10 alarming facts about teacher pay in the United States

  • In the United States, many first-year teachers can expect to earn a salary of less than $US40,000.
  • The average teacher spends almost $US500 on their own classroom supplies, and many teachers are forced to work a second job to make ends meet.
  • Here are 10 alarming facts about teacher pay in the United States.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

With the beginning of the school year well underway, thousands of teachers across the United States are busy lesson-planning, supply-buying, and, most importantly, shaping the minds of tomorrow.

While educating our youngest generation is a huge responsibility, it comes with an unexpectedly low monetary return.

Despite requiring significant schooling, training, and certification to become a teacher, the profession pays significantly less than other career paths requiring the same level of education.

Some teachers are even having to turn to alternative methods of making money on the side in order to make ends meet.

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Here are 10 of the most alarming facts about teacher pay in the United States.

The average salary for a teacher in the US is $US60,477, and starting salaries are often below $US40,000.


According to the National Education Association, the average salary for a teacher in the US was $US60,477 a year for the 2017-18 school year. For context, that’s around the same average salary as a personal trainer or an event planner.

Meanwhile, the average starting salary for a teacher in the US is below $US40,000 in 63% of the nation’s school districts, according to the organisation. And in nearly 300 districts, teachers earn a starting salary below $US30,000.

According to a recent Economic Policy Institute report, teachers are paid 21.4% less than similarly educated and experienced professionals.

The US ranks seventh in the world for teacher pay — but pays less than half of what the No. 1 country pays its teachers.


The US consistently ranks seventh in the world for average teacher pay.

At the top of the payscale, a US elementary school teacher makes $US67,000 a year, and a US high school teacher makes $US71,000 a year on average.

Compare this to Luxembourg, the No. 1 country for teacher salary, where elementary school educators make up to $US124,000 a year on average, and high school teachers make $US138,000 a year.

Other countries that beat the US in teacher pay include Switzerland, South Korea, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, and for elementary school teachers, Ireland.

In the highest-paying state for teachers, New York, teachers need to earn a master’s degree within five years.


Teachers in New York make a median salary of $US78,576 a year.

According toCNN, that’s around the same salary as a physician’s assistant, a college agricultural sciences professor, or a veterinarian.

That’s also about $US25,000 above the median salary of all workers in New York, which comes out to $US50,825 a year.

Of course, it is also worth noting that New York is one of the few states that requires its teachers to earn a master’s degree within the first five years of teaching.

And in the lowest-paying state, Oklahoma, half of all teachers are making less than $US33,630 a year.


According to USA Today, Oklahoma teachers make a median of $US39,306 a year, only a few thousand dollars above the median Oklahoma salary of $US33,630 a year. Keep in mind that this is the median, which means that roughly half of the teachers in the state make less than that amount.

According to careerbuilder.com, $US39,000 a year is roughly the same average salary as a carpenter, construction equipment operator, or a correctional officer.

Over 20% of teachers have second jobs.


According to NEA Today, around 16% of teachers hold a second job over the summer, and 20% of them hold a second job year-round.

The report also found that the younger a teacher is, the more likely they are to hold a second job.

The publication also found that if you were to count second jobs within the school system, such as coaching, teaching evening classes, or directing shows, this statistic jumps from 20% to 59%.

Teachers pay an average of $US480 out of pocket for school-related expenses.


In 2018, the National Centre of Education Statistics found that teachers were spending an average of nearly $US480 a year out of their own pockets for supplies for their students and classrooms.

That’s nearly double the $US250 federal tax deduction available to teachers.

The organisation also found that 94% of teachers in the US had spent their own money on school supplies.

Teachers often work more hours than the school day provides.


The average school day is only 6.7 hours long, but according to EdTech Magazine, the average teacher usually works 12 to 16 hours a day.

Between lesson plans, grading papers, staff meetings, and required duties like chaperoning, most teachers are at school long after the final bell rings.

A 16-hour workday would correspond to an 80-hour workweek. For the salary of a teacher in some of the lower-paying states, that comes out to barely more than $US9 an hour.

Teacher salaries have decreased by 4.5% over the last 10 years.


In April, the National Education Association found that the average teacher salary actually decreased, rather than increased, over the past decade by 4.5%, when adjusted for inflation.

Average starting salaries for teachers have also decreased in the past decade, dropping 2.9% when adjusting for inflation.

This means that teachers today have less money in a significantly more expensive world.

71% of Americans believe teachers deserve to be paid more.


According to a 2018 PDK Poll, 71% of Americans believe teachers deserve to be paid more. When only parents were polled, that number rose to 74%.

The poll also found that among teachers who “feel undervalued by their community,” who think their pay is unfair, or who earn less than $US45,000 annually, 62% have considered leaving the profession.

A majority of teachers – 55% – said they wouldn’t want their child to follow them into the profession, citing inadequate pay and benefits as a chief reason.

The US has been experiencing a teacher shortage since the 2008 recession.


Back in 2008 when the market crashed, schools across the country had to let teachers go, and, according to the National Education Association, they have been struggling to hire new, qualified teachers since the recession ended.

The shortage is especially severe in poorer school districts, where teachers are more likely to have “less experience, fewer credentials, and lack the educational background in the subject matter they are teaching,” according to NEA Today.