The thought of debt can be mentally exhausting. The average physician will start their career with over $200,000 in school debt. Rather than paying off the school debt entirely, many physicians seek out the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program as an alternative way to pay it.
The PSLF program forgives physicians of the remaining balance on their federal loans used for school after making 120 qualifying monthly payments.
Per studentaid.gov, the following items must be met to qualify for the PSLF program.
#1: You must work for a governmental agency or a qualified non-profit.
#2: You must work full-time.
#3: You must have Direct Loans or ones that are consolidated into a Direct Loan
#4: You must repay your loans under an income-driven repayment plan
5: You must make 120 qualifying payments
This can be viewed at https://studentaid.gov/manage-loans/forgiveness-cancellation/public-service
Most physicians are aware of the qualifying elements stated above. What is less well-known to some is that the PSLF program is that you can qualify for the PSLF as a part-time physician.
Can you be a part-time doctor and still qualify for PSLF? YES!
Let’s dive deeper into how you can work part-time and create other unique clinical arrangements yet still qualify for the PSLF.
Part-time is 30 Hours Per Week. PSLF program requires physicians to work “full-time” at a qualified employer while they make their 120 qualified payments. In actuality, the PSLF program only requires physicians to work, on average, 30 hours per week. In the traditional sense, you don’t have to work a full-time, 40 hours per week job to satisfy the requirements for the PSLF program. Instead, you can seek out part-time positions and non-traditional employment opportunities to qualify for the PSLF as long as you are working, on average, a minimum of 30 hours per week. Examples would include 1) 3 days per week, 2) one week on, one week off, and 3) two weeks on, two weeks off.
Contracted and Independent Physicians. It is commonly believed that you must be an employee to qualify for PSLF, but this is only accurate in some states. States like Texas, California, Ohio, and Illinois have laws about the “corporate practice of medicine,” which precludes a physician from being employed by the hospital directly. Thus, the PSLF program allows physicians to work as contractors. This does not apply to those that contract thru for-profit, 3rd parties like staffing agencies or privately contracted firms. Thus, you may not have to follow the traditional sense of exploring only employed opportunities. You can also seek out contracted positions as well in some states.
Having Multiple Jobs is an Option. The PSLF program does not require you to be full-time or part-time with only one organization. You can work multiple positions and still qualify for the PSLF as long as you work an average of 30 hours or more per week between the different jobs. You still need to work directly for a qualified employer at each position. If the right opportunity is not there, consider working with multiple qualifying employers to meet the PSLF reequipment of 30 hours per week.
Consecutive Payments Not Required. You don’t need to stay at one employer to complete all 120 monthly payments. Many physicians are looking for job security that comes with an employed position. In actuality, there are no guarantees with employment contracts. It is good to see that the PSLF recognizes this and does not require all 120 monthly payments to be paid consecutively. Thus, if you are frustrated with your job, don’t feel obligated to stay to qualify for the PSLF. Instead, consider looking for a position with another qualified employer that treats you fairly. If you work for an employer unsuitable for the PSLF program, your payments will not count toward your 120 qualified payments. With that said, once you find another qualified employer to work for, your qualified payments will resume.
Not everyone must work “full-time” in the traditional sense to qualify for the PSLF program. When speaking with medical facilities, you can negotiate for “part-time” or non-traditional clinical arrangements that satisfy the PSLF criteria. Know that to qualify for the PSLF, you must only demonstrate that you work, on average, a minim of 30 hours per week, whether it is for one qualified employer or multiple.