Yes, and here’s why. Due to healthcare reform requiring more Americans to seek healthcare coverage, as well as our aging population of Baby Boomers, healthcare workers are in higher demand now than ever before — and this includes physical therapists. To become a physical therapist, you’ll need a college education; and for most, that means incurring student loan debt to help cover tuition costs.
Physical therapy — a growing field
Luckily, your student loan repayment will be money well spent. That’s because the physical therapy field offers good pay and available positions—now and for the future. Recent data from the U.S. Department of Labor identified therapy among its list of the top 20 jobs for millennials (young professionals and recent college graduates). This ranking was based on the median salary professionals may expect to earn by mid-career ($70,000 for therapists per this list), projected growth of a career path, and how many workers under the age of 35 are currently employed in a career. According to the Department of Labor, therapy is a wise choice when selecting a career path.
Federal student loan repayment and forgiveness
The federal government offers opportunities to physical therapists to help pay down and eliminate student loan debt. For example, employees working in the healthcare field providing direct patient care can receive repayment assistance for certain qualifying loans through the Education Debt Reduction Program (EDRP). Other debt assistance and forgiveness includes:
- Employee Incentive Scholarship Program (EISP) — a scholarship for part-time VA employees enrolled in an accredited education program
- VA National Education for Employees Program (VANEEP) — an opportunity for students enrolled in a full-time, approved education program to receive payment for educational costs when working at a VA facility during academic breaks.
- Student Loan Repayment (SLRP) — a repayment program for employees in certain occupations. If eligible, you can receive up to $10,000 of financial assistance per year, with a lifetime maximum of $60,000.
- Income-based repayment — if you have certain unsubsidized Stafford loans, you may qualify for repayment that equals 15 percent of your monthly income (offered through the Department of Education).
How to pay down your student loan debt
If you don’t qualify for a forgiveness program and don’t feel comfortable with looming student loan debt, you can take steps to pay down your loans quickly. Consider the following:
- Make some sacrifices. Yes, creature comforts are nice. But forgoing things like cable, a fancy new cell phone, your daily coffee stop, dining out, etc. can give you money leftover in each paycheck that you can use to reduce your student loan debt. New graduates who are serious about paying off their loans often live with their parents or as cheaply as possible, drive a beater car, and put all their disposable income towards their loan payments. Basically, you need to get some accountability like a Dave Ramsey class and, “Live like no one else today… so that you can live like no one else tomorrow!”
- Earn more. If you are up for an adventure, consider working as a travel therapist. Working in a setting or location that has a shortage of therapists is a great way to maximize your earning potential. If you want to stay closer to home, you might find a second, PRN job that works around your full time schedule. Float Pools and weekend hours often pay extra. Just be aware that working too many weekends is one of the factors that lead to therapist burnout!
- Negotiate with your boss. You can also consider accepting a lower salary in return for a one-time, up-front payment toward your student loan debt. Many companies are onboard with this idea since it actually saves them money in the long run. And it helps you because by paying down your student loan faster, you’ll accrue less interest and ultimately owe less.
Physical therapy — a wise investment
Despite incurring student loans, physical therapy is a good choice when you’re trying to decide on a career. You’ll have earning potential and plenty of room to grow in your career, as more and more positions continue to open up based on need.
Looking for your first (or next) PT job?
Check out PT Solutions. We’re a healthcare staffing agency run by therapists for therapists, and we’ll work with you to find a PT job you find both exciting and rewarding. Get started today! To launch your physical therapy career, reach out to one of the experienced employment specialists at PT Solutions.