When getting a degree in education and researching expected salaries, many students may wonder whether teachers in city schools make more money than those in suburban classrooms. This seems a fair question considering the ongoing debate about teacher pay. In 2000, the New York Times ran a story on teacher pay for New York specifically, arguing that salaries did not differ drastically by region but instead differed based on degree and experience levels. More than a decade later, the debate remains. But while each state varies in what it pays professional educators, on average, teachers across the United States earn fairly consistent salaries as long as they share the same credentials.
A blog posted by the National Council on Teacher Quality in June 2013 showed no significant difference in teacher pay when comparing urban educators to their suburban counterparts. Significantly, although that study did show a difference in teacher pay between the urban areas of Washington D.C. and Atlanta, Georgia, the national average was virtually the same when looking at city and suburban areas in general.
These numbers confirm a 2011-2012 report by the National Education Association that lists a discrepancy of more than $17,000 between the starting pay for teachers in the District of Columbia and those in Georgia. If your concern is whether teachers in city schools make more money than those in suburban classrooms, it is prudent to look at the bigger picture. Geographically speaking, teachers can expect similar salaries whether they teach in a highly populated area or not, but they should also consider the pay discrepancy from state to state. There may be other factors which affect teacher pay, but whether one teaches in a city or in suburbia does not seem to be one of them.
The Education Factor
When considering whether teachers in city schools make more money than those in suburban classrooms, in addition to geography, you should take level of education into account. Does the school to which you are applying to teach require its teachers to have Master’s degrees, and does a teacher’s pay increase significantly with her/his level of education? Do you plan to apply for a tenure-track job and remain in the area? If so, does the school require you to take continuing education credits, and will your salary increase with your level of knowledge and experience?
Other Factors to Consider
Studies that compare teacher salary often fail to include additional factors. Cost-of-living expenses play a huge role in determining salary viability regardless of education or geographical location. For example, a middle school teacher who earns $53,430 per year and lives alone will enjoy a more comfortable lifestyle than one who earns the same amount and supports a family of four.
The debate may continue well into the future over whether teachers in urban areas earn more than those who teach in suburban settings, but the fact remains that teaching itself affords a potentially lucrative career. Given certain factors such as education level, type of institution and credentials, you may find the debate over salary moot.
Whether you’re contemplating a teaching degree or sending out job applications, rather than asking whether teachers in city schools make more money than those in suburban classrooms, you may want to instead consider the geographical region in which you’d like to teach and the type of degree to which you aspire. Good teaching can be rewarding and effective, and with a focused career plan, you can do what you love and truly contribute to your field.