Many physicians can qualify for PSLF as soon as they start their medical residency. The key is to make sure you choose a training program where you’ll be employed directly by the government or nonprofit organization. Luckily, doing that is easily done. Most residencies and fellowships are at a public or 501(c)(3) nonprofit hospital.
Nearly 80% of 2020 medical school graduates planned to pursue Public Service Loan Forgiveness, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.
Once you know that your program qualifies, head to StudentAid.gov and check that all of your federal loans are Direct Loans or Direct Grad PLUS Loans. If you started undergrad before 2017, there’s a chance you might have Perkins Loans or FFEL Loans. Those loans need to be consolidated into a Direct Consolidation Loan before the debt is eligible for PSLF. You can do that on the Federal Student Aid website.
Related: How to Consolidate Student Loans for PSLF
After you confirm that you have the right type of loan, you’ll need to contact your loan servicer to switch from the Standard Repayment Plan to an income-driven repayment plan. The Education Department offers four different types of IDR plans:
The best plan for recent graduates, at least for now,* is usually the PAYE Plan. It gives you the lowest monthly payment, limits the amount of interest added to your loan balance, and lets you skip using your spouse’s income if you file taxes separately.
After you’ve changed plans, your final two steps are to complete the Employment Certification Form and start paying. The ECF form simply informs the Education Department that you work for a qualifying employer and are pursuing PSLF. You can submit this form any time, even years after starting residency.
The department writes off your remaining balance tax-free after you’ve made 120 qualifying payments — i.e., pay the full amount due on time. Depending on your training path, it’s possible you can enter your first year as an attending more than half-way
* The Education Department is working on a new plan that’ll cut payments in half and stop interest from accruing as quickly. But that plan won’t be available until next July at the earliest.