Degrees of Debt: Reveals Which Graduate Degrees Saddle Students with the Most Debt Relative to Income

SAN FRANCISCO--()--Becoming an optometrist or dentist might make mom proud, but engineers, nurses and computer scientists are typically in a better position to tackle graduate school student loan debt after they enter the workforce -- even though they tend to earn much less.

That’s according to an analysis of over 91,000 borrowers with graduate degrees requesting rates to refinance their school student loan debt through the consumer finance marketplace.

Credible’s analysis of student loan debt levels and salaries across 16 graduate school majors shows that the most important consideration isn’t how much debt you’ll take on to obtain an advanced degree -- or how much you’ll earn after graduation -- but achieving the right balance between the two.

“When choosing graduate school programs, it’s easy for students to get distracted by potential high salaries, regardless of the student loan debt incurred,” explains Stephen Dash, founder and CEO of Credible. “Our analysis shows that students who balance student loan debt against their future earnings are often in a better financial position to pay back their loans.”

What’s a graduate degree worth? Depends on the degree

Even though doctors and lawyers often take on dizzying levels of student loan debt (a median of $197,636 and $114,329 respectively), they’re usually able to maintain a relatively healthy balance between debt and income that enables them to stay on top of their loans.

By the time they come to Credible to investigate their student loan refinancing options, optometrists, veterinarians, physician assistants, dentists and pharmacists are still allocating more than 10 percent of their monthly income to their student loan payments. Optometrists allocate the most toward their student loans, with 14.9 percent of their monthly income going toward their student debt.

While computer scientists may earn significantly less income than optometrists, they also take on much less student loan debt. That means computer scientists only need to allocate 6.4 percent of their monthly income to repaying their student debt after leaving school.

The five most debt-heavy graduate degrees in relation to income

Credible found that the graduate degrees with the highest percentage of monthly income allocated to paying off their student loans are in:

      1.   Optometry       14.9% of income going toward student loan payments
2. Veterinary 12.6%
3. Physician Assistant 11.6%
4. Dentistry 11.5%
5. Pharmacy 10.9%

Conversely, based on the percentage of their monthly income that they need to allocate to their student loan payments, the five most worry-free graduate degrees are in:

      1.   Computer Science       6.4% of income going toward student loans
2. Masters of business administration (MBA) 6.8%
3. Finance (non MBA) 7.0%
4. Nursing 7.1%
5. Accounting 7.2%

“While incomes tend to rise over time, students considering going into professions where they are likely to have higher debt-to-income ratios should think carefully about how they plan on paying down their student loans upon graduation,” said Dash. “While there’s been progress in providing access to information about what college will actually cost, we still need more transparency to help students get a handle on what they will likely earn after graduation, and how much debt those earnings will support.”

The complete graduate degree debt and income analysis can be found at

About Credible

As a marketplace that empowers consumers to discover financial products and services that are the best fit for their own, unique circumstance, Credible is fiercely independent and committed to delivering fair and unbiased solutions for millennials. Credible’s integrations with lenders and credit bureaus allow consumers to access actual rates through a neutral platform, without sharing their information until they’re ready to proceed with an offer. The platform provides an unrivaled customer experience, as reflected by hundreds of positive Trustpilot reviews and a TrustScore of 9.5/10. For more information, news media may email


Data for this analysis came from the more than 91,000 graduate degree holders who came to between January 2015 and March 15, 2018 to request interest rates for potentially refinancing their student loan debt.


Mike Jurs, 415-218-7978
Director, Communications & Content

Release Summary reveals which graduate degrees carry the most (and the least) student loan debt in relation to income.


Mike Jurs, 415-218-7978
Director, Communications & Content