National Health Service Corps Scholarship- Worth It?

Is the NHSC Scholarship Worth It?

By: Tia the PA-C, creator of @DiversityPA

Why is it easier to take out hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans than it is to get life insurance or buy a house?

Guest blogger, who this??

Hello new friends! My name is Tia! Sam asked me to do a guest blog post on how to get paid to go to PA school, otherwise known as the National Health Service Corps Scholarship.

I am a family practice Physician Assistant who has been practicing for over 6 years. I also run an organization focused on mentoring and increasing the diversity of the PA profession. Feel free to check out my IG page @DiversityPA or my website at

Graduate Degree Sticker Shock

When I was accepted into PA school in 2012, I started having nightmares of the $160,000+ price tag! All I could think about was that I would be paying back my loans for the rest of my life. 

Would I be able to buy a house? Raise kids? Pay for their tuition? Money worries plagued me from my first meeting with financial aid, so I started doing my research on scholarships for PA school. I knew I wanted to do Family Practice for the first couple of years so I applied for and was granted the National Health Service Corps Scholarship. They paid me to go to school, paid for my tuition, and gave me monthly stipends while in school.

So what’s the big deal about the NHSC Scholarship?

Basically, it’s the government paying you to go to school in return for public health service. 

Let’s get into some of the details of how you can get all that money!

Years of scholarship received equals years of service owed with a 2 year minimum.

  • 1 year of scholarship = 2 years full time service obligation or 4 years halftime
  • 2 years of scholarship = 2 years full time service obligation or 4 years halftime
  • 3 years of scholarships = 3 years, etc.

ADVANTAGES- Benefits of the NHSC scholarship

What makes this scholarship so worth it? Let me tell you, there are tons of benefits to this scholarship! Your tuition and fees are paid in full and the stipend payments are tax-free.

At the end of your education you’ve saved yourself from tens of thousands of dollars of debt and the additional thousands in interest that you would pay with traditional student loans.

But wait! Remember how I said you get fees paid in full while in school? 

Here are some examples of other scholarship paid expenses. 

Does that make it all worth it?

Well let me tell you, we are not done yet. Not only is your school tuition, fees and the expenses listed above paid for, you also receive a monthly living expenses stipend of about $1350 a month with direct deposit right into your account. You can use that money to help with living expenses like rent, electricity, gas, groceries, etc. 

DISADVANTAGES- Why it may not be for you

Now some people may not want to work in primary care and if that is you, then I would not apply to the NHSC Scholarship. There are only a few approved work disciplines and they all are in primary care. You can work as a primary care healthcare provider, pediatrician, geriatrician, dentist, or behavioral/mental health provider. If specialty life calls to you (ex: emergency medicine or critical care), then the NHSC Scholarship is NOT for you. 

Another disadvantage is that you are only allowed 35 full time workday absences per year to cover all holidays, continuing professional education (CME), sick days, vacation, etc.  If you exceed 35 workdays in a year, you will receive an extension of your contract service date. Yes, you actually have to report all of your work absences every 6 months. 

You are also limited in the cities and clinical sites where you can work. You have to choose a clinical site based on the approved Health Professional Shortage Area score and the site must be approved before you start working there. 


While we are talking about contracts, let’s talk about what happens if you break your contract with the NHSC. 

Any breach in contract means you have to pay the money back. 

Here are two examples:

  • Failure to complete academic training- You are liable to the United States for repayment of all NHSC SP funds paid to them and to the school on your behalf
  • Failure to begin or complete your service obligation- You will be in breach and US government is entitled to recover damages equal to three times the scholarship award plus interest

Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Apply: 

  • Is it worth the loss of freedom?
  • Are you sure primary care or mental health is what you want to do?
  • Are you okay with not working in a specialty?
  • Are you okay with a possible lower salary than that of your peers starting off?
  • Are you okay with relocating to possible rural towns all over the US?

So choose wisely friends. 

If you know primary care is for you, then applying for the NHSC Scholarship is your best way to graduate debt free! It was definitely worth it for me!

Want to stay in touch? Connect with me on my IG page @DiversityPA or my website and blog at to learn more about the NHSC Loan Repayment Program, another way to get loans paid after graduation. 

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