According to WebPT’s research—and as depicted in the infographic shown below—one in four PT students will have more than $150,000 in student loan debt at graduation; one in three will owe more than $100,000; and one in two will owe more than $70,000. With starting salaries being significantly lower in the PT field than in other medical career paths, the average DPT grad will take 45 years to pay off $100,000 in student debt (assuming that therapist makes an average salary of $70,000, has a 5% interest rate, and puts 8% of his or her salary toward loan repayment). That’s more time than many professionals plan to be in the active workforce. So, what’s an aspiring—or current—physical therapist to do? Here are eight tips to help you pay off student loans faster (adapted from this resource, this one, this one, and this one):

Triumph in the Triple-Aim Game: The Healthcare Executive’s Guide to Readmission Reduction, Patient Safety Promotion, and ACO Success - Regular BannerTriumph in the Triple-Aim Game: The Healthcare Executive’s Guide to Readmission Reduction, Patient Safety Promotion, and ACO Success - Small Banner

1. Know the terms of your contract.

This should go without saying, but many students don’t fully understand the terms of their student loan agreements when they sign them—and that can be a problem for those interested in speedy repayment. Be sure that you understand what you’re committing to before you take on a loan. And if you haven’t already, read through all of your contracts now to ensure you know the repayment terms (including any penalties associated with early repayment). If you have questions, the financial advisor at your alma mater may be able to provide you with some guidance.

2. Take advantage of your grace period.

Many loans have a grace period—or deferment period—that enables students to hold off on loan repayment while they’re still in school or before they’re earning an income. If you have a side hustle during school or after graduation, you may want to consider putting some money aside to prepare for your first payment. That way, you’re not blindsided when the first bill is due.

3. Do your research and negotiate for a good salary.

According to WebPT’s annual survey data, most students expect to earn between $60,001 and $80,000 in their first job. But that’s a fairly large range that may or may not map to market value in your region. So, do your research and ensure your first job offer—or any job offer for that matter—is commensurate to the value you provide and appropriate for the location in which you practice. And don’t be afraid to negotiate. Usually, the first offer is a starting point, and employers expect candidates to come back with a counteroffer.

4. Make a plan.

Once you know what you’ll owe each month—as well as what you’ll be earning—you’ll be in a good place to get organized. That means reviewing each of your loans—if you have more than one, of course—and determining which ones you should pay off first based on their interest rates and types. According to this resource, “Mathematically, it makes the most sense to pay off your highest interest rate loans first, as those will cost you the most relative to the loan balance.” You may also want to consider paying down any variable interest rate loans “to avoid the uncertainty.”

5. Prioritize your spending.

As Travis Hornsby shares in this post, he and his wife slashed 10 years off their repayment schedule by making a cash purchase on an inexpensive car to avoid having a car payment; sticking to budget travel; and choosing inexpensive, low-square-footage housing (which also helped the couple save on utility bills). Hornsby—a chartered financial analyst—advises grads to not “nickel and dime [themselves] by trying to eliminate every latte and spin class from [their] spending and focus on the biggest areas of spending in [their] budget.” By doing so, “You’ll have a lot more success in reaching your milestone of debt freedom.”

6. Sign up for automatic payments.

This strategy does double-duty, because it ensures that you’ll always make your payment on time and—in some cases—can result in a reduced interest rate (according to this resource, that discount could be up to .25%). Just be sure that you have a process of checks and balances in place to ensure you always have enough funds in the account you’re using for automatic payments before each payment is drawn.

7. Pay more than the minimum—and more than once a month.

While it might be tempting to pay the lowest amount allowable toward your loans each month, that’s only going to increase your interest burden and prolong your repayment period. Instead, pay whatever you can. According to this resource, “Even if it’s not a huge amount more, it’ll make a difference—and get you in the habit of putting excess funds toward your loans.” In fact, even just rounding up your payments can make a difference. You may also want to pay once every two weeks instead of monthly. That way, you’ll end up putting a full extra payment toward your loan each year (26 half-payments—or 13 full ones—instead of 12). The above-cited resource also suggests putting any “windfalls” you may earn toward your loan payment as well—including “bonuses, tax refunds, and/or any other unexpected sources of income.”

8. Refinance.

Depending on your financial and credit situation, you may be able to refinance or consolidate some of your higher interest loans to get a lower rate, which could end up saving you a lot of money and repayment time in the long run.

There you have it: eight tips for paying off student loans faster. What’s your experience with student debt as a PT? What strategies did you implement to bring down your debt after graduation?

Infographic DebtPT

  • Founder Letter: It's Time to Close the PT Gender Pay Gap Image

    articleAug 1, 2018 | 10 min. read

    Founder Letter: It's Time to Close the PT Gender Pay Gap

    It’s a well-known—albeit unfortunate—truth that in the US, women receive less pay than men do when performing the same jobs (about 80 cents on the dollar , in fact—and that gap widens when we factor in race, although I’ll save that conversation for another day). In many ways, it seems like we, as a society, already should have evolved well past the so-called gender pay gap. After all, most of us know that gender doesn’t determine talent, …

  • 7 Tips for Per Diem PTs Image

    articleOct 13, 2017 | 10 min. read

    7 Tips for Per Diem PTs

    I always assumed I’d work a full-time job until the day I retired. I had never even heard of per diem employment, much less considered it as an option for myself. Then, three years into physical therapy practice, I found myself at a crossroads. I had been working two part-time jobs at small outpatient orthopedic clinics, feeling a bit overwhelmed by both, and longing to get back to a hospital environment . A former classmate of mine …

  • Four Things You Need to Know About PT Salary Image

    articleApr 1, 2017 | 4 min. read

    Four Things You Need to Know About PT Salary

    You probably didn’t get into the therapy business to become rich. You did it because you enjoy helping and healing people—and that’s the way it should be. But even if money isn’t your main motivation, it should still be somewhere on your radar. So, here are a few things to keep in mind as you contemplate compensation. 1. Experience matters. As with most professions, salaries for physical therapists vary widely based on a therapist’s number of years …

  • The Private Practice Owner's Guide to Fair Compensation Image

    articleJul 22, 2016 | 12 min. read

    The Private Practice Owner's Guide to Fair Compensation

    As a business owner, your life would be a whole lot easier if there were set-in-stone rules for determining what’s fair when it comes to employee compensation. Unfortunately, there are not—which is why it’s so important to create compensation packages that not only fall within or exceed local averages, but also feel good for your practice and your employees. After all, everyone in your practice is working toward the same goals: a thriving business and satisfied patients. …

  • The State of Rehab Therapy in 2018 Image

    webinarJun 1, 2018

    The State of Rehab Therapy in 2018

    Falling reimbursements. Skyrocketing insurance premiums and copays. Crippling student loan debt. As a PT, OT, or SLP, sometimes it feels like it’s you against the world. After all, the challenges you face on a daily basis are many and complex. But, you’re not alone. In fact, we recently surveyed nearly 7,000 rehab therapy professionals on everything from payment rates and clinic budgets to education costs and salary, and we found some pretty strong—and surprising—trends. [video://]   Curious …

  • Physical Therapist Salary Guide Image

    downloadJan 22, 2016

    Physical Therapist Salary Guide

    Whether you’re exploring career options or negotiating a raise, it pays to know the facts. Sure, there’s a lot more to any job than salary alone—and you probably didn’t get into the physical therapy field for the money, anyway. Still, you deserve to know what you’re worth. Enter your email address below, and we'll send you a downloadable copy of the updated PT Salary Guide.

  • 4 Surprising Factors Potential PT Hires Want in a Job Image

    articleApr 25, 2018 | 5 min. read

    4 Surprising Factors Potential PT Hires Want in a Job

    When you’re looking to hire a new physical therapist, you clearly want to find the best one possible: someone who is competent, committed to lifelong learning, conscientious, and caring. During the the search process, you probably pore over average salaries in your area , doing everything you can to ensure you’re providing a competitive payment and benefit package . After all, most PTs want the best possible compensation, right? Well, that’s partially true. With the cost of …

  • Are You Paying Your Rehab Therapy Clinic Staff Enough? Image

    articleAug 30, 2018 | 4 min. read

    Are You Paying Your Rehab Therapy Clinic Staff Enough?

    Every good boss wants to ensure that he or she is paying his or her employees enough—in most cases, more than enough—to cover the cost of living and prevent financial worry from getting in the way of job satisfaction. But with many rehab therapy students graduating with massive debt —and fee schedules on the decline—it can be difficult for a rehab therapy practice to properly pay staff and keep enough money in the practice to remain in …

  • 4 Factors Affecting Your Physical Therapist Salary Image

    articleJun 15, 2015 | 5 min. read

    4 Factors Affecting Your Physical Therapist Salary

    Physical therapists are empathetic by nature. As such, most didn’t get into the PT profession to make bank. That being said, empathy doesn’t pay the bills. Luckily, the impact you make on your patients’ lives actually does. You get paid to treat patients. Now, how much you get paid—i.e., the salary you receive from your place of employment—to treat those patients depends on a lot of factors. Let’s examine: 1. Location, Location, Location As expected, where you …

Achieve greatness in practice with the ultimate EMR for PTs, OTs, and SLPs.