The 5 states in the US where teachers earn the most

Teacher classroom
Teachers earn the most in Michigan. Tim Boyle/Getty Images

For the most part, teachers aren’t in it for the money. Despite educating the country’s future leaders and innovators, most educators work long hours for only modest compensation.

Last year, a global study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development found that American elementary school teachers make around 22% less than their peers in almost every other industry. Wages for middle and high school teachers didn’t fare much better: The study found that they had largely frozen since the financial crisis in 2008.

But location can play a significant factor on how much a teacher makes.

Personal finance site WalletHub recently ranked the best and worst states to be a teacher, considering factors such as average starting salary, median annual salary, income growth potential, and average teacher pensions, as well as non-salary metrics like public school enrollment growth, school safety, and student-teacher ratio. (You can read WalletHub’s full methodology here.)

Though teachers earn less than many other professionals nationwide, when you adjust for cost of living, teachers’ salaries stretch a lot further in a few places. Here are the states where teachers earn the most, as adjusted for cost of living:

  1. Michigan — $70,042
  2. Illinois — $63,567
  3. Pennsylvania — $63,098
  4. Wyoming — $62,242
  5. Ohio — $60,984

Michigan’s $70,000 annual salary stands in stark contrast to the lowest-paying state, Hawaii, where teachers earn less than half as much — just $34,063 on average. This stems in part from Michigan’s lower cost of living, which allows teachers to get more out of each paycheck.

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