Teacher Salary – What to Expect?

Choosing to become a teacher may be one of the more noble decisions one can make in life. Teachers have the ability to shape the lives of children and young adults of varying ages and in a variety of learning stages. Though teaching is a noble profession, it is one that has often been in a battle to gain the wages deserved.

Average Teaching Salaries

Average teaching salaries can vary greatly from state to state. In addition to a teacher's salary, it is very important to factor in the benefits teachers receive along with the working schedule/vacations. Read more about teacher benefits.

West Virginia has one of the lowest average starting rates of about $33,000, while the average teacher in New York makes about $75,000 yearly. However, the average for all states is in the upper 40 to lower 50 thousand range. While salaries have increased a bit over time, some states have shown more growth than others. In addition, cost of living in any area can affect how much a teacher can actually bring home each year. Most states offer some level of pay increase for teachers who gain higher education degrees, some up to ten percent or more for each additional level. However, those with Doctorate Degrees are more likely to hold positions that are not classroom teachers so the pay varies greatly.

RELATED - If We Pay Teachers, They Will Come

Starting Salaries By State (2012-2013)

The data for the table below has been obtained from the NEA Collective Bargaining/Member Advocacy's Teacher Salary Database, based on affiliate reporting as of December 2013.

StateAverage Starting Salary
Alabama$36,198
Alaska$44,166
Arkansas$32,691
Arizona$31,874
California*$41,259
Colorado$32,126
Connecticut$42,924
District of Columbia*$51,539
Delaware$39,338
Federal Education Association$45,751
Florida$35,166
Georgia$33,664
Hawaii$41,027
Iowa$33,226
Idaho$31,159
Illinois$37,166
Indiana$34,696
Kansas$33,386
Kentucky$35,166
Louisiana$38,655
Massachusetts$40,600
Maryland$43,235
Maine$31,835
Michigan$35,901
Minnesota$34,505
Missouri$30,064
Mississippi$31,184
Montana$27,274
North Carolina$30,778
North Dakota$32,019
Nebraska$30,844
New Hampshire$34,280
New Jersey$48,631
New Mexico$31,960
Nevada$35,358
New York$43,839
Ohio$33,096
Oklahoma$31,606
Oregon$33,549
Pennsylvania$41,901
Rhode Island$39,196
South Carolina$32,306
South Dakota$29,851
Tennessee$34,098
Texas$38,091
Utah$33,081
Virginia$37,848
Vermont$35,541
Washington$36,335
Wisconsin$33,546
West Virginia$32,533
Wyoming$43,269

*2011-2012

Salary Comparison Tool

Although most educators do not enter the profession just for the salary, it is something we all consider. This tool will allow you to easily search and compare the average salaries of various careers in education throughout the United States. You can search by city and state. All salary data is sourced from BLS.gov.

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Another thing to consider is many school districts have pay structures that incentivize additional post credential credits to increase annual salaries.

Example to showcase this point; San Mateo - Foster City school district certified salary pay structure below. While getting your credential is key to becoming a certified teacher, getting a masters in education or other masters level degree will increase your salary by $1,000 per year immediately, however obtaining additional post secondary education credits is a crucial step in maximizing salary benefits. You'll notice in the below example a teacher with five years experience will earn more than $5100 if within the IV Tier compared to the credentialed teacher in the I Tier and over $4100 more than a teacher with only a masters and no additional credits.

We highly recommend taking these additional classes to earn the additional credits necessary to jump into the IV Tier. You'll substantially increase your lifetime earnings by focusing on increasing credits early on in your career.

Source: San Mateo-Foster City School District - Certified Salary Schedule (2016-2017)

Job Growth

Teaching jobs, especially those in Math and Science fields, will most likely always be readily available for qualified teachers. If there is a shortage area, these subject areas tend to offer the added benefit of repaying part or all of the teacher's student loans for acquiring the degree. Overall, the teaching field is one that is growing at a normal to above normal rate with salaries rising slowly (BLS.gov).

Added Benefits

Teachers do tend to have a local credit union option that offers a higher than average interest and access to a retirement plan. Insurance is also part of the teaching profession and decent insurance is often available at a reasonable price. In addition, most states allow ten month employees (teachers) to alter their income to be paid as twelve month employees. This does not mean pay is increased, but that it is paid out differently over the school year and summer.

Preschool Teacher Salary

Preschool teachers have a wide range of possibilities as far as locations in which they can teach. Preschool teachers can be found in public, private, or charter schools, as well as in day care centers, churches, or in homes. Due to the variety of settings, the salary can also vary greatly. The highest paid individuals in actual school settings average about $42,000 yearly, while those working in day care centers as teachers average about $25,000 yearly. Salaries vary widely by area and can increase over time. As daycare centers are more necessary with more parents in the workforce, worker salary has increased. Preschool teaching is also a growing field with more certified teachers necessary at this time. In fact this area of education is growing at a much higher than average rate.

Find out more about becoming a Preschool Teacher.

How Will Education Affect a Preschool Teacher's Pay?

A preschool teacher's salary may vary based on education levels, but only slightly depending on the setting. Those preschool teachers working in day care centers may or may not have point systems as they are often private companies that set their own pay scale and/or point systems. However, those in day care settings may see a greater increase as higher education levels often lead to lead teacher positions or director positions within a center.

How Will Experience Affect a Preschool Teacher's Annual Pay?

Years of experience for the preschool teacher will also vary depending on the setting in which the teacher is working. Those in a school district may gain extra money by teaching for a set number of years, but this varies between districts. Those in a day care setting may earn higher salaries from the beginning or be given increases based on the number of years taught. Years experience in preschool environments will be a hiring factor for most preschool teaching positions.

Elementary School Teacher Salary

Elementary/Primary school teachers are those that typically teach grades kindergarten through the fifth grade, though some schools may also include sixth grade or preschool programs. These teachers are responsible for teaching every subject area each day to a single class of students. These teachers will retain the same students for the entire year to teach and monitor for progress.

Read more about becoming a certified Elementary School Teacher.

Average Salary for Elementary School Teacher

Certified elementary school teachers average about $53, 500 per year, but the range is great varies by state. The lowest paid elementary teachers can make around $36,000 yearly with the highest paid grossing about $86,500 yearly. This includes public, private, and charter schools that chose to report teacher salaries. However, private school salaries are on average about $10,000 less a year. Though elementary school teacher salaries are increasing, it is not at a rapid rate. This is expected to continue as teaching unions often lobby and fight for better pay as cost of living increases occur.

How Will Education Affect an Elementary School Teacher's Pay?

Earning a higher education degree may also increase pay in some school districts, though this varies from state to state. Most teachers who have a Master's Degree will see about a $7,000 increase yearly with a Doctorate Degree earning another increase of that amount or more.

Salary Point System

Some states work on a salary point system in which the teacher must earn points through classes and professional development. Most schools have set amounts that must be earned to be bumped to the next salary class. This is usually between 10 and 15 points, but can vary. Points can be earned through taking classes and will also boost retirement over time.

Some districts are changing pay increases based on degrees earned as teachers are being held more accountable for student test schools as opposed to their personal education levels. Though teachers unions are not fighting this premise it is a concern that salaries will become too dependent on test scores and stay stagnant at all levels.

How Will Experience Affect an Elementary School Teacher's Yearly Income?

Many school districts, though not all, will offer salary increases at certain levels for educators. Often this is at the five, ten, twenty, and thirty year mark with increases reflective of the districts pay scale. Those districts with pay points may not offer increases based on experience as a point system is in place. In addition, if a teacher changes districts or states, years of experience may not be counted toward pay in the new area. Each school district can offer this information prior to hiring a candidate and this may also change often.

High School Teacher Salary

High school teachers most often teach a single subject to multiple classes throughout the day. These classes may be of one grade level or of different grade levels depending on the school or district.

Average Salary for a High School Teacher

High School teacher salaries vary by state and even district with the average being about $56,200 yearly. However, the range is great with the lowest end of that being $34,000 and the higher ranges falling in the mid $70,000 range. However, this does not include the added health or retirement benefits. Education salaries have increased over the years, but not a great amount. Teachers are often thought to be underpaid, but a significant increase has not occurred in most districts. That being said, student progress and achievement is quickly becoming the standard for which teacher salaries are based.

Are you interested in becoming a certified High School Teacher? Click on the link to find out how.

How Will Education Affect a High School Teacher's Annual Income?

Earning a higher education degree may also increase pay in some school districts, though this varies state to state. Most teachers who have a Master's Degree will see about a $7,000 increase yearly with a Doctorate degree earning another increase of that amount or more. However, most teachers who hold a Doctoral degree are no longer in the classroom as day to day teachers. At the high school level, an additional degree often means an additional subject area which could lead to teaching multiple subject areas. This could create a wider job market and higher salary for some, depending on the subject area.

Salary Point System for Teachers

Some states work on a salary point system in which the teacher can earn points through classes and professional development. The more points a teacher earns, the more their yearly salary will increase. Most schools have set amounts that must be earned to be bumped to the next salary class. This is usually between 10 and 15 points, but can vary. Points can be earned through taking classes and will also boost retirement over time. The points are often given at a one to one ratio, with one semester long class being equal to a single point.

How Will Experience Affect a High School Teacher's Yearly Income?

Most school districts, though not all, will offer salary increases at certain levels for educators. This could be yearly or at another established mark. The increase is reflective of the district's pay scale. Those districts with pay points may not offer increases based on experience as a point system is in place. At the high school level, those teachers with advanced placement certification or teaching experience may be given a bonus or increase for those teaching advanced placement classes. In addition, if a teacher changes districts or states, years of experience may not be counted toward pay in the new area. Each school district can offer this information prior to hiring a candidate and this may also change often.

Special Education Teacher Salary

A special education teacher works with students who have exceptionalities in various areas related to education. These teachers may work with students with physical or mental limitations. Special education teachers may even work with students who are highly gifted and talented. A special education teacher can expect to average about $50,000 yearly, though this ranges greatly among and between states and districts. On average, private school teachers earn about $10,000 less than their public school counterparts. As special education teachers have become more necessary to meet the needs of individual students, pay has increased dramatically and is expected to increase at a rate equivalent to or faster than regular education teachers.

Visit our How to Become a Special Education Teacher career page.

How Will Education Affect a Special Education Teacher's Pay?

Special education teachers make about the same on average as regular education teachers. However, special education teachers are typically not responsible for a classroom of their own. Special education teachers in the public sector can earn an increased salary with the more higher education classes they take or degrees their earn.

Salary Points for a Teacher

Across the nation, on average, the more education and experience a teacher has, the more they will get paid. This is often kept track of with a school district's salary scale. Continuing education and years of experience work together to move teachers up the salary scale. Those with advanced degrees such as Master's Degrees in the school system will see a pay increase in most states.

How Will Experience Affect a Special Education Teacher's Annual Income?

Years of experience will often make a big difference in a Special Education teacher's salary. Depending on the school or district, a teacher can get an increase in salary with every year worked. The actual amount that the salary is increased by will vary from district to district. Amount will also vary greatly for private and charter schools. Often times, private school teachers earn less than public school teachers.

Salary for Teacher Assistants

A teacher's assistant is not typically required to hold a Bachelor's Degree, so the average pay is much lower than that of the teacher in charge. A teacher's assistant averages about $21,000 yearly with a slight range between $19,300 and $27,400. This will increase slightly as the cost of living increases, but will not rise significantly. Most teaching assistants who work within the school systems are offered insurance comparable to that of certified teacher's if in a salaried position. However, teaching assistants may be expected to perform duties not related to teaching such as lunch duty or bus duty as needed.

If you are interested in becoming a Teaching Assistant, click on the link to find out what it will take to do so.

How Will Experience Affect a Teacher Assistant's Pay?

Years of experience do not typically affect the pay scale of a teaching assistant, though experience is likely to help in the initial hiring process.

Public School Pay vs. Private School Pay

Most teachers have an option to teach at either public or private school. Few teachers even switch from one to the other in time. Public schools tend to have set salaries by district or state that vary little for each teacher. However, private schools are often tuition paid and teacher salaries can vary greatly, as can expectations of each teacher. On average, private school teachers earn about $10,000 - $15,000 less a year than those working in public schools. Those teaching in prestigious private schools will likely have the highest salaries, but will need to have the competitive edge to gain the job in the first place. Those who choose to teach in independent charter schools can expect a lower pay scale as these schools are supported by communities and donations as well as public funds, limiting what monies are available.

Private schools are not required to answer to school districts as they are not supported by public funds. This means the curricula as well as salaries are set by the school. This includes salary cuts and increases as determined by the organization. Though the initial salary may be higher at private schools, these schools do not necessarily offer a retirement fund, pension, or full health coverage for individual teachers.

Benefits Associated with a Teacher's Yearly Income

Becoming a teacher can be a life changing experience. Salary is not the only benefit to working in the public school system.

Retirement Plan

All public school teachers have a retirement plan that begins collecting money immediately. In addition a pension plan is typically an option for teacher's who put in enough years. Private schools may or may not offer this benefit, as it will depend on individual schools. Pension is a benefit that is becoming scarce in many industries, so it is important to take this benefit into consideration when analyzing a teacher's salary.

Health Benefits

Health benefits are offered to all public school teachers with a portion of the pay going into the overall chosen plan. Health benefits usually cover health, dental, and vision. Although most private schools will also offer health benefits to their teachers, the degree to which it is offered will vary from school to school.

A Teacher's Schedule

One benefit that many appreciate is the schedule most educators hold. Most schools work on a 180 days school year schedule with summer breaks for two months. This means a ten month year for employees with weekends, most holidays, and scheduled breaks off during the year. In addition, some areas have numerous snow days each year. Days are typically eight hours long with a slight variation. Those who teach in year round schools typically teach a term and then have 6 to 8 weeks off in a continual cycle. However, all teachers will admit that some planning and preparation are needed prior to and following the school day.

If you are interested in becoming a teacher, check out our Is Teaching Right For Me? page.