College students considering an education career often wonder, “how much do teachers make?” Teacher salaries have become a hot topic since the nationwide Red for Ed strikes in 2018-19. Teachers have been notoriously paid low wages and underappreciated for decades. There’s a popular misconception that teachers have short workdays and ample vacation time. In reality, teachers devote many hours outside the six-hour school day to plan lessons and meet parents. Teachers are also responsible for equipping their classrooms with expensive school supplies. According to Education Week, U.S. residents feel teachers are underpaid by $7,500 on average. Teachers typically make less than college graduates in other professional industries. This article identifies the average teacher salary and explores the various factors that affect salaries for teachers.
Teacher Salaries By Grade Level
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) calculates a median annual wage of $50,790 for all education occupations. That’s higher than America’s average yearly salary of $39,810. However, teacher salaries vary greatly based on the grade level being taught. Elementary school teachers have a median pay of $59,420. Middle school or junior high teachers report mean earnings of $59,660. High school teachers bring home an average paycheck of $61,660 annually. Adult literacy and GED teachers reap median profits of $54,350. Career and technical education teachers have a mean yearly income of $58,110. Vocational education teachers at junior colleges collect median remuneration of $56,630. Preschool teachers have the lowest teaching salaries with a $30,520 average. College professors have the highest teaching salaries with a $79,540 average. As a general rule of thumb, teachers are paid more when the rigor of the class curriculum advances.
Teacher Salaries By Work Environment
Answering how much do teachers make requires taking into account where teachers can work. Different school types have different pay structures for their teaching staff. For example, elementary and secondary schools have a standard annual mean wage of $63,980. Teachers employed by religious entities, including parochial schools, make $52,380 on average. Teachers at child daycare centers have median yearly earnings of $34,950. Teachers employed by local government agencies report mean pay of $64,340. Teachers who work at social advocacy organizations are given a $59,330 average annual paycheck. Mean teacher income at educational support services centers is $49,590. Colleges and universities present a median teacher salary of $75,750. Technical trade schools deliver a mean wage of $57,680. Medical schools provide the highest teacher salaries worth $126,890 on average.
Teacher Salaries By Subject Area
The Department of Labor doesn’t collect salary data for PreK-12 teachers in different subject areas. One exception is for special education teachers who earn median annual compensation of $61,030. Nonetheless, prospective teachers can guess which academic subjects pay the most. High-need shortage areas, including math, science, and foreign language, are the most lucrative. Teachers can also predict top-paying subjects by looking at salary figures for college professors. Postsecondary English teachers receive a mean yearly wage of $80,180. History professors report an $84,210 average income. Art faculty receive median earnings of $82,360. Physical education teachers make a mean $73,720 salary. Biological sciences professors earn an average payment of $98,700. Engineering faculty are given median pay of $110,040. College health specialties teachers have a $121,620 mean wage. Law teachers have the biggest $129,950 average. STEM and professional subjects are more profitable than liberal arts.
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Teacher Salaries By Region
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) charts the salaries for teachers in all 50 states. The database’s average teacher salary is $58,950 per year. The three top-paying states for teachers are New York, California, and Massachusetts. Their average teacher salaries are $79,637, $78,711, and $77,804 respectively. Connecticut comes in fourth with a $72,561 mean teacher income. New Jersey ranks fifth with median teacher earnings of $69,623. Alaska surprisingly has one of the highest teacher salaries at $68,138 too. On the flip side, the three lowest teaching salaries are found in South Dakota, Mississippi, and Oklahoma. Their mean teacher wages are $42,668, $42,925, and $45,245 respectively. West Virginia is the fourth worst-paying state at $45,701. Colorado comes in fifth with a $46,506 average salary. The Midwest and South typically pay less than the Northeast and West.
Besides by state, the Bureau of Labor Statistics records which U.S. cities compensate teachers the best. Bakersfield, California is the #1 top-paying metropolitan area with a $97,680 average teacher salary. Fresno and San Francisco follow closely behind at $93,410 and $93,350 respectively. New York City gives its 72,360 secondary school teachers $90,050 on average. Kingston, New York has the best-paid elementary school teachers making $92,090. Riverside and San Bernardino have 22,860 teachers in grades K-6 earning a mean $90,270. Los Angeles is a high-paying metropolitan area with a median $87,120 income. Populous cities with more students to teach often provide the best salary outlook. Yet, certain suburban and rural areas rank well too. The Connecticut nonmetropolitan area has a $77,850 annual mean wage for teachers. California’s North Coast has an average $79,450 teaching salary.
Teacher Salaries By Education Degree
Teachers bring a slew of different skills, backgrounds, and degrees to their classrooms. Teacher salaries can be greatly impacted by the professional’s academic history. Teachers with more advanced degrees may negotiate better contracts with higher pay and benefits. The U.S. Department of Labor records median weekly earnings of $836 with an associate degree. At the bachelor’s level, the average weekly income is $1,173. Master’s degree graduates have a $1,401 mean weekly wage. Doctorates garner the biggest weekly average of $1,743. Educational attainment similarly helps to increase a teacher’s salary. The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) found that 88 percent of K-12 school districts increase pay for master’s degrees. Starting teacher salaries for master’s graduates are $2,760 higher on average. In five years, the annual master’s degree salary bump expands to $7,358.
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Teacher Salaries By Experience Level
Young, bright-eyed teachers who recently finished their college degree start on the bottom rung of the salary ladder. Teacher salaries tend to gradually increase with promotions as educators get more experienced. The National Education Association (NEA) lists a $39,249 national average salary for new teachers. The District of Columbia has the highest mean starting salary of $55,209. New York ranks second with a $51,443 median starting wage. California has the third-best average $46,992 salary for new teachers. The worst states for starting teachers are Montana and Missouri at $31,418 and $32,226 respectively. At that rate, teachers with dependent children may fall below the poverty line. Conversely, teachers with years of education experience can make six figures. The BLS shows the top 10 percent of teachers are bringing home over $99,660 each year. Tenured college professors can receive $179,230 or more. Average base salaries for teachers with more than 20 years of experience reach $85,460.
How Teacher Salaries Compare to Other School Staff
Teachers are only one component of the active school community. How does teacher pay compare to the salaries of other non-teaching staff? The U.S. Labor Department estimates an average annual income of $61,920 for library media specialists. Instructional coordinators earn a mean wage of $69,180. Teaching assistants have a $30,280 median salary. Substitute teachers are compensated $32,460 on average. English as a Second Language instructors make a mean yearly paycheck of $58,980. School social workers report median pay of $51,030. Guidance counselors have average earnings of $61,000. School psychologists reap a mean salary of $87,450. Speech-language pathologists have an average salary of $82,000. Education administrators at K-12 schools collect a median income of $100,340. Childcare administrators in pre-kindergarten settings make an average $98,270. Postsecondary administrators, including college deans and presidents, enjoy a high median payment of $112,400.
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How U.S. Teacher Pay Measures Up to Foreign Countries
Graduates of U.S. teacher preparation programs sometimes head overseas. Teaching abroad can provide a bigger or smaller salary sum depending on the country. Business Insider declared America the seventh-best nation for teacher funding. Which country leads the top 10 countries for teachers? Luxembourg has the highest average salary of $124,000 for veteran teachers. Switzerland has a top teacher pay scale of $86,000. Korea comes in third with an $85,000 teacher salary potential. Germany and Austria finish the five top-paying countries at $75,000 and $74,000 respectively. Based on salary, the Slovak Republic is the worst nation for teachers making $22,000 on average. Its neighbor, the Czech Republic, has an equally bad $25,000 mean teacher wage. Poland and Hungary share the third spot with a $27,000 median income. Top-qualified teachers in Turkey have an average pay of $33,000.
What It Takes to Become a Licensed Teacher
Teachers are required to have at least a bachelor’s degree. The subject in which teachers earn a bachelor’s degree depends on the state. Typically, elementary school teachers major in education or child psychology. Middle and high school teachers major in the content area in which they’ll teach. Secondary teachers declare an education minor to take additional teacher preparation courses.
Upon completing the course curriculum, aspiring teachers must spend time in the classroom under the instruction of an established teacher. Student teaching semesters last 14 to 16 weeks with placements in real PreK-12 classrooms. Passing all fieldwork requirements with satisfactory supervisor marks qualifies students for graduation. If planning to teach in public schools, post-grads must become certified and licensed in the state where they’ll teach. The U.S. Department of Education has a directory for finding certification requirements by state. The checklist using includes passing the academic skills and subject-specific Praxis tests.
So, how much does becoming a teacher cost? The NCES reports that the average full-time undergraduate cost of attendance is $23,091 per year. All four-year institutions have an average annual price tag of $26,593 for tuition and fees plus room and board. Public, in-state universities charge slightly less at $19,488 on average. Mean annual attendance expenses climb to $41,468 at private nonprofit and for-profit colleges. The average timeline for bachelor’s degree completion is currently 5.2 years. Future educators may spend up to 160 months finishing a bachelor’s program part-time. Meeting the 120-credit mark takes a minimum of four years with student teaching included. Therefore, the total average cost of bachelor’s preparation is $92,364. At private colleges, four-year education can easily surpass $165,872. Students incur an average student loan debt of $31,172. America has a whopping $1.6 trillion student loan crisis. Paying off borrowed loans can be difficult when they equal more than the starting teacher salary.
Getting the highest teaching salaries may require attending graduate school. Certain states, such as New York and Maryland, mandate a master’s degree in five years for an advanced license. Master’s degrees, such as the Master of Education or Master of Arts in Teaching, could be needed for specialized niches. For instance, reading specialists need an added K-12 endorsement at the master’s level to lead literacy programs. Master’s programs qualify teachers for progressing into administrative roles like principal and superintendent too. Education doctorates are generally only required for postsecondary professors. Getting a Ph.D. or an Ed.D. degree takes about three to four years beyond the 30-48 master’s credits. Affording master’s or doctoral tuition is difficult on a tight teacher salary. The NCES prices average yearly graduate attendance costs at $10,408 for public and $21,955 for private schools.
Hidden Costs of Having a Teaching Job
The average teacher salary doesn’t account for how much teachers spend out of pocket. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found that 95.1 percent of teachers pay for their own supplies. Teachers fork over cash from their already modest paychecks to buy pencils, notebooks, folders, posters, and more. Many teachers don’t have their purchases reimbursed by the school district. America’s public school educators spend $459 on average for supplies. Mean out-of-pocket supply costs range from $327 to $664 by state. Overall classroom teacher spending surpasses $1billion annually. Further, teachers need to pay fees for licensing exams and recertification forms. Each Praxis Core test comes with a $90 value. Membership fees for teacher organizations like Kappa Delta Pi incur $50 or more each year. Attending teacher conferences, such as the $617 Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development Conference, also costs a pretty penny. Extra expenses shrink how much money the average teacher brings home.
Job Outlook for Teachers
Job opportunities for teachers are expected to increase by five percent from through 2028. This job growth rate is on par with other non-teaching occupations. The number of new education jobs will jump by 512,900. High school teachers will see 38,200 new positions. About 53,100 jobs will be created in elementary education. The United States will see 21,400 more middle school teaching jobs. Career and technical educators should brace for a decline of 1,800 jobs. The demand for preschool teachers will stimulate 36,900 new jobs with the lowest teaching salaries. Special education teachers can count on a hiring uptick of 13,600. Postsecondary professors have the highest teaching salaries and best 10-year outlook for 155,000 new faculty positions. School principals will compete for 11,200 new jobs established by 2028. Community health educators are also in high demand for 14,100 openings.
Teacher job growth will be driven by the decrease in student-teacher ratios and many existing teachers leaving the profession. The average U.S. teacher is 42.4 years old. Thirty percent of teachers are over age 50 and reaching retirement. CNBC found that 61 percent of teachers have considered changing careers. Teaching is a tough, stressful job track where professionals get burned out regularly. Teachers can get discouraged by inadequate pay and benefits as well as a lack of appreciation. Resignations leave openings for enthusiastic new teachers to snag. Growth for teaching jobs will largely be regional. Many new opportunities are expected in the South and Midwest. Teachers can quickly find jobs in subjects where there’s a shortage. Qualified teachers are needed in high-need fields like bilingual education, special education, English language acquisition, and STEM education. College students who love helping children or teens and are willing to work hard should consider teaching.
Is there hope for the average teacher salary to increase? The Washington Post reported that teachers make less than 60 percent of what similarly educated professionals do. Recent teacher strikes and protests over unfair wages have started sparking change though. Activism during the Red for Ed movement made American teacher pay rise to $61,730. For example, teachers in Denver received a 15.7 percent pay jump for 2019-20. The League of Education Voters Foundation found only 56 of the 295 striking school districts earned a pay increase over 4 percent though. Progress is left to be made and earn hard-working teachers suitable compensation. While there are regions and grade levels where pay is meager, teaching can be a very lucrative field. There’s a wide range for the average annual teacher salary. The highest paying jobs normally go to teachers with advanced degrees and experience. How much money the average teacher makes combines with the intrinsic rewards of nurturing young minds.