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Student Debt Refinancing and Consolidation
August 30th, 2021
Student Debt Refinancing and Consolidation
By Ashley Lee
May 11th, 2021
In September 2017, Sydney Williams realized her sedentary corporate lifestyle was literally killing her. A former collegiate rower and professional skydiver, she was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes after a 12-year career in big-brand corporate marketing and public relations. “I realized that everything that I thought was a bragging point on my resume was actually teaching people how to be sick and numb, and I was a byproduct of the work I had been doing,” Williams says. “I decided I wanted to use my skills to make the world a better place. So I left my cushy agency job with a six-figure salary, platinum health benefits provided by my employer, unlimited time off, and prestigious clients to join my friend’s startup in the realm of women’s empowerment and social justice.” But while her goal of joining the startup was to find and contribute deeper meaning to the world, the stress of startup life left her even sicker and more unhappy than before. So she left. A journey to healing Four days after leaving the startup, Williams was hiking when she realized that, thanks to diabetes, she had shifted her coping mechanisms from eating and drinking her feelings to hiking her feelings. “That shift felt revolutionary,” says Williams. But even more important was her realization that she had been coping unhealthily for all of those years due to a sexual assault she had survived in college and how the trauma had manifested in her mind and body. After Williams’s epiphany on the healing that comes from reconnecting with herself and nature, she made it her mission to spread the message to others dealing with ailments of body and mind. She recalls, “In late 2018, my husband and I sold everything we owned and moved into a 1998 Chevy van so we could take this message around the country, and share the healing power of nature with as many people as possible.” Now, as an author, event planner, and speaker with her organization, Hiking My Feelings, she hosts storytelling events and hikes around the United States to encourage people to get off the couch and onto the trail. Williams believes the work she is doing can have a monumental impact on the world. “This is bigger than my story and bigger than hiking,” she explains. “The fact of the matter is, when we disconnect from our distractions and reconnect with ourselves, anything is possible. We meet folks on the road who hike their feelings, but they also bike, run, yoga, climb, fish, ride motorcycles, sail, and surf their feelings. The common throughline is when we get the devices out of our faces and get outside, tremendous healing is possible.” Williams is walking proof, as her diabetes has been in excellent control for over a year, and she’s healthier and happier than she’s ever been. The outdoors turned her life around, and she turned around and made it her livelihood. Aside from the nearly countless overall health benefits of spending time outdoors, nature offers unmatched opportunities for exploration, education, recreation, and leisure that can contribute to a vibrant and meaningful life. Are you sitting at a desk as you read this, looking out the windows of an office — yes, even a home office — and wishing you were outside? The fact is, like Sydney Williams, some people actually get paid to work outside. Maybe you could, too. We'll explore several outdoors and nature-based jobs from the perspectives of people who have experience doing them; the benefits, the challenges, the training required, and the best advice for job seekers; plus wage and growth statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics based on the 2018 median salary for those jobs and the growth projected by 2028. For your reference, the median annual wage for all workers in 2018 was $38,640 and the average growth rate for all occupations is 5 percent. Infographic by Venngage Read through all of the jobs we've compiled, browse the expert insight quote boxes, or click on a job category to jump straight to it: Agriculture Animals Building & Maintenance Conservation & Research Education Energy Forestry Plants Recreation Resource & Retail Safety Wellness Agriculture Agricultural and food scientists Job duties: Conduct research and experiments to improve the productivity and sustainability of field crops and farm animals; study soil composition for plant growth improvement; travel between facilities to oversee projects Median salary: $64,020 ($30.78 per hour) Job outlook: 7% growth Types of jobs: Animal scientists Food scientists and technologists Plant scientists Soil scientists Agricultural engineers Job duties: Solve problems concerning pollution and environmental issues, machine efficiency, and storage; test equipment to ensure safety and reliability; improve efficiency in automated and processes Median salary: $77,110 ($37.07 per hour) Job outlook: 5% growth Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers Job duties: Supervise crop production and ranging; maintain farm facilities and supplies; purchase and sell supplies Median salary: $67,950 ($32.67 per hour) Job outlook: -1% declineTypes of jobs: Farmers and ranchers Agricultural managers Crop farmers and managers Livestock, dairy, and poultry farmers Nursery and greenhouse managers Aquaculture farmers and managers Other agriculture-based jobs include agriculture educators, vineyard managers, and beekeepers. Animals Animal care and service workers Job duties: Attend to animals in a variety of settings, such as animal shelters, aquariums, kennels, pet stores, stables, veterinary clinics, and zoos Median salary: $23,950 ($11.51 per hour) Job outlook: 16% growth Types of jobs: Animal trainers Groomers Grooms Kennel attendants Nonfarm animal caretakers Pet sitters Zookeepers Jeff Carbridge, former dog walker and now educator on dog training at Dogowner.co.uk, got into dog walking and training because he was sick of the standard 9 to 5 office job. "I felt like I was accomplishing nothing, and I needed something exciting in my life," Carbridge explains. He got a career diploma in Canine Training and Behavior Management to combine with his professional dog-walking experience. "It is so rewarding to be able to help dogs as well as their owners." Veterinarians Job duties: Care for animals in clinics, hospitals, farms, labs, classrooms, zoos; advise animal owners about animal care; perform surgery; prescribe medication Median salary: $93,830 ($45.11 per hour) Job outlook: 18% growth As a small animal and exotic veterinarian Sara Ochoa, who consults for DogLab, dreamed of being a veterinarian her whole life. "During my undergraduate studies, I worked at a veterinary clinic, which solidified my choice of going to veterinary school," Ochoa explains. From there, she volunteered her time in other countries working with animals, giving her experience working as a vet even before graduating from vet school at St. George's University in Grenada, West Indies. Ochoa now practices at an animal hospital in Texas. Zoologists and wildlife biologists Job duties: Study animals and other wildlife; collect biological data and specimens for analysis; develop conservation plans; write papers and give presentations on research Median salary: $63,420 ($30.49 per hour)Job outlook: 5% growth Allison Cornell, professor and field biologist at Cedar Crest College, started college with the intent to pursue veterinary school because she loved animals. However, she discovered that the things she loved about animals — their natural behavior, their evolutionary histories, and their connectedness with their environment — weren't central to veterinary medicine. "With the help of mentors, I found my way to research," Cornell explains. "I realized I was more interested in investigating scientific questions than using existing knowledge to solve medical problems." Her expertise is in ornithology, physiology, ecology, field biology, and science education. How would you like to swim with sharks for a living? That's one component of what Toby Daly-Engel does. Daly-Engel is an assistant professor of ocean engineering and marine sciences at Florida Tech studying the molecular ecology and evolution of sharks and other marine megafauna. She had her heart set on studying sharks since she was a little girl despite growing up in upstate New York, nowhere near the ocean. After getting a bachelor's degree in biology and master's and doctorate degrees in zoology, Daly-Engel was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship in research and teaching. She spent three years testing the hypotheses she had developed around sharks on giant predatory water bugs from the mountains of the Sonora Desert. Along the way, she took advantage of all of the research opportunities she could. "I took whatever opportunities I could to move forward in my career, a lot of which did not involve shark research," Daly-Engel says. "Because of that, I have gotten to do science with mice, bugs, fish, crabs, and dolphins, all of which really helped me understand my subject and prepared me for my current job better than I would have been had I studied only one type of animal." Now, Daly-Engel encourages marine biologist hopefuls to follow their passion above all else. "First and foremost, go for what you love. Just because you want to study an animal that lots of people like — sharks, dolphins, sea turtles, etc. — doesn’t mean you, yourself can’t do it!" Other animal-based jobs include animal control workers and habitat specialists, like zoos or Disney's Animal Kingdom. Building and Maintenance Commercial divers Job duties: Work below surface of water, using scuba gear to inspect, repair, remove, install equipment and structures; use power and hand tools, such as drills, sledgehammers, torches, and welding equipment; conduct tests or experiments, rig explosives, photograph structures or marine life Median salary: $49,140 ($23.63 per hour) Job outlook: 7% growthTypes of jobs: Offshore divers Onshore divers HAZMAT divers Scientific divers Naval divers Military and police divers Construction managers and workers Job duties: Plan, coordinate, and supervise construction projects; implement construction plans for residential and commercial properties Median salary of managers: $93,370 ($44.89 per hour) Median salary of construction workers and helpers: $34,810 ($16.74 per hour) Job outlook: 10% growth Glaziers Job duties: Install glass in windows, skylights, and other fixtures in buildings and storefronts; follow blueprints and specifications; add weather seal around pane edges Median salary: $43,550 ($20.94 per hour) Job outlook: 11% growth Line installers and repairers Job duties: Identify defective devices; inspect and test power lines; climb poles and transmission towers and use truck-mounted bucketsMedian salary: $65,880 ($31.67 per hour) Job outlook: 4% growthTypes of jobs: Electrical power-line installers and repairers Telecommunications line installers and repairers Line installers Line repairers Masonry workers Job duties: Read and follow blueprints; lay out patterns, forms, and foundations; mix and spread mortar or grout; align structures using levels Median salary: $44,810 ($21.54 per hour) Job outlook: 11% growthTypes of jobs: Brickmasons and blockmasons Cement masons and concrete finishers Stonemasons Terrazzo workers and finishers Roofers Job duties: Replace, repair, and install roofing materials on residential and commercial buildingsMedian salary: $39,970 ($19.22 per hour) Job outlook: 12% growth Milwaukee-based roofing contractor Mark Evans graduated with a bachelor's degree in marketing and worked in the corporate world for two years, but quickly grew tired of it. "I come from a blue-collar family so I was used to working outside," Evans explains. "I started to realize that working in an office just wasn't something I wanted to do for the rest of my life." Around the same time, one of Evans' high school friends reached out to him for help marketing his struggling roofing company. Evans saw an opportunity as there wasn't a lot of competition at the time, and agreed to help his friend as long as he could become co-owner of the company. He already knew how to do roofing jobs, and he was happy to utilize his marketing expertise for the benefit of the business. Evans recommends people seeking a similar career learn the trade for a few years, then start their own business as there are always people looking for roof repair and installs so there will always be a stream potential clients. But he emphasizes the continued importance of marketing in finding and maintaining a client base. "As we are well into the digital age, your company website is key," he says. "That's how you gain an edge on your competition. Other building and maintenance jobs include demolition managers, framers, and building surveyors. Conservation and Research Archaeologists Job duties: Examine, recover, and preserve artifacts from past cultures; prepare reports and present research; advise organizations on cultural impactMedian salary: $62,420 ($30.01 per hour) Job outlook: 10% growth Biological technicians Job duties: Assist biological and medical scientists in conducting lab tests and experiments Median salary: $44,500 ($21.39 per hour) Job outlook: 7% growth Environmental scientists and specialists Job duties: Collect and compile environmental data; analyze samples; develop plans to prevent, control, or fix environmental problems; provide information and guidance on possible environmental hazards Median salary: $71,130 ($34.20 per hour) Job outlook: 8% growth Job types: Climate change analysts Environmental health and safety specialists Environmental restoration planners Industrial ecologists Environmental chemists Dr. Megan Wise de Valdez, an associate professor of biology at Texas A&M-San Antonio, studies vector ecology and parasitology specifically pertaining to the Zika-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquito. As a freshman in college, she took a field parasitology course which took her out into the field to study insects infected with parasites. "I loved being outdoors and doing real science," Wise says. "During all of my schooling, from undergraduate through doctorate studies, I always had an outdoor component to my research." Now, her fieldwork often takes her and her student researchers into suburbs and nearby cities in Texas to study this mosquito species in an effort to control their spread of disease. Geoscientists Job duties: Study the composition, structure, and processes of the Earth; conduct laboratory tests on samples collected in fieldwork; make geological maps and chartsMedian salary: $91,130 ($42.81 per hour) Job outlook: 6% growth Job types: Geologists Geophysicists Oceanographers Paleontologists Petroleum geologists Seismologists Rick Hunter, a paleontologist at the Museum of Ancient Life in Lehi, Utah, wears many hats as a scientist, curator, and exhibit designer. As head paleontologist, his main responsibilities include directing the activities in the paleontology lab, overseeing and training the volunteer prep staff, and guiding the preparation of their current Barosaurus dinosaur project. As curator for the museum, he is responsible for the acquisition, identification, cataloging, curation, inventory, legality, and protection of the museum’s collections. And as exhibit designer, he oversees the design and maintenance of current and new exhibits, including the technical writing for museum signage. "The education never stops," Hunter says. "I do things almost every day that I have no formal training for. I have no training as a sculptor, yet I sculpt missing bones. I have no training as an artist, yet I paint. All of the skills that I have acquired over a lifetime have lead me to the positions that I now fill." To aspiring paleontologists, Hunter suggests focusing on specific goals and doing what it takes to proactively make them happen, as positions in his field are limited. Other conservation and research-based careers include cartographers, volcanologists, and nonprofit managers. Education Archivists, curators, and museum workers Job duties: Prepare and restore items in collections; oversee collections and displays; may include science, archaeology, and nature museums or other nonprofit or for-profit organizationsMedian salary: $48,400 ($23.27 per hour) Job outlook: 9% growth Meeting, convention, and event planners Job duties: Coordinate aspects of events and professional meetings, including for the outdoor industry or in outdoor settings Median salary: $49,370 ($23.74 per hour) Job outlook: 7% growth Rebecca Turk remembers the day her mom first taught her about horticulture. She was about 12 years old and helping to cultivate the mulch in her backyard. "My mom mentioned noticing how much I loved to work outside," Turk remembers, "and she wanted to make sure I knew that I could focus on that passion as a career." From that point on, she decided to major in horticulture and she never strayed from that path. After pursuing bachelor's and master's degrees in agriculture and horticulture, respectively, she worked various employments throughout academia including with the Stephen F. Austin (SFA) Mast Arboretum, the Nacogdoches Naturally environmental education program, the Missouri Botanical Garden, and the JC Raulston Arboretum at NC State University. She also became active in the American Public Garden Association, an invaluable resource for meaningful connections and partnerships. Now, as the director of education and events at the 65-acre Moore Farms Botanical Garden in Lake City, South Carolina, she embraces her leadership role and the fact that no day is like another. "I have a strong passion for public horticulture, and I love that my position lets me combine both horticulture and education together," Turk explains. "This is an industry that is ever-evolving. It is significantly influenced by the interests and demands of the public as well as our fast-changing climate." Turk continually needs to be willing to adapt, to be challenged, and to look at each challenge as a new obstacle to face. Regarding events management specifically, she says developing a logistical mindset is especially crucial. Postsecondary teachers Job duties: Teach courses in a specific subject area; work with colleagues to develop curricula; stay up-to-date on innovations in the field; assess students' progress Median salary: $78,470 ($37.73 per hour)Job outlook: 11% growth Franklin Pierce University professor of biology and environmental science Rhine Singleton teaches courses in environmental science, ecology, plant biology, and forest ecology. Located in rural southwest New Hampshire, the campus includes over 1,000 acres of natural areas encompassing a variety of ecosystem types including coniferous forest, northern hardwood forest, spruce swamp, marsh, meadow, stream, and pond. "As a result of this setting," says Singleton, "my classes spend significant amounts of time in the field studying natural history and collecting data to answer ecological questions. And my students have great attitudes about learning and being outdoors during labs, even when the weather isn't pleasant." Travel beyond campus is also a major component of Singleton's job. He frequently travels to Africa, Central America, and other exotic locations to carry out field research assignments. Self-enrichment education teachers Job duties: Teach courses on self-improvement, nonvocational, and nonacademic subjectsMedian salary: $38,438 ($18.48 per hour) Cindy Olsen is a self-employed nature educator continually seeking out ways to learn more about nature and mindfulness through experts, classes, books, and research — and then sharing that knowledge with the community. She first trained to be an environmental educator on local flora and fauna and taught youth at the Sheldrake Environmental Center in Rochelle, New York. Then in 2018, she was certified as a mindful outdoor guide through the Kripalu School of Mindful Outdoor Leadership. She is currently in the process of becoming a certified guide with the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy as well as a certified meditation teacher with Mindful Schools. While always a nature enthusiast, Olsen's current career is quite a departure from her previous career in international finance for film and media. "I made the decision to leave the corporate world because I saw two problems that I wanted to find a way to contribute solutions to," Olsen explains. "First, the rising levels of anxiety, depression, and loneliness in our culture, and second, the threat of human impact on the environment." Olsen was inspired to become a nature educator because of this quote: "In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught." — Baba Dioum Through her nature and mindfulness education programs, she sees the meaningful impact she has in forging deep connections to self, each other, and the natural world. Other education-based jobs include podcasters, public speakers, authors, influencers, and conservation-focused lobbyists. Environmental engineers Job duties: Use the principles of engineering, soil science, biology, and/or chemistry to solve environmental problems; may tackle concerns about water availability and efficiency of water useMedian salary: $87,620 ($42.13 per hour) Median salary of environmental engineering technicians: $50,560 ($24.31 per hour) Job outlook: 5% growth (9% for technicians) Regional and urban planners Job duties: Develop land use plans; gather and analyze data from environmental studies; present projects to planning commissions; stay current on environmental regulations and concerns Median salary: $73,050 ($35.12 per hour) Job outlook: 11% growth Solar photovoltaic installers Job duties: Plan PV system configurations; install solar modules, panels, and support structures; connect panels to the electrical system; perform routine maintenance Median salary: $42,680 per year ($20.52 per hour)Job outlook: 63% growth Wind turbine technicians Job duties: Climb wind turbine towers to inspect or repair equipment; test and troubleshoot systems; collect data for testing or research; service underground transmission systems Median salary: $52,370 per year ($26.14 per hour)Job outlook: 57% growth For more energy-based jobs, consult Zety's list of over 150 sustainability careers. Forestry Conservation scientists and foresters Job duties: Ensure compliance with government regulations and habitat protection; establish plans for managing forest lands; work with individuals and groups to improve foresting land Median salary: $61,340 per year ($29.49 per hour)Job outlook: 3% growth Job types: Conservation land managers Range managers Soil and water conservationists Procurement foresters Urban foresters Conservation education foresters Forest and conservation workers Job duties: Measure and improve quality of forests for state or local governments or on privately-owned forest lands or nurseriesMedian salary: $27,460 ($13.20 per hour) Job outlook: -3% decline Other forestry-based jobs include trail builders, arborists, park and forest rangers, and other state or national park employees. Arborist Lisa Tadewaldt, who owns Urban Forest Pro, a tree services company based in Oregon, enjoys working outside with trees daily. "I love the sheer amount of variety we experience," she explains. "One day we might be cutting back limbs on a massive pine tree and the next day we're grinding stumps." While at times it might seem this career can be challenging, and it certainly can, Tadewaldt absolutely loves experiencing new situations, meeting community members and helping them, and being active for several hours a day. The job is physically demanding and can put your body through some wear and tear. And for safety purposes, the work you do is often limited by stormy or other adverse weather. Because of this, there are certain times of the year with a lull in project volume. But Tadewaldt says the rewards more than compensate for the challenges. She jokes that she and her employees don't need a gym membership. "Try hauling a chainsaw up a tree while you're climbing for several hours on end. That'll burn more calories than a treadmill could in a day!" If you love trees and would enjoy trimming trees and bushes professionally, an arborist job might be right for you. As is the case in landscaping and nearly all outdoor home service fields, some experience is really all you need to get your foot in the door as long as the company is bonded and insured. But the more you know, the further you'll go. Tadewaldt makes sure each member of her team is certified by the International Society of Aboriculture, which allows them the title of Certified Arborist — a designation given only to individuals who have passed exams and work towards continuing education in the field. Plants Grounds maintenance workers Job duties: Ensure the grounds of houses, businesses, and parks are attractive, orderly, and healthy Median salary: $29,400 ($14.13 per hour) Job outlook: 9% growth Landscape architects Job duties: Design parks and other outdoor spaces; prepare graphic representations of plans using CADD software; analyze environmental reports on land conditions Median salary: $68,230 ($32.80 per hour) Job outlook: 4% growth Cassy Aoyagi is a board member of the U.S. Green Building Council and president of FormLA Landscaping, an energy-conscious landscaping company based in Los Angeles. Aoyagi studied environmental horticulture in college and started a landscaping business with her husband upon graduation. Over the years, the Aoyagis have built out their landscaping business to offer comprehensive design, build, and maintenance services. Her training in environmental studies sets her apart from other industry leaders. "My Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITEs) credentials have informed and enriched my approach to the work and have opened doors to influencing our industry and community," states Aoyagi. Her advice to other landscaping professionals? "Make sure that your crews and staff are getting the accolades and opportunities they deserve," she recommends. "While they may have the best outside jobs in the world, the elements can be rough as well as the work. Make sure they understand the big picture of what their work means to the world." Other plant-focused jobs include botanists, florists, and nursery managers. Recreation Amusement and recreation attendants Job duties: Maintain and provide equipment to participants at recreational facilities; operate logistical procedures at sporting events; operate amusement concessions and rides Median salary: $22,260 ($10.70 per hour) Job outlook: 8% growth Athletes Job duties: Participate in sporting events to entertain spectators, including for live-streamed or other online contentMedian salary: $50,650 ($24.35 per hour)Job outlook: 6% growth Could you get paid to explore gorgeous coasts and unique landforms? That's what Iain Miller does. He is a full-time professional rock climber specializing in sea stack climbing. A sea stack is a steep geological landform made up of columns of rock in the sea near a coast, and Miller paddles out to these stacks to free climb. Miller, 49, has been hillwalking since he was 14 and rock climbing since his mid-20s. He's also worked at sea on different vessels such as bulk carriers, cable layers, and ferries, providing him a good mix of mountaineering and nautical skills which have led him to where he is now. Apart from being a great day out, his adventures provide endless content for YouTube and other social media channels and blogs, which is a large part of this type of independent lifestyle and employment. "When you are doing what you love doing then nothing should be a chore. Being self-employed in any profession or industry presents similar challenges to overcome, but I have found what works for me is to simply be out doing what it is I say I do — being out climbing in beautiful settings in places where few, if any, have climbed before." Coaches and scouts Job duties: Teach amateur or professional athletes Median salary: $33,780 ($16.24 per hour)Job outlook: 11% growth As a professional golf coach and the founder of Golf Insider UK, Will Shaw helps amateurs and professionals alike to improve their game. While Shaw has a deep love of the game, people skills and business know-how are also crucial for this career. "To excel as a coach, you have to spend time learning about golfing technique and coaching methods," Shaw says. "But on top of this, you have to be great at communicating with a wide range of people and to learn the basics of running your own business." According to Shaw, aspiring coaches should expect to earn less than average wage when first starting out, but can expect to build a successful coaching business within two to three years. The most common route for becoming a golf coach is to take up an assistant's role at a golf club, then take a three-year Professional Golfer's Association (PGA) qualification. However, Shaw says there is no legal requirement to follow this route. There are many coaching qualifications that anyone can take, such as the certificate offered by the United States Golf Teachers Federation (USGTF). Recreation workers Job duties: Help people stay active, improve fitness, and/or have fun; may be through coordinated daytime and/or overnight activities Median salary: $25,060 ($12.05 per hour)Job outlook: 8% growth As the director of Gold Arrow Camp in California's High Sierra, Andy Moeschberger is well aware of the logistical challenges to working in nature. "You can't just quickly pop into Wal-Mart if you need some eggs," Moeschberger jokes. But he says the challenges of his career as a summer camp director are massively offset by the benefits. From the picturesque setting to the positive energy of the youth to the freedom from technology attachment, summer camp really is one of the best places to be for kids and adults alike. The Moeschbergers both taught school after getting their bachelor's degrees and spent the summers working at the camp. Little by little, their responsibilities expanded until they were both working full-time at Gold Arrow Camp. He attends conferences regularly with the American Camp Association and the Western Association of Independent Camps. Moeschberger is confident about the future of employment for youth and young adults interested in becoming camp counselors: "If you're dedicated to camp and open about your desire to work in camping, you're going to find opportunities." Tour and travel guides Job duties: Plan, organize, and conduct long-distance or sightseeing tours, travel, or expeditionsMedian salary: $26,570 ($12.77 per hour)Job outlook: 7% growth Kevin Rosenburg grew up in a tough neighborhood where Boy Scouts were bullied, and his family never hiked or camped, so he never had experience in the outdoors. But when he joined the military right out of high school, he came to love carrying a 75-lb pack, wearing greasepaint on his face, sleeping out under the stars and carrying an M-16. "Eventually, I realized I could leave the M-16 behind and just hike," Rosenberg explains. After the military trained him in survival and navigation, Rosenberg became certified as a Wilderness EMT and got his guide license from New York state. Now a mountain guide, he leads individuals and groups on arctic and sub-arctic adventure travels through his business, International Adventure Guides. As a guide, Rosenburg's biggest challenge is "being found on the web amongst a sea of white-bread tours labeling themselves as adventure travel." Weather is a close second. Other recreation-focused jobs include race directors, turf managers, resort managers, and instructors for surfing, archery, skiing, and snowboarding. Resource and Retail Bicycle repairers Job duties: Repair and service bicycles Median salary: $28,960 ($13.92 per hour) Job outlook: 8% growth Fishing and hunting workers Job duties: Locate animals to catch or hunt, sort, pack, and store for food or other purposes; follow local environmental and safety regulationsMedian salary: $28,530 ($13.72 per hour) Job outlook: -2% decline Job types: Fishing boat captains Fishing deckhands Hunters Trappers Logging workers Job duties: Harvest forests to provide the raw materials for consumer goods and industrial products; follow protocols for correct machinery usage and environmental regulations Median salary: $40,650 ($19.54 per hour) Job outlook: -14% decline Photographers Job duties: Use various techniques and equipment to capture images and video of subjects in a variety of landscapes and settings; market their work and services to clients or an employer; may shoot for a travel magazine or local tourist hot spot Median salary: $34,000 ($16.35 per hour) Job outlook: -6% decline Retail sales workers Job duties: Recommend merchandise based on customer needs; promote sale and special items; process customer payments; may work in an outdoor-niche retail shop such as REI, Lands End, an outdoor gear rental shop, or a ski resort shop Median salary: $24,340 ($11.70 per hour) Job outlook: -2% decline Writers and authors Job duties: Develop written content for various types of media, including books, magazines, and other digital and print media Median salary: $62,170 ($29.89 per hour) Job outlook: 0% growth (little to no change) Steph Young is an outdoor gear blogger at CampingCooks.com. She had been making websites for clients before wondering what would happen if she made one for herself. And it’s been a grand adventure. Young still consults for a marketing agency but loves that she can focus on her interests in the outdoors through volunteering for conservation groups and creating helpful and fun camping-related content on her website, which is how she makes money as an Amazon Associate. The biggest challenge is the ever-present demand for new content and website updates. “I could see this being a chore for someone who isn’t enthusiastic about all of these things,” Young admits. “But I love blogging, camping, and experimenting with different (and sometimes strange!) devices to cook with in my outdoor adventures, so it’s something I enjoy.” Paul Ronto’s career path included several twists and turns within the outdoors industry. He’s been a whitewater guide, an elk and deer hunt guide, a gear tester, an outdoor gear copywriter, a leadership event planner, and he’s worked for the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) in both their outfitting and marketing departments. While he’s had his share of adventure, there were obstacles to face. “Starting a job in the outdoor industry, like guiding or gear testing, can be tough,” says Ronto. “You need a lot of experience to gain credibility, and a lot of times it’s hard to get paid to get that experience, which means doing a lot of things on your own for no return for a time.” Still, he says you can find a career that’s rewarding if you focus on your passion and your strengths. “Just beware, you may have to live in your car or on a friend’s couch at some point,” he warns. He’s also done marketing in the real estate sector, but has found his sweet spot in marketing for RunRepeat, an athletic footwear review site. In his role as CMO and content director, he manages a team of writers creating content on running and hiking. “I’ve tried to ignore my passion at times to find a career with better pay and titles, but I kept coming back to a feeling of unease,” Ronto explains. “If your passion is the outdoors, you have to follow it. You will feel an empty hole if you don’t!” Safety EMTs and paramedics Job duties: Respond to emergency calls as a result of car crashes, natural disasters, or acts of violence; perform medical services; transport patients to medical facilitiesMedian salary: $34,320 ($16.50 per hour) Job outlook: 7% growth Environmental science and protection technicians Job duties: Monitor the environment; investigate sources of pollution and contamination; may work in an office or laboratory in addition to fieldworkMedian salary: $46,170 ($22.20 per hour) Job outlook: 9% growth Firefighters Job duties: Respond to residential, commercial, or wildfires Median salary: $49,620 ($23.85 per hour) Job outlook: 5% growth First-line supervisors of fire fighting and prevention workers Job duties: Plan, coordinate, and supervise fire fighting efforts Median salary: $76,330 ($36.70 per hour)Job outlook: 5% growth Nolan Heaps, who works for the Idaho National Laboratory Fire Department, started his firefighting career in 2009 as a senior in high school on an engine crew for the Idaho Falls Bureau of Land Management (BLM). In that role, he did a lot of mobile initial attacks on fires on the flame front, spraying water and digging line to establish a barrier between the unburned fuel and the fire. Some years, depending on the terrain, he and his crew wouldn't use the truck much at all, forming a hand crew and do a lot of burning, cutting with chain saws, and digging line. With wildland firefighting jobs, you are sent to wherever you're needed: all over the United States, Canada, and even Australia. There are multiple fire suppression jobs that fall under the umbrella of wildland firefighting: smoke jumpers, helitack, hotshots, hand crews, and engine crews. Like Heaps, people usually start off on an engine crew to get experience and some certifications and then move on to other crews such as helitack (helicopter operations) and hotshots (an elite handcrew with leadership responsibilities). In 2013, Heaps was assigned to a two-week job with the BLM's Bonneville Hotshots attacking some of the biggest wildfires in Idaho that summer. In 2017, he was hired on to a helitack crew in Swan Valley, Idaho. "Helitack was an amazing opportunity for me," Heaps says. "We would fly for up to seven hours a day from fire to fire helping crews with bucket drops, firing operations, and digging line to stop the spread of fire." The work of a wildland firefighter is just as grueling (and probably more so) than what you'd expect. You do 14–16 day operational shifts (shifts are 16+ hours long) in a row, then travel back home. You sleep on the ground wherever you are sent. For Heaps, hard work is a huge part of the appeal. He says, "It is one of the most satisfying feelings when you work that hard and can crawl into a sleeping bag at night knowing you earned that night's rest." As for the training required for the job, Heaps attended basic fire school and had other opportunities for professional development, eventually building up a strong knowledge base and skill set including the following: Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certification Fire behavior Chain saw operation Cutting line to bare mineral dirt Water pump operation Technical tree felling Firing operations Commanding aircraft Commanding personnel To aspiring wildland firefighters, Heaps offers encouragement: "Don't be afraid of a challenge. It will be some of the most fun, challenging, and rewarding work you will ever do. It was a great experience for me and helped me grow as an individual." Lifeguards, ski patrol, and other recreational protective service workers Job duties: Monitor recreational areas like pools, beaches, and ski slopes; work may be seasonalMedian salary: $22,410 ($10.77 per hour) Job outlook: 7% growth Water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators Job duties: Manage a system of machines to safely and efficiently transfer or treat water or wastewater Median salary: $46,780 ($22.49 per hour) Job outlook: -5% decline Other safety-based jobs include oil and safety gas technicians, environmental health and safety officers, fire prevention specialists, and helicopter pilots. Wellness Animal-assisted therapists Job duties: Assess client challenges and needs; utilize animal-assisted therapy techniques to treat symptoms; may involve equine therapy and emotional support animals Median salary of psychologists: $79,010 ($37.99 per hour) Job outlook: 14% growth Median salary of recreation therapists: $47,680 ($22.92 per hour) Job outlook: 7% growth Licensed mental health professional Prairie Conlon, clinical director of Therapetic and CertaPet consultant, specializes in animal-assisted therapy. Many patients experience anxiety, panic attacks, depressive symptoms, and sleep difficulties. From equine therapy to working with therapy dogs, Conlon has seen significant improvements in her patients. As the founder and lead researcher of Emotional Support Animal Assisted Therapy (ESAAT), a set of techniques utilized to decrease symptoms with an Emotional Support Animal, Conlon is continually working to improve upon and teach this methodology. Conlon has undergone extensive training to hone her expertise and craft. She has a master’s degree in professional counseling, a postgraduate degree in Military Behavioral Health Counseling, an equine-assisted psychotherapist certification, and an Accelerated Resolution Therapist certificate. Conlon also trains future trauma therapists and consults for several nonprofits for veterans and first responder trauma. Fitness trainers and instructors Job duties: Lead, instruct, or motivate individuals or groups in exercise activities; may work at a spa, resort, clinic, or cruise line Median salary: $39,820 ($19.15 per hour)Job outlook: 13% growth Steve Silberberg combines recreation and fitness in his business, Fitpacking. The goal is for adventurers to get fit, lose fat, and have fun on one- or two-week group expeditions led by trip leaders certified as SOLO, Wilderness Medicine Associates, Wilderness Medicine Institute, or NOLS-certified Wilderness First Responders. Silberberg says, "I live an incredibly good and meaningful quality of life, but of course it’s no way to get rich." Still, he finds the trade-off worth it to get paid to promote fitness in the environment he loves. Your next step in career exploration Now that you've read about some of the incredible perks and real struggles to some of these careers, perhaps you've identified one or more you want to pursue. What next? Inventory your interests and strengths Take stock of the unique skills you've developed in your education and work experience thus far. Brainstorm how you could use those skills in an outdoor career. Take a personality test if you're stumped. Find a mentor Identify a few individuals who are two or more steps ahead of where you are and ask if they will mentor you as you begin exploring your options. Using LinkedIn, contact pages, or in-person events to connect, reach out to those individuals with your questions and goals. You may want to look into joining a society for outdoor professionals or another networking group within your chosen niche. Consider a career certificate Recently, the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) partnered with three universities (Utah State University, University of Colorado Boulder, and Western Colorado University) to create the Outdoor Industry Business Certificate program which will be launched soon. It's definitely worth considering, especially if you'd like training on one of OIA's three pillar areas: Public policy Increasing outdoor participation Sustainable business innovation Other potential certifications worth looking into: ed2go's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Associate course U.S. Career Institute's Certified Personal Trainer course for passing the National Council on Strength & Fitness (NCSF) exam Stratford Career Institute's bicycle mechanic course for entry-level employment in a bike shop or bike department at a retail store Support outdoor businesses Whether or not you decide to take a step into the unknown terrain of a new career path, you can use your knowledge of the outdoors industry to be mindful of the people behind these jobs. As you plan your adventures beyond the office, you can use your words and your wallet to support the people and policies that keep the natural world accessible and thriving for generations to come.
To jump straight to our growing list of career certifications to browse, click here. A four-year degree may be the first thing to come to mind when we think about college. However, certificate and associate's degree programs actually rival bachelor's degree programs in enrollment and awards conferred. The combined number of certificates and associate's degrees being awarded by colleges — around 2 million per year — is similar to the number of bachelor's degrees awarded, according to Georgetown University's recent report regarding the labor-market value of associate's degrees and certificate programs. And certificate holders within the fields of engineering technologies and drafting are making up to three times as much as those with only an associate degree in a similar field. Career certificates have the potential to catapult you into a new career or equip you with skills to work more competitively within your current job or industry. Read on to discover the value of career certifications and how one can benefit you. 1. Certifications can determine, guide, or supplement your chosen career Certifications can stand alone, work alongside a degree, or qualify you to start in a career by covering job-specific knowledge you didn't obtain in college. For example, to become a private investigator, you need to possess a bachelor's degree in criminal justice or a related field. But to supplement your knowledge base and experience, Darrin Giglio, chief investigator with North American Investigations, recommends additional undergraduate coursework or certification courses. "It's desirable that you've taken courses in criminology, surveillance, law, and photography." In some cases, career certifications are a welcome alternative to a four-year degree with generally a smaller investment of money and time. Do you have a degree but want to make a career change? You can enter into some careers with zero experience by obtaining the necessary education and certifications. 2. Niche courses can aid in personal development, not just career advancement Even if you're happy where you are in your job, the added knowledge you can gain from a career development course can give you a new perspective when facing challenges. Having completed formal training, you'll better be able to come up with innovative solutions with newfound confidence. And sometimes it helps to look out-of-the-box for career development opportunities. Tech product manager Wren Ludlow believes that, in general, a certification won't make or break a hiring opportunity, but certifications can be a powerful supplement for personal development. He has found his Scrum credentials to be valuable in the workplace, and he appreciated his employer's willingness to pay for the course. However, it's the CliftonStrengths assessment that has made the biggest impact on Ludlow professionally. "The assessment has helped me to capitalize on my natural strengths and pursue where I can be most successful," he explains. "What I've discovered is that I like to achieve things and learn, but I do those things in the lens of my first two strengths: communicating and working with other people. This knowledge has helped me pursue projects and growth opportunities that play to those strengths and add a lot more fulfillment to my work." 3. Talking to pros in your industry can help you identify which certifications to pursue Are you seeking a promotion or job change? A certificate can give you the edge over the competition. But do your research before pursuing a degree and/or a certificate. In general, it won't hurt your job prospects to have additional training. However, even free certifications are an investment of time, so put your time where it will help you go the farthest. Consult coworkers to see what they have done, talk to your manager about what skills they'd like to see you gain or expand, and reach out to potential mentors who are two steps ahead of where you are now. In some cases, in addition to a certification, you need to acquire a degree and/or a certain amount of experience in your field. Here are some pro tips for seeking career certification recommendations within different industries: Finance Wealth advisor and Clear Financial Partners CEO Tim Clairmont, CFP®, explains that a combination of experience, education, and test-taking proficiency go into becoming a Certified Financial Planner (CFP). "The CFP is the pinnacle designation for financial planners," Clairmont says. Requirements for a CFP are as follows: A bachelor's degree 5 years of industry-related experience Adherence to a strict code of ethics Commitment to ongoing continuing education The completion of 7 courses of post-graduate work A passing score on a comprehensive examination Clairmont stands behind the integrity of the exam, which is as close to comprehensive as possible in dealing with real-life financial situations: "The exam covers everything financial planning related: taxes, investments, annuities, life insurance, estate law, ethics, holistic financial planning, and more." Clairmont requires all of his company's advisor trainees pursue and achieve the CFP designation before they are allowed to work independently with clients. Technology Amazon Web Services One in-demand certification in the software and information technology (IT) industry is the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Developer certification. "AWS is the biggest cloud platform developers can use, which makes this certification so popular," explains Digital Software Products founder Colin Ma. Ma was studying for the AWS Developer certification and was on track to pass it when he got offered a job. "The CEO was impressed that I had cloud experience and was studying independently for the certification, and it definitely gave her additional confidence to hire me," he explains. The job was at a busy startup so he wasn't able to complete the certification there, but in addition to giving him a competitive edge in hiring, he was able to utilize his AWS expertise in his new responsibilities. Machine learning engineer Peter Song benefited similarly from his AWS expertise, helping him land his current job. "Some people undervalue certifications, saying that practical experiences are more important, and I agree," Song says. "However, if you want to have hands-on experiences, you first have to prove your knowledge to get a chance. And in addition the knowledge gained, I believe that earning career certifications can prove your passion and interest." The hiring manager told Song that his AWS Certified Solutions Architect certification greatly impacted their decision since the firm was looking for someone with AWS knowledge, which is no surprise given its increasing popularity. In addition to the Certified Solutions Architect certification, Song also recommends the AWS Certified Big Data specialty. Agile In delivering, Agile Method is rapidly rising as the norm, according to Richard Cheng, VP of Training and Chief Product Owner at Excella Training. The most widely recognized certification in the Agile field is the Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) accreditation, which shows that you have a sound foundation and even a deep-dive understanding of Agile principles and the Scrum framework. Cheng explains that job listings that say "CSM certification preferred" or "CSM certification required" are increasingly common. "Any organization that is going through an Agile transformation should have a mix of Scrum teams and Kanban teams," according to Cheng. From a Kanban standpoint, the most widely recognized certification is the Kanban Management Professional 1 (KMP1). " While it doesn’t have nearly the number of certificate holders as the CSM, that base is also growing." SOLIDWORKS SolidProfessor applications engineer Patrick Ehrhardt recommends three SOLIDWORKS designations in particular for computer-aided design (CAD) drafters, technicians, and engineers, in order of difficulty to obtain: Certified SOLIDWORKS Associate (CSWA) Certified SOLIDWORKS Professional (CSWP) Certified SOLIDWORKS Expert (CSWE) Ehrhardt explains that his employees who have these certifications require less time in training and have more time to do their jobs. "I hire a lot of engineering design interns and seeing a CSWA or CSWP on their resume really stands out to me," he says. "It shows that they're comfortable with the software so they can focus their time on the task instead of figuring out how to use the tool. We want them to concentrate on designing, so the less time they spend fighting against the tool, the better off we are as a company." Having obtained the first two credentials himself, Ehrhardt experiences benefits beyond the hire and beyond project competency. "Earning my CSWA and CSWP has really given me a lot of confidence in my designs and approach. I know that, in the world of solid part modeling, I could build pretty much anything I need to. And going through the process of earning these credentials has also given me a lot of respect and understanding of just how deep the software and design field goes." CompTIA Security+ Within cybersecurity, the CompTIA Security+ certification comes highly recommended by Will Ellis, IT security consultant and founder of Privacy Australia. He says professionals with this certification are often recognized as having both broad knowledge and a high skill level within the cybersecurity field. Plus, it is globally recognized and respected and is approved by the United States Department of Defense. Ellis explains, "Those who have attained this designation generally have knowledge and skills in cryptography, security infrastructure, threat management, and network access control, so there are great benefits to hiring someone with such a high degree of understanding and experience in network security." Communications and marketing Google Analytics Aaron Watters, CEO of digital marketing agency Leadhub, looks for candidates who have the Google Analytics Individual Qualification certification, which is comprised of roughly 70 questions drawn from the Google Analytics for Beginners and Advanced Google Analytics courses. The caveat to this certification is that the answers to the test can be found online. To push back against the realities of potential cheating, Watters tests interviewees on certificate-based knowledge to see if they actually know what they are talking about. He emphasizes, "If you're going to put this certification on your resumé, you better have the skills to back it up." Google Adwords Growth Marketing founder Stacy Caprio says marketing-specific certificates are crucial for digital marketers just starting their careers. "Having a certification shows you at least know enough to click the right answers on a test," she explains. "It shows you have a starting point to jump off from instead of starting to learn on the job from scratch." Caprio especially values Google Adwords for marketing professionals: "It makes a huge difference when people are looking to hire you, especially when you are younger without as many years of direct experience managing campaigns." Course Combos If you're a digital marketer, these Google certificates are crucial, as most recruiters and hiring managers actually expect to see one or both on an applicant's resume according to Flyparks online marketer Alice Bedward. "Combined, these certifications show that the candidate has some level of competency when it comes to data collection and analysis and understands search engine marketing best practice," she explains. "While it won't open up many job opportunities alone, it will fit well with other digital marketing courses and exams alongside your job training." Plus, it's free of charge and can be completed within a couple of weeks or less. Bedward also recommends the free courses offered by MOZ, SEMRush, and Hubspot. She says they are easily understandable, appreciated internationally, and can help you to stand out more in a crowded space at a junior level. SEO Kelly Diehr, PR and search engine optimization (SEO) coordinator for scavenger hunt company Let's Roam, explains that regardless of the specific course you choose, an SEO certificate is becoming vital for anyone in the marketing or public relations industry. "Platforms that were traditionally word-of-mouth have quickly become digital, and mastering that new frontier can be make or break," she says. "An SEO certification shows you are tech-savvy and can keep up with the evolving industry." Diehr recommends any SEO certificate programs that provide a knowledge base for the following skills: Keyword research Link building Landing press exposure Understanding Google ranking methods Event management Lauren Grech, CEO and cofounder of LLG Events & LLG Agency and adjunct professor at New York University, teaches in the United States' first-ever M.S. in Event Management program at New York University's Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality. According to Grech, certificate coursework and training from accredited institutions are going to be increasingly important for event planning professionals as the industry continues to grow and integrate with other sectors, such as travel, hospitality, and tourism. So why is formal training essential in this field? She explains, "I have traveled all over the world — from Europe, the Middle East, and French Polynesia, to Asia and Central America — examining the global event industry from the perspective of the planner, client, venue and other vendors, uncovering fierce competition; pricing disparities amongst vendors from various professions; and no defined criteria for event execution, causing venues to consistently underperform within their events departments. This is all due to the fact that there has never been any formal, accredited training established within the wedding and event industries as they now apply to hospitality and tourism. Grech hopes to change that norm for her event management students. With formal event management training, vendors entering the industry will know how to price themselves, know how to define their value, and how to run an event from concept to execution. 4. Employers will often pay for career development courses Some companies have a professional development benefit built into the benefits structure. But even if that isn't standard at your place of employment, it's worth talking to an HR representative about the possibility. Put together a proposal detailing what the certification is, how much it costs, and how the skills you learn will prove to have a strong ROI for your team and for the company as a whole. Product manager Deric Lambdin has taken several courses over the span of his career from e-learning companies like Codeacademy, edX, and Linda, and in some cases, his employer has helped cover the costs. Lambdin says that through online courses, he has been exposed to new principles and has deepened his understanding of concepts surrounding his real-world experiences, enhancing his on-the-job training — and these benefits are all assets to his company. "I feel like employers are better recognizing the value of helping expand their employee's education," Lambdin explains. "Instead of being scared that employees will leave after receiving that type of education, they want to stay and apply the principles they learn within the company." 5. Not all certifying organizations are worthy of your investment When you're going to invest time and money into a certificate course, do your research on the certifying organization itself by consulting customer reviews. Reviews can alert you to red flags about a career certification company or highlight strengths that one organization has over another. Career certification courses If you're curious about some of the certification courses and designations available in your industry or want to consider alternate career possibilities, we've got you covered. We've divided these certifications into industry-based categories, but be aware that some certifications can be beneficial across several job types, while others are highly specific. While some designations and courses listed here are offered only by one certifying company or body, there may be similar certifications across several certifying organizations. Arts & Design Automotive Business & Finance Communications Construction & Engineering Education Emergency & Medical Services Fitness & Beauty Home Services Hospitality & Leisure Legal Outdoors & Environment Personal & Pet Production & Maker Real Estate Public Safety Tech Transportation Arts & Design Adobe Illustrator Adobe InDesign Adobe Photoshop Avid Certified Media Composer Avid Certified Mixer Board Certified Art Therapist Certified Applied Poetry Facilitator Certified Eating Disorders Creative Arts TherapistDigital Arts Certificate Digital Video Editor Marketing Design CertificateMultimedia Arts Certificate Music Therapist Registered Drama Therapist Automotive Automobile Technician Automotive Parts Specialist Certified Auto Glass Master Certified Master Dealer Diagnostician Electric Vehicle Technician Light Vehicle Diesel Engines Master Collision Repair and Refinishing Technician Rebuilder Specialist School Bus Technician Undercar Specialist: Exhaust Systems Vehicle Maintenance Management and Inspection Business & Finance Accredited Tax Preparer Associate in Personal Insurance Associate in Risk Management Bookkeepers Certification Certified Accounts Payable AssociateCertified Advertising Specialist Certified Associate in Project Management Certified Brand Manager Certified Business Intelligence Professional Certified Collegiate Retailer Certified Employee Retention Specialist Certified Event Rental Professional Certified Facility Manager Certified Financial Planner Certified Financial Risk ManagerCertified Insurance Service RepresentativesCertified International Tax Analyst Certified Investment Management AnalystCertified Manager Certified Merger and Acquisition Advisor Certified Payroll Professional Certified Pension Consultant Certified Public Accountant Certified Relocation Professional Certified Risk Management ProfessionalCertified Sales Professional Chartered Financial Analyst Master Financial Planner Microsoft Excel Microsoft Outlook Microsoft PowerPoint Professional in Human ResourcesTen Key Communications & Marketing Advanced Google Analytics Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology Certified Broadcast Meteorologist Certified Digital Radio Broadcast SpecialistCertified Level Sign Language Certified Medical Interpreter Certified Translator Google Adwords Hubspot Content MarketingNational Interpreter Certification Registered Broadcast Captioner Registered Professional Reporter Sirius Decisions Construction & Engineering Certified Composting Program Manager Certified Construction Manager Certified Design Drafter Certified Pump Installer Certified Recycling Systems ManagerCertified Well DrillerConstruction Site Safety Technician Enterprise Architect Fellow Highway Design Hydrologic Technician Master Certified Green Professional Mechanical Certified Drafter Mechatronics Certification Test Petroleum Engineering Certification Pipeline Construction Inspector Product Safety Design Engineer Education Certified Career Counselor Certified Master Resume Writer Certified Personal and Family Finance Educator Certified Professional in Learning and Performance Grant Professionals Certification Microsoft Certified Educator Nationally Certified School Psychologist School Nutrition Specialist Teaching English as a Foreign LanguageTechnology Literacy for Educators Emergency & Medical Accredited Traffic Accident Reconstructionist Board Certification in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork Biomedical Electronics Technician Certification in Allergy and Immunology Certification in Anesthesiology Certification in Long Term Care Certified Dental Technician Certified Eating Disorders Registered NurseCertified Emergency Disaster Professional Certified Flight Registered Nurse Certified Genetics Counselor Certified Healthcare Billing and Management Certified Healthcare Emergency Professional Certified Hospice and Palliative Nursing Assistant Certified Medical Office Manager Certified Pharmacy Technician Chemotherapy Certification Correctional Behavioral Health Certification Cytotechnologist Dental Assistant Direct Support Professional EKG Technician Emergency Fire Dispatcher Emergency Medical Dispatcher Emergency Police Dispatcher GerontologyHome Care Certification Medical Assistant Medication Aide Certification MRI Technologist Nationally Certified Medical Assistant National Reflexology Certification Neonatal Intensive Care NursingOccupational Therapy Assistant Orthotic Fitter CertificationPediatric Primary Care Mental Health Specialist Phlebotomy Technician Phlebotomist Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Registered Sleep Technologist Certification Sartech (National Association for Search and Rescue) Sexual Assault Nurse ExaminerSterile Products (IV) Certification Technologist in Blood Banking Fitness & Beauty Aquatic Fitness Instructor Certification Certified Aesthetic Laser Operator Certified Athletic Trainer Certified Cancer Exercise Trainer Certified Personal Trainer Fitness Nutrition Specialty Certification Group Exercise Instructor Holistic Nutritionist Certification Indoor Group Cycling Certificate Kettlebell Specialty Certification MMA Conditioning Specialist Pilates Certified Teacher Registered Dance/Movement Therapist Sports Injury Specialist Water Ski Instructor/Coach Weight Management Specialist Certification Home Services Air Conditioning Installation Technician Carbon Monoxide Safety Certification Certified Carpet Master Installer Certified Flooring Installation Manager Certified Interior Designer Certified Kitchen and Bath Remodeler Certified Master Locksmith Certified Mold Professional Certified Satellite Installer Certified Ventilation System Inspector Certified Vinyl Installer Electrical Certification Fiber Optics Technician Gas Heat Certification Grouting and Reinforced Masonry Certification HVAC Efficiency Analyst Registered Piano Technician STAR HVAC Mastery Universal Design Certified Remodeler Wireless Systems Installer Technician Hospitality & Leisure Accredited Cruise Manager Certified Cruise Counsellor Certified Hotel Concierge Certified in Exhibition Management Certified Pool/Spa Operator Certified Restaurant Server Certified SPA Supervisor Certified Special Events Professional Certified Tour Guide Gaming and Vending Technician ServSafe Alcohol Travel Agent Executive Legal Certified Paralegal Board Certification in Criminal Trial LawBoard Certification in Family Law Trial Law Certified Legal Video Specialist Estate Planning Law Specialist Professional Legal Secretary Outdoors & Environment Board Certified Entomologist Certified Agricultural Irrigation Specialist Certified Caddie Certified Casting Instructor Certified Consulting Meteorologist Certified Crop AdviserCertified Environmental Drycleaner Certified Forester Certified Green Purchasing Professional Certified Grounds Technician Certified Irrigation ContractorCertified Master ArboristCertified Park and Recreation Professional Certified Renewable Energy Professional Energy Efficiency Management Certificate Program Erosion and Sediment Control Seasonal Equestrian Staff Certification Stable ManagerTrail Guide Instructor Personal & Pet Board Certified Autism Technician Board Certified in Animal Food Science Board Certified in Animal Genetics Certification in Cognitive Therapy Certified Addiction Specialist Certified Childcare Professional Certified Corrections Officer Certified Group Psychotherapist Certified Farrier Certified Funeral Service Practitioner Certified Labor DoulaCertified Lactation Counselor Certified Manager of Animal Resources Certified New Parent EducatorCertified Postpartum Doula Certified Professional Dog Trainer Certified Professional Pet Sitter Certified Sex TherapistChild Development Associate International Board Certified Lactation Consultant Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator National Certified Master Groomer Residential Child and Youth Care Professional Production & Maker CNC Milling Certification Concrete Construction Special Inspector Certified Baker Certified Decorator Certified Floral Designer Certified Food Safety ProfessionalCertified Garment Care Professional Certified Gemologist Certified in Production and Inventory Management Certified Metalworking Fluids Specialist Certified Personal Chef Certified Therapeutic Shoe Fitter Certified Watchmaker of the 21st Century Certified Welder Concrete Sawing and Drilling Operator CertificationMachiningMaster Alteration Specialist Precision Sheet Metal Operator Certification Protective Coatings Specialist Registered Jeweler Screw Machining Soldered Electrical and Electronic Assemblies Real Estate Accredited Buyer’s Representative Accredited Staging PartnerCertified New Home Sales Professional Certified Property ManagerCertified Real Estate Brokerage ManagerCertified Residential UnderwriterHousing Development Finance Professional Master in Residential MarketingMilitary Relocation Professional Mortgage Loan Officer National Apartment Leasing Professional Realtor Residential Accredited AppraiserResidential Certified Mortgage Servicer Safety Certified Fire Plan Examiner Certified Fraud Examiner Certified Information Privacy ProfessionalCertified Playground Safety Inspector Certified Portable Fire Extinguisher Technician Certified Safety Technician Certified Safety InstructorCertified Hazardous Materials Technician Certified Hazardous Materials Supervisor Certified Homeland Protection Associate Certified Stormwater Manager Infection Control Certification Criminal Intelligence Certified Analyst Fire Inspector Fire Plans Examiner Lifeguard Certification Private InvestigatorTenprint Fingerprint Certification Tech Adobe Analytics Business Practitioner Adobe Audience Manager Architect Agile Certified Product Manager Amazon Web Services DeveloperApple Certified iOS Technician AutoCAD Civil 3D Certified Professional Certified Biometrics Professional Certified Encryption Specialist Certified Ethical HackerCertified Product Manager Certified ScrumMasterCertified Telecom Professional Cisco Certified Architect Cloud Architect CompTIA Cloud+CompTIA Security+Developing SQL Data Models Digital Game Artist CertificateGIAC Advanced Smartphone Forensics Google Analytics IQ Certification IBM Certified Developer IBM Certified Solution Advisor Internet of Things Foundation Certification Junior Telecommunications Engineer Kanban Management Professional 1Linux Server Professional Certification Microsoft Networking FundamentalsOracle Cloud Specialist Oracle Database 12c EssentialsProgramming in C# Certification Red Hat Certified Architect Software Engineering Master Certification Certified SOLIDWORKS Associate Certified SOLIDWORKS Professional Certified SOLIDWORKS Expert Symantec Certified Specialist Video Game Design and DevelopmentWebYoda Associate WebmasterWeb Application Developer Wireshark Certified Network Analyst Transportation Aerospace/Aircraft Assembly Maintenance CertificationAircraft Dispatcher Airport Certified Security Employee Air Traffic Control Tower Operator Bicycle Technician Certified Cargo Security Professional Certified in Special Needs Transportation Certified Supply Chain Professional Certified Tour Professional Certified Travel Counselor Coastal Navigation Certificate Commercial Driver License Commercial Pilot Counter Balance Sitdown Rider Forklift Operator Safety Training Flight Engineer National Able Seaman National Radio Officer Overhead Crane Overhead Crane Operator Radio Communication Systems School Bus Endorsement Traffic Control Design Specialist Traffic Signal Technician Transportation Worker Identification Credential We intend this to be an evolving list of in-demand career certifications in the United States. Please email [email protected] for additional certification recommendations or other comments.
Can I get private student loan forgiveness? The short answer is no. Private student loan lenders do not forgive or cancel loans unless extreme circumstances demand it, such as death or permanent injury/disability. To add salt to the wound, Federal government programs, such as the CARES Act*, put in place to provide financial assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic, do not apply to private student loans**. This includes student loans initially financed through a private lender or those that have been refinanced. It is also important to note that federal loan income driven repayment programs do not apply to private student loans. Some private lenders may offer similar programs, but it is recommended to speak with your private loan servicer if this is something that you are specifically interested in. With all the options unavailable to you, private student loan debt relief options may seem virtually nonexistent, but before you give up all hope, know that most private student loan lenders have repayment options available, providing some financial assistance when needed. *In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal government temporarily suspended student loan payments and waived interest through the CARES Act. Repayments were set to begin again on January 31, 2021 but this forbearance period has been extended, although it is unclear for how long. It is important to note that federal forbearance or forgiveness programs, such as the CARES Act, do not apply to private student loans, or federal student loans that have been refinanced through a private lender. **Most private student loan lenders have a specific COVID-19 response plan in place, but details and terms will vary by lender. Although options may vary by lender, here are some common repayment options that you can look for in place of loan forgiveness: Student loan refinancing Student loan deferment Student loan forbearance Student loan refinancing Most, if not all, private student loan lenders offer refinancing services for both private and federal student loans. This can be a good option if you would like to reduce your monthly payments and potentially save more on interest. In the refinancing process, the lender will pay off your original loan and give you a new loan with better rates and terms. Since the lender is essentially giving you a better deal on your loan, they will want to ensure that you are a trustworthy borrower, which will be reflected in your credit score. Thus, if you want to qualify for the lowest rates and best terms possible, you will need an excellent credit score. If you do not have a well-established credit history, or bad credit overall, many lenders will allow you to apply with a cosigner which can increase your chances of qualification, as well as help you get better rates and terms. It is important to note that if you choose to refinance a federal student loan with a private lender, you forfeit all access to federal repayment options and programs, including student loan debt relief under the CARES Act in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Student loan deferment Student loan deferment is an agreement between the borrower and lender that repayment may either be reduced or postponed for a period of time. This may also include a pause on interest, but specific terms will vary by lender, including how long you are able to defer payments. Note that some private lenders use the terms “deferment” and “forbearance” interchangeably. However, in most cases loan deferment refers to a planned need for repayment relief, such as returning to school or entering the military. Forbearance, on the other hand, is most often used when unexpected circumstances or an emergency arises and temporary payment relief is needed. Student loan forbearance It is a common mistake to confuse student loan forbearance with student loan forgiveness, or to assume that they are the same, but they are quite different. Student loan forgiveness basically cancels your loan, whereas student loan forbearance allows you to temporarily stop making payments for a period of time (often up to 12 months). It is important to note that interest will continue to accrue on your loan balance over the forbearance period, and so it may not be in your best interest to prolong forbearance longer than is necessary. To provide you with a more well-rounded idea of what the top private student debt companies on BestCompany.com have to offer in terms of debt relief options, we have included some data and analysis from customer reviews. Please note that reviews for all companies were limited and generally outdated, thus it may not be the most accurate representation of each company. In addition, student loan deferment has not been outlined as an option provided by these top private lenders, as there is no easily accessible information on this repayment option, and varies widely between companies. If you are looking specifically for deferment options, I recommend speaking directly with your lender, or the lender you wish to do business with. Credible ✔ Refinancing✔ Forbearance As a marketplace lender, any repayment options will be dependent on the lender from which you choose to borrow in Credible’s network. Credible customer reviews are limited and somewhat outdated, but the majority are positive, speaking to how quick and easy the refinancing process is and how customers were able to lower their payments and save more money on their student loans. "Credible helped me in a time when I really needed it. Their forms were easy to fill out, I got a personalized rate for my situation, and I had the best person working with me to help me find the best option." — Hailey, Salt Lake City, UT COVID-19 Response: Specific COVID-19 repayment options will depend on the lender that you choose from Credible’s network. SoFi ✔ Refinancing✔ Forbearance Refinancing: Get pre-qualified online, choose your rates and terms, and get your new loan. This prequalification process will have no impact on your credit score. Forbearance: SoFi offers unemployment protection, providing up to 12 months of forbearance in three-month increments. SoFi customer reviews are limited and are a mixed-bag of sentiments regarding the refinancing process, but many of the 1-star reviews are outdated. More recent, and the majority of reviews, highlight reliable customer service that is committed to helping you pay off student debt. "Great service! These guys made my life so much easier and made me solve my debt problems much quicker than if I'd deal with it myself. Thank you for your hard work!" — Jojo, Jersey City, NJ COVID-19 Response: To those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, SoFi is providing forbearance of payments for a minimum of 90 days; an initial 60 days with a 30-day extension available if needed. Brian Walsh; CFP Sofi Senior manager, financial planning SoFi COVID-19 Support As the pandemic continues, we will continue to offer support and find avenues to help our members get their money right and get back on track. Assistance for those in hardship has been expanded during the pandemic with forbearance being offered in increments of 30 days, with the option to extend for 30 additional days at a time, as deemed necessary. This program has been extremely successful in helping members during this difficult time. Read more about SoFi’s COVID-19 response. CommonBond ✔ Refinancing✔ Forbearance Refinancing: Quickly fill out an application and see your new rate. This prequalification process will have no impact on your credit score. Forbearance: Commonbond provides up to 24 months of forbearance over the life of your loan. It is important to note that CommonBond reviews are limited. However, most CommonBond reviews, past and present, are negative with many customers commenting on some difficulty with customer service, qualification issues, and lack of transparency. "I would give more stars for the CommonBond Care Team. They are responsive but they cannot correct the problem. . . . The approval process itself might be quick, but once you are approved, the check to pay off your existing loan goes to the lender vis regular mail. . . . To be fair to the customer, CommonBond should disclose this upfront and not charge interest on the new loan until the old loan is paid off." — Aurelia, Woodstock, GA COVID-19 Response: CommonBond is offering its members national disaster forbearance, as COVID-19 has been classified as a national disaster. This means that payments can be paused for the duration of the declared national emergency, but interest will still accrue although there are no fees to participate. In addition, CommonBond has waived all late fees to further help its members at this time. Read more about CommonBond’s COVID-19 response. LendKey ✔ Refinancing✔ Forbearance As a marketplace lender, any repayment options will be dependent on the lender from which you choose to borrow in LendKey’s network. LendKey customer reviews are limited and outdated, so it is difficult to know exactly what the LendKey borrowing experience is like currently. However, the majority of past reviews are negative, most commonly remarking on bad experiences with customer service. "Consolidated my loans with LendKey when they were calling themselves ECSI. At first it was great, I got a good rate, then they changed the name, hiked up the interest rate (and my monthly payment) without any warning." — Lori, Elmwood Park, IL COVID-19 Response: Relief options will be contingent on LendKey’s lending partners, but if you are unable to make a monthly payment, you can apply online for forbearance. In most cases, options will be discussed and determined on an individual basis. Read more about LendKey’s COVID-19 response. Laurel Road ✔ Refinancing✔ Forbearance Refinancing: Easily check your rates with no impact to your credit score and lower your monthly payments. Forbearance: Laurel Road offers forbearance for one or more three-month time periods if you are experiencing financial hardship. In addition, Laurel Road offers forbearance to those impacted by a natural disaster of up to two monthly payments. Laurel Road reviews are limited and outdated, but the majority of reviews are negative with the most common complaint being that it is difficult to be approved, even with a strong credit score. "We had a pretty bad experience with this company. I won't go into details but the problem seems to be this: the customer service people do not know the underwriting side of the business well enough to answer questions regarding loan applications. . . . Wasted a lot of time and was ultimately rejected for a loan." — Kathleen, Wrightstown, NJ COVID-19 Response: If you are experiencing financial hardship, you can apply for forbearance of three monthly payments. It is important to note that interest will continue to accrue during the forbearance period, which will lengthen the life of your loan and likely increase remaining payments. Read more about Laurel Road’s COVID-19 response. The final word Although private student loan forgiveness may not be available to you, there are other student loan repayment programs offered by private lenders that can provide repayment assistance when needed. When considering refinancing or forbearance options with any private student loan company, make sure that you analyze your own circumstances and needs first. Doing so will help you choose the best loan repayment option for you. Compare Top Student Debt Companies If you are looking for an alternative to private student loan forgiveness, compare top private lenders and their debt relief options. Compare
The second highest consumer debt category, student debt, has risen exponentially over the years with 45 million borrowers collectively owing nearly $1.7 trillion in 2021. To add salt to the wound, student loan debt is projected to increase to $2 trillion by 2022. Those are massive numbers, aren’t they? Although they might seem scary and daunting, there are ways to finance your college education and plan ahead that can keep you from falling into large amounts of student debt. As far as student loans and student debt are concerned, there are two options available to you: private or federal loans. But which is the best choice? To make the journey through private and federal loans as easy as possible, use this guide as a roadmap to help you navigate your student loans before and after college. Before college Once you’ve applied to the colleges of your choice, it’s a good idea to get started on applying for student loans right away. Federal student loans are funded through the U.S. Department of Education, while private student loans are funded through private companies/lenders. It is important to know the difference between private and federal student loans because they have different advantages and disadvantages depending on your circumstances. To this point, Brian Martucci, a finance editor at Money Crashers, says, “For most undergraduate students, federal loans make more sense; private student loans can be useful for professional school students with good credit and high income potential…” With that in mind, let’s break them both down. Federal student loans Funded through the U.S. Department of Education, federal student loans are available to undergraduate and graduate students alike. Experts agree that the best place to start is with federal student loans. With fixed interest rates that are generally lower than those for private student loans, students have more options and benefits available to them as they pay off their loan, allowing them to potentially save more money over time. Travis Hornsby, CFA and founder of Student Loan Planner says, “You should always seek federal loans first because they are administered by the government and have more valuable programs and protections such as student loan forgiveness, repayment plans, deferment and forbearance.” The first step is to apply for a student loan through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Submitting your FAFSA application is easier than you think and requires your personal and family financial information as well as a list of colleges that you’ve applied to. To complete the FAFSA application, you must create a Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID. This ID allows you to access your information online, and apply for FAFSA each year. If a parent is applying for a Direct PLUS loan or would also like access to their child’s financial aid information, they will have to create their own FSA ID. Once you’ve completed your FAFSA application, it’s time to choose your loan. There are four types of loans available to students: Direct Subsidized — Only available to undergraduate students. Loan amounts are determined by the U.S. Department of Education, which also covers the cost of interest if a student is enrolled in school at least part-time. Interest costs are also covered for the first six months after a student leaves school, as well as during a deferment period. Direct Unsubsidized — Available to both undergraduate and graduate students. Students who apply are not required to show proof of financial need, but they are responsible for paying all interest on the loan. Direct PLUS — Available to graduate or professional students, as well as parents of undergraduate students. With the U.S. Department of Education acting as the lender, a credit check will be conducted, and applicants are required to have a good credit score to receive approval. Direct Consolidation — Allows students to merge all loans into one with a single loan receiver. It is important to note that subsidized direct and unsubsidized direct loan amounts for undergraduate students range from $5,500–$12,500 for each year. The amount of money you can receive is dependent on your year in school and whether or not you are listing your parents’ information along with your own. Graduate students can receive up to $20,500 each year in direct unsubsidized loans. Various repayment options with federal student loans can make it easier to manage and pay off your debt quickly. You should always plan to make your payments on time, but it is important to know the consequences of late payments nonetheless. In most cases, if you are late on a payment you will be charged a late fee. Furthermore, if you were to miss consecutive payments and end up defaulting on your loan, the government can garnish your wages to secure repayment on your student loan. With that being said, there are pros and cons about federal student loans that you should weigh and consider when looking at options to pay for college. Private student loans Private student loans are funded through private lending companies, and are a great option for refinancing student loans later on. Make sure that you do your research on different companies that offer student loans. Each company offers similar services, but it is important to check requirements for each. Basic requirements for private student loans include a credit check and a cosigner to ensure the lender that the loan will be paid back. Although neither a credit check or a cosigner is required for federal student loans, these requirements allow borrowers to receive larger loan amounts through private lenders, and receive lower rates if they, or the cosigner, have an excellent credit score. Private student loans also have something called the statute of limitations. This refers to the period of time that a lender can sue if payments are not being made. Once that period of time expires, lenders can still attempt to collect money, but they are not allowed to sue. Federal student loans do not have this statute of limitations, meaning that borrowers can be sued at any time if payments aren’t being made. Weighing the pros and cons of private student loans is very important as you’re looking for a student loan. That, in addition to assessing your own needs and circumstances, will help you know which option is best for you. Important note: Many of these pros and cons are dependent on the lender. . Additional college costs Tuition is a major college cost, but it is not the only one to consider. In addition to tuition, you should consider the cost of room and board, books and other school supplies, as well as other expenses including emergencies. Student loans (both federal and private) can be put towards rent, room and board, and fees, in addition to tuition. Monthly payments There are various repayment plans available for federal student loans. The repayment options allow flexibility and you can switch your plan for free at any time. It is important to note that federal student loans do not require payments while you’re in school. In fact, payments generally aren’t due until after a student graduates. Private student loans often require payments while a student is in school, with potential opportunity for payment deferment, but that is dependent on the lender. Fixed or variable interest rates One large advantage of federal student loans is that they have fixed-term rates. This means that the interest rate of the loan will not fluctuate or change during the loan term, allowing you to know exactly how much your payments will be each month. The ability to know your monthly payments can provide some security and peace of mind as you plan accordingly. Whether or not you can get a fixed-term rate with a private student loan is dependent on the lender. After College After a couple years of stress, occasional all-nighters, and hopefully some fun, graduation day comes, leaving you with a degree and likely some student debt to pay off. To make these payments easier to manage, there are a couple of options available to you, especially if you have multiple loans. Make a payment plan For successful loan repayment it is important to establish a plan and/or budget that you can stick to throughout your loan term. Robert Farrington, student debt financial expert and creator of The College Investor.com, suggests the following for making a repayment plan: “Develop and use a dedicated budget plan each month. Follow it, stay disciplined, and make the largest payments you can in order to get out of student debt as quickly as possible. Try to pay more than the minimum payments each month. Even just an extra $20 or $30 a month can shave time and a large amount of interest off of your loan balance.” Sign up for autopay Autopay allows your student loan lender to set up automatic monthly payments from your bank account, which can also lower your interest rate. Both federal and private loan lenders offer up to a 0.25% interest rate discount. Make a point of contacting your lender to see if autopay is an available option for you. Additionally, setting up automatic payments can give you peace of mind, removing the chance of missing a payment and getting hit with late fees. Federal student loan consolidation If you have multiple federal student loans, the U.S. Department of Education provides an option to consolidate all your loans into one single loan. Consolidation loans can lower monthly payments, but also make it easier to keep track of payments, as you’ll only have to pay one instead of multiple loans. Student loan refinancing Refinancing and consolidation may appear to be the same thing, but there is a small difference, which could make a big difference in the long run. Debt consolidation only combines multiple loans into one, whereas debt refinancing seeks to combine multiple loans in order to find lower rates and more agreeable terms. Refinancing pays all your loans at once, creating one new loan with lower interest rates. Loans can’t be refinanced on a federal level, but many private lending companies offer student loan refinancing services. Top student loan refinancing and consolidation companies on BestCompany.com: 1. Credible Credible is a third-party student loan refinancing company, meaning that once you fill out a short application, you’ll be connected with multiple loan rates from various lenders. Although Credible doesn’t provide refinancing loans directly, it offers APR rates as low as 3.5 percent. Refinancing through Credible is not available to currently enrolled students, but is a great option for those who have graduated, or are no longer enrolled. A credit check is required to qualify for student loan refinancing through Credible, but an initial soft credit check is performed, which will not affect your credit score. Customer reviews on BestCompany.com are overwhelmingly positive, awarding Credible with 4.4 out of 5 stars overall. Many customers applaud its simple and easy online application, low rates, and great customer service. Credible Customer Review: Kellie Rae from East Troy, Wisconsin "Credible was fast and easy to use. It offered me the lowest interest rate to refinance my student loans compared to the other companies I tried. They will save me over $13,000 in interest and help me pay off my debt quicker." Read more verified Credible customer reviews. 2. Docupop Docupop specializes in assisting federal loan borrowers find the fastest and easiest way to find the perfect student loan repayment or student loan forgiveness program. Once a borrower enters their information into Docupop’s system, a list of repayment plans will be generated. Docupop offers a fixed APR rate for any program chosen by the borrower. Within the industry these rates are competitively low, ranging from 3.76 percent to 6.31 percent. It is important to note that Docupop only offers student debt consolidation services, not refinancing services. Most lenders offer both. This means that you can combine all your debt into one, but you may not get lower rates or terms. The majority of Docupop customer reviews on BestCompany.com are positive, with customers talking most about how quick and easy the application and approval process is. Docupop Customer Review: Richard from Hollywood, South Carolina "They have been able to handle my student loans with no stress being put on me." Read more verified Docupop customer reviews. 3. SoFi SoFi is quickly becoming one of the largest student debt consolidation and refinancing companies. In addition to competitively low rates, ranging from 2.99 to 6.238 APR (with AutoPay), Sofi offers unemployment protection, and efficient customer support. The application process is quick and easy and there are no limits on how much can be borrowed to consolidate or refinance a loan. However, a minimum credit score of 650 is required to qualify for SoFi, which might be difficult for students who have not yet built up their credit history. SoFi customer reviews on BestCompany.com are positive, awarding the company 4 out of 5 stars. Customers most frequently comment on the ease of applying and then consolidating debt, in addition to great customer service and great rates. SoFi Customer Review: Steph from Gulfort, Mississippi "I wish more things in life were as easy as using SoFi. Thanks for making my experience effortless." Read more verified SoFi customer reviews. Student loan forgiveness Student loan forgiveness is only a possibility for federal student loans, and refers to no longer being required to pay all or some of your loan. The most common and well-known type of student loan forgiveness is Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). PSLF forgives the remaining balance on direct loans. A borrower qualifies if they have made 120 monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan while working full-time for a qualifying employer — a government or nonprofit organization. It generally takes at least 10 years before an individual can qualify for PSLF. Graduate school Perhaps you’ve recently finished your bachelor’s degree and are jumping straight into graduate studies, or perhaps you’re deciding to go back to school later in life to further your career opportunities with an additional degree. Whatever your reasoning, there are financial considerations to be had when looking into graduate school. The cost of graduate school generally falls between $30,000–$40,000 per year. This cost doesn’t include room and board, rent, books, and other personal expenses. There may also be existing debt from your undergraduate studies to consider in this equation. Overall, graduate school is a large financial investment. Federal student loans are available to graduate students, offering up to $20,500 each year. However, with all costs considered and existing debt, a larger loan through a private lender could be more advantageous. If you have existing debt, refinancing or consolidating your debts could also be a good way to reduce not only the number of payments you need to make, but could lower your interest rates, saving you money in the long run. The bottom line When it comes to financing your undergraduate or graduate studies, there are financial options available to you, providing the means to pay for all of your expenses, but to also have the peace of mind that you’ll be able to pay off your debts. Federal student loans are a good option, especially for undergraduate students, who have never taken out a loan before and do not have an established credit score. The ability to postpone loan payments until after you’re done with school can relieve pressure while pursuing your studies, but it is important to make a plan to pay off your debts, setting you up for future financial success and independence. Private student loans are a great option for consolidating or refinancing your loans, but may not be the best option for a first loan, particularly for undergraduate students. However, if you’re looking for a loan that could cover all your college expenses, a private student loan would be a better option, offering larger loan amounts with lower rates. When approaching a student loan or your student debt, don’t be discouraged. The numbers involved with student debt may seem overwhelming at first, but you have options. It may take some time and discipline, but whether or not you choose federal or private student loans, you can be debt free before you know it.
Guest Post by Ryan Inman Public Service Loan Forgiveness is a federal program that forgives the student loan debt of borrowers that meet its requirements. The program started in 2007, and because this is a 10-year program the first round of applications started in late 2017. After the first wave of applications was processed, the staggering low approval rates made national news. As of February 2020, 1,730 of the 140,102 borrowers who applied had their loans forgiven. The current approval rate of 1.2 percent is not much higher than it was three years ago. In order to receive Public Service Loan Forgiveness, student loan borrowers must meet three rules for 120 payments: Right type of student loan Right repayment plan Right employment Many doctors with student loans from medical school see Public Service Loan Forgiveness as a way to help them pay off their high six figure debt, while pursuing a career they love. Most accept lower paying jobs in hospitals and academia, and have an income-driven payment that doesn’t cover the interest that accrues on their student loans every month. For doctors, having a Public Service Loan Forgiveness application denied puts them in a worse situation than when they graduated because their loans have grown, sometimes by more than $100,000, due to having a payment that didn't keep up with their interest charges. Low approval rates were attributed to borrowers who submitted inaccurate applications, borrowers who were on the wrong repayment plan, and borrowers who had the wrong types of loans. Key Takeaway: Understand the loan requirements 14% of applications were denied due to having the wrong type of student loan. 23% of applicants didn’t file their paperwork properly or submitted multiple applications. 59% of applications for Public Service Loan Forgiveness were denied because the borrower hadn’t earned the full 120 qualifying payments needed. What types of student loan qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness? As of February 2020, 14 percent of applications were denied due to having the wrong type of student loan. When the PSLF program was enacted in 2007, only 21 percent of outstanding loans were direct loans. Because a large portion of borrowers had Federal Family Education Loans when this program was rolled out, many did not know that they were not making qualifying payments towards the program. Borrowers could consolidate their FFEL loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan to qualify for PSLF, but consolidating resets the 120 qualifying payment count required for the student loan forgiveness program. Many people were not aware of this workaround until they tried to apply. Had they consolidated years ago, they could be well on their way to qualifying for Public Service Loan Forgiveness. How do errors affect the application process? By June 2019 over 90,000 unique borrowers submitted applications for the PSLF program, but over 111,000 applications were submitted. As of February 2020, 23 percent of applicants didn’t file their paperwork properly or submitted multiple applications. Over 140,000 unique borrowers submitted applications, but over 178,000 applications were submitted. For every borrower that applied for forgiveness, there was an average of 1.3 applications submitted by February 2020, up from 1.2 in June 2019. This increasing rate of applications to borrowers tells us that more borrowers are needing to submit multiple applications due to errors or missing information in their previous applications. In February 2020, 59 percent of applications for Public Service Loan Forgiveness were denied because the borrower hadn’t earned the full 120 qualifying payments needed. What types of repayment plan qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness? To meet the final requirement to be approved for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, borrowers needed to be on an income-based repayment plan for all 120 payments. Many borrowers were not aware of this requirement due to a lack of guidance or misinformation from their loan servicer. Borrowers on the Graduated Repayment Plan, Extended Repayment Plan, a Consolidation Standard Repayment Plan, or a Consolidation Graduated Repayment Plan were not eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness under the original rules. Congress passed a temporary policy to set aside a separate fund and application process, to help borrowers who discovered they were on the wrong repayment plan. Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness, TEPSLF, set aside $350 million in 2018 for borrowers denied Public Service Loan Forgiveness due to being on the wrong repayment plan. As of February 2020, $55 million of the $350 million Congress set aside was used. The funds are finite, are on a first-come, first-served basis, and will eventually run out. However, for borrowers who were not on one of the four income-based repayment plans, this expansion could help them qualify for forgiveness if they were denied under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness application. Current statistics of applications Public Service Loan Forgiveness applications as of February 2020: Total applications — 178,642 Unique borrowers applying — 140,102 Pending applications — 12,338 Approved applications — 2,828 Approved applications by employment type Government — 75% Non-Profit — 25% Reasons for denied applications Qualifying payments were not met — 59% Missing information — 23% No eligible loans — 14% Applications with loans discharged — 1,730 Total balance discharged — $108,126,451 Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness applications as of February 2020: Total applications — 27,791 Approved applications — 1,500 Reasons for denied applications Did not meet 120 payment requirement — 46% Borrower had not made a payment in the last 12 months — 19% Repayment plans of approved applications Income-Driven Repayment Plans — 64% Graduated Repayment Plan — 17% Fixed Payment, Extended Term — 14% Standard Repayment — 4% Other — 1% Applications with loans discharged — 1,297 Total balance discharged — $55,425,848 of $350,000,000 Limit What should you expect going forward? By submitting the employment certification form annually, borrowers can ensure their qualifying payment is tracked in real time. If this is submitted every year, borrowers can catch errors within a year, instead of 10 years later. As of February 2020, over 2.8 million employment certification forms had been submitted. Roughly 44 percent of the submissions were denied; however, only 10 percent of applications were denied because of something other than missing information on the application. There’s $118 billion of student loans with approved employment certification forms, for just over 1.2 million borrowers. Many factors led to an extremely low approval rate for PSLF program applicants in the first years of applications. However, the approval rate is trending upwards giving hope to borrowers still working towards the loan forgiveness program. For now, borrowers pursuing Public Service Loan Forgiveness should confirm their loan type qualifies for forgiveness, continue to monitor their progress through annual employment certification, as well as an annual review of their repayment plan to ensure they are still on track. For borrowers denied forgiveness on both the Public Service Loan Forgiveness and the Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness, another 10 years of payments on an income-driven repayment plan might actually cost them more than refinancing their loans into private student loans or just paying them off. Unfortunately, this is the reality of many borrowers who thought they were on track for the forgiveness program. Ryan Inman is the host of the Financial Residency podcast and President of Physician Wealth Services, a fee-only financial planning firm that works exclusively with physicians across the country. He helps physicians create a life they love by helping them gain control of their money, the same way you make a patient feel better about their health.
The numbers of Americans with master’s degrees and doctoral degrees have doubled since 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. With more and more American adults attaining higher education, you might be wondering: should I go back to school for another degree? Maybe you feel like your career progress has stalled. Maybe you're looking to change fields. Maybe you want to increase your salary. Key Takeaway: Think carefully about these questions Would an advanced degree further my career goals? How would an advanced degree affect my pay? How would I pay for an advanced degree? What kind of degree program would I attend? Would an advanced degree further my career goals? A degree won’t have the same effect on every person or every career. You’ll need a professional degree to become a doctor or a lawyer, and becoming a college professor will probably require a PhD. But for other careers, getting a graduate or postgraduate degree may not be necessary or even helpful. For example, if you're a newspaper reporter looking to advance your career, a master’s degree in journalism may not be helpful to you. But a master's in political science could help you specialize as a political reporter. Part of your decision-making process should also include how much work experience you have. If you graduated with a bachelor's degree less than a year ago, a master's in business administration probably isn't for you — yet. Those degrees are typically meant for students with at least three years of work experience. If you're not sure where returning to school fits into your long-term goals, try talking to someone with a career similar to the one you want. “Request informational interviews at companies you think you’d like to work for," suggests Frankie of Frank Money Talk. "Ask them about your plans to see if they can provide a reality check. They could save you years and tens of thousands of dollars.” How would an advanced degree affect my pay? Earning a bachelor’s degree increases a person’s lifetime earnings by about $1 million, compared to high school graduates, according to a report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. The report also found that earning a master's degree adds another $400,000 to a person's lifetime earnings, compared to someone who earned only a bachelor's degree. And earning a doctoral or professional degree increases lifetime earnings even more. But just like career goals, getting an advanced degree won't affect everyone's pay the same way. For example, a study by Poets & Quants found that students who earned MBAs concentrated in finance economics and business and marketing doubled their salaries. On the other hand, graphic designers who earn graduate degrees only increase their salaries from about $42,000 to $52,000, according to data from CareerBliss. Before you pursue further higher education, think about how much an additional degree would increase your pay versus the cost of the degree. “Use government sites such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics to evaluate whether you are entering a growing career field,” Frankie says. “Use employment sites to estimate what income can be expected based on experience." How would I pay for an advanced degree? The cost of a graduate degree varies depending on the college you attend and your course of study, but the average is $30,000 to $40,000 per year, according to Peterson's, a leading educational services company. Make sure when you’re calculating your potential costs, you’re not thinking only about tuition. “There are supplemental costs such as books, parking and commuting,” Frankie says. “There are time commitments away from family. There are late nights and potentially unbalanced work/school/life balance.” Also don’t forget about any current student loan debt from your undergraduate degree you may be paying off. If that’s an issue for you, consider refinancing or consolidating your existing loans with one of the top student debt companies before getting another degree. Once you have a good idea of what your costs are going to be, think about where you’re going to get the funds to pay for those expenses. Keep in mind that if you’re going to quit work or reduce your work hours, that will eat into your available income. “Don’t forget about grants and other financial aid specific to re-entry students,” Frankie adds. “Also speak with your employer about tuition assistance or reimbursement.” What kind of degree program would I attend? You don't just have to decide on your field of study. Depending on what school you want to attend, there are usually lots of options for types of programs. One option is the traditional full-time student experience. If you're currently working full-time, this will require you to leave work or cut back your hours for at least the duration of the graduate program. If a full-time program isn't an option, some schools offer executive programs meant to accommodate students who are working simultaneously. Another option is earning your degree through online courses, which offer the most flexibility.
A year of college in the United States costs an average of $23,091, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. American students today often pay for higher education through some combination of scholarships, part-time employment, and other financial assistance — including federal student aid. Key Takeaway: Read the fine print for details Aid can be used for tuition, fees, room and board, books, supplies, and transportation. FAFSA forms are due on June 30. More information can be found on studentaid.gov. What is federal student aid? Federal student aid is financial help from the government available to students enrolled at an eligible college or career school. What can you use federal student aid for? Aid from the federal government goes toward tuition, fees, room and board, books, supplies, and transportation. How do you qualify for federal student aid? Students must complete the FAFSA form to apply for federal aid. You can find the FAFSA on the studentaid.gov website. Some of the financial aid eligibility requirements include demonstrating financial need, being a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen, and being enrolled or accepted for enrollment in an eligible degree or certificate program. What happened to studentloans.gov? In December 2019, the U.S. Department of Education combined resources from several locations into studentaid.gov. Studentaid.gov contains the FAFSA, student loan consolidation, entrance counseling, exit counseling, a Master Promissory Note, PLUS loan applications, and income-driven repayment plan applications. What information do you need to apply for federal student aid? Students will need their Social Security number; driver’s license number (if they have one); federal tax returns; records of untaxed income; and information on their cash, savings and checking account balances, investments, and other assets. Dependent students will also need their parents’ Social Security numbers; tax returns; records of their untaxed income; and information on their cash, savings and checking account balances, investments, and other assets. Students that aren’t U.S. citizens will also need their Alien Registration number. When is the FAFSA deadline? Online FAFSA forms are due by 11:59 p.m. Central Time on June 30, 2020 for the 2019–2020 school year and June 30, 2021 for the 2020–2021 school year. Also keep in mind that each college and state may have its own deadline. What federal student aid programs are available? Federal financial aid can take the form of grants, loans, or work-study programs. How does federal student aid work? After a student fills out the FAFSA, they receive their aid offer and accept the offers they want to use. If the student decides to take out loans, their college’s financial aid office will put their financial aid toward the amount the student owes the school. Then, the school sends the student what's left over for other costs. Borrowers don't have to begin repaying their student loans until they drop below half-time attendance or six months after leaving college. Students who participate in a work-study program will receive payments directly from their college once per month. What are the types of federal loans you can receive? The Department of Education offers direct subsidized loans, direct unsubsidized loans, and direct PLUS loans. What is a direct subsidized loan? Direct subsidized loans are for eligible undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need, such as low-income students. Students who qualify pay no interest as long as they're in school at least half-time and for the first six months after they leave school, or during a period of deferment. Eligible students can receive up to $5,500 annually at an interest rate of 4.53 percent for subsidized loans disbursed between July 1, 2019 and July 1, 2020. What is a direct unsubsidized loan? Direct unsubsidized loans are not based on financial need and can go to eligible undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. Unlike with direct subsidized loans, students who qualify for unsubsidized loans pay interest during all periods. Unsubsidized loans can provide up to $20,500 annually at an interest rate of 4.53 percent for a loan disbursed between July 1, 2019 and July 1, 2020. What is a direct PLUS loan? Direct PLUS loans are available to graduate students, professional students, and parents of dependent undergraduate students to pay for education costs that aren't covered by other financial aid. Like direct unsubsidized loans, eligibility does not depend on financial need, but borrowers will need to submit to a credit check, and those with poor credit will need to meet additional requirements. The interest rate for direct PLUS loans is 7.08 percent for loans disbursed between July 1, 2019 and July 1, 2020, and borrowers can receive up to the maximum cost of attendance, minus any other financial aid the student receives. What is a direct consolidation loan? Direct consolidations loans are a way for students to combine all their eligible federal student loans into a single loan. This allows the borrower to make a single monthly payment, simplifying their debt. What's a Master Promissory Note? A Master Promissory Note is a legal document that contains the terms and conditions of your loan from the Department of Education. When you sign the document, you promise to repay your loan. What is a work-study program? Work-study programs are one time of financial aid the Department of Education offers based on financial need. They are available to undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. Students who receive a work-study award work part-time while enrolled in school. Jobs may be on on- or off-campus and typically focus on civic education and the student's chosen field, when possible. What are the benefits of using federal student aid? Interest rates on federal student loans tend to be lower than those on private student loans. Direct subsidized and direct unsubsidized loans don't require a credit check. If you qualify for a direct subsidized loan, the Department of Education pays the interest on the loan until you drop below half-time or have been out of college for six months, or during a period of deferment. Federal student aid can also be used to supplement other scholarships or grants you might have that don’t quite cover the cost of your educational expenses. How do you contact federal student aid customer support? Studentaid.gov has a contact center with answers to frequently asked questions. You can contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 800-433-3243, [email protected], or via live chat The center is open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern Time and Saturday through Sunday 11 a.m. through 5 p.m. Eastern Time.
For the month of May, Best Company Finance (@BestCoFinance) has been posting tips and tricks on avoiding, leveraging, and managing student debt on our Twitter account, including advice for the FAFSA, scholarships, private loans, and loan payoff. In case you missed it, here are some expert highlights and hints you can use to pay for college. Plan ahead—way ahead It’s never too early to start thinking about college, and our experts agree. With college costs so high, prospective students have to be creative and unconventional.To cut costs, consider concurrent enrollment in high school: “Find out if you can take college classes while still in high school. Many high schools have established partnerships with local colleges to allow students to take college-level courses. These are generally offered at no charge, or at a discounted rate, as part of the high school curriculum.”Freedom Debt Relief Get a clear picture of what degree you’re aiming for: “The ‘average’ for public college is four and a half years to graduate. Because more than 50 percent of college freshmen change majors, it’s also important to talk about career selection before college begins.”Patti Black, Bridgeworth, LLC If you’re still young or know someone who is, suggest searching for and planning for scholarships ahead of the game: “There are many scholarships open to elementary and secondary school students, not just high school seniors. Plus, half the scholarships have deadlines in the fall, so if you wait to search for scholarships and to apply, you'll miss half the deadlines.”Mark Kantrowitz, SavingForCollege.com “If you are fortunate to have the foresight, think about getting involved in student clubs, sports, extracurricular activities, and community service as early as possible.” Sylvia Wu, Keeping Up with the Changs“The strategy with scholarships that's worked best for my students is casting a wide net . . . the most lucrative scholarships are usually the most competitive. Receiving a few scholarships, each for $1,000, is the same as one for $5,000. But it's much easier to qualify for the five scholarships that are less competitive.”Dennis Shirshikov, FitSmallBusiness.com Hunt for the best deals, and try before you buy: “The best way to minimize the need to spend excessive amounts of assets or debt on college is proper college selection.”Jim Anderson, Making College Worth It Apply for the FAFSA and the CSS All prospective students should file for the FAFSA — even if they doubt they’ll be offered funding: “Make sure you complete your FAFSA because there might be scholarships or grants available which do not consider financial circumstance as a qualifying criterion. As a result, if you don’t file your FAFSA because you don’t think you’ll qualify, you might miss out on money.”Riley Adams, YoungandtheInvested.com“Even if you don't qualify for need-based financial aid, the FAFSA is the key to getting federal student loans.”Robert Farrington, TheCollegeInvestor.com Know what files the FAFSA will pull to qualify you for eligibility; it pulls financial records from one year prior to the October 1 opening date. For example, for the 2020–2021 FAFSA, filers who apply October 1, 2019, and on, will report their income for 2018: “Families really need to understand how FAFSA works before sophomore year of high school. Reason: so families don't mess up their chance at getting the most grant money because they unknowingly increased their income or assets for the FAFSA calculation.”Jim Anderson, Making College Worth It Don’t forget the CSS Profile: “Some schools and states require you to fill out the CSS Profile as well as the FAFSA. Don't leave money on the table and make sure to fill out both.“Lindsey Conger, Moonprep.com Crowdfund your education . . . sort of Many family members, friends, and institutions can help you reduce college costs: “Look into tuition reimbursement programs offered by local employers. For instance, a high school student who is interested in a career in broadcast journalism may be able to take an entry-level position at a local station, which will help pay for college courses. Go local. Room and board costs can be significant. Living at home, even if for a couple of years, and attending a local school, can save big. Or, consider living off campus to share rent and utility costs with roommates. Check into family discounts. If you have a relative who works at a college . . . it’s possible you might qualify for a family discount. Consider the service. While not for everyone, military service is an option for some teens. If they are willing to give several years of service to one of the military branches, college classes will be covered.”Freedom Debt Relief“There are scholarships everywhere, based on everything from your gender, ethnicity, religion, professional associations, and much more. Your parents' employer might even have a scholarship program available to you. So do your homework and leave no stone unturned.”David Bakke, MoneyCrashers.com Plan your payback Be smart about what loans you take out. Federal loans have fixed rates, more deferment options, and consolidation plans: “When it comes to loans, they should be a last resort. And if you need to borrow, always borrow federal loans before looking at private student loans.”Robert Farrington, TheCollegeInvestor.com Ask for help so you don’t end up paying more than you need to: “When you graduate college, meet with a Financial Adviser to review your student loan repayment plan. They will advise you if it is best to consolidate your loans, [look into] refinance options, or if you qualify for a loan forgiveness program based on your career path.”Jacqueline Devereux, SproutCents Take advantage of any bonus income to wipe out debt: “Throw all windfalls into your loans. Got a raise? Birthday money from Grandma? Extra cash from a side gig? Put it towards your loans.”Holly Peterson, Elite Retirement Strategies Consider your post-college education plans: “If you intend to collect more debt in graduate school, it is crucial you choose a lower cost school in undergrad. If you go on to become a doctor or lawyer, you may be eligible for special mortgage loans that take [into] consideration your extensive educational debt and high current/future earnings.”Chelsea Mariah Stellmach, KaiZenith Admissions Continually reassess your payment plan: “Consider loan consolidation — carefully. Consolidation can lock in a low fixed rate, extend the repayment period significantly and lower the payment — sometimes cutting it in half. While it can help if you’re truly cash-strapped, remember it’s important to pay off the debt as quickly as possible. If for any reason you cannot pay your student loan bill, immediately contact your lender. A lender would rather work with you to figure out some alternative payment plan than risk a defaulted loan. . . Damage from defaulting can prevent borrowers from buying a home or car or getting a job, apartment, or insurance for years to come.”Freedom Debt Relief College can be a gateway to opportunity, but only if you keep your finances in check. Think outside the box and search for more expert advice to keep yourself financially healthy while preparing for your future.
It is a widely accepted belief that some of the most well-known universities, including those in the Ivy League sector, are ones guaranteeing a top-notch salary after graduation; however, in a groundbreaking effort to get our nation up to par with where student debt lies with individuals holding MBA's, SoFi has created the first ever Return on Education (ROEd) MBA rankings. In easy to digest information, SoFi breaks down which universities offer MBA programs with the highest salary to the worst salary-to-debt ratio. The results are based on a 21-month period of 240,000 student loan refinancing applications and can be represented as the "most objective, factually accurate and defensible data that can't be found or replicated anywhere else," as stated by SoFi. The University rendering the highest salary rate is Columbia University with the average salary base at $183,472, although they are ranked number eight according to US News due to the 1.5 times salary-to-debt ratio with graduates accumulating an average debt of $121,213. Ranked at number one is Sanford University. The average salary is slightly lower than Columbia at $177,590, with graduates having to pay back an average of $76,987. MBA schools on the list for the best salary-to-debt ratio include New York Institute of Technology where graduates earn an average salary of $126,068 but only accumulate an average of $50,308 during the course of their program. The University of Kansas comes in at number 10 on this list with graduates holding an average debt of $46,245, but earning an average of $97,086 - meaning they earn 2.1 times their debt amount. Claremont Graduate University ranks in as the worst school for salary-to-debt ratio within their MBA programs. Graduates earn an average salary of $93,666 but have an astonishing payback amount higher than the earned salary at $95,625. The well known Kaplan University is also among the worst schools where the average salary is lower than the average outstanding student debt, ranking in at number 8. Graduates earn an average of $65,201, yet accumulate an average debt of $91,429. This colorful infographic provides insight to students considering graduate school and answers some questions on whether or not they are prepared to take on the debt associated with MBA programs at their University of choice. Be sure to check out our top recommended student debt companies.