How Many Hours Do Teachers Really Work?

We have a couple of friends who are married. One is a teacher, and one is not. The non-teacher is always poking fun at the teacher – seemingly mostly in jest- saying that the teacher doesn’t work a lot, gets out of work so early, and doesn’t have to work in the summer- the teacher has it so…. Easy! Right? Wrong.

Just because teacher’s don’t spend their summers in the classroom doesn’t mean their job is easy by any stretch of the imagination. The handy infographic below offers a few statistics on teachers. While we know that there are many exceptions to the rule (on either end of the spectrum!), many of you will relate to the life of a teacher described here. So, just how many hours do teachers really work?

The Average Teacher…..

  • Earns $49,000 per year
  • Works 9 months
  • Teaches 8 hours per day
  • Arrives early or stays late by about an hour
  • Spends 3-5 hours daily planning, grading, communicating with parents, attending meetings, etc.
  • Spends 2-4 weeks per year participating in continuing education
  • Spends 3 weeks per year planning curriculum
  • Spends 4 weeks per year getting ready for the new school year

Is this accurate for you? Do you spend more or less time on the aforementioned activities? We’d love to hear from you!



  1. Josain

    September 8, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    Interesting. As a 9 year middle school teacher with M.Ed. in Tucson, Arizona, I am making $15K/yr. less than the “average” teacher.

  2. Gin

    September 22, 2013 at 7:46 am

    Teachers continually have additional requirements mandated to them either from administration or from the district. This is in addition to planning and preparing for your individual daily lessons. My work day is endless. It is hard to carve out time for your personal life. If you don’t give up part of your summer to prepare ahead of time, you pay for it dearly once school starts. It can make the beginning of the year overwhelming.

  3. Joe

    September 28, 2013 at 9:39 pm

    I am always intrigued by the “getting ready” or “preparing” time. Who doesn’t have that in any job? If I added “prepare, sending emails or educating myself” to my schedule well I would have a 60-80 hour week with no summer vacation. I have numerous friends who are teachers and they have no problem enjoying their time off.

    • April

      October 2, 2013 at 9:49 pm

      I’m a teacher and I just got home. That’s right, I just got home after 8 o’clock because I was working at the school alone! Anyone who says teachers have it easy has never been a teacher, at least not a good one. People who go into this profession to have the extra time off suck as teachers and end up having to take some other position. We don’t just teach kids now, we raise them. I put in 10-11 hours per day plus take work home on the weekend! I care about whether or not my students are successful, apparantly, the “have it easy” teachers do not. My husband had the same option about teachers until I changed careers to become one. You should ask him now. His answer has changed and so should yours.

      • Eddie

        October 7, 2013 at 12:21 pm

        April, for me it’s not about thinking teachers have it easy. In fact, I think they have a bigger more daunting task of raising kids than parents do. And to top it off, they’re under paid and under recognized.

        HOWEVER (a big one), teachers are the only unionized group I’m aware of where its members are highly-educated. Typically unions are reserved for laborers (blue-collar). This paints teachers, in my humble opinion, as a workforce and not as the highly useful, high power intellectuals they are. And as such, we, society, perceive them as just another group of employees whining about money.

        My wife is a former high-school teacher, I’m an entrepreneur with an MBA.

      • rick

        November 8, 2013 at 11:44 am

        The key adjective in your statement is “alone”. My question would be, if you were alone then where were the other 30 teachers in your school? Here are some facts that I dug up: a entry level teacher in Manitoba makes $55000/Yr, has 5.5 contact hours a day in and elementary school setting for 200 days each year and retires after 30 years with 60% of their salary. I’m not an actuary or economist but it seems to me that entry level salary plus pension benefits works out to about $70000/yr of taxable income. Even if your “at home” work was equal to your contact time that means that your getting a minimum of $35/Hr! Exactly how much do you think a new grad with a bachelor’s degree and 2.5 GPA is worth?

        I really get tired of listening to teachers moan about their jobs when in reality; they only work 1100 hours per year which is a part time job to the rest of us in the real world. I think that the best thing that could happen is to privatize the entire sector and let them deal with a “for profit industry” like everyone else.

        • John

          December 4, 2013 at 10:36 pm

          Yes the average teacher in math and science may have a low GPA because people with high GPAs don’t want to make so little per year for that amount of exhausting work and such little respect from people like you. You see it’s a feedback loop, you complain about teachers and hence people don’t want to become teachers because you complain about them. I’m not a teacher, but basically my advisors in undergrad told me being a teacher was a waste of my talent. They told me I should become a professor or make a lot of money in industry and let less qualified people be teachers. If you don’t treat teachers with respect the best students who initially had a passion for teaching don’t become teachers, and hence you get worse teachers. I can charge $100 an hour tutoring rich kids math, if I wanted to (in fact I’ve done this). In a big city I am very confident I could make more as a private tutor than as a teacher, and my job would be way easier.

  4. SRV

    October 29, 2013 at 4:15 pm

    … so the myth continues… funny the teachers I’ve known well (well enough to speak honestly) are practically giddy about the perks of the job… but “toe the party line in public of course!

    . 8 hours a day teaching… funny, most school hours are 9 – 3, with at minimum a 45 min lunch break and of course few HS teachers have a full schedule of classes any day… so 8 becomes more like 4, with tons of time in between for prep and marking.

    . Let’s see… 2-3 months off for summer, a week in the fall, 2 weeks at Xmas, a week in the spring… tough sledding right (yes, I’m sure Ed Shultz at msnbc found his poor mom “up marking exams at 3:00 in the morning” all the time…lol).

    . If you chose to upgrade, and in most cases be financially rewarded for it, that’s your choice and your time (I did mine at night and on weekends and wouldn’t even consider defining it as working time).

    . Four weeks preparing for the new year… simply a laughable joke that destroys any credibility of the author.

    I have one issue only with teachers (and in my country conditions are significantly better than in the US)… they have a great job, that pays very well (especially considering the time off), is exceptionally rewarding (my perception), for the most part respected in society, etc, and I have never met one that doesn’t make a point of the inflated hardships (as this piece does).

    Just embrace it… celebrate it… be honest for heavens sake! You work hard (even though much less than the average management position), are respected and paid well, and get summers and two are three other blocks of time off a year (I went through 4 years with no more than a few days a year off as President of a mid size business… but of course was paid well)… it’s a good gig… just admit it!

    • Steve

      October 30, 2013 at 4:43 pm

      The reality is that no matter what teachers say about their job, most people have a perception that it is easy, has many holidays and that teacher just haven’t spent enough time in the “real world”. As a defence mechanism they tend to highlight the perks of the jobs once they realise that defending their hard work almost always falls on deaf ears. Remembering that pretty well everyone has an opinion on teachers and their holidays. At least once a week I hear “oh, you’re a teacher? I bet you enjoy having a quarter of the year off.” It’s much easier to say “yes” than go into a full job description.

    • ProudTeacher

      November 20, 2013 at 9:18 pm

      I was punched and kicked by a student today. But hey, we all have bad days right? No one is saying that teaching is more difficult than other jobs but I will point out that it is an extremely essential part of our society. Also, go ahead and mock the 4 weeks of prep time but that is a full blown reality. . and I teach kindergarten. Seems as though the people who know the least about teaching have the most to say. You stick to your business and I’ll stick to mine. Sometimes it is just nice to be recognized for the hard work instead of written off as a non-profession that’s most notable quality to a non-teacher is ‘has summers off’.

      Just a few notes on your thoughts. .

      You work hard (A complement soon to be negated by ->) (even though much less than the average management position)(HA!), are respected and paid well(weird..doesn’t feel that way, especially when people like you make these comments), and get summers and two are (<awesome) three other blocks of time off a year (blocks of time? where? when?. . . lies) (I went through 4 years with no more than a few days a year off as President of a mid size business… but of course was paid well)(How did you become president of a mid size business with all of that bad math and grammar?)… it’s a good gig… just admit it! (I love my job but not because of the 'respect', 'money', or 'time off'. . it's because I am contributing to the creation of a better, more intelligent, compassionate future)

  5. Larry Wood

    October 30, 2013 at 12:47 am

    First off, this entire article is written by a teacher…therefore it is extremely bias. Let’s look at that again shall we?

    Average work day – 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. That’s 7 hours, not 8.
    So, 1 hour before or after school? How about the “Majority” of teachers come less than 30 minutes before school starts, and leave typically 15 minutes or less than when their last student leaves for the day. Now factor in at least 45 minutes for lunch, and at least 45 minutes for prep(If not multiple preps). That’s 1 hour and 30 minutes taken away from a total of 7 hours, leaving us with a minimum of 5 hours and 30 minutes. I am required to work at least 7 FULL HOURS a day…in the same building.

    The whole “Here’s what teachers do in the summer” section is trumped by the pictures of enjoyment on a beach or some other location…while the rest of the world is stuck working an entire 3 months more.

    Within your “9 months” You also have – Spring Recess, Columbus Day/Thanksgiving/NJEA Convention, Christmas Break, New Years, MLK Day, Winter Break, Staff Development, and more half days in a year then I’ve had in my career. I’d say that’s more like ~7.5 full months of school if that?

    Myths seen above – Teachers don’t take summer workshops(If so, they’re a mere handful of days – usually partial days). Planning a curriculum should not be compared to the financial planning of an organization – it needs to match the common core curriculum standards that have been set for them…and coming in a month early is unheard of.

    Don’t get me wrong, the average 35+year old teacher may have had some mentioned qualities, but with nepotism growing faster than greed the “Average” teacher is now fresh out of college and wants nothing more than a life style that sets them up to enjoy a 3 month long vacation…annually.

    Who am I, you ask? I’ve spent the past 15 years working in a school building (As a 12-month administrative staff member) watching skillful teachers retire out of the system while the “I want to like, work less and like, make more” generation steps in. How dare any educator stand up for working 9 months in a year within an educational system that’s been failing so bad countries that use “Old books instead of shiny new iPads” are doubling our average student’s scores.

  6. Mark Biegler

    November 10, 2013 at 9:50 am

    I average about 80 hrs/wk as a high school teacher, most of the additional time after 40 hours is planning and grading. I realize many other people have jobs that require them to the work the same, but they usually get paid overtime or are compensated by a higher salary. I am not complaining, I choose to do the job. I just like to clear up the misconception that educators work less time than most other professions due to the fact that we are only in school for 10 months a year. 10 months x 80 hrs/wk = 3200 vs. 12 months x 60 hrs/wk = 2880.

  7. Cindy

    November 20, 2013 at 9:52 pm

    How very clueless so many of you are. I am a teacher – 5th grade- I got to school today at 7, got to prepare for the day for a few minutes, had a meeting at 7:45 until 8:30 when the kids started coming into my classroom, taught until 11 when I had to monitor lunch. At 11:30 I had a 30 minute lunch break where I ate at my desk, grading papers while checking my email and monitoring students who had to do makeup work in my classroom when they should have been at recess (they were absent yesterday), taught again until the students went to large group at 2, went straight to a staffing for a special ed. student which lasted 45 minutes. Had a few minutes to run to the restroom before the students came back from large group, taught again until taking them to the buses, only to rush to an after school meeting to learn that the state has changed the required days that we consider out school year so that we have to spread our pay over 13 months next year instead of 12 months. Yesterday I got to school early to tutor and I stayed until 5 to meet with my Recycling Club where we made posters and weeded our little garden. Not only do we teach nonstop we handle everything in between – with a smile and a hug. If we get off a week or if we enjoy our summers I guarantee it is because we have earned it and more. Before you are so quick to point out how little we do, come sit a day or two in my classroom. You might learn some respect for our profession. Now I need to get off of this computer and go grade papers until I drop in bed and get up before the sun to do it all over again. I can honestly say that I am not complaining, because I do love my job most of the time, but hearing criticism like this makes me wonder why sometimes.

  8. Ryan

    December 10, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    As a 24 year old who has a year and a half experience working in a corporate enviornment in a finance and accounting department, plain observation of what my friends who were fortunate enough to get a job on Long Island, NY as a teacher have in no way worked to the extent that I or the people I know working in the private sector deal with.

    Simply starting from college, my curriculum was an workload, getting a bachelors in accounting and a minor in finance from Binghamton University, it is a plain observation to myself and to so many people that it is just NOT as difficult to complete a 4 year degree in educational studies. To add to this point, my housemates in college were both Engineering majors, I have never seen so many all-nighters in succession to get machine code complete so it doesnt deal with an infinite regression. I would say to the teachers who compare their education level based strictly on the title of their degree (bachelors) that it is simply not a comparison of merit based on data and difficulty.

    Now onto the “real” world. My good friend (who is an excellent man and im positive a wonderful teacher) got a starting salary at 51,000 and change. My first year pay was roughly 67k (hourly w overtime) and my two housemates were about the same. My first year, including year end reconciliation and 10k reporting time resulted in an average flat out 53 hours a week, and only took 6 personal/sick days. Including the manditory 10 Federal Holidays, I had off 16 days from June 2012 to May 2012. Lunch break a quarter of the days I worked was not an option, and for many of the other days it was a luxury I needed to skip, and most importantly pay was not recongnized from any lunch break I could take, so lunch break is not factored into the 53 hours average. Simply put, my intercompany year end pay summary stated I worked 2,648 hours in 12 months. My friend who teachers, 1,500 roughly (according to him).

    If I was to propose a solution to this pension nightmare, I would say defined contributions need to be raised to 15%, all teachers should not contribute to Social Security, school administrators should not receive the same benefit scheme as teachers (herein lies most of the six-figure pension issues), Health benefits for teachers should not include spouces for life, rather just children and only until they are 26 years old (because of PPACA 26 must be the age).

    Teachers I could imagine why, especially the older ones, think you should heed any words about this from a damn 24 year old.. well here is my best shot to convince you:

    It is not that I want to come off as someone who believes you do not deserve excellent pay and more importantly holiday away from children, its that the current system you are in will result in your pension funds going bust and well before any teacher 5 years or less in their field will see attempts by the federal government to ‘bail out’ these funds, resulting in more and more of a bureaucratic takeover of your field and you will completely lose your individual ability to teach! State and local schools will have to continue to abide by top down rules, except instead of them coming from the state you will literally be receiving your curriculum standards by the parasitic lawyers in DC. You will be unable to reclaim your benefits placed in when the bailout needs to occur (think Cypris bailouts in the EU and think Social Security as soon as the number of people who collect exceeds the number who contribute) when this happens as well, and with the way it is going IT WILL HAPPEN.

    This is directed to older teachers and retired teachers, and most importantly Union leaders: You are lieing with your statistical analysis of our ability to pay these off. You are resulting in the greatest heist of potential in this wonderful field as a result of your conviction that you are serving the good of the public by assuming that red ink is irrelevant. WE ARE BROKE, the governments of the United States in all jurisdicition levels can not afford this anymore, we need to pull back teachers benefits, cut current and very near future retirees pension funds and health benefits, so that MY generation may stand a chance, because right now, you are killing all of my friends who wish to teach off.

  9. Grace

    December 12, 2013 at 9:48 am

    why teaching so difficult ? I, myself, with B.S. in Civil engineering, I had the chance to teach for sometime in a private institution.
    My opinion, we should expect teachers working hard for the low pay.

    duty for teachers

    1. 8 hours of teaching (Okay, try to speak 8 hours continuosly, even with the break in between, it will drain your energy. Even just for an hour, try and compare speaking for an hour with budgeting !!!
    you will know how physically draining it is to instruct hyper active young kids. also as someone mentioned above, teachers do teaching as well as raising them. If you are parents, you should know very well how hard it is to hand your own kids, in max. maybe 3 ?? now say one adult handling 10~ 15 students is easy ??? much much easier to work with and converse with co-workers !!

    3. 3~5 hours of planning ?? No it takes much much longer than that.
    honestly how many students write so well that they require minimal correction and attention!! reading and correcting their papers ? will give you headache

    4. not just the kids, have to handle their parents, sometimes raise the parents too!!!

    5. come 1 hour before or stay after ?? only one hour ??
    No, obviously they have to stay longer. if they leave early, probably they are taking students’ papers and tests with him or her to home.

    6. oaky if you still disagree how demaning how hard teaching is …
    imagine yourself being surrounded by 15 or more kids whole day !!!!

  10. Grace

    December 12, 2013 at 10:04 am

    Just imagine yourself being surrounded by 15 or more kids whole day, and 5 days per week !!!! after being surrounded by those little hyperactive kids for 9 month, i think teachers they do need 3 month break to recuperate. even during that 3 month break, eventhough it appears as a break, they are still working, holding meetings, discussing, training, preparing, and etc.

    there is no such easy job. let’s give them more respect, especially primary and secondary teachers.