Teacher Salaries: Everything You Wanted To Know

The US Census Bureau recently released data and an associated infographic that explores education workers in the US and their salaries. Since there’s always a lot of hubbub about how much teachers make (or don’t make, as the complaint usually goes), this offers some interesting insight into how many teachers are out there and how much they’re really making. Keep reading to find out more.

Highlights

  • Education workers account for 57% of all state and local government employees (that’s 11.1 million education workers)
  • 48% of those workers are elementary and secondary instructors (that’s 5,328,000 teachers)
  • The average monthly pay for an education worker in 2011 was $4,278. (or $51,336 yearly)
  • California and New Jersey boast the highest paid education workers.
  • In ten states, the average monthly wages for an education worker are under $3,499

teacher salaries information

[Source: U.S. Census Bureau]

53 Comments

  1. Gayle Simone

    April 14, 2013 at 7:58 pm

    People see the “average” and assume all teachers make that amount. I’ve been a teacher for eight years and make $40,000 a year and due to state cutbacks I am basically frozen in that salary. It only took me 15 years to get my teaching position and I am 52 yrs old.

    • Thu Ngyen

      April 15, 2013 at 1:42 pm

      But, teachers also work only 186 days in a year, mostly from 7:30 to 3:30 PM. Not bad

      • Gregg Mock

        April 15, 2013 at 1:59 pm

        People forget that teachers also have alot of grading and planing in their job. So it may appear that they work from 7:30-3:30 but they may actually for from 7-6 everyday.

        • Jason

          April 15, 2013 at 2:44 pm

          Um-No. My teachers graded items in class while we did other things. Multitasking. They get a lot of time off.

          • Ben

            April 15, 2013 at 9:54 pm

            Well, go you for being incredibly ignorant to teachers’ situations. They do get summers off, yes. But they also don’t get paychecks over the summer; they have to find temp jobs just like students.

            Also, you know why they graded things during class? Because they probably had to grade papers from 150 students and were able to get to 5-10 of those during your class period. Think before you speak, young one.

        • R Klempner

          April 15, 2013 at 3:27 pm

          Not only do teachers plan and grade on “their time,” but many work additional jobs after school or over the summer (or both) just to make ends meet. And they may also be in graduate school P/T to gain additional expertise. It has been YEARS since my husband has worked 7:30-3:30.

        • Jim

          April 15, 2013 at 3:34 pm

          Good teachers work 7-6. A teacher will spend about 1000 hours teaching class (and sometimes after school stuff) and a good teacher will spend more than 1000 hours in prep, marking, etc. The teacher put in about 2000 hours a year in just 10 month – the typical worker puts in 8 hours a day to be around the 2000 mark too but they accompished it in 12 months. It is fair trade to get summer off and if I could teach I would.

        • Jim

          April 16, 2013 at 2:14 pm

          I second that!

          I am a teacher in Quebec Canada, teaching web/mobile development. While it is true that we get summer off, one could agree that it is not the teacher’s choice, but the system itself that allows it. Sometimes, teachers will work during summer because of summer classes. One thing that is great though: I get paid 12 months a year, so I do have paychecks coming during summer, but it is in fact my own money (10 months salary spreaded on twelve months duration), not (as many think) the government money…

          As for the “free time” teachers get, I can assure you that it is a 7/7 job…Let’s say I enter job at 9 o’clock in the morning and leave at 6, then I usually work from 7pm to 11pm, preparing my next classes, debugging students or grading…

          I cannot remember the last weekend off I had, I always have to work on weekends, (talk to my girlfriend :)). Don’t get me wrong here, I am not crying over my job, in fact it is the best job in the world and the real paycheck is the accomplishements of the students.

          For the money, I make a pretty decent living (50,000$) per year, but I could easily make more working in private field. If I do the math between the hours paid and the hours worked, I get about 14-16$ an hour since we only get paid 32.5 hours (never changes) but I usually work about 55 hours a week…

          Hope this will break some misconceptions about teachers…

      • Ram Neta

        April 15, 2013 at 4:32 pm

        When do they grade, plan their lessons, and keep current on pedagogical methods? I am a highly paid physician, and I don’t work nearly as hard as my kids’ elementary school teachers.

      • Burt

        April 16, 2013 at 4:01 pm

        You think it’s easy? Try it

  2. Mir

    April 15, 2013 at 1:39 am

    The old schooling system was great for the industrial age. However the industrial age is now over and the information age is current however it will be ending in the next 5 or 10 years. Education must evolve into finding solutions, inventing, innovating, and thinking outside of the shape. Not rudimentary behavior. Everything starts from our Government being updated to the Digital Age, and properly so.

  3. Tim McCormick

    April 15, 2013 at 4:33 am

    The article uses terms “pay”, “salary” and “wages,” each of which could mean different things. For many purposes, the most useful basis of comparison would be a different and more all-inclusive figure: estimated total compensation cost, including all present compensation and benefits, and estimated current cost of deferred benefits. For many workers this is much larger than “salary” or “wages” — particularly for public-sector workers, and particularly in some states like California with very large benefit costs. Not accounting for this true compensation and cost tends to greatly distort discussions of worker pay.

    I discuss this issue and a proposed neutral approach for estimating and discussing total costs in “Tools for political truthiness: the public, total-compensation calculator” (http://tjm.org/2011/08/12/tools-for-political-truthiness-the-public-total-compensation-calculator/).


    Tim McCormick
    @tmccormick Palo Alto, CA

  4. Jason

    April 15, 2013 at 10:20 am

    What this leaves out is that teachers very often spend hundreds of dollars a month of their own money buying supplies and other basics for their kids, especially at the poorest schools. So you can knock a few thousand off the reported numbers.

    • james

      April 15, 2013 at 12:17 pm

      That is very true…My wife is a teacher and she is always buying supplies for her students…Its a shame that her school does not even let her expense the items that she purchases….

    • Russell

      April 15, 2013 at 1:57 pm

      That is not a requierment for the job and is on the teacher, much like using your own money to wash a company car. I’m unmoved.

      • Concerned Citizen

        April 15, 2013 at 2:22 pm

        Then why don’t you pay for your own office supplies if you work in an office, or your own medical supplies if you’re a nurse. “I’m unmoved” – spoken from true ignorance

      • JD

        April 15, 2013 at 2:28 pm

        You are unmoved until you realize that your child cannot read because of lack of funding. The teachers do not do it because it is cool. They do it because of the unrealistic expectation to achieve a level of scholastic performance that is mandated by the state and federal government without the proper resources. In summary, if you work at a poor school, you must pony up your own money or risk losing your job.

        • DJ

          April 15, 2013 at 2:40 pm

          If a child cannot read, it is the parents fault. No way am I leaving it up to the teacher to teach my children to read. That’s a basic skill needed for life. And lack of funding has nothing would be a weird argument to make on learning to read. I wonder how much funding the pilgrims had?

          • R Klempner

            April 15, 2013 at 3:29 pm

            The pilgrims didn’t take algebra and most would be considered functionally illiterate today.

          • Concerned Citizen

            April 15, 2013 at 3:49 pm

            It is the parent’s fault. They need to send their children to school with basic knowledge. Many parents can’t even write. Watch Judge Judy for a bit and you’ll see the disgusting parents before her. Or perhaps you saw the video of that women on a bus that threw her child to a passenger so she could fight with someone. Teachers cannot fix broken, abused or neglected children. If the child can’t or won’t learn there’s little anyone can do. Let’s start by fixing the parents, although I know that’s a pipe dream

        • Tim

          April 15, 2013 at 2:48 pm

          ummmm…which is fully tax deductible…

          • msteacher

            April 16, 2013 at 9:31 pm

            Actually, only $250 is tax deductible. I’ve spent thousands over the past nineteen years buying books and supplies for my students because otherwise, they would have been out of luck. If not for my classroom library, my students would not have had access to high quality books. So please, before you make an unintelligent comment on something you seem to know little about, try educating yourself a bit more.

        • DJH

          April 15, 2013 at 2:52 pm

          The burden of “education” is not solely on the school or teacher. My mom taught me to read, even though I went to a good school. What kind of parent is so un-involved in their child’s life that because the child can’t read they place that blame solely on the school. Parent your children. Love them enough to be involved in their life and don’t pass the buck to a stranger that has to divide their time between 20 kids for 6 hours a day.

  5. Quentin

    April 15, 2013 at 10:26 am

    Using this to broadcast ‘teacher salaries’ is a bit misleading in that this data include salaries for non-teacher education employees (administrators, etc.) which are typically much higher than teacher salaries. I’d be interested to see the same infographc filtered to include ONLY full time, teacher positions.

    Also, one highlighted tagline is a bit misleading: “The average education employee makes $4,208 monthly”. No published sub-group (Higher ed., Higher ed Instr., Other Elem/Sec, Elem/Sec Instr., which according to the same publisher account for 99% of all education employees) makes more than than $4,045 on average??? What? Oh – I see that first number ($4,208) is ONLY for full time employees, and the rest of the infographic is for ALL employees. So basically this is a mashup of apples and oranges… Nice.

  6. Tim

    April 15, 2013 at 11:33 am

    The numbers are totally wrong. How they are tallied is totally wrong. Take NYC for example….teacher pay is an abysmal $40K per annum if that. Yet…if one were to go to the neighboring boros (westchester county…suffolk) average teacher pay is $80,000 per annum. You have got to be kidding. Bottom line, if you are a teacher or state / city employee you are on easy street and will never get fired. Yet…year in and year out, our kids do worse and worse with zero accountability and complaints about lack of funds. Switch to a performance – pay model and lets see how things change.

    • Annette Hannah

      April 15, 2013 at 11:43 am

      completely agree; if the public education system were a private corporate, most would have been fired decades ago, and rightly so. A convicted pedophile will have a 6-figure salary as a teacher demanded for life, while working in a room that has nothing to do with being a teacher; and while the union commands the pedophiles have a ‘right’ to teach children. They do not. Chicago is a classic example of everything that is currently wrong with the K-12 system; teacher’s bringing in salaries of $80K and above, while demanding more time off, and demanding that same salary for life after they only put in 20 yrs. Unions destory everything they touch since the early 1970′s.

      • Tim

        April 15, 2013 at 2:04 pm

        And that is the ‘reality’ that people refuse to look at….so sad :(

      • Bango Skank

        April 15, 2013 at 2:20 pm

        Private schools pay higher salaries, charge higher fees, and get to select the students. Yet oddly enough even with those advantages, charter schools on average do no better in performance, so I guess privatising isn’t the answer.

        As for the rest, do you have some evidence for your claim that there are teachers who earn six figures and are convicted pedophiles?
        .. or did have have a bit of a moment there?

        • Mike

          April 15, 2013 at 3:15 pm

          Where do you get your data from? On an anecdotal basis, I’ve found everything you just claimed to be completely wrong.

      • Concerned Citizen

        April 15, 2013 at 2:25 pm

        If the education system were privatized most of the so called administrators, superintendents and non-teachers positions should be fired, for they are truly not understanding the challenges of teaching in a growing minority based population that has no English language skills, and are illiterate in their own language. The situation is desperate.

    • Chris

      April 15, 2013 at 12:12 pm

      Tim, you are a bit mistaken on a few of your points. Let me start by saying that I am not a teacher. I too live in New York, and you are correct, the annual pay for NYC teachers is abysmal. However, I have to disagree with the “easy street” and “never get fired” comments. I assume what you are referring to is tenure and it is true, teachers are eligible for tenure after three consecutive years of teaching in New York State for a school district. However, during those three years teachers are at will employees and can be terminated at any time and for any reason. Additionally, teachers live and die by the school budget. While it is true that many long-term tenured teachers no longer worry about a school budget passing, most teachers are concerned each year as their careers lie in the hands of the budget makers and the voting public.

      You also stated that there is zero accountability. You are wrong on this point as well. Teachers are held to one of the strictest performance reviews imaginable. They are subject to multiple observations by their administrators every year. These are typically surprise visits in which their administrator sits in their classroom, observes their lesson and then provided feedback/criticism on their performance. Imagine if your boss decided to spend a few hours with you a couple of times a year while you worked and then critiqued you on your performance. It would be nerve racking to say the least but in the end, I’m sure you would have an accurate depiction on your overall performance. I call this accountability.

      Your final point included a switch to a performance-pay model which has been an arguing point for the past few years. On the surface, the idea is perfect. Pay teachers based on the level of education our children are receiving. However, what we fail to realize is that there is an ever growing population of children with learning disabilities that are main streamed into everyday classrooms. Teachers must differentiate their lesson plans in order to accommodate these students since they are not classified as special education (whether it be for overall cost or for lack of parent participation). Due to situations such as these, a pay for performance model may be difficult to execute effectively and appropriately.

      Again, I am not a teacher, however, I feel that teachers often do not get the credit that they deserve (along with police officers and fire fighters). These men and women have one of the most important jobs in the country. Without them, we do have doctors, business leaders, politicians, etc. And Tim, I do not know what you do for a living, but I can guarantee that you would not be where you are without the help of teachers along the way.

      • Tim

        April 15, 2013 at 1:51 pm

        Hey Chris –

        My apologies for wearing my heart on my sleeve and not fully explaining my points. I say ‘easy street’ in part because after the ‘at will’ period, their post is essentially (to a big degree) safe. Yes you are absolutely correct when you say that the administrators/teachers are at the mercy annually to the state budget. Funny how every year there is a huge cry for lack of money YET somehow thru the use of sprinkled fairy dust plus public pressure, money arrives. So, I do agree with your statement but unfortunately it contains some inaccuracies. As a native NY’er for many years, I have had a front seat (along with millions of other NY’ers) in seeing the same song and dance year in and year out and thats where the accountability is lacking. The current Mayor of NYC has tried for years to change it into a performance pay model by disrupting the current structure of the BoE in NYC and the corruption that has permeated the hallways for years. Its turning out to be quite a fit. Ergo, teachers enjoy ‘easy street’ because of these factors. As a city/state…we need to regress back to the fundamentals where parent involvement wasnt so much encouraged but required. I recall when I was a child, my folks were required to attend sessions with admin/staff to discuss progress, ideas, etc. Nowadays, its all about options and types of access and excuses (to be very honest). Forgive me for sounding like a frustrated parent but i for one look at the system here in total disgust.

      • Concerned Citizen

        April 15, 2013 at 2:26 pm

        Well said and thank you for your honest input.

    • Tim

      April 15, 2013 at 1:57 pm

      Hi Patty -

      Great points all around…however…..we both know that a huge chunk of those in the profession do so for the perks. Its an unfortunate reality. Case in point….I was at a Starbucks with my 4 year old son….indulging on over priced coffee and ‘organic’ chocolate milk. A group a people were sitting next to us ‘complaining’ like children about the lack of money they receive which isnt enough for their lifestyle. Yet…when they left…they got into their range rovers while blasting the kids that they ‘teach’. There was no mention about spending more time on lesson plans or techniques to improve on how to communicate with kids. You sound like an idealist and I applaud you for it….but unfortunately it is not reality. Oh…and lets not forget those wonderful ‘teachers and admin’ who continue to abuse their power and influence and take advantage of the kids in their care. So sad :(

    • Bango Skank

      April 15, 2013 at 2:13 pm

      So will you allow the teacher to select the kids they get to teach and the curriculum?
      Or do you pay according to performance but give them no control over either the raw materials or the tools.

  7. Annette Hannah

    April 15, 2013 at 11:40 am

    Teachers could earn more, and have a much higher graduation rate nationally if the federal government were removed, and the unions were not involved. Education should be returned to the local and state levels only. The federal government has -0- business in K-12 education – and the results of their intrusiveness and control is that less students graduate, of those that do, there are < 50% who are able to actually read and comprehend what it takes for a factory job. Privitizing public education at the state and local level would go along way to paying teachers what they should be earning, graduating more students with a higher capacity for learning in a modern, technology age, and removing the union demands – which only serve the union bosses who run up the states' and federal governments costs. It is currently a brain drain, with the US public school systems only ranking at half or below globally. Teachers deserve alot better, but will never have the ability to earn more with the feds and unions involved.

    • rmslusk

      April 15, 2013 at 2:12 pm

      So we are blaiming poor graduates rates because a teacher doesn’t make enough money? Are you saying teachers don’t give it their best and can only be encouraged with money?
      I agree department of education is a place for the elite to put their friends. Remove the Federal government from our educational systen and let states compete to see who is best!

  8. Annette Hannah

    April 15, 2013 at 11:46 am

    The Dept of Education needs to end immediately. It is a petri dish of corruption, pay-to-play scams, backroom deals, fraud, waste, and abuse. And until it does end, the K-12 system will only continue to foster uneducated children, and children who cannot compete in the next generations to come. The US education system used to be a global leader -and currently, it is barely in the top half thanks solely to the Dept of Ed and the union bosses, who demand teachers’ contribute to their lavish lifestyles – while giving nothing back. No one is entitled – no one is entitled to a job for life – and no one is entitled to drain a taxpayer funded system dry for their own selfish reasons.

  9. Diane

    April 15, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    I have been teaching for three years. I am at the base salary for a teacher in my state. Based on a 12 month pay scale, I am making $3,400/month. I take home under $2,400 per month, and I don’t even purchase the health benefit from my district. I work at least 50 hours per week, and usually more. There is no way I could support my children and myself on this income, especially if I had to purchase the health benefit and with the amount of money I have to put into my classroom every month. As it is, with two children in daycare, over half of what I make goes to pay for that, but I know that it will pay off once they are both of school age.

    • Tim

      April 15, 2013 at 1:59 pm

      Diane….may i ask what state/district you work in?

  10. Jillian

    April 15, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    Where are the non-instructional education salaries indicated in this study?…or are they lumped inside the data. This article…while informative…is data without context. My school district is small compared to other California districts and our Superintendent makes over $200K and has three administrative staff who handle clerical, logistical and special projects who all make over $100k/each annually. The issue has never been what the Teachers make…or don’t make…it has always been about the waste and fraud at the non-instructional levels in Big Education and its Unions.

  11. chris

    April 15, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    teaching is not a life time job for most people, if your 50 plus yrs and now thinking your
    at a low pay level. You should have looked for better jobs in your 30′s or even early 40′s
    jobs that you can move up in, or you should have started your own company. Stop your
    crying!! Your in a job that’s the simplest and safest for you and your family
    NO hard work NO Gain
    thanks to Unions

  12. Mike

    April 15, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    There are lies, bigger lies, and statistics. So far in the comments, we have educators weighing in to claim they make far less than 50k/year. Looking at the statistics, we see they completely ignore the ridiculous benefits and unsustainable pensions which become collectible at age 50.

    In other words, none of these summary numbers tell the whole story of the true cost to the tax payer, or the actual amount received by the educators for their part time work.

    The bigger story, however, has nothing to do with the numbers and everything to do with broken. nonsensical, demotivational environment that are our public schools. The system is failing both the educators and the students because it is little more than a government bureaucracy that caters to the special interests of the Unions. Private schools in the k-12 arena deliver five times the education at 80% of the cost.

    Discussions on how much to pay our public school teachers seem analogous to deciding what color to paint the walls on the Titanic.

  13. Rod Boothby

    April 15, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    In Ontario, Canada, teachers make over $80K per year. Needless to say, there is a lot of competition to become a teacher. A bright, successful university student graduating with a Bachelors degree will inevitably give at least some thought to getting an MA in education and becoming a teacher. In the US, that only happens if the university student has both a love for teaching and a willingness to take a near vow of poverty.

    The US needs to realize that you get what you pay for.

    If Teachers salaries were $100K a year, it would not take long before the very best and brightest would all want to be teachers.

    Within a generation, America would have the world’s best education system and with it, a guaranteed high standard of living for future generations.

    • Mike

      April 15, 2013 at 2:09 pm

      Interesting factoid. Teachers in Canada supposedly make 50% more than Teachers in the US, yet we spend more 50% more taxpayer dollars per student than what Canada spends.

      http://rossieronline.usc.edu/u-s-education-versus-the-world-infographic/

      In other words, Canada is spending less, paying more, and students are getting better educational outcomes. Lower pay in the US is a symptom, not the problem.

    • Mike

      April 15, 2013 at 2:21 pm

      Interesting factoid. Teachers in Canada supposedly make 50% more than Teachers in the US, yet we spend more 50% more taxpayer dollars per student than what Canada spends.

      rossieronline.usc.edu/u-s-education-versus-the-world-infographic

      In other words, Canada is spending less, paying more, and students are getting better educational outcomes. Lower pay in the US is a symptom, not the problem.

  14. Austin

    April 15, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    Our educational system is stuck in the past. I’ve always felt this article (http://www.cs.cmu.edu/afs/cs/usr/wing/www/publications/Wing06.pdf) made a good point about where we, the U.S., aren’t when it comes to education. Our socialistic form of education doesn’t cut it anymore. People want a great education for themselves and their children, but great things come at a price. I know I’m going off on a tangent, but I feel this article opens up other avenues of discussion. Let’s be honest, money motivated (to an extent). An educator who is being paid well will be a bit more happy with their job than if they are struggling financially. We don’t pay our teachers enough, but they are building these childrens’ and adults’ futures. Education, to me, is one of the most important systems in our country. But people want to send their children to public school, but god forbid the taxes go up to pay the teachers more.

    /RANT

  15. rmslusk

    April 15, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    Are are providing the average salary for an “education worker”. I supposed this includes janitors, office help, cafeterial personnel, substitutes? This skews the average down. If we are talking about teachers pay as the title states, we should be talking about teachers pay and not try to artifically make the number less than it is. I have a high-skill job and know teachers that make more than I and have many, many more days of leasure. Calculate the hourly wage based on actural hours of our teachers and everybodys eyes will pop out of their heads.

    • elena

      April 15, 2013 at 9:46 pm

      I do not agree that the averages are skewed down. I worked in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, North Carolina. The annual salary for a highly qualified (i.e. fully certified, in good standing, etc) full-time teacher with 1 to 5 years of experience is $34,000. With more experience, it is only a little higher. But, I agree that “education worker” should be properly defined. Lumping together salaries of office help, principals, elementary teacher, college professors, etc. certainly does not make for meaningful statistics.

  16. Nick

    April 15, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    It seems like a graphic showing the disparity between Cost-of-Living and teacher pay would be more helpful. $60k in California (at least in the Bay Area) doesn’t go far

  17. Vanessa

    April 15, 2013 at 6:01 pm

    Both my mother and now my sister are educators. I must say, that teachers and others in the education field alike have my usmost and highest respect. They work year-round getting very little personal/vacation time, and THEY are the ones educating some of the most highest paid professionals out there! It seems a little off that we are paying doctors, lawyers, engineers, and even people in my own field higher salaries than we are the men and women who TAUGHT them and helped them reach those career goals.

    I personally hope that in the very near future, teachers receive their much deserved raises (and not just a couple dollars) for the fantastic and, I’ll say it, thankless work they do.

    Keep the teachers! Pay them properly. AND DON’T CUT THE MUSIC PROGRAM!

  18. Melissa

    April 15, 2013 at 7:18 pm

    These numbers are appalling when compared to what teachers make in other countries like Canada and the UK! Moving up North would mean a 25-50% wage increase for most teachers depending on the province you moved to!

  19. Mike

    April 15, 2013 at 7:53 pm

    A perfect example of the idiocy the public school system has produced.