1 Simple Way to Reduce your Physical Therapy Student Loans

November 18th, 2015 in  Allied Health
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As a new grad physical therapist, we have a few top priorities right out of school: get our careers started and pay back our student loans. Seven or more years of school (depending on the path to your DPT degree) can really hit hard when you get that first student loan statement telling you it’s time to pay back all of that money you borrowed to get your degree. New grad salaries vary widely, depending on your geographical location, clinic setting, and the exact position you take. However, I think we can all agree that the more money we can make right away, the faster we can pay off our student loans. Paying off our student loans sooner will allow us to move on with our lives without this mountain of debt holding us back. Unfortunately, we can’t just walk into our boss’s office and demand a raise 2 weeks after we are hired. So how else can a physical therapist make a little extra money? Working PRN on the side is a great option because the pay is good, and it allows us the flexibility to keep the stability of our regular salaried position.

Where to find PRN jobs?

Most often PRN jobs are available in home health, skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) or hospital settings. Job search websites like Indeed and Simply Hired are good places to look for job postings, but sometimes these sites have job postings completely irrelevant to what you are looking for. New platforms like CovalentCareers are being developed to match healthcare professionals like physical therapists to the right job, and these may help increase the efficiency of matching you to the right job. Your other option is to perform a quick google search by typing in physical therapy jobs and your town.

How can working a PRN job help you pay your physical therapy student loans off faster?

According the the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), mean wages for PRN physical therapy jobs are between $45-50/hour, and can be as high as $60/hour. This means picking up an addition 8 hour shift on the weekend can add an additional $400/week or about $20,000/year in extra income. If you maintain your current lifestyle, and can pay your bills with your regular salaried position, this extra income can be applied directly to the principal of your student loans. If you calculate how much faster you can pay off your physical therapy student loans by taking this approach, you will see that you will knock years off your repayment period.

What will your current employer think?

Most business owners understand the enormous amount of debt with which new grads are saddled. I can’t speak for everyone, but I believe that most employers will support a new grad working a PRN job in conjunction with their current job, as long as it doesn’t directly impact their performance. If there are any apprehensions from your employer, try to work with them on a plan to address those concerns.

Don’t want to work weekends?

I get it, no one wants to work 6 or 7 days per week, and if catching up on yard work, spending time with your family or watching the NFL red zone on Sunday is just something you can’t give up to work a PRN job, there is an alternative. Ask your current employer if they can switch you to a work schedule of 4-10 hour days. This way you will open up 1 day during the week to pick up a PRN shift somewhere.

The hard work will pay off, literally

Working hard is obviously something physical therapists are accustomed to; after all, we made it through PT school. Working 50-60 hour weeks is not exactly something most of us enjoy doing, but if we do this in the short term to pay off our physical therapy student loans as quickly as possible, a huge burden will be lifted off our shoulders. Once those loans are off the books, it will be easier to finance a home and save for retirement. Plus, you won’t feel so guilty paying for that vacation that you will likely need after grinding out the first couple years as a new grad physical therapist.