Teachers play an important role in enriching the minds of the next generation. And though the work itself may be rewarding, the pay often isn’t. Education jobs consistently fail to keep pace with inflation and are among the least financially-rewarding for positions requiring a bachelor’s degree. Once adjusted for inflation, teacher incomes have declined by -3.8% over the past decade.
What’s more, issues like a lack of funding and the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic have made the field more challenging for educators today. Despite this, some areas of the country provide more job opportunities, higher earnings and lower housing costs for teachers.
In this study, SmartAsset uncovered the best places to be a teacher by analyzing data for the 137 largest metro areas across the country. We compared areas across nine metrics on topics such as employment, income, housing costs, classroom size, school funding and access to the internet. For details on our data sources and how we put all the information together to create our final rankings, read the Data and Methodology section below.
This is SmartAsset’s seventh study on the best places to be a teacher. Check out the previous version here.
- Metro areas in Ohio and Connecticut dominate the top 11. Four of the top 11 metro areas are located in Ohio and another three are in Connecticut. Teachers in the top-ranking Ohio metro areas saw larger increases in income between 2020 and 2021 relative to other places. Similarly, teachers in top-ranking Connecticut metro areas have relatively high incomes, more spending per student and lower student-to-teacher ratios.
- Teacher income changes vary wildly across the country. Nationally, the average salary for a public school teacher has increased by 1.8% over a one-year period. Of the 150 largest metro areas, the Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina-North Carolina metro area has the highest 2020-2021 increase in teacher income (17.12%). Comparatively, the Corpus Christi, Texas metro area had the largest decline in teacher income over the same time period (-16.17%).
- Teacher employment rose more than 20% between 2020 and 2021 in nine metro areas. The Dayton-Kettering, Ohio metro area ranks the highest for its one-year change in the number of people employed as teachers with a 49.44% increase, followed by a 35.85% increase in Fort Wayne, Indiana and a 34.40% increase in the Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina-North Carolina area.
1. Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, OH-PA
There are roughly 4,600 teachers in the Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio-Pennsylvania (which equates to 2.39% of the area’s workforce and ranks No. 4 in this metric). For teachers in the area, there has been a 15.52% increase in average income over a one-year period (third-highest). Additionally, housing costs in the area are roughly $683 monthly (fourth-lowest).
2. Buffalo-Cheektowaga, NY
Buffalo-Cheektowaga is the top New York metro area for teachers. This metro area has the fourth-lowest student-to-teacher ratio, with about 12 students per teacher. Buffalo-Cheektowaga also ranks well for the average spending per student ($20,912), taking the No. 9 spot for this metric.
3. Syracuse, NY
About two hours away from the No. 2 ranking metro area is our No. 3 metro area: Syracuse, New York. This metro area offers the eighth-highest average spending per student ($21,154) and the 10th-lowest student-to-teacher ratio, with 12.17 teachers per student.
4. Hartford-East Hartford-Middletown, CT
In Hartford-East Hartford-Middletown, Connecticut, teachers earn roughly $82,680 annually (18th-highest overall). Teachers can also expect substantial monetary support in their districts as this metro area has the second-highest average spending per student ($22,750) across 137 metro areas in our study. Classrooms are also smaller on average, meaning that teachers can dedicate more individual attention to students. Specifically, the student-to-teacher ratio is 12.13, ninth-lowest in the study.
5. Worcester, MA-CT
Teachers in the Worcester, Massachusetts-Connecticut metro area earn roughly $76,000 on average and make up a little over 2% of the workforce. Student spending averages around $18,300 per student (15th-highest). Teachers in the area have smaller classrooms on average with a student-to-teacher ratio of 13.23 (17th-lowest).
6. Canton-Massillon, OH
The Canton-Massillon, Ohio metro area ranks in the top 10 across three metrics. First, the area offers low monthly housing costs ranking seventh-best for its $787 median expense. Teachers in Canton-Massillon make up 2.30% of the workforce (roughly 3,640 teachers) which is the eighth-highest concentration for this metric. Additionally, teachers in the area have experienced a 12.28% increase in income over a one-year period since 2020 (ninth-highest increase).
7. Toledo, OH
Toledo, Ohio has the fifth-highest concentration of teachers compared to its overall workforce (2.38%, comprising 6,630 teachers). This metro area also ranks 14th-best for its one-year change in income for teachers (a 9.35% increase since 2020) and housing costs ($839 monthly).
8. Lancaster, PA
The average income for teachers is $71,864 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Over a one-year period from 2020, incomes have increased by 6.36% (30th-highest) and the number of employed teachers has increased by 11.08% (24th-highest). Similarly, the student-to-teacher ratio is the 16th-best, with only 13.50 students per teacher. Even with smaller classrooms, average spending per student ranks well at $18,203 (16th-highest).
9. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT
Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Connecticut ranks 10th-best for both its average income for teachers ($87,160) and teachers as a percentage of the workforce (2.27%). Teachers in Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk can expect smaller classrooms on average (12.80 student-to-teacher ratio, ranking 13th-best) and higher average spending per student ($21,885, ranking fourth-best).
10. Columbus, OH (Tie)
Teachers make roughly $72,150 in Columbus, Ohio on average. Over a one-year period, teacher incomes have increased by 5.77% (36th-highest). Over the same time period, the number of teachers employed has grown by 3.71% (45th-highest). In total, over 19,000 teachers are employed in the area, making up close to 2% of the Columbus workforce.
10. Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY (Tie)
Albany-Schenectady-Troy, New York ties with Columbus, Ohio as the 10th-best metro area for teachers. Albany-Schenectady-Troy has the sixth-best student-to-teacher ratio (11.87) and 11th-highest average spending per student ($20,890). Additionally, the average income for teachers is 36th-highest in our study, at about $72,800.
Data and Methodology
To find the best places to be a teacher, SmartAsset looked at the 150 largest U.S. metro areas, 137 of which had available data. We compared those areas across nine metrics:
- Teachers as a percentage of the workforce. Data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and is for 2021.
- Average income for teachers. Data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and is for 2021.
- One-year change in income. This is the percentage change in average incomes for teachers from 2020 to 2021. Data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- One-year employment growth. This is the percentage change in the number of people employed as teachers from 2020 to 2021. Data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- Spending per student. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2020 Public Elementary-Secondary Education Finance Data.
- Housing costs. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2020 five-year American Community Survey.
- Student-to-teacher ratio. Data is for the 2020-2021 school year and comes from the Elementary/Secondary Information System, published by the National Center for Education Statistics. For nine metro areas that were missing data, we used data from the previous school year.
- May 2022 unemployment rate. Data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- Percentage of homes with internet access. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2020 five-year American Community Survey.
We ranked each metro area in every metric, giving an equal weighting to all nine metrics. We then found each metro area’s average ranking. The metro area with the best average ranking places first in our study, while the area with the lowest average ranking places last.
Financial Tips for Teachers
- Make sure you are taking advantage of retirement benefits at work. Learn the basics of retirement planning and the benefits of employer sponsored retirement plans compared to other retirement plans.
- Educate yourself financially by working with a financial advisor. These professional financial experts can help you manage your assets and make the most of your money. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
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