Typical Teacher Salary

No one goes into the field of teaching for the money or prestige. Let's face it - earning an education degree is a lot of hard work and takes a number of years. In most cases, you'll graduate already saddled with debt. You aren't going to step into a job where you'll be earning six figures in addition to generous bonuses, and you won't be rewarded for your exemplary work with trips to Fiji. You won't quickly climb the company ladder to a position as a vice president. So why do so many of us shine our professional light on the goal of becoming a teacher?

It's because of the pay, and the prestige. Of course, the pay we're referring to here isn't money, and the prestige isn't represented by a gold watch, a red carpet and applause wherever you go. The pay teachers earn is in the form of deep satisfaction, often on a daily basis, of knowing they've profoundly changed someone's life for the better. The prestige, of course, comes in the form of a hug from a young student, a thank you or even just a nod from an older one. Of course, most teachers have also created mental cheerleaders who clap, shout, dance, applaud and congratulate when they know they've accomplished something great.

Still, though, the world expects us to pay our bills, our children expect us to clothe them and take them on vacation, and dog expects a treat or two from time to time. The mortgage must be paid, the car maintained, and so forth. Life, as we all know, is expensive.

So how much do teachers make?

Of course, the salary a teacher is offered is based upon a number of things. Teachers who are at the beginning of their careers and hold a bachelor's education degree can't expect to be compensated at the same level as career teachers with masters or doctoral degrees. A teacher who has earned certifications or endorsements in special education, reading, or other specialties that are in high demand will receive a higher base salary than another teacher with equivalent education and experience but who lacks the specialty. Even geography makes a difference. Certain parts of the country are much more expensive to live in. It's logical that in order to attract quality teachers, areas that cost more will be required to pay more, as well.

Starting salaries for new teachers range from the mid $20,000s to high $30,000s. Alaska, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland and Hawaii pay at the upper end, while Maine, Wisconsin and North Dakota pay at the bottom of the range. Once a teacher has proven herself through time and experience, her salary reflects this. Average salaries range from the mid $30,000s to low $60,000s, with California and Connecticut being the highest paid states and the Dakotas paying the least. However, it's important to keep in mind that what might sound like a very large difference in pay can be erased by cost of living expenses.

Typically, high school teachers earn a few thousand dollars more than those who teach at the elementary school level. Middle school teachers fall in the middle in terms of pay.

Adding endorsements, certifications, or higher degrees are all ways of increasing pay. For example, a master's education degree typically adds between 5 and 7% to the basic salary. Over the course of a career, this is significant.

Alternative Teacher Compensation: A Primer (PDF)

Last Updated: 06/08/2014