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Student Loans

Average Student Loan Debt Statistics for Pharmacists

Becoming a pharmacist is a popular career. If you choose this profession, you can expect to earn an annual salary of $132,750. But to enter this career, you need a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree and state licensing. 

While the admission requirements vary by university, you may need a bachelor’s degree in healthcare or a science-related field before being admitted into a Pharm.D. program, which takes three to four years to complete. 

A job, paid internships, and savings may cover some of the costs of this school, but for many students, student loans are required to cover the rest. Read on to learn more about the average student loan debt for pharmacist training. 

What is the average student loan debt for a pharmacist?

Recent survey data shows graduates of a Pharm.D. degree program at all types of institutions (public and private) are expected to owe an average of $167,711 in student loan debt upon graduation. 

Pharmacy student loans typically cover the student’s cost of attendance (COA), including tuition and books, supplies, equipment, living expenses, and licensing. 

Data from the same survey showed that the average student loan debt for pharmacists has decreased in recent years. It peaked at an average of $179,514 in 2020 and decreased each subsequent year to its most recent level of $167,711 in 2023, as shown in the following chart.

Chart showing the average amount borrowered to finance Pharm.D. education at all institutions

In general, it costs more to attend a private institution than a public one. So, it’s essential to consider the type of institution when evaluating how much you might owe in student loan debt. 

To build on that point, the average pharmacist’s student loan debt varies between public and private schools. As of 2023, the average balance at a public school is expected to be $138,060 versus a much higher balance of $200,305 for those who attended a private school.

Cost should be a major factor in the school choice decision. Will a higher-cost school lead to a higher-paying job? If so, then the higher cost may be justified.

Jim McCarthy


Even so, similar to the trend for all institutions, the average student loan debt balances have decreased in recent years, as shown in the following chart. 

Chart showing the average amount borrowed tofinance Pharm.D. education

On average, a recent Federal Reserve survey found that about 40% of those who went to college used some debt to pay for their education costs. 

Notably, more than 82% of those who responded to the 2023 American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy survey said they borrowed money to pay for costs associated with receiving their Pharm.D. degree. 

Given so many pharmacists use debt to finance their education, it’s essential to consider the long-term impact student loans will have on your finances. This is especially true since student loans are commonly repaid over a long repayment period of 10 to 30 years. 

Your student loan debt will be factored into your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio by lenders if you try to get other loans, such as a home mortgage. So, include these payments in your budget while evaluating job offers and determining where you want to live. 

Does pharmacist student loan debt vary by state or region?

While the available student loan statistics don’t provide details about pharmacist student loan debt at a state or regional level, pharmacist student loan debt may vary based on these factors. Future research is needed to understand the answer to this question fully. 

To help us start thinking about this question as it relates to student loans in general, the U.S. Department of Education issues a quarterly report of the federal student loan portfolio, including data by borrower location and debt size. 

Based on this data, the following table shows the percentage of federal student loan borrowers with a debt size of $100,000 to $200,000 by state. This range was selected as it encompasses the expected 2023 average student loan debt owed by pharmacists of $167,711. 

Chart showing percent of borrowers per state with a debt size of $100 - $200K

While 4% to 6% of federal student loan borrowers have a debt size of $100,000 to $200,000 in most states, it’s higher or lower in some states. For instance, the percentage increases to 10% in the District of Columbia and 8% in Maryland. Conversely, the percentage is lower at 3% in North Dakota. 

What financial aid options do pharmacy students have?

Pharmacy education often comes with a substantial financial commitment, and understanding the various financial aid options available is crucial for prospective students. Some of the most common types of financial aid include:


How it works

Scholarships for pharmacy students are available from various sources, including professional organizations, foundations, and pharmaceutical companies. These scholarships may cover tuition, fees, and sometimes even living expenses. 

What you need to know

The application process typically involves submitting your academic records, recommendation letters, and sometimes an essay. Some scholarships are merit-based, while others consider financial need.

While scholarships for pharmacy students exist, you should conduct diligent research to find these opportunities. For instance, you could explore options from national pharmacy organizations like the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) or state-specific associations. 

Additionally, individual pharmacy schools may offer scholarships. So, make sure to check in with your chosen institution.


How it works

Grants for pharmacy students are financial aid awards that do not require repayment, typically provided by government agencies, foundations, or institutions. These grants can cover various educational expenses, including tuition, books, and sometimes living costs.

What you need to know 

You can expect to need to prepare the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form or submit specific grant applications to access grants. Eligibility is determined by factors such as financial need, academic merit, or demographic criteria. 

State-based grants may have additional requirements, so prospective pharmacy students should thoroughly research available grant programs and adhere to application deadlines. Grants and scholarships are generally not subject to taxes.

Federal student loans

How it works

Federal student loans, including Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans, are a common financial resource for pharmacy students. These federal student loans offer competitive interest rates and flexible repayment options. 

What you need to know 

Completing the FAFSA form is essential to securing federal student loans. Federal loans have fixed interest rates and may offer income-driven repayment (IDR) plans and loan forgiveness options, especially for those pursuing careers in public service. 

Prospective pharmacy students should know borrowing limits, repayment terms, and the implications of interest accrual during school and post-graduation.

Private student loans

How it works

Financial institutions, like banks, credit unions, and other lenders, offer private student loans to cover educational expenses. These loans can be used to supplement federal aid and may cover the entire cost of attendance. 

What you need to know 

Before considering private student loans, pharmacy students should exhaust federal loan options due to their more favorable terms. Private student loans may come with variable interest rates and repayment terms that are less flexible than federal loans. 

Additionally, private loans may require a credit check and a cosigner, impacting eligibility and interest rates. Understanding the differences in interest rates, repayment plans, and potential fees is crucial for making informed decisions about private student loans.

State-based programs

How it works

State-based programs for pharmacy students vary widely, offering grants, loan repayment assistance, or other incentives to encourage future pharmacists to practice within the state. These initiatives are designed to address regional healthcare needs and retain skilled professionals locally.

What you need to know

Researching state-specific programs is essential, as each state may have unique offerings. Some states provide loan forgiveness or repayment assistance in exchange for service in underserved areas. 

Prospective pharmacy students should explore eligibility criteria, application processes, and service commitments associated with state-based programs, as these can impact the overall cost of their pharmacy education.

Pharmacist student loan repayment options

Pharmacy graduates often face the challenge of repaying student loans, and understanding the available options is crucial for managing your post-graduation finances. Options include:

Student loan repayment

How it works

The student loan repayment process involves making monthly payments to a loan servicer or lender, depending on the loan type (federal or private). Borrowers may be able to choose from various repayment plans, including standard, extended, income-driven, or graduated options. 

What you need to know

Typically, student loan repayment begins six months after graduation. This grace period allows graduates to secure employment and establish financial stability before monthly payments commence. Check with your lender or loan servicer to understand what your loan requires. 

Standard repayment plans have fixed monthly payments over a set period, while income-driven plans adjust payments based on income and family size. Borrowers can sometimes make extra payments to expedite repayment. 

Student loan refinancing or consolidation

How it works

Refinancing refers to obtaining a new private student loan with better terms, including interest rates, while student loan consolidation streamlines multiple federal loans into one, simplifying monthly payments.

What you need to know 

Before considering refinancing or consolidation, pharmacy graduates should carefully assess the potential benefits and drawbacks. 

While a lower interest rate may reduce monthly payments, refinancing federal loans into private loans can result in the loss of federal benefits, like access to federal income-driven repayment plans and loan forgiveness. 

Also, private lenders may require a credit check, and eligibility criteria vary. So, borrowers should thoroughly research and compare options before deciding to refinance or consolidate.

Student loan forgiveness

How it works

Federal student loan forgiveness programs, like the popular Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, provide relief by canceling a portion or the entire loan balance for borrowers who meet specific criteria. 

What you need to know 

Pharmacy graduates pursuing loan forgiveness should carefully review program requirements, as they often entail working in specific fields or for qualifying employers. Eligibility criteria may include full-time employment, consolidating your loans, and making consistent payments.

Applicants should maintain accurate records and regularly check in with loan servicers to track progress toward forgiveness.

Income-driven repayment plans

How it works

Federal income-driven repayment (IDR) plans tailor the monthly student loan payments to the borrower’s income and family size. Payments may increase or decrease annually as your income and family size change.

What you need to know 

Pharmacy graduates facing financial challenges can benefit from IDR plans, which cap monthly payments at a percentage of discretionary income. Any remaining balance may be forgiven after 20 or 25 years of qualifying payments, though the forgiven amount may be taxable. 

Graduates should carefully assess their long-term financial goals, as lower monthly payments may extend the overall repayment period and result in higher total interest payments. Regularly updating income information is crucial to ensure accurate calculations for IDR plans.