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How Much Do Teachers Make? Complete Guide

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In the developed world, teachers are the backbone of the economy. Teachers educate future generations of political and business thought leaders. They expand children’s minds and help them harness the power of their thoughts, providing them with purpose in life.

If you’re thinking about starting your career n the job market as a teacher, you’ll need a degree and enthusiasm for working with kids. As a teacher, you can choose your specialization. Some teachers work with disabled or disadvantaged kids. Some decide to teach high school or middle school, and others prefer working with kindergarteners.

Whatever group you decide to work with, teaching is one of the noblest occupations in the world. Seeing your students develop in front of you is a rewarding experience, and it’s a feeling that money can’t buy.

If teaching sounds like your ideal profession, then you might find yourself wondering what you can expect to earn as a teacher. We unpack everything you need to know about teachers’ salaries and what you can expect from your paycheck in different states throughout the U.S.

What Is the Average Salary for A Teacher?

Working as a teacher might be your passion, but does it earn you a living? The National Education Association (NEA), shows that the median salary for American teachers is $61,730 for the 2018 to 2019 school year.

However, this figure doesn’t give you an accurate representation of what you can expect to earn. Various factors determine your salary as a teacher. Your level of education and the grade you teach is a significant factor in determining your salary. The state in which you work and the cost of living in that region of the country also play a role as well.

The type of learning institution you decide to work at also determines your salary, with private school teachers earning more than those that teach at a public school. Let’s take a deep dive into these factors and look at how they affect your salary as a teacher of young and impressionable minds.

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Factors Affecting Teaching Salaries

The following is a list of factors affecting your pay grade as a teacher.

The Grade Level You Teach

For those teachers teaching classes from preschool through grade 12, high school teachers earn the best salaries, and preschool teachers each the lowest, taking in around $30,000 less than 12th-grade teachers.

If you have a graduate degree, then you can start a career as a junior college or college teacher. If you land a job at a college or university, you are at the pinnacle of the teaching pay grade.

Your State

Teaching salaries fluctuate, depending on the state you live and teach in as well. NEA research shows that teachers residing in California, New York, Alaska, Massachusetts, Maryland, and the District of Columbia have the highest salaries.

Teachers living in coastal states tend to out-earn their colleges working in the Southern and Mid-western states. According to the NEA research, the lowest-paid teachers live in the state of Mississippi, with West Virginia a close second.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics states in their research that the highest-paid teachers reside in the states of Texas, California, New York, and Illinois.

Cost of Living

While your salary might be the focus of your attention when searching for the best teaching job, you also need to take your cost of living into account, as well. It’s no good earning a high salary if you live in a state that has high taxation and a high cost of living.

California has some of the best-paid teachers in the country, as does New York. However, both of these states have the highest tax rates in America. California and New York are also dealing with a housing crisis, and if you in your teaching in San Francisco, you’ll have to deal with paying the highest rents in the country.

In fact, many teachers who work in California choose to live out of a van, rather than rent an apartment.

The cost of living plays a significant role in your take-home pay. For instance, while Mississippi is the lowest paying state for teachers, it moves up the rankings to 37th place, when you take the low cost of living into account. In these states, your dollars stretch further, and everything from food to rent is cheaper than in the big cities of LA and New York.

Teaching is a rewarding career

Your Education Level

Most states require teachers to have a bachelor’s degree. According to a 2015 teaching study conducted by Georgetown University, those teachers who have a master’s degree earn far higher salaries than those who only have a bachelor’s qualification.

Average salaries for teachers with master’s degrees come in at $64,000, which is $12,000 more per annum than those teachers holding a bachelor’s degree.


The same Georgetown University study concluded that the subject you teach also plays a role in your salary. The lowest-paid teachers by subject, specializing in drama and language. The research also shows that health and physical education teachers receive the highest salaries.

Political Climate

It might surprise you to learn that the political climate also plays a significant role in determining your salary. Education is always a hot topic in politics. Teacher strikes continue to rise throughout the country, and the outcome of these strikes could either hurt or benefit your salary package.

According to a study in Fortune magazine, in 2018, teaching strikes were the highest in the last 30-years. The state of Washington offers us a great example of how teacher strikes can benefit your salary.

The 2018 teachers strike in the state saw teachers’ salaries increase from $55,693 to $72,965, the 6th highest in the nation, as a result of negotiations.

Salaries for Teaching Different Age Groups

As a rule of thumb, teachers who work with younger kids earn less money than those that teach teenagers or young adults. According to research on teachers salaries from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, those kindergarten and elementary school teachers earn a median income of $54,500 per annum.

Middle school teachers can expect to receive a median salary of $55,860, and high school teachers can expect to earn a lower median salary of $57,200 per annum. However, your experience also counts in what you make, as well. New teachers can expect entry-level salaries, regardless if they’re teaching elementary school or high school.


Salary Disparity in Teaching

Teachers teach for the love of the occupation, not for the money. Sure, money’s important, and they need it to survive, but it’s their passion that drives them.

It’s a sorry state of affairs that teachers don’t earn more money, especially since they help to mold and shape the impressionable minds of future generations of Americans. Education is the only difference between the developed and emerging economies, and it plays a significant role in the prosperity of any country.

Teachers typically earn less than other people with the same level of education in other occupations. However, there’s also a significant disparity in what teachers earn from state to state. In 2017, teachers in New York earned the highest salaries in the nation, with elementary school teachers bringing home $80,540, middle school teachers $80,940, and high school teachers $83,360, on average.

In Oklahoma, elementary school teachers earn $40,530, middle school teachers earn $42,040, and high school teachers make $41,880. As you can see, there’s a stark difference between what you can earn as a teacher, depending on where you live and work.

It seems rather strange that there should be such a difference in salaries. Both teachers in New York and Oklahoma teach the same subjects, the same curriculum, and they have the same responsibilities.

The States with the Highest Teacher Salaries

Elementary Schools

  • New York: $80,540
  • California: $77,990
  • Connecticut $77,900
  • Alaska: $77,030
  • District of Columbia: $76,950
  • Massachusetts: $76,590
  • New Jersey: $69,500
  • Virginia: $68,460
  • Rhode Island: $67,990
  • Maryland: $67,340

Middle Schools

  • New York: $80,940
  • Alaska: $79,430
  • Connecticut: $78,990
  • Washington, DC: $74,540
  • Massachusetts: $74,400
  • California: $74,190
  • Oregon: $73,630
  • New Jersey: $71,450
  • Virginia: $67,770
  • Illinois: $66,630

High Schools

  • Alaska: $85,420
  • New York: $83,360
  • Connecticut: $78,810
  • California: $77,390
  • New Jersey: $76,430
  • Massachusetts: $76,170
  • Virginia: $69,890
  • Oregon: $69,660
  • Maryland: $69,070
  • Illinois: $68,380

The States with Low Teacher Salaries

Elementary Schools

  • Oklahoma: $40,530
  • South Dakota: $41,570
  • Arizona: $44,220
  • Mississippi: $44,230
  • West Virginia: $45,530
  • North Carolina: $45,690
  • Idaho: $47,630
  • Arkansas: $48,110
  • Louisiana: $48,310
  • Florida: $48,340

Middle Schools

  • Oklahoma: $42,040
  • South Dakota: $42,520
  • Arizona: $43,670
  • West Virginia: $45,000
  • Mississippi: $45,320
  • North Carolina: $45,690
  • Arkansas: $49,130
  • Louisiana: $49,250
  • Alabama: $49,630
  • Florida: $49,780

High Schools

  • Oklahoma: $41,880
  • South Dakota: $41,980
  • North Carolina: $46,370
  • Mississippi: $46,370
  • West Virginia: $46,560
  • Arizona: $48,050
  • Idaho: $48,540
  • Alabama: $49,790
  • Kansas: $50,470
  • Louisiana: $50,700

(Source – The Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Employment and Wage Estimates, as of May 2017)

Many Teachers Struggle Financially

Teachers all over America are struggling financially to make ends meet. Those teachers that live in the economic hubs of New York and California earn the best salaries, but they still struggle to keep their heads above water financially.

Many teachers, all over the United States, resort to getting second jobs to keep up with the bills. Some teachers eventually crack under financial pressure and leave the profession for work in other industries that offer better salaries.

Some teachers find that the school district budget does not cover the children’s school needs. As a result, many teachers end up subsidizing their classrooms with teaching aids and textbooks, which they pay for themselves, further reducing their take-home income.

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How Can Teachers Earn More Income?

One of the best perks of being a teacher is that you get summer vacations when the school closes. While many teachers still have to work on their lesson plans for the following school year, they still have plenty of time on their hands during the summer.

Some teachers use this time of the year to get a second job to boost their earnings. Some of the side-hustles that teachers can take on in the summer include the following.

  • Driving for Uber.
  • Writing articles and research papers.
  • Delivering food.
  • Working as a counselor at summer camp.

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During the school year, teachers can boost their incomes with these extra-curricular activities.

  • Tutoring students.
  • Teaching adult classes at institutions.
  • Creating a curriculum.
  • Teaching summer school programs.

Teachers deserve better paychecks, but they have to deal with the budget set by the government, and every year, it seems like there’s less money pumped into the school systems. Considering the valuable role teachers play in the nation, we would think that the government would take more consideration when setting their education budgets.

However, despite the government’s lack of support for teachers, they still do a fantastic job of preparing young American adults for the real world, and without them, the United States faces a grim future.

In Closing – Does Teaching Offer You a Comfortable Financial Future?

By now, you should have a good idea of what you can expect to earn as a teacher in the United States. After reviewing the information, you need to take into account where you want to live and work as a teacher.

Choosing the right location is paramount for your financial future as an educator. While teachers in New York and California lead the nation in highest-paid teachers, they also have a tremendously high cost of living. Research shows that you need a salary of at least $100,000 if you want to live comfortably in these states, and teaching does not provide you with that level of income.

As a result, you’ll end up struggling to make ends meet, even with a side hustle to boost your income. You need to take careful consideration of your financial future as a teacher. While it’s a noble pursuit, putting yourself at risk of not being able to pay your bills is a frightening thought, especially when you’re working a full-time job.

Those teachers that are living with a partner might find that they have an easier time financially if their partner has a high-paying job that boosts the household income. If teaching is your passion, then chase your dreams, but be aware of the financial costs of your career, and what you’re missing out on if you take up another occupation with a better salary.




Oliver Dale is Editor-in-Chief of MoneyCheck and founder of Kooc Media Ltd, A UK-Based Online Publishing company. A Technology Entrepreneur with over 15 years of professional experience in Investing and UK Business.His writing has been quoted by Nasdaq, Dow Jones, Investopedia, The New Yorker, Forbes, Techcrunch & More.He built Money Check to bring the highest level of education about personal finance to the general public with clear and unbiased

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank or credit card issuer and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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