It’s hard to get an accurate number of the average teacher salary by state in America. Data for each state is published by many different agencies and organizations every year, and none of it is exactly the same. In the same year, you may see one source claim that South Dakota has the lowest teacher pay, yet another story may say Arizona is the worst.
School Teacher Salary
To get an accurate picture of an average and realistic school teacher salary, I asked my teacher followers for the number of years they have been teaching, their yearly teacher salary, and what state they live in. Then I took information for each state that seemed to match with what most others in that state were making, given the amount of experience.
Yes, in some places the cost of living is much higher, and that is why those teachers make more and vice versa. But I think we can all agree that no matter where you live, $35,000 is not enough money to live comfortably, especially for someone with an advanced degree. And for those that live in the costliest places, such as D.C., New York City, or San Diego, even $60,000 is definitely not enough to comfortably support a family.
Keep in mind that all of these teachers have at least one master’s degree. Also remember that the average student loan payment for these teachers is 50K, though for some it is much higher.
Teacher Salary By State
Here’s a list of different teacher salaries by state, including years of experience and additional notes.
Alabama- 15 yrs. experience, 49K
Alaska- 5 yrs. experience, 40K
Arizona- 18 yrs. experience, 35K
Arkansas- 9 yrs. experience, 35K
California- 8 yrs. experience, 50K
Colorado- 9 yrs. experience, holds a Ph.D., 64K
Connecticut- 9 yrs. experience, 61K
D.C.- 10 yrs. experience, 60K
Delaware- 15 yrs. experience, 48K
Florida- 10 yrs. experience, 47K
Georgia- 13 yrs. experience, 41K
32 yrs. experience, 69K
Hawaii- 12 yrs. experience, 52K
Idaho- 17 yrs. experience, 54K
Illinois (Chicago)- 8 yrs. experience, 37K (9.4% goes to retirement)
Indiana- 10 yrs. experience, 42K
Iowa- 11 yrs. experience, 60K
Kansas- 8 yrs. experience, 36K
Kentucky- 5 yrs. experience, 42K
Louisiana- 4 yrs. experience, 40K
Maine- 11 yrs. experience, 51K
Maryland- 9 yrs. experience, 54K
Massachusetts- 3 yrs. experience, 52K
Michigan- 4 yrs. experience, 36K
Minnesota- 5 yrs. experience, 55K
Mississippi- 11 yrs. experience, 43K
Missouri- 19 yrs. experience, 30K
Montana- 12 yrs. experience, 51
Nebraska- 13 yrs. experience, 52K
Nevada- 6 yrs. experience, 36K
New Hampshire- 4 yrs. experience, 46K
New Jersey- 10 yrs. experience, 63K
New Mexico- 10 yrs. experience, 28K
New York- 7 yrs. experience in NYC, 2 master’s degrees, 62K
For comparison, the average salary for a sanitation worker in N.Y. is $69,339 with 6 years’ experience, not including holiday and overtime pay. With the extras thrown in, veteran sanitation workers average more than $80,000 a year and enjoy full pension and health benefits. One only needs a high school diploma to qualify, which means they have no student loan debt.
I know some people might say that sanitation work is difficult physical labor that most people would not want to do, but I am not joking when I say that handling garbage just might be preferable to being treated like garbage on a daily basis.
For example, today I asked a student to put her phone away, and she told me to “f*** off.” When I called her mom, she defended her daughter with, “Well she don’t like you.” When I wrote her up for this, the assistant principal responded that they are having a parent conference later that month. (There will be no consequence.) This is a normal occurrence for me. So yes, it might be nicer to handle people’s trash for a higher salary, than to be treated like trash.
North Carolina- 5 yrs. experience, 47K
North Dakota- 12 yrs. experience, 46K
Ohio- 4 yrs. experience, 40K
Oklahoma- 19 yrs. experience, 43K
Oregon- 5 yrs. experience, 43K
Pennsylvania- 14 yrs. experience, 57K
Rhode Island- 8 yrs. experience, 66K
South Carolina- 3 yrs. experience, after taxes 23K
South Dakota- 4 yrs. experience, 39K
Tennessee- 15 yrs. experience, 45K
Texas- yrs. experience, 45K
Utah- 9 yrs. experience, 45k
Vermont- 8 yrs. experience, 51k
Virginia- holds 2 master’s degrees, 16 yrs. experience, 69K (This teacher shared that in this very expensive part of Virginia, childcare costs $2600 a month)
Washington- 17 yrs. experience, holds Ph.D., 68K
West Virginia- 11 yrs. experience, 42K
Wisconsin- 9 yrs. experience, 50k
Wyoming- 11 yrs. experience, 45k
Teacher Salary Comparisons
Now compare these teacher salaries with the following: Postal workers, rail track laying equipment operators, bricklaying masons, earth drillers, costume attendants in theaters, crane operators, and steel workers have an average salary across the U.S. of $51K. They only need a high school education.
Other jobs that on average pay better than teaching (and require only a high school diploma) include:
When you explain these points to people, many of them will say that teachers have always been paid poorly and people shouldn’t become teachers if they do not accept that.
I have to call major B.S. on that one.
If people avoided the career of teaching because of the pay, we would have very few teachers left. Just because that’s the way it is, does not make it acceptable. We’re not asking to be rich; we just want to comfortably support ourselves and our families without getting a second or third job. We’re educators, not nuns. We shouldn’t have to take a vow of poverty because we want to teach.
Compensating for Low Teacher Salary
I asked my teacher followers what other jobs they take on during the summer and also throughout the school year. In the summer many teachers can be found working at a summer camp. This might not sound so bad if you’ve ever been a camper, but I did this for many years, and trust me, you are worked to the bone for an obscenely low amount of money. A summer camp counselor’s hourly salary ranges from $6 to $12 nationally, and that’s before taxes. If they teach lessons, such as swimming or art, the pay isn’t usually much more than what a counselor makes.
Of course, many teachers also teach summer school. In my district (and many others I’m sure) it used to be that they couldn’t find teachers who were willing to teach summer school. I’m sure you can imagine why. Now teachers are in such a desperate financial situation that there is a huge waiting list to teach summer school. They choose candidates by seniority, and many teachers do not get a placement and are told to try again the following year.
Imagine being turned away from spending an additional 4-6 hours a day on top of the school year, with kids who couldn’t pass the class 45 minutes at a time, in the summer heat, because of stiff competition? Many also tutor privately, but it’s hard to get a lot of those gigs lined up at a time.
Average Teacher Salary
Do you find that these salaries match up to what you’re making in your state? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. You can also send me a message through my Contact Page or chat more about salaries on our Forum page.
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Jane Morris, Author
Jane Morris is the pen name of a teacher who would really like to tell you more about herself but is afraid she’ll lose her job. Jane has taught English for over 15 years in a major American city. She received her B.A. in English and Secondary Education from a well-known university and her M.A. in writing from an even fancier (more expensive) university. As a professional queen of commiseration turned published author, Jane’s foremost passion in life is to make people laugh.
She has written several highly acclaimed books unpacking the reality of teaching and life inside the school system. You can view her full library of works here.