Despite performing crucial roles in educating, motivating, and shaping future generations, teachers often face high job pressure, lack of job mobility, and notoriously low pay.
The education sector sees a high burn rate, with nearly 20% of all public school teachers leaving after the first year. And for those who do stay, the pay gap between teaching and professions that require similar training continues to widen, creating little incentive for those on the fence to stick it out.
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.)
WalletHub’s emphasis on pay is important, as it can dictate where and how teachers can afford to live. Though teachers earn less on average across the country, when you adjust for cost of living, some states become more burdensome than others to get by on a teacher’s salary.
Here are the states where teachers earn the lowest annual salaries, after adjusting for cost of living:
- Hawaii — $34,063
- South Dakota — $41,000
- Maine — $43,792
- West Virginia — $44,337
- Arizona — $46,029
The two lowest-paying states happen to be on opposite ends of the cost-of-living spectrum: While Hawaii is notoriously expensive, South Dakota often ranks as one of the cheaper places to live in America.
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