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300K-350K Student Loan Debt After Optometry School

Discussion in 'Pre-Optometry' started by NCAAPedsOD, Sep 12, 2009.

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  1. NCAAPedsOD

    NCAAPedsOD

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    I want to be an optometrist but I'm already 100K in debt from undergrad. After optometry school, I'd be 300k-350K in debt because I have to go to an out-of-state school. Am I crazy to even be considering this? :eek:

    Most people say I should consider medical school (Ophthalmology), which I did, but I'm not that interested in doing surgery. I think being a Peds Ophth would be cool but that's an extremely long, hard road and I'm not sure it's worth it...especially if surgery isn't something I absolutely have to do, to be satisfied with my career.

    What do you guys think about the huge debt load?

    Edit: I've already been accepted and I'm interested in academic/research optometry. (<--Not sure if my future salary will be lower than a clinical optometrist in private practice, commercial, etc.??) Speaking of academic/research optometry, how much do they make? I've tried to research it online but I can't find any figures. Anyone have an idea?
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2009
  2. EyEnStein 07

    EyEnStein 07 Senior ɸ Member

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    There are always ways to pay off debt, and its probably best (from what i have heard other optometrists on this board like KHE say) to extend your loan and pay it off over a long period of time just because it will probably give you the flexibility of doing other things such as investing in a home, private practice etc...

    Would you rather work in a field that people tell you to go to? or would you rather do something that is more suitable for you? You might end up going into ophthalmology loving it or hating it...but then again you have to go through medical school and then try to match into ophthalmology which is competitive.

    Also its quite uncommon to think of ophthalmologists who only take on the job description of optometrists. Most of them do surgery and other procedures that optometrists do not. I think you should shadow both fields, talk to optometrists and ophthalmologists and get their views on your situation.

    In the end it depends on what makes you the happiest, even if that means taking many years to pay off debt, atleast your happy with your work environment and job.
  3. NCAAPedsOD

    NCAAPedsOD

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    I guess you're right but I hear people complain about being 200K in debt as an optometrist (they say we don't make enough to pay off that kind of debt) so being 300K+ in debt kind of scares me.

    I don't know how much academic/research optometrists make but I guess I'll just go for it and wish the best :xf:
  4. J DUB

    J DUB Watch my TAN walk!! Lifetime Donor

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    It can be done but it will hurt your chances of having the "life" of what would be expected.

    100k/yr with that amount would mean you need to live off of about 2000-2500 for 10yrs. I would not go over 10 yrs with the interest. It will eat you up!
  5. Penguin2012

    Penguin2012

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    Those in academia will tell you that they do not get nearly as much pay as those working in the private sector.

    With 300-350K in debt, it would be prudent to interview some current researchers/ODs in academia before you make the large committment "to just go for it". It is possible that you will be living paycheck to paycheck and you might resent being trapped.

    At 6.8% interest, if you are truly bent on paying it off in 10 years that will cost you about $4000/month. If you think you can manage that as well as have money left over to pay rent and eat etc on an academic optometrist salary when you graduate you are insane.
  6. Commando303

    Commando303

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    You could just do what you want to do, forget paying off the debt, and die early enough for the latter not to affect you in any substantial way...:banana:.
  7. NCAAPedsOD

    NCAAPedsOD

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    So I've heard. Although, I don't know exactly how much they make. I've talked to a couple of people in academia/research but I don't know them well enough to ask them their salary. I guess I can just generalize the salary question...but, it's still awkward because I don't know them that well. Hhhmm.

    A couple of my friends just graduated from optometry school and they're making about 75K-85K/yr. If academia/research makes significantly less than them...that's scary. Payscale.com makes it seem like an O.D. can make 6 figures, but I don't know of any O.D.'s that make 6 figures. I know it's possible, if you own your own practice, but I don't know anyone, personally, who owns their own practice.
  8. fonziefonz

    fonziefonz Class of 2011

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    ODs in academia make the least amount of money of all the forms of practice most likely (unless your high up like a dean or something).
  9. KHE

    KHE Senior Member SDN Advisor

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    So much misinformation or poorly thought out ideas in this thread. lol.

    Let me offer some suggestions:

    1) I make a LOT more than 6 figures though, yes...I do own my own practice. When I was working for other people, I never did break 6 figures.

    2) You can't just look at "salary" comparisions with academia vs. non academia. For instance, a faculty member at a state school will likely not make as much money as someone out in the private sector BUT they likely have incredibly generous health care, retirement, vacation, pension benefits. They likely have their CE, their licenses, and their malpractice premiums paid for. YOU HAVE TO CONSIDER ALL OF THAT because that kind of benefit package can easily add up to tens of thousands of dollars a year.

    3) That being said, I would not pursue an academic career with that kind of debtload. In fact, I'm not sure I would pursue optometry at all. If you really feel that strongly that that's what you want to do, I would look at and plan on working for the IHS, or the military for a few years after graduation or some other situation that offers student loan repayments because IMHO, that amount of debtload is just too high for most traditional optometric situations.

    4) In ANY situation, I would advise people to stretch out their student loan payments AS LONG AS POSSIBLE, 30 years if you can. The reason for this is to not necessarily take 30 years to pay it off, but to allow the cash flow flexibility in the early years out of school when you need a house, car, purchase or start up a practice if you want etc. etc. Don't tie up so much of your monthly cash flow in student loan payments. Take the longest repayment terms and then, once you get yourself, your family and/or your practice established and you start to make real money, THEN you can throw on some extra cash to your student loans.
  10. cloud99

    cloud99

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    What do you mean by this statement? Are you speaking just to the original poster due to his/her specific debtload?
  11. J DUB

    J DUB Watch my TAN walk!! Lifetime Donor

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    Simply, it does not make cents!

    Costs are greater than benefits.
  12. Aznfarmerboi

    Aznfarmerboi Senior Member

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    yes, any smart financial advisor will say you are crazy for considering this. 350k is equivalent to you buying a house straight ouf of school...
  13. KHE

    KHE Senior Member SDN Advisor

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    My comment was directed to the OP but I would apply that same principle to anyone considering optometry. I think most of the people on here worry to much and worry needlessly about student loan debt. However to me, $300-$350k is simply far too much of a debt load to be in. I personally would not go higher than $250k in student loan debt upon graduation. Anything more than that and you're going to be crimped even WITH stretching it out 30 years.
  14. EyEnStein 07

    EyEnStein 07 Senior ɸ Member

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    To OP, in my original post this is what i was referring to. Perhaps you should start looking at schools where maybe you can become instate after a year or something to minimize your debt. Also if you know of any graduate scholarships (this is if your tight on finances ofcourse) try to apply to some, anything should help.


    To KHE, would you recommend that type of loan extension (30 years) for ALL types of debt? whether its 80k, 150k, or 200k? or is that better for higher numbers (say 150+)?
  15. NCAAPedsOD

    NCAAPedsOD

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    Thanks for the info!

    I'm looking into getting the Navy HSPS but the medical recruiter has yet to call me back. Does anyone think they will allow me to be a Pediatric Optometrist in the Navy? I'm assuming No. :oops: They're probably just interested in Primary Care O.D.'s, but if they allowed me to specialize in Pediatrics...I'd do it in a heartbeat!
  16. J DUB

    J DUB Watch my TAN walk!! Lifetime Donor

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    Here's my idea and I have a MBA btw.

    I would extend the loan period so that your payments would be lower and you do not have to pay off that amount a month.

    But, I would definitely calculate out the amount I borrow as if I was going to pay it back in 10yrs because the interest over a 30yr period will more than double the original costs.

    For example, on borrowing the 300-350K, I would be willing to pay back around 100K in interest to borrow that large an amount of money. If I cant pay it off before the 100K mark, I do not do it.
  17. psych

    psych

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    I was in your shoes. During undergrad, I calculated I would owe >250k if I went to optometry school and decided it wasn't worth it. Instead I decided to go to medical school. Now I'll owe >375k. It wasn't the best decision because I'm a 2nd year and the debt burden is painful to think about. Also I'm sure I would be much happier if I went to optometry school because I've been pretty miserable how everything has turned out. Anyway I want to warn you that you must really love medicine to go to medical school or you'll kick yourself like I have. Also I need to echo the other posters in that you should not do it unless you can reduce the debt in some way.
  18. J DUB

    J DUB Watch my TAN walk!! Lifetime Donor

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    I definitely agree that you should want to do med school for more than additional money. But, you should be in a better position to pay off your loans unless you are planning to do one of the specialites like Peds, FM, IM where you get paid less. Plus, there are alot of different field within medicine so hopefully you can find one you like.

    I do not know if Psychiatry is what you like (just looked at your name) but it can be done with that specialty too with loan repayments and side work in private practice.
  19. KHE

    KHE Senior Member SDN Advisor

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    I highly doubt that there is any sort of demand for a pediatric specialist in the Navy. However, if you were to do the Navy thing, you would only be in for a small fraction of your career. You would have tons of time to do the "peds thing" later on. The Navy would really just be a means to an end.

    That being said, I would not encourage anyone to join the armed services unless they really wanted to join the armed services, particularly given the state of current world affairs. The fact that they'll pay your student loans off for you can certainly be a check in the plus column, but I would not do it for that reason alone. Look into civilian options like IHS.
  20. KHE

    KHE Senior Member SDN Advisor

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    That is the whole reason why I suggest taking the longest possible repayment. Not because you plan to take that long, but because you at least have the option of a reduced payment in those early lean start up years.

    Also, I see nothing significant about the number $100000. That's just an arbitrary number. The issue isn't the total loan, or the total interest paid....it's month to month cash flow. That's what's going to be king for people just out of school.

    It's not that the total cost of the loan isn't something to seriously think about, particularly when you're taking that kind of debt load but it has to be considered in terms of the totality of the money earned in an optometric career vs what you could earn had you not gone to optometry school.

    Lastly, if you're paying $1000 per month on a year note, that's a $1000 today but in the 30th year, that same $1000 is worth a lot less in today's dollars. That's also something to consider.
  21. NCAAPedsOD

    NCAAPedsOD

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    Wonder if I can't reduce the debt in some way? Will my life really be that bad with that much debt? :scared: Probably, huh? I think I'm just in denial because I feel stuck. I'm stuck because I can't get a decent job with a B.S. in Biology. Either way, I'm going to have to go to graduate school and most schools (Med, Opt, Dental, Pharm) will cost 20K-30K/yr...and that doesn't even include equipment, food, housing, etc. I guess I could always get a Ph.D. but I hear it's hard to land a decent job after you get your Ph.D. So, either way, I feel like I'm going to have to take on a lot of debt. Now would be the perfect time to hit the jackpot! *off to get my lottery ticket* :p

    Decisions, decisions...
  22. EyEnStein 07

    EyEnStein 07 Senior ɸ Member

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    I just realized something very important that you said in your first post that i did not pay attention to. You said Academia/Research....why not go for a PhD in Vision Science?? Arent most PhD programs free? You would be able to teach and research. Though its competitive, im sure you will be able to find a job.
  23. NCAAPedsOD

    NCAAPedsOD

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    I thought about just "sucking it up" and waiting to do Pediatrics when I finished my Navy committment, but I'd be giving them almost a 1/3 of my career; most people work for 30 yrs, right? I'd owe them 8yrs (4 yrs active; 4 yrs reserve)...that seems like a long time to do something I'm not that interested in (i.e. Primary Care).
  24. NCAAPedsOD

    NCAAPedsOD

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    This is actually something I've thought about. Although, I'm a little worried that if I don't have the clinical aspect to my career (i.e. the O.D.), my research will be limited. I want to do Clinical Research and that's normally saved for people who have a Clinical Background.

    Have I been misguided into thinking I need a clinical background to do Clinical Research?
  25. IndianaOD

    IndianaOD

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    As far as Peds goes as well, lower your salary expectations even more. There are very few "Peds" jobs an OD could have. I really only see:

    1. VT only practice in a private practice setting. Can make $$ but very difficult.
    2. Work at an OD school as a Peds instructor. (getting more competitive)
    3. Work for a Ped OMD
  26. psych

    psych

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    Its hard to say if your life will be bad with that amount of debt. You'll be paying so much to school loans for so long! Think of it as debt prison. You will sacrifice so much of your hard earned money. What seems worth it to you now may not be later I guess. Are there no od/phd programs? Otherwise if I were you I'd be looking for a phd program as someone else mentioned. Good luck with whatever you decide. Its good your giving this a lot of thought vs making naïve decision like I did.
  27. NCAAPedsOD

    NCAAPedsOD

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    The O.D./Ph.D. programs aren't like the M.D./Ph.D. programs where you're funded 100%. I looked into that, too. When it comes to an O.D./Ph.D....your Ph.D. is completely funded by the university but the student is responsible for the O.D. tuition. Boo! So, essentially, it's not really a combo degree but 2 separate degrees you're doing at the same time. I wish they were like the M.D. combo programs...all of my debt problems would be solved. But, what can you do...

    To everyone who responded to this thread, thanks for all of your input! :thumbup:
  28. J DUB

    J DUB Watch my TAN walk!! Lifetime Donor

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    100K is my magic number. I will not pay but a certain interest in order to do something. I can suck it up and work more or live more frugal.

    Make your decision and what your number is. Of course the total earnings are more than the interest but I will pay it off before the interest eats me up. I also recommend investing in retirement too. Secure yourself on the backside. Find the happy balance of paying off loans, saving for retirement, and living now. Having a budget and following it is key!
  29. EyEnStein 07

    EyEnStein 07 Senior ɸ Member

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    If i was in your exact position this is what i would do:

    Apply for the PhD...though you might need clinical experience....im SURE you will acquire as much as you need while doing your PhD...i doubt they give science based PhD's out without different types of research (clinical included)...from there (which obviously you seem like you will be very dedicated to and finish maybe even before average time) you should probably look into getting a job, maybe even at the school you got the PhD from...you never know! Then see what you really want to do...if its still OD then now you have the job and finances to accommodate you better hopefully.

    Ofcourse this is just an idea and im sure has flaws that others will be able to point out right away as im not considering every problem that may come along the way. But i do know someone else on here (forgot who) who is going for Pediatric optometry and has been told that its going to be very difficult. Its probably best that if you do decide to become an OD you are open to more than peds, even though im sure there wont be anything wrong with being known that peds is your specialty.
  30. FutureCTDoc

    FutureCTDoc

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    To the OP: Have you considered medical retina? There is no surgery, excellent remuneration 400k+ possible. It is a long and tough road though. A) Med School B) Ophthalmology (A very tough match) C) Medical Retina Fellowship (Highly competitive as well). Having an MD or DO and doing ophtho is a better choice in terms of latitude to practice.
  31. KHE

    KHE Senior Member SDN Advisor

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    Considering that the OP specifically said numerous times in this thread that they are desirous of working with children, I think the notion of "medical retina" is essentially a non starter for this person. Medical retina mostly consists of lucentis injections on old people.

    Yes, yes, I know I'm exagerating somewhat but please.....how many pediatric patients are present in the average "medical retina" practice?
  32. ToldYouSo

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    KHE's advice about taking the 30 year repayment plan I think is VERY good advice. Yes while the amount paid in interest will be greater many people don't realize that inflation will eat away at the amount as KHE said.
  33. JeffChou

    JeffChou Your mom goes to college

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    The 30 year repayment plan is good if you plan on making some investments early on in your career. You will need positive cash flow to qualify for loans to buy a practice or a house. If you wait until you've paid off your loans to start a practice, you may end up breaking even much later. The terms for your student loans may also be better than the terms you might end up getting for other loans, so consider which loans you're more in a hurry to pay off and check with your accountant.

    Another great option is loan forgiveness repayment plans. I recommend you thoroughly check out all these options: http://www.direct.ed.gov/RepayCalc/dlindex2.html
    The income-based repayment plan has a public service loan forgiveness deal where they forgive (WIPE OUT) the remainder of your loans (may only apply to OD program I think) after 10 years of working at a non-profit or in some sort of verifiable public service jobs. I'm not sure about all the details, but it would be worth it to do some legwork to figure it out.

    If you're really serious about optometry, I would recommend you take a good look at these programs and ask the financial aid dept of the school(s) you're interested in going to. I'm sure they would be glad to help. OD school seems to be a good choice considering your debt-load. I think med school would be very tough considering the 4 years of school and additional 4 years of low pay residency. You wouldn't really even begin paying that down until 8 years from now and that's if you didn't choose to go into any fellowships.
  34. NCAAPedsOD

    NCAAPedsOD

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    Yes, I've considered medical retina but seeing as I'm no spring chicken (I'm 26 :eek:), when it comes to medical school, I'd be pushing 40 by the time I finished my med school pre-reqs, got in, finished school, finished residency and completed my fellowship. So, I put that on the backburner.

    Retinoblastoma? I'd love to work with kids who had that but you're right, how many kids have RB? Not that many. I'd also enjoy working with ROP children but like I said in my above post, I'd be pushing 40 by the time I finished.

    I wonder if I can still work with the above population with a Ph.D. in Vision Science? Just focus on Peds and Retina research? :xf:

    Seems to be or doesn't seem to be?

    Thanks for the info, I'll check into that.

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