt: $160,000
  • Median salary: $122,960

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

“Lawyer” has come to mean “high earner,” but the truth is much more nuanced. Lawyers have a large income discrepancy based on the type of law they pursue and the state they practice in. Nearly 75% of law school graduates have some form of student loan debt, and the average debt has risen in the past several decades.

 

For example, in 2000, law school graduates came out of the gate with an average of $59,000 (nearly $88,000, adjusted for inflation) in student loans, while today, new graduates have an average of $160,000 in cumulative debt. The American Bar Association has lobbied the government to provide student loan debt relief for lawyers.

  • Average student loan debt: $160,000
  • Median salary: $122,960

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

Physical therapists must earn a doctor of physical therapy degree, a three-year course after a bachelor’s degree. After graduation, physical therapists may do a residency or fellowship, or may begin practicing right away. Salaries can depend on the type of work a physical therapist pursues. Student debt can affect those decisions.

 

According to the American Physical Therapy Association, 70% of respondents to a survey said debt caused anxiety.

 

The association has been advocating for physical therapists on Capitol Hill, lobbying for more scholarship opportunities for therapists from underrepresented backgrounds and inclusion of physical therapists in the National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program, a loan repayment program for health professionals.

  • Average student loan debt: $142,500
  • Median salary: $89,440

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

Physical therapists must earn a doctor of physical therapy degree, a three-year course after a bachelor’s degree. After graduation, physical therapists may do a residency or fellowship, or may begin practicing right away. Salaries can depend on the type of work a physical therapist pursues. Student debt can affect those decisions.

 

According to the American Physical Therapy Association, 70% of respondents to a survey said debt caused anxiety.

 

The association has been advocating for physical therapists on Capitol Hill, lobbying for more scholarship opportunities for therapists from underrepresented backgrounds and inclusion of physical therapists in the National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program, a loan repayment program for health professionals.

  • Average student loan debt: $142,500
  • Median salary: $89,440

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

Many people think a master of business administration degree translates into a high-salary career, and while it’s true that graduates of top programs often receive high pay offers, top programs are expensive, and there’s no guarantee that a job will result.

 

So is an MBA worth it? That depends on your career goals.

 

Some people find that employers will pay for an MBA, and MBA studies, while rigorous, can sometimes be done alongside working, which means that MBA students may not necessarily lose out on a salary while getting their graduate degree.

  • Average student loan debt: $100,000
  • Average salary: $115,000

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

Many people think a master of business administration degree translates into a high-salary career, and while it’s true that graduates of top programs often receive high pay offers, top programs are expensive, and there’s no guarantee that a job will result.

 

So is an MBA worth it? That depends on your career goals.

 

Some people find that employers will pay for an MBA, and MBA studies, while rigorous, can sometimes be done alongside working, which means that MBA students may not necessarily lose out on a salary while getting their graduate degree.

  • Average student loan debt: $100,000
  • Average salary: $115,000

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

Occupational therapists (OTs) need to obtain a master’s degree and satisfy licensing requirements, as well as supervised fieldwork.

 

Like physical therapists, the salary progression for OTs depends on the type of work they pursue, and the type of work they pursue also affects the type of potential loan forgiveness that may work for their circumstances.

 

The American Occupational Therapy Association recognizes that many students graduate with student loan debt that can be tough to pay back on a median OT salary. The association actively lobbied for occupational therapists during the COVID-19 pandemic to make sure their interests were covered under the CARES Act.

  • Average student loan debt: Varies
  • Median salary: $90,200

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

Occupational therapists (OTs) need to obtain a master’s degree and satisfy licensing requirements, as well as supervised fieldwork.

 

Like physical therapists, the salary progression for OTs depends on the type of work they pursue, and the type of work they pursue also affects the type of potential loan forgiveness that may work for their circumstances.

 

The American Occupational Therapy Association recognizes that many students graduate with student loan debt that can be tough to pay back on a median OT salary. The association actively lobbied for occupational therapists during the COVID-19 pandemic to make sure their interests were covered under the CARES Act.

  • Average student loan debt: Varies
  • Median salary: $90,200

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

Nursing salaries—and the student loan debt that nurses carry—depend on education level. Nurses who have a master of science in nursing have the most student loan debt, while those who have a bachelor’s degree or associate degree have lower debt, but may have lower salaries as well.

 

Scholarship opportunities for nurses can limit the necessity of student loans, and some nurses may qualify for forgiveness opportunities, including the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program and the Nurse Corps Repayment Program, a federal program for nurses who work in high-need areas.

  • Average student loan debt (with master’s degree): $47,230
  • Median RN salary: $64,830

 

istockphoto/digitalskillet

 

Nursing salaries—and the student loan debt that nurses carry—depend on education level. Nurses who have a master of science in nursing have the most student loan debt, while those who have a bachelor’s degree or associate degree have lower debt, but may have lower salaries as well.

 

Scholarship opportunities for nurses can limit the necessity of student loans, and some nurses may qualify for forgiveness opportunities, including the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program and the Nurse Corps Repayment Program, a federal program for nurses who work in high-need areas.

  • Average student loan debt (with master’s degree): $47,230
  • Median RN salary: $64,830

 

istockphoto/digitalskillet

 

The salary of a professional just starting out may seem fabulous but perhaps loses a bit of luster vis-a-vis a pile of student loan debt. With six-figure education debts common, professional organizations are lobbying for student loan relief and the ability for anyone of any financial circumstance to be able to pursue their professional dreams.

 

If you have student loans and think you could benefit from a lower interest rate, see what refinancing student debt could mean for you.

 

Learn More:

This article
originally appeared on 
SoFi.comand was
syndicated by
MediaFeed.org.

 

SoFi Student Loan Refinance

IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO REFINANCE FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS PLEASE BE AWARE OF RECENT LEGISLATIVE CHANGES THAT HAVE SUSPENDED ALL FEDERAL STUDENT LOAN PAYMENTS AND WAIVED INTEREST CHARGES ON FEDERALLY HELD LOANS UNTIL THE END OF SEPTEMBER DUE TO COVID-19. PLEASE CAREFULLY CONSIDER THESE CHANGES BEFORE REFINANCING FEDERALLY HELD LOANS WITH SOFI, SINCE IN DOING SO YOU WILL NO LONGER QUALIFY FOR THE FEDERAL LOAN PAYMENT SUSPENSION, INTEREST WAIVER, OR ANY OTHER CURRENT OR FUTURE BENEFITS APPLICABLE TO FEDERAL LOANS. CLICK HERE  FOR MORE INFORMATION.

Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

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.

Third Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

The salary of a professional just starting out may seem fabulous but perhaps loses a bit of luster vis-a-vis a pile of student loan debt. With six-figure education debts common, professional organizations are lobbying for student loan relief and the ability for anyone of any financial circumstance to be able to pursue their professional dreams.

 

If you have student loans and think you could benefit from a lower interest rate, see what refinancing student debt could mean for you.

 

Learn More:

This article
originally appeared on 
SoFi.comand was
syndicated by
MediaFeed.org.

 

SoFi Student Loan Refinance

IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO REFINANCE FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS PLEASE BE AWARE OF RECENT LEGISLATIVE CHANGES THAT HAVE SUSPENDED ALL FEDERAL STUDENT LOAN PAYMENTS AND WAIVED INTEREST CHARGES ON FEDERALLY HELD LOANS UNTIL THE END OF SEPTEMBER DUE TO COVID-19. PLEASE CAREFULLY CONSIDER THESE CHANGES BEFORE REFINANCING FEDERALLY HELD LOANS WITH SOFI, SINCE IN DOING SO YOU WILL NO LONGER QUALIFY FOR THE FEDERAL LOAN PAYMENT SUSPENSION, INTEREST WAIVER, OR ANY OTHER CURRENT OR FUTURE BENEFITS APPLICABLE TO FEDERAL LOANS. CLICK HERE  FOR MORE INFORMATION.

Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

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.

Third Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

Featured Image Credit: undefined undefined / istockphoto.

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