Financial Aid

Public Service Careers that Will Pay for Your College Degree

Qualify for public service loan forgiveness with these jobs.

Kathryn Knight Randolph

September 26, 2022

Public Service Careers that Will Pay for Your College Degree
Public service student loan forgiveness jobs to help graduates pay off student loan debt.
What would you do if you could choose a degree and career path that could help you pay for college? Would you pursue that trajectory? Or bypass it to have more freedom in what you do with your life? Students who are considering a career in public service to qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) may feel as if they have little flexibility in what they can do after college. However, that’s far from the truth. According to studentaid.gov, "Any U.S. federal, state, local or tribal government agency…is considered a government employer for PSLF....The specific job that you preform doesn’t matter, as long as you’re employed by a qualifying employer." Additionally, you must work full-time as a public service employee. FinAid has more information on public service loan forgiveness requirements.
Take a look at a few career paths that pay off for graduates – literally.

Public Service Careers that Will Pay for Your College Degree

When you hear “public service jobs,” you may think of roles like teachers, police officers, and health care workers. While those are all public service jobs, the definition for the sake of public service loan forgiveness extends well beyond these roles.

Emergency Management

Emergency Management not only helps communities recover from events, such as natural disasters, but also works to prepare vulnerable places with the framework to manage and cope before and after. A variety of jobs exist within this space.
For instance, a Disaster Recovery Manager works to design and implement procedures and processes to ensure the safe recovery of communities after a natural or man-made disaster. A Public Information Officer will write press releases, draft educational material, or plan media strategies.

Government

Those working at the municipal, state, and federal government levels, except for individuals that serve in Congress, are eligible for public service loan forgiveness. As you can imagine, there are a variety of fields represented within government, from finance to marketing to legal to administrative.
Additionally, you can find a job in government all over the country. Whether you move back to your hometown or migrate to a larger, metropolitan area, there are government jobs in different fields everywhere.

Military Service

Those who serve in the military can qualify for public service loan forgiveness. Their work falls under local, state, or federal government. Temporary changes to the PSLF program enable military personnel to count their months spent on active duty toward loan forgiveness, even if their student loans were in deferment or forbearance. However, this particular caveat will only be available through October 31, 2022.

Public Safety

Public safety covers a wide range of jobs and fields. From homeland security to parole officers, these individuals are tasked with keeping our county, states, cities, and towns safe from threats and disasters. Jobs in this field may include cyber security and crime investigation, customs and border protection, and fire science. Many colleges and universities across the county offer academic programming geared specifically toward these careers.

Law Enforcement

Law enforcement personnel work to investigate, apprehend, and detain individuals committing criminal offenses. In the case of sheriffs, these individuals are also responsible for those convicted of crimes and serving sentences. Degrees that law enforcement personnel may seek are criminal justice, forensics, and public safety. They can secure their education through a two-year or four-year program.

Public Health

Public health encompasses all roles within the medical field, from doctors and nurses to physical therapists and epidemiologists. These programs can be pursued through certifications, two-year and four-year degree programs, and graduate or professional school. The Biden Administration is working to recruit more health care workers to the field. Over the next eight years, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there will be 13% growth in healthcare jobs alone.

Public Education

In the United States, public education covers a full spectrum of options. Those individuals serving in early childhood education, public schools, and as faculty and staff members at colleges and universities (including tribal colleges and universities), qualify for student loan forgiveness. Teachers are an obvious role within public education that qualify for loan forgiveness, but teaching assistants, administrative, and support staff personnel qualify as well.

Social Work

Social workers provide therapy to individuals and couples, which includes developing strategies for coping for difficult situations. They may also refer individuals to support services that can help them through a variety of circumstances. Because the nature of their work contributes to the public good, social workers can qualify for public service loan forgiveness. Social work jobs include school counselors, child welfare case managers, and family therapists.

Public Interest Law Services

Public Interest Law is any legal service that affects the rights, health, or finances of the public as a whole. Lawyers in this field may do litigation and class action work, policy and legislation, and community organizing. Lawyers can find public interest law careers with non-profit organizations, NGOs (non-governmental organizations), or the government at all levels. They may also work in a variety of fields, such as immigration, healthcare, elder law, education, energy, veterans’ rights, and housing.

Public Service

While all of these career paths are considered public service, this specific field refers to work with individuals that are elderly or have disabilities. Jobs in public service for elderly and disabled individuals is expected to grow exponentially over the next decade, especially as Baby Boomers age. Careers in this field include physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, clinical social workers, special education teachers, and caregivers.

Library Sciences

Most jobs as Librarians require at least a Master’s degree, meaning that public service student loan forgiveness is vital to these careers. In addition to Librarians, those working in support staff roles at libraries may qualify for forgiveness as well. Working as librarian no longer means cataloging and shelving books. In our technology-driven age, libraries work to research, instruct, and connect people to technology. They also digitize library collections, build websites, and run social media accounts.

Tax-Exempt Organizations

Finally, work at non-for-profit organizations qualify for public service loan forgiveness. This includes work at private schools, colleges, and universities, as long as they are a 501(c)(3) institutions. Because of the generality of this category, suffice it to say that you can find a role in any field to help pay off student loan debt. Be sure to ask questions about loan forgiveness in job interviews to ensure that the institution you’re interviewing with meets the qualifications.

Public Service Student Loan Forgiveness

You should not feel limited by careers within public service. The above fields are evidence that you can easily find a job that merges your academic pursuits, career path, and desire to pay off student loan debt quickly. To qualify for PSLF, you must make 120, or ten years, of monthly payments. If your goal is to use your time in public service to help pay for school, you can learn more about the loan forgiveness program and begin certifying your employment with the Department of Education's PSLF Help Tool. If you have an idea of where you’d like to work or would like to verify PSLF eligibility, you can check to ensure an employer qualifies with Federal Student Aid’s employer-search database.

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