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The Average Salary of a Teacher

The average salary for a teacher in the U.S. ranges from $54,550 to $72,470.

Educators’ salaries can vary greatly based on their credentials, on what they teach and where they work. In general, teachers’ salaries are on the low side relative to people with comparable education – and considering how important their jobs are. Let’s take a look at the average salary of a teacher and some of the best places to be a teacher, as measured by wages. 

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The Average Salary of an Elementary School Teacher

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median pay for kindergarten and elementary school teachers in the U.S. is $54,550 per year. The BLS job outlook for the field (the percent by which the field will grow between 2014 and 2024) is 6%, which is about as fast as the average for all jobs.

The top-paying state for elementary school teachers is Connecticut, where the annual mean wage for elementary school teachers is $75,700. Other high-paying states are Alaska, New York, California and Massachusetts.

The top-paying metro area for elementary school teachers is Fairbanks, Alaska, where the annual mean wage for elementary school teachers is $101,190. Other high-paying metro areas for elementary school teachers are: Nassau County-Suffolk County, NY; Kingston, NY; Dutchess County-Putnam County, NY and Waterbury, CT.

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The Average Salary of a Middle School Teacher

The BLS reports that the median pay for middle school teachers in 2015 was $55,860 per year. The BLS job outlook for middle school teachers is 6%. Like elementary school teachers, middle school teachers typically must have bachelor’s degrees as a minimum level of education.

The state where middle school teachers make the most is Alaska, where the mean annual wage is $79,760. Other high-paying states for middle school teachers are New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Jersey.

The metro area with the highest pay for middle school teachers is Nassau County-Suffolk County, NY. Other high-paying metro areas are: Kingston, NY; Waterbury, CT; Dutchess County-Putnam County, NY and Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT.

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The Average Salary of a High School Teacher

The Average Salary of a Teacher

According to the BLS, the median pay for high school teachers in 2015 was $57,200. The job outlook for high school teachers (6%) is the same as it is for middle school teachers and elementary school teachers.

The state with the highest pay for high school teachers is Alaska, where the mean annual wage for high school teachers is $80,550. Other top-paying states for high school teachers are New York, Connecticut, California and New Jersey.

The metro area with the highest pay for high school teachers is Nassau County-Suffolk County, NY. Other high-pay metro areas for high school teachers are: Anchorage, AK; Fairbanks, AK; Kingston, NY and Fresno, CA.

The Average Salary of a Special Education Teacher

The median pay for special education teachers in 2015 was $56,800 per year, according to the BLS. Like other teaching fields on our list, the field of special education teachers has a projected growth rate of 6%.

Special education teachers at the preschool level earn the highest pay in Connecticut, where the annual mean pay is $75,060. The highest-paying metro area for preschool special ed teachers is the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria DC-VA-MD-WV metro area, where the mean annual wage is $81,710. For special education teachers at the kindergarten and elementary school level, the top-paying state is Connecticut ($79,120) and the top-paying metro area is Waterbury, CT ($88,730). For special education teachers at the middle school level, the top-paying state is New York ($78,280) and the top-paying metro area is Nassau County-Suffolk County, NY ($99,860). Last but not least, secondary school special education teachers earn the highest pay in New York ($79,030) and in the metro area of Nassau County-Suffolk County, NY ($99,600).

The Average Salary of a Postsecondary Teacher

Postsecondary teachers tend to earn more than the other teachers we’ve covered so far. According to the BLS, the median pay for postsecondary teachers in 2015 was $72,470 per year. The field of postsecondary teaching has a much faster growth rate than the other teaching fields on our list as more Americans are expected to seek postsecondary education. The number of postsecondary teachers is expected to grow by 13% between 2014 and 2024. That’s faster than the average job growth across all fields. However, many of these jobs are expected to be part-time.

The Teacher Pay Gap

Public-school teachers must have bachelor’s degrees and, in many cases, have additional certification or degrees. Yet their pay lags behind the pay of workers with comparable levels of education and training, and behind the pay of some jobs that don’t require a college degree. Recent research indicates that the teacher pay gap (the gap between teacher pay and the pay of other bachelor’s degree-holders) is growing.

According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), “The teacher pay penalty is bigger than ever. In 2015, public school teachers’ weekly wages were 17.0 percent lower than those of comparable workers—compared with just 1.8 percent lower in 1994.” Even taking into account the fact that many teachers enjoy solid benefits, a gap persists. The EPI found that “teachers’ compensation (wages plus benefits) was 11.1 percent lower than that of comparable workers in 2015.”

While in some states teacher pay comes close to the pay of other workers with bachelor’s degrees, in no state do teachers’ wages surpass the wages of other college graduates. Many analysts argue that low wages and compensation in the teaching field jeopardizes important policy goals such as investing in our nation’s human capital. They also argue that higher teacher salaries are necessary to attract and retain the best educators.

Bottom Line

The Average Salary of a Teacher

Where a teacher lives, what (and at which kind of school) a teacher teaches, the credentials a teacher has and whether a teacher belongs to a union can all affect teacher pay. The average salary of a teacher is therefore a number that conceals a big range in salary experience.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages, ©iStock.com/shironosov

Amelia Josephson Amelia Josephson is a writer passionate about covering financial literacy topics. Her areas of expertise include retirement and home buying. Amelia's work has appeared across the web, including on AOL, CBS News and The Simple Dollar. She holds degrees from Columbia and Oxford. Originally from Alaska, Amelia now calls Brooklyn home.
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