Pharmacy Schools or Dental Schools…What’s Better for My Money?


Because the costs of dental school and pharmacy school are so high, and the debt load incurred can take so long to pay off, it is important for those considering such careers to determine the real return on investment provided. Depending on the total investment of money compared to the anticipated income as a professional, it just may not be worthwhile for some people to embark on careers in pharmacy or dentistry.

The dental field also offers some areas of specialty, which hold out the hope of even greater income, but also require greater initial investment to acquire the specialized skills associated with those areas. None of the figures involved in return-on-investment (ROI) calculations are set in stone, and even official government figures which provide guidelines on anticipated incomes are only averages, and do not account for regional differences. This is why the return on investment should be calculated on a personal basis, using figures specific to your own circumstances.

Calculating ROI for the dental field

In 2014, the cost of going to a four-year dental school program varied between $21,600 and $300,000, depending on whether the schools were public or private. These figures do not include such fees as books, dental kits, scrubs, lab dues, pre-clinical supplies, associated school fees, financial aid, starting tuition cost, and personal expenses. All these other costs can significantly increase the total cost of going to school for a dental education.

According to the American Dental Education Association, the class of 2014 graduated with an average debt load of $247,227, with interest accruing over 10 years (a standard loan repayment period), in the amount of $141,000. In total, this means a dental education would therefore cost approximately $380,000 including financing fees. If an aggressive 10-year program of school loan repayment is chosen, each monthly payment would therefore be $3,184. This would be offset by an average starting salary of $184,140, although even greater salaries might be possible in specialized dental careers.

Calculating ROI for the pharmacy field

The cost of a enrolling in a pharmacy school program can range anywhere between 65,000 and $200,000, but its return on investment is viewed as one of the most advantageous in the entire medical profession. A recent ABC news documentary declared that pharmacy careers were in the top five best investment returns, making it one of the most advantageous professions to pursue in terms of financial gain.

A student whose college investment was $90,000 could expect to pay off that loan in 11 years, assuming an average annual salary of $116,670, and a consistent monthly payment amount of 10%. Granted, this is a very aggressive repayment schedule, but if affordable, could leave a pharmacist free and clear of all student loan debt very early in his or her career, with the prospect of considerable future earnings. In 2014, the National Pharmacist Workforce Survey conducted by the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy reported that pharmacists with less than five years of experience as professionals had already paid off roughly 1/3 of their student loan debt.

Other factors influencing ROI

It should be noted that calculations for return on investment in both the pharmaceutical and dental fields can be significantly impacted by other factors which may drastically affect the figures involved. As previously mentioned, anticipated salaries can also be more or less than the averages used by the authoritative sources in each field, even though those averages come directly from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

On the expense side, the cost of education can be much higher if a student is attending a university with high visibility and a national reputation. If you happen to be a student from out-of-state, attending any university always costs more and that too can have a significant impact on education cost. Some students attending college are able to defray the total cost of education by subtracting scholarships, grants, family contributions, and other sources of financial assistance.

When all ‘hidden’ factors are added in to the total expense side, those are the figures which should then be compared to anticipated earnings for a final accurate calculation of return on investment. The prospects for both the pharmaceutical field and the dental field are among the most promising for students, although in most cases it will take at least a decade or more to pay off the considerable cost of a college education before achieving debt-free status.  Of course, there are other unexpected variables to consider such as whether a graduate can find a job, which will impact how long it may take to pay off a loan.

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