People pursuing a career as a physician assistant know that their careers are rewarding both emotionally and financially.
According to Salary.com, the average physician assistant salary in the United States is $103,344 in 2018, but the range typically falls between $95,125 and $113,936.
With that salary often comes a substantial amount of debt. PAs can accumulate between $150,000-$200,000 in student loan debt pursuing their undergraduate and PA educations. New PA students plan to finance an average of 84% of their PA education.
Courtney Smith works full-time in a family medicine practice in southwest Michigan. She graduated from Grand Valley State University in 2014 and volunteers with the Michigan Academy of PAs (MAPA) to manage their social media presence.
“I felt stressed about my student loans when I got accepted into PA school,” she writes in an article on AAPA.org. “My only reassurance was that I knew I would make enough money as a PA to actually pay them off.”
Here are her tips to pay off your schools loans.
1. Create a budget and stick to it. “My husband and I worked together to agree to a monthly budget and both logged all of our purchases. There were definitely times when we slipped up or an emergency came up and we had to make mid-month adjustments. Be forgiving of yourself, but get back on track afterward.”
2. Don’t take out new lines of credit. Don’t put yourself into more debt while you’re paying off another debt. “We paid cash for two used cars while paying off the student loans,” she says. “You don’t need or want a car payment.”
3. Minimize expenses. Do you need the premium cable subscription? The housekeeper? The landscaper? Eliminate expenses to free up more money to dedicate to paying off student loans. And “buy secondhand whenever you can.”
4. Pick up extra hours or a second job. The PA profession offers flexibility to work additional hours. That extra income can be applied to your loans.
5. Plan your meals ahead of time. “Write up a grocery list before going to the store. Buy only the necessary ingredients. Consider shopping at a discount grocery store if you have one in your area. Buy store brand or generic.”
6. Minimize eating out. Eat at home as much as possible. Put that money towards the loans.
7. Create a budget for vacations. Drive, don’t fly to your destination. “We made vacations out of work trips since part of the cost was covered by our employers,” Smith writes. Book an on-budget hotel, hostel, VRBO, or Airbnb. “Save up for the vacation before taking it.”
8. Ask for help. “There were so many times when my husband and I wanted to go out and needed a babysitter. When our budget didn’t allow for a babysitter, we asked our friends and family members to watch our son. Our sanity and our budget directly benefited from this arrangement, and we are so thankful we had support through this process.”