July 25, 2010

Teacher Pay vs Median Incomes by State

There are over 3 million elementary and secondary school teachers in the country.   The BLS has statistics on earnings for teachers at the national level.  It says "Median annual wages of kindergarten, elementary, middle, and secondary school teachers ranged from $47,100 to $51,180 in May 2008"   But teacher pay varies greatly from state to state and from city to city.  I figured it would be interesting to look at teacher pay by state and then put their pay in relation to the median income for each state.   Its one thing if a teacher gets $34k or $48k a year but its another thing if thats 70% or 100% of the median income level.

First I got figures for teacher salaries by state.   That page has the average beginning salary and the average salary per state.   I think the data is from 2006.   I also found Census data on median household income.  I am using the figures for 2 year average over 2007 - 2008.   Yes the dates don't match exactly between teacher pay and median pay but pay rates don't change all that much from year to year so its close enough for my purposes.

Now keep in mind that the information here is based on state level averages and there will be significant variations within a state between cities.  A teacher in rural New York will probably make significantly less than the average and a teacher in New York City is going to make a lot more.  Even within individual metropolitan areas you can see significant differences in pay levels between school districts.

[edit March 7, 2011 : This is not an apples to apples comparison.  I want to point out that I am using the mean teacher salary versus the median household income.   These are two different things.  The mean and median are different.  The mean is the true average and the median is the middle point.   I'm also comparing teacher salary versus household wages.   The mean and median wages for teachers won't differ much at all given the nature of the job.  I'm using the median household income as a basic benchmark of pay levels for the state in question.   My purpose here is to get a general comparison of how teacher wages compare to income levels in the state. ]

Here is the full list of all states showing the average teacher salary, median income for households in the state and then the percentage of the teacher pay / median income.   

Teacher Salary  Median Income 
Alabama $40,347  $   44,155 91%
Alaska $53,553  $   64,701 83%
Arizona $44,672  $   47,972 93%
Arkansas $42,768  $   40,974 104%
California $59,825  $   57,445 104%
Colorado $44,439  $   62,217 71%
Connecticut $59,304  $   65,644 90%
Delaware $54,264  $   53,695 101%
Florida $43,302  $   46,206 94%
Georgia $48,300  $   48,369 100%
Hawaii $49,292  $   64,002 77%
Idaho $41,150  $   49,247 84%
Illinois $58,686  $   53,889 109%
Indiana $47,255  $   47,898 99%
Iowa $41,083  $   50,465 81%
Kansas $41,467  $   49,119 84%
Kentucky $42,592  $   41,058 104%
Louisiana $40,029  $   41,232 97%
Maine $40,737  $   48,481 84%
Maryland $54,333  $   65,932 82%
Massachusetts $56,369  $   60,515 93%
Michigan $54,739  $   50,528 108%
Minnesota $48,489  $   57,607 84%
Mississippi $40,576  $   37,579 108%
Missouri $40,462  $   46,906 86%
Montana $39,832  $   44,116 90%
Nebraska $40,382  $   50,896 79%
Nevada $44,426  $   55,440 80%
New Hampshire $45,263  $   68,175 66%
New Jersey $58,156  $   64,070 91%
New Mexico $41,637  $   44,081 94%
New York $57,354  $   50,643 113%
North Carolina $43,922  $   44,058 100%
North Dakota $37,764  $   49,325 77%
Ohio $50,314  $   48,960 103%
Oklahoma $38,772  $   45,494 85%
Oregon $50,044  $   51,947 96%
Pennsylvania $54,027  $   50,850 106%
Rhode Island $54,730  $   54,767 100%
South Carolina $43,011  $   44,034 98%
South Dakota $34,709  $   49,901 70%
Tennessee $42,537  $   41,240 103%
Texas $41,744  $   47,157 89%
Utah $40,007  $   59,062 68%
Vermont $46,622  $   49,959 93%
Virginia $43,823  $   61,710 71%
Washington $46,326  $   58,472 79%
West Virginia $38,284  $   40,851 94%
Wisconsin $46,390  $   52,224 89%
Wyoming $43,255  $   51,977 83%

The states with the Top teacher salaries are :

California $59,825
Connecticut $59,304
Illinois $58,686
New Jersey $58,156
New York $57,354

5 Lowest teacher pay:

South Dakota $34,709
North Dakota $37,764
West Virginia $38,284
Oklahoma $38,772
Montana $39,832

But when you compare teacher pay to median income levels the picture changes.

High percent pay / median :

New York 113%
Illinois 109%
Michigan 108%
Mississippi 108%
Pennsylvania 106%

Low percent :

New Hampshire 66%
Utah 68%
South Dakota 70%
Virginia 71%
Colorado 71%


  1. Teaching is a great gig -- fairly short work days (although work is probably brought home), Summers off, and not very repetitive. So why are more people not going into teaching? Low salaries.

    I really think it the FEDERAL government cut spending in other areas and used that savings to subsidize teacher salaries through conditional or matching grants, the teaching profession would look more attractive to more qualified individuals.

    1. Good question. Maybe your other assumptions are wrong? Short work days? Yeah that one made me laugh, of course I have had both teaching and non teaching jobs both professional and hourly. Every University I know assumes it takes 2 hours of prep time for every 1 hour teaching. How long does that 30 hour teaching week seem with that in mind.

  2. Steve you are wrong. Teachers make great pay, especially once benefits are considered (having summers + multiple breaks + pensions + good health plans), etc....

    If they choose to work during the summer they can make even more.

    1. Having summers off is not a benefit for most teachers. My sister has always resented having to get a summer job to make ends meet like she was still a kid in high school. It would be much better for the teachers if most of them went year-round. There is more than enough for them to do year-round. You could put all professional development, curriculum development, summer school teaching, tutoring, head-start style programs, etc. into the summer and other vacations, giving them vacation time comparable to other jobs and letting them use their time off during the year to get their daily prep work done.

      Then pay them accordingly and give them enough money to make it reasonable to pay for the kind of teacher education we want them to have before they step into a classroom to take charge of our kids.

  3. This is shown on www.freeby50.com, and a ribbon of ads on the right covers much of the number column content. I would really like to see the numbers in their entirety. I cannot see how to turn the ads off. Any ideas?

  4. Ben, Sorry the formatting was bad. I changed the formatting on the main table so now all of the columns should show up. There should be three columns for each state: teacher salary, median income and the % of teacher salary / median income.


  5. For small districts, (like small companies everywhere) health benefits are horrible. I paid tons for extremely weak coverage.
    Short days? How is 7:30 - 3:30 any different from 9-5? (other than the loads of grading that get brought home of course)
    Granted summers off are nice, but we're also expected to continue our education in order to remain licensed. All for "great pay" that starts right around the poverty line. One day I hope to be able to buy a car that's younger than my students!

  6. A better comparison would be the median teacher salaries against median salary for a person with at bachelor's degree which is currently 83,000 on the national level.

  7. Comparing teacher wages to people with bachelors degrees is more apples to apples. But the idea was just to get a relative idea of how teacher wages per state compare to general wage levels in each state. I consider general wage levels to be a fair proxy for cost of living as well.

    I used median household income just to give a relative measure of typical wages in the state. The idea here was to see how much teachers get paid in each state and then put that into perspective of how high/low wages are in each state. Household median was good enough for that purpose. It was meant as more of a cost of living adjustment per state.

    Nationally the MEDIAN income for people with bachelors degrees or higher is $61k for men and $40k for women as of 2009.

    See : Table p-16

    The MEAN may be closer to $80k, but the median is not.


  8. You might mention the earning potential for workers after 30 years...for teachers it increases slowly and caps out. While customer service employees at my husbands employer make what I make after 5 years. Not to mention room for advancement. I've been teaching 18 years.

  9. Yeah right.... let RECALCULATE THIS LIST COMPARING THE MEDIAN INCOMES FOR THOSE HOLDING MASTERS DEGREES! I feel its just MEANINGLESS stats to do this comparison. If those people want to sit thru my molecular genetics or.calculus class then go ahead. As a science math teacher private industry is CALLIN ME! or rather nuclear power industries six fig salaries are calling me. Out ofball my friends with bachelors or higher i make the least.... by a longshot.

  10. When you add in that teachers have an amazing retirement package that blows away the private sector they should stop complaining. If a private sector person want's $40,000 a year in retirement they would have to save over a million dollars.

  11. What is missing here is the results. How effective are those higher paid teachers. Do the students grades/tests reflect the higher pay?

  12. It is unfortunate that this information is SO incorrect. The teacher's Average salary in WV is just over $40,000. The Median income in WV is just under $30,000 The Household median income in WV is Just under $40,000. According to the latest info available on the US Census web site.

  13. The numbers are out of date. They were correct when the article was written.
    Obviously such numbers will change over time.

    This article is a year old and the figures I used were from 2006, 2007 & 2008. Of course any information like this is subject to becoming out of date gradually over time. Median income levels have dropped considerably in many states from 2006-2007 to today.


  14. I personally don't think anyone should say how good teachers have it or say we should stop complaining unless they have experienced it. Here's a stat! 99 percent of the people who say those things wouldn't last a couple of hours in the classroom. We get paid "squat" to build the future and spend more time with people's children than they do themselves. Since I'm a mom I think anyone who has that much influence on my kids deserves a pay raise!!!

  15. Teachers should spend more time understanding the private sector jobs where competition rules. Teaching is a repeated process and the requirements for a teaching position are low in comparison to many other types of degrees. Teaching has always been an "easy way out" to get a college degree. And in addition, no to pay raises.

  16. How is teaching an "easy way out" to get a college degree? I am a junior at a major university and I am waist deep in school work. Most the stuff that I am learning is stuff that psychologists, project leaders, parents, lawyers, and occupational therapists learn. To be a teacher, you have to Incorporate several different occupations. Oh an by the way, my degree requires 3 times the amount of credits than do the business majors or literacy majors at our university!! Take that for "easy way out!"

  17. I do not consider a teaching degree an "easy way out".

    But when you say:

    "my degree requires 3 times the amount of credits than do the business majors"

    I seriously doubt that is accurate. You may be thinking of the credits within your major. Any bachelors degree will require a certain amount of credits. Some fields require more than the minimum but certainly NOT triple the minimum.

    As a random example, the University of Alabama requires 120 credits for a Bachelors:
    Any/all degrees in the college of Arts & Sciences will need to have 120 credits. Some may require a few more credits but nobody is getting a degree with 40 credits.

    Maybe you aren't in the USA and things are different where you live.


  18. Graduated as a teacher from the University of Texas in Austin, and Anonymous is right.

    I had 22 more hours to complete than my best friend, who graduated with a Bachelors in Business.

  19. Are you talking about extra courses required to get a teacher credential or maybe some states requiring a Masters? I understand there can be more credits but not "3 times" more.


  20. Apples and oranges. Pay vs. median income. Median income includes two income families. So you'd have two teachers earning 80%-plus higher than the median incomes for civilians. But keep massaging the data.

  21. Don you might notice when I say in my article "this is not an apples to apples comparison". If you had read it.

    Trust me I have no agenda here and am not "massaging" anything.


  22. I taught high school and then got a masters and became a school counselor. worked in high paying areas (northern va) and low paying areas (west tx) - I lasted 23 years. My husband is still teaching - 6 years to go. There is so much to say here I probably should not start - but I'll do a quick list. 1) teaching is not easier than other jobs - many come into it after making money and wanting to make a difference- they say it's the hardest job they ever had - heard it over, over, over 2) summers off are a myth - you must attend all kinds of workshops, take classes to stay accredited, and also many work 2nd and 3rd jobs not only during the year but also during summer; as a counselor, I got 1 month off - and had to go into work during that month as I was always dealing with all kinds of scheduling issues, hiring teachers, etc. ;3) many teachers coach too - in this job (unless you get to the very top in some states) - you will work unbelievable hours - 80 a week - and be paid nothing - like 5 cents an hour- fun when you are young - then the years go on - and you feel you are being used - then, you are stuck in the job; 4) many teachers love teaching for many years - but it really gets to you and now in TX they are changing the rules so you must teach 40 years before your pitiful retirement - thank God we got in at 30 - we will still work, but at other jobs. 40 years in a classroom - yep - that's good for teachers and students. I could go on and on - but the point is - if you have not been a teacher - don't comment - you have no clue what this job is like - NONE. Finally - when looking at salaries - they give you a good entry salary - (not great, but good) - but guess what you will make after 30 years? you will top out only about 20 to 30K from where you started. I would tell any young person - please, if you want any financial security - be really careful about considering teaching, nursing, policing, etc. - these so called professions are really underpaid and then there is all the nonsense "we honor our teacher day" or troops - or nurses - this is shorthand for - we will bring you a meal and a stupid water bottle each year - but we will not pay you what you are worth. Cynical? NO!!! I loved the job for many years - but I realized I was not getting paid for the work I did, the degrees I had earned, etc. - I was young and starry eyed about the job. If you must teach, have a plan in place for a side job (real estate or something) - don't count on your spouse's job - my first husband was a doctor - divorce. there went the income from that well paid job. etc. etc. THINK hard before you do this - it's going to get worse and worse for teachers in America. I worry about teachers, nurses, police, fireman, troops - all people who are wanting to do something noble and good - and then often find they have PTSD, depression, etc. later - and they cannot get out of the jobs. I know too many people with this story. It's great to sacrifice for your country - when you are young- then you get old and you have so little money for so much hard work. thank you for letting me vent. I appreciate it.


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