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If you love animals, you may consider making a career out of caring for them.
Enrolling in veterinary school requires four years of education beyond a bachelor’s to earn a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree. The average veterinarian graduates with $157,146 of student loan debt, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Here’s how to pay for vet school:
- Apply for money that you don’t need to pay back
- Take out federal student loans
- Consider the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program
- Shop around for private student loans
- Is vet school worth the debt?
Apply for money that you don’t need to pay back
When paying for vet school, it’s a good idea to start with gift aid — scholarships, grants, and other financial assistance that you don’t need to worry about repaying.
Here are a few options to look into:
Scholarships for veterinarians
- The American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF) offers several scholarships for aspiring vets. The scholarships are available to first-, second-, and third-year students attending accredited veterinary colleges in the U.S. You can register for an account at scholarships.avmf.org to get information on award amounts and deadlines, and to fill out an application.
- The Ride and Tie Association gives out the Jim Steere Memorial Veterinary Student Scholarship. To apply, prospective students must write a 1,000-word essay suitable for publishing in the Ride and Tie Association’s monthly newsletter. The first-place award is $3,000, and $2,000 scholarships are available for runners-up. The deadline to apply is in January.
Grants for veterinarians
- The Arkansas Health Education Grant provides money to Arkansas residents to help offset tuition costs for graduate students pursuing healthcare careers, including veterinary medicine. The annual deadline to apply is July 1.
- The NAVLE Study Package Grant is for fourth year students preparing to take the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE). The program provides 10 grant awards of $300 each to help students purchase NAVLE study materials.
Check out the AVMF website for additional scholarships and grants for veterinary students.
Research fellowship options
Research fellowships are an opportunity to conduct research and be mentored by a faculty member in your field. They also provide a stipend or monetary award to help veterinary medical students cover living expenses while pursuing research.
Several research fellowships are available to veterinary students, including the Boehringer Ingelheim Veterinary Scholars Program, the CDC-Hubert Global Health Award, and the American Society of Laboratory Animal Practitioners Summer Fellowship.
Assistantship opportunities and employer assistance
Some veterinary colleges offer graduate assistantship programs. These assistantships provide a stipend to cover living expenses or tuition.
Also if you’re working through vet school, see if your employer offers educational assistance benefits. Not all companies offer these plans, but those that do can provide up to $5,250 to help cover tuition, books, equipment, supplies, and student loan payments. As long as they stay within that annual limit, the payments don’t count as taxable wages for you.
Learn More: How Much Does it Cost to Go to Vet School?
Take out federal student loans
After you’ve exhausted your grant and scholarship options, your next step should be applying for federal student loans. These loans aren’t free, but you don’t have to make payments toward your student debt while in school.
Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans
Direct Unsubsidized Loans are available to undergraduate and graduate students. Your school determines the amount you can borrow based on your cost of attendance and other financial aid options.
Interest rates on federal student loans are set annually and fixed for the life of the loan. The current rate on Direct Unsubsidized Loans is 7.05% for graduate and professional students.
Interest accrues on the loan while you’re in school. You can choose to pay that interest while you’re in school to reduce your total cost of borrowing.
Good to know: For federal Direct Subsidized Loans, the government pays the interest on the loan while you’re in school at least half-time and for six months after you leave school. But these loans are need-based and only available to undergraduate students, so you won’t be able to use one for veterinary school.
Federal Direct PLUS Loans
Federal Direct PLUS Loans are fixed-rate loans available to graduate and professional students. The maximum amount you can borrow is the cost of attendance for the year minus any other financial aid received. The current interest rate on Direct PLUS Loans is 8.05%.
Interest accrues on the loan while you’re in school, but you don’t have to start repayment until six months after you graduate or leave school.
Consider the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program
The VMLRP won’t fund your education while you’re in school. But it pays up to $25,000 a year toward qualified student loans for eligible veterinarians who work for at least three years in areas the federal government designates as having a veterinarian shortage.
You can learn more about eligibility requirements and the application process from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Shop around for private student loans
If the above funding options aren’t enough, private loans can help cover the rest of your vet school expenses.
Private lenders may offer better rates than federal loans, depending on your credit and whether you have a cosigner. But every lender has different rates, fees, and requirements, so it’s important to shop around to find the best loan for you.
The companies in the table below are Credible’s approved partner lenders. Whether you’re the borrower or cosigner, Credible makes it easy to compare rates from multiple private student loan providers without affecting your credit score.
|Lender||Fixed Rates From (APR)||Variable Rates From (APR)|
|4.50%9 - 15.49%9||6.37%9 - 16.70%9|
your credit score. 100% free!
Lowest APRs reflect autopay, loyalty, and interest-only repayment discounts where available | 10Ascent Disclosures | 1Citizens Disclosures | 2,3College Ave Disclosures | 11Custom Choice Disclosures | 6Discover Disclosures | 7EDvestinU Disclosures | 8INvestEd Disclosures | 9Sallie Mae Disclosures
Is vet school worth the debt?
Veterinary school isn’t cheap, but it can be a rewarding and lucrative career if you’re passionate about caring for animals. The median pay for veterinarians is just over $100,000 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS also predicts employment for veterinarians to increase by 17% from 2020 to 2030 — much faster than the average for all occupations.