New Study Shows Healthcare Professionals’ Current Student Loan Debt is at Least Half of Their Salary

Doctors and nurses weigh in on their average debt-to-income ratio, with more than 65% stating they feel anxious when checking their balance

NEW YORK, Feb. 26, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — As conversations around federal student loan forgiveness continue and repayment has resumed for most, borrowers have begun to feel the steady impact on their finances. A new survey released today by Laurel Road, a digital banking platform of KeyBank with specialized offerings for healthcare and business professionals, analyzes the unique financial reality faced by healthcare professionals.

The survey found that for both nurses and doctors, their current student debt equals more than half of their current annual salary, highlighting a significant debt-to-income ratio in the healthcare industry.  Nurses reported an average income before taxes of $80,695 with an average student loan debt of $40,611, while doctors have an average income before taxes of $323,693 with an average student loan debt of $188,317. Notably, Gen Z doctors at the beginning of their careers earn an average of $183,873 annually while facing $117,206 in student loan debt – nearly 64% of their salary.

Healthcare Professionals Report High Anxiety Levels Around Student Loans 
According to the survey, the average nurse anticipates it will take them ten years to fully repay their student loans, while doctors predict it will take them closer to eight years. With that, 75% of doctors reported “always” or “often” feeling anxious when it came to checking their student loan balance, with 69% of nurses reporting the same.

Despite feeling stress caused by their student loan debt, not all healthcare professionals are eager to seek help from a financial professional. The majority of doctors (62%) and nurses (51%) surveyed stated they would confide in family members when it came to discussing student loan-related stress, while only 56% of doctors and 32% of nurses stated they were likely to speak with a financial expert.

The Resumption of Student Loan Payments Has Impacted Short-Term Finances and Long-Term Goals
With the end of the repayment pause, student loan borrowers have had to adjust to a new monthly expense – many for the first time ever. Seventy four percent of doctors have had to reallocate their budgets to make payments on time, and 94% report cutting or reducing spending in other areas as a direct result of the pause ending. Additionally, 61% of nurses had to reallocate their budgets while 88% had to cut or reduce spending elsewhere. Top spending reductions for both groups include travel or vacations (35% of doctors and 42% of nurses) and dining out and ordering in (30% of doctors and 40% of nurses). Twenty eight percent of doctors and 33% of nurses also reported cutting or reducing how much they were saving for retirement and investing.

The survey also found that nearly two-thirds (60%) of nurses stated their financial goals have changed for 2024 due to having to make student loan payments. Priorities that have changed include buying a new car (35%), affording a dream vacation (35%), and buying a house (33%). Over three-fourths (77%) of doctors also said their spending priorities for 2024 have changed. These include buying a house (33%), buying a car (33%), and affording a dream vacation (32%).

Approaching Solutions
It is no secret that student loan debt can create a financial and mental burden that can impact borrowers’ overall well-being. When it comes to alleviating debt, however, only 46% of nurses have considered consolidation options such as taking out a personal loan or a consolidation credit card. Doctors, on the other hand, are much more likely to consider consolidation options (74%). Overall, about two-thirds of both doctors (34%) and nurses (31%) stated their current approach to repayment in 2024 is to pay down as much of their loans as possible to get ahead of debt.

“In order to choose a repayment plan that works for you, complements your lifestyle and allows you to pay down your debt, it’s important to understand the financial landscape and what options you qualify for,” said Alyssa Schaefer, General Manager & Chief Experience Officer at Laurel Road. “Talking to a financial professional can help you find a path that leads to your financial goals. At Laurel Road we offer solutions and tools tailored to the unique needs of healthcare professionals, as well as student loan counseling to ensure borrowers are making informed decisions.”

Additional data from this survey can be found at To learn more about Laurel Road’s specialized offerings for healthcare professionals, visit

This random double-opt-in survey of 500 American nurses and 300 American doctors (250 physicians and 50 dentists) who currently have either private or federal student loans was commissioned by Laurel Road between Jan 2 and Feb 12, 2024. It was conducted by market research company OnePoll, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).

About Laurel Road

Laurel Road is a digital banking platform and brand of KeyBank that provides tailored offerings to support the financial wellbeing of healthcare and business professionals. Laurel Road’s banking and lending solutions include Student Loan Refinancing, Mortgages, Personal Loans, Student Loan Cashback Credit Card, tailored savings accounts, and more, providing our members with a simplified, personalized experience that helps them better navigate their financial journey and achieve life’s goals. Additionally, through a partnership with GradFin, a digital platform and team of highly specialized student loan counselors and brand of KeyBank, Laurel Road offers student loan counseling services that help borrowers manage and understand their options.

Laurel Road has reimagined banking and financial management for physicians and dentists through Laurel Road for Doctors, a tailored digital experience made up of banking, insights, and exclusive benefits to provide the financial help and peace of mind they need through each career stage. In spring of 2022, Laurel Road also launched Loyalty Checking, the first checking account designed with nurses in mind, furthering the company’s commitment to healthcare professionals. Visit for more information.

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