Teacher Salaries – How Much Do Teachers Make?

Teacher Salary and Earnings Guide

What Affects Your Yearly Teaching Earnings!

The average US salary in the school year of 2017 to 2018 was $60,483. Teacher salaries are affected by many factors. For example, two people who hold the same job at the same school might have salaries that are tens of thousands of dollars apart from one another. This specific salary difference occurs primarily based on years of experience and the level of education each teacher has completed.

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Quick Facts:

Why Earn a Teaching Degree

Education and Infancy

Tutoring and Responsibility


As with most professional industries, experience directly affects your salary as a teacher. Unlike some professions, becoming a successful teacher is not something you can teach yourself at home as a child or teenager and gain recognition for your self-taught skill set. You must be properly trained and spend hundreds of hours of supervised experience to even be considered to qualify for teaching licensure. This is the bare minimum of required experience by most states and it will only provide you with an entry-level salary. Many college and university students will also take jobs as private childcare providers, tutors, or at daycare centers for even more experience and for financial compensation as they complete their bachelor’s degree.

To improve your salary through experience, you can take a few different paths. One way to improve your salary through experience is to stay with the same job and take your standard annual percentage increase. Other school districts have a standard pay scale that increases more drastically every five years or so. It is also possible that you can increase your salary significantly by changing jobs and employers after you gain valuable experience. You should also spend your free time working in an area of specialization that is highly in demand, writing publications for professional periodicals or in academic research, and volunteering in education-related areas. These are all ways to increase your experience level that will directly improve your salary base and make you more valuable to your school district.

Metropolitan vs. Rural


It is also important to consider that your geographic location will affect your pay. The bulk of a teacher’s salary is paid for by state and local governments. As a result, if you work in a state, town or school district that is not economically prosperous, you will not earn as much as someone who works in a thriving school district with expensive houses. Generally speaking, people who work in larger cities will make more than someone who works in a rural community simply due to the volume of people paying taxes that go directly into the school district. These larger school districts often have many more teachers’ salaries to pay for and higher cost-of-living expenses.

This is not always the case. Some small towns and small cities have significantly higher-than-average median household incomes and property taxes that allows for teachers to be paid more than in other parts of the state or country. In some cases, school districts have such low property taxes and few enough businesses to tax that schools rely heavily on federal funding, which is never enough. However, generally speaking, teachers who work in rural areas make less money than those who work in large cities. The salary for teachers can also be directly related to the standard of living in the area. Keep in mind that while you may make less in a smaller town, your everyday expenses will also be drastically less expensive in most cases and the quality of life in smaller communities is often considered significantly higher than in cities. These aspects often make overall salaries more comparable in the big picture.

Average Teacher Salary by State

While schools are typically funded at the local level by property taxes, at the state level they are funded by sales taxes and income taxes from both corporations and the personal wealth of all state residents. The federal government contributes very little to school budgets, less than eight percent; therefore, the salary of teachers is based on the economic strength of the state and local economies. States with large populations will often have higher salaries than states with smaller populations. This is also directly related to the standard of living expenses, just like at the local level.

The size of a population does not always have a direct effect on teacher salaries and school funding. The stronger the state’s economy, the higher the per capita personal income and the more corporate taxes a state is able to accumulate, the better the potential for higher teacher salaries. It also is impacted by the level of importance the state and local economy place on the school over other potential state expenditures. Some states place greater importance on education. As a result, they will allocate more state funds to education than states that do not view education as valuable. This allows for all school districts to benefit rather than just those with high property taxes.

Public vs. Private


Most people might be surprised to learn that private school teachers often make less than public school teachers by up to $15,000 a year. The reason is that teacher salaries at private schools are generated directly from tuition. While large private schools in highly affluent communities might pay their teachers more than public schools, the average private school does not charge enough to pay their teachers higher than industry averages. Therefore, teachers do not make as much at private schools in many instances. Public school teachers also often receive better healthcare, pension plans, and more time off than private school teachers. If a public-school teacher is in a union, they are likely to earn even more money than non-union teachers.

The lower pay of a private school teacher is more than compensated in many ways in the eyes of nearly all private school teachers. At private schools, classes are well funded for materials, field trips, meal plans, etc. Technology is often top of the line and class subjects are progressive and more advanced than at a public school. You will experience fewer behavioral issues and, if they do exist, private school teachers can more easily remove trouble makers and expel them if necessary, without much resistance. Students are all relatively equal on their level of academic capabilities with fewer exceptions than public schools. For those who do fall behind, teachers can work as private tutors in their free time to earn more money. Classroom sizes are smaller in private schools and parental involvement is exceptionally high compared to public schools. All of these factors tend to make the teaching experience far more enjoyable for private school teachers over the many challenges that face many public-school teachers.

Alabama Teachers Salaries
Occupation Employment 10th Percentile Annual median wage 75th percentile 90th percentile
Education, Training, and Library Occupations $1,03,640 $18,270 $47,940 $59,190 $72,230
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Degree Level and Income Potential

For the time being, a master’s degree or a doctoral degree will increase your teaching salary. This subject is becoming a hot button topic for many teachers who do not have a master’s degree. They feel that just because a teacher has a higher degree does not make them better teachers. For now, school districts disagree. A higher degree helps teachers to learn new skill sets and progressive teaching methodologies that are proven to be more successful. This is also backed up with the fact that nearly all states have mandatory continued education hours that must be completed to maintain teacher licensure or certification. These mandatory hours of extra education can be used toward a master’s degree. The choice is yours. In addition to these facts, there is the perception in the community that teachers with a higher-level education are seen as more credible and reputable than those without.

The pay increase between degrees will vary based on the school district, the number of years of experience, and the teaching focus of the individual. In some schools, a teacher with less than 10 years of experience and a master’s may earn up to $20,000 dollars more than a teacher with a bachelor’s degree who has the same number of years’ experience. However, once a teacher reaches 10 years of experience within a school district, they often receive a significant pay bump that reduces the difference between the salaries to be closer to $10,000. At the end of the day, the higher the level of degree you complete the more money you will make and the earlier you do it the better off you will be in the long term. Some people may try to challenge whether or not people with higher degrees should earn more money, however it is unlikely to change.

Teaching Level and Earning Potential

  • Preschool Teacher Salaries -
    According to the BLS in 2018, the median salary for preschool teachers is $29,780. These teachers help more with the foundational building blocks of the education system, such as reading, letters, and playing well with others.
  • Kindergarten and Elementary School Salaries -
    Kindergarten and elementary school teacher salaries have a mean of $58,230. At this level, you will likely have smaller class sizes than middle school and high school teachers and you will teach subjects that are not as challenging. At the same time, your role is of critical importance, as you are preparing young people for a lifetime of education, social skills, and societal expectations. You will also be responsible for working to make sure kids who are not as advanced academically, physically, or emotionally will receive the assistance they require.
  • Middle School Salaries -
    Middle school teachers’ median salary is $58,600. At this level, you will begin to teach more challenging subjects. You will be responsible for pushing students and keeping them engaged.
  • High School Salaries -
    High school teacher salaries are the highest of all teaching salaries from K-12 with a median of $60,320. You will have to prepare students for college and careers whilst attempting to keep them focused and engaged at a time when most students feel their social lives are far more important. You will also have significantly larger class sizes in many schools.
  • Vocational School Salaries -
    The median salary for a vocational instructor is $55,240. These instructors teach students to prepare for occupational and vocational jobs, such as working with industrial machinery, transportation, or communication equipment.
  • College or University Salaries -
    A college or university profession has a median salary of $78,470. These professors require a doctorate degree to teach at this level and you will prepare students for their future careers and long-term livelihood, as well as to help them learn to think for themselves and to develop ideas of their own.

Specialty Teaching Salaries

Much like teachers in elementary and secondary schools, college professors can earn more money if they specialize in professional careers and core major courses rather than general education teachings. All students are required to take certain prerequisite courses. They are not specialized courses that require higher learning or real-life experience within a profession to be able to teach. Professors who teach such prerequisite courses, such as math and history, typically do not have to learn any new skills, methodologies or information to teach these courses year after year.

Professors who teach core classes for professions, such as engineering, business, or law, must constantly be learning and developing new best practices for these professional industries. As such, they are often paid higher salaries. For example, an English professor makes an average of $88,629 and a law professor makes an average of $164,977. The skills required in professional careers are far more complicated and legally liable than non-professional industries. Therefore, professors for specialized professions earn more money.

College Professors in Community Colleges vs. 4-year Institutions


All college professors are not equally trained and educated in the same manner. To become an instructor at a community college, you only require a bachelor’s or master’s degree. In some cases, you might not require a master’s degree if you are proven to be a qualified professional in the field of study you wish to teach. The level of experience and education you require to become a community college instructor will be unique to each higher learning institution.

A college professor at a four-year college or university requires a master’s or doctorate degree. Many professors who teach professional courses, such as law or engineering, will also require real-world experience. Due to the fact that these professors teach at a significantly higher level and require significantly more education and professional experience than community college instructors, they typically make roughly double or more than community college instructors.

Teaching vs. Administration


Administration positions exist at all school levels. These positions will vary in responsibility and decision-making power; however, they are all managerial positions to some extent. Job titles will vary, such as curriculum and instruction director, school principal, school counselor, or superintendent. The average salary for a high school principal is $90,476, according to PayScale; whereas, a high school teacher has a mean salary of $60,320, as previously stated.

Administration positions pay significantly more than teaching positions, as they have a significant amount of additional responsibility. They have to manage all students, teachers, budgets, curriculum, hiring, firing, and more. Most administrators must have experience working as a teacher. Many individuals who hold these positions start as a teacher and complete higher degrees while they gain work experience as part of their continued education requirements. A common career advancement path in administration takes you from teacher to vice principal or principal and ends at superintendent. Some teachers will also continue their education to become a school counselor while they teach, as these positions also require a master’s or doctorate degree. As a side note, school counselor jobs are growing at a much higher rate than jobs for teachers.

Future Outlook

Early Childhood Educators


Kindergarten and elementary school teachers are estimated to grow at a rate of 7%, which is the US average for all industries, by 2026. Preschool teachers, on the other hand, can expect a slightly healthier growth rate at 10%. The increase in growth of preschool teachers can be somewhat associated with the increase of states and parents understanding the importance of childhood education at a younger age.

Average Preschool Teacher Salary: $29,780

  • Education Requirements: Such education requirements vary; however, some require a minimum of an associate degree while most require a bachelor’s degree.
  • Experience Requirements: Some states require work experience in the form of a teacher aide, teacher assistant, or a childcare worker.
  • Average Kindergarten and Elementary Teacher Salary: $58,230
  • Education Requirements: You will require a bachelor’s degree.
  • Experience Requirements: All teachers at this level must complete hundreds of hours of classroom experience during their teacher preparation program and on their own time.

Middle School Educators


The job outlook for middle school teachers is 8% growth by 2026, which is just above average for all industries. These growth projections are based on school district budgets. If the economy remains at least as strong as its current level, middle school teacher jobs will continue to increase. However, if the economy begins to decline, middle school teachers are often some of the first teachers to be laid off until funds have been restored for teacher salaries.

Average Salary: $58,600

  • Education Requirements: Most states require a bachelor’s degree. Some will require a bachelor’s degree in elementary education; whereas, other states request that teachers major in their preferred area of focus, such as science, math or English.
  • Experience Requirements: All teachers at this level must complete hundreds of hours of classroom experience during their teacher preparation program and on their own time.

High School Educators


The job outlook for high school teachers is roughly 8% growth by 2026, which is slightly above the national average for all jobs. While employment is expected to remain consistent, it is important to note that a shift in the types of teachers employed may shift in demand. Currently, the most in-demand teaching positions at the high school level include science, technology, engineering, mathematics, special needs, gifted, and English as a second language. These demands are due to both shortages in qualified teachers in these areas and a shift of curriculum to focus more on specific subjects, such as STEM courses.

It is important to note that private schools continue to grow in popularity with each public-school shooting. As such, you can expect to see more growth in the private sector than has been seen in the past until these tragic events cease. The same is true of homeschooling. Parents are hiring private teachers to educate their children at home in larger numbers than ever before. You can also work as a private tutor for homeschooled children or for those students who require additional assistance outside of traditional classroom hours.

Average Salary: $60,320

  • Education Requirements: Most states require a bachelor’s degree alongside a major in their specialized area of focus, such as math, history, English, or science. Some school districts will require high school teachers to pursue a master’s degree as part of their continued education requirements.
  • Experience Requirements: All teachers at this level must complete hundreds of hours of classroom experience during their teacher preparation program and on their own time.

College Educators


Higher education continues to be increasingly in demand by individuals of all ages and backgrounds. As such, the job outlook for college professors is significantly higher than the national average at 15% by 2026. The increasing demand for higher degrees, such as a master’s degree or a doctorate degree, is helping drive job growth. The same is true for online degrees that provide students who would normally not have the time or access to complete a degree.

Average Salary: $78,470

  • Education Requirements: A master’s or doctoral degree is required for all four-year college and university professors.
  • Experience Requirements: Many reputable higher learning institutions require or prefer professors who have real-life work experience within their field of study.

A community college or vocational instructor typically requires a master’s degree. In some schools, they may only require a bachelor’s degree and sufficient, relevant work experience in their area of focus. Keep in mind that they make significantly less money, roughly $20,000 less than a professor at a four-year institution, and they have less stringent academic requirements. They, too, might teach in person or online.


Career Options and Salary

National Averages

Occupation Annual Mean Wage Annual 10th Percentile Wage Annual 25th Percentile Wage Annual median wage Annual 75th Percentile Wage Annual 90th Percentile Wage
Education, Training, and Library Occupations $56,620 $22,860 $32,550 $49,700 $70,530 $97,080
Postsecondary Teachers $85,190 $31,880 $47,630 $69,530 $104,000 $159,150
Business Teachers, Postsecondary $103,330 $37,890 $55,220 $83,960 $130,800 $195,120
Math and Computer Teachers, Postsecondary $90,650 $40,630 $54,850 $76,570 $111,280 $162,070
Computer Science Teachers, Postsecondary $96,200 $41,820 $58,250 $82,220 $119,690 $166,710
Mathematical Science Teachers, Postsecondary $87,140 $39,970 $53,030 $73,230 $104,810 $158,360
Engineering and Architecture Teachers, Postsecondary $111,450 $50,360 $72,490 $99,770 $137,430 $187,190
Architecture Teachers, Postsecondary $99,320 $42,540 $62,440 $86,980 $125,020 $174,300
Engineering Teachers, Postsecondary $113,680 $52,440 $74,810 $101,720 $140,030 $189,390
Life Sciences Teachers, Postsecondary $9,6110 $44,240 $59,640 $83,050 $118,420 $164,680
Agricultural Sciences Teachers, Postsecondary $90,890 $42,240 $59,390 $84,640 $115,460 $149,720
Biological Science Teachers, Postsecondary $97,340 $44,550 $59,510 $82,550 $119,400 $169,290
Forestry and Conservation Science Teachers, Postsecondary $92,550 $47,820 $64,830 $86,900 $114,890 $146,550
Physical Sciences Teachers, Postsecondary $97,280 $46,210 $61,330 $84,470 $119,850 $165,320
Atmospheric, Earth, Marine, and Space Sciences Teachers, Postsecondary $101,890 $47,820 $65,400 $90,860 $126,110 $170,200
Chemistry Teachers, Postsecondary $92,360 $44,970 $58,700 $79,550 $111,180 $158,830
Environmental Science Teachers, Postsecondary $91,330 $42,930 $58,240 $79,910 $113,460 $158,230
Physics Teachers, Postsecondary $103,830 $49,260 $65,360 $90,800 $126,910 $174,490
Social Sciences Teachers, Postsecondary $92,440 $39,410 $56,430 $79,080 $113,020 $164,730
Anthropology and Archeology Teachers, Postsecondary $94,080 $45,330 $61,610 $83,940 $118,390 $159,390
Area, Ethnic, and Cultural Studies Teachers, Postsecondary $85,450 $36,380 $51,780 $74,440 $103,140 $153,790
Economics Teachers, Postsecondary $117,180 $51,070 $72,430 $101,480 $141,690 $202,460
Geography Teachers, Postsecondary $88,950 $42,480 $60,070 $80,350 $106,810 $148,550
Political Science Teachers, Postsecondary $99,480 $43,310 $60,980 $83,370 $117,590 $177,360
Psychology Teachers, Postsecondary $88,490 $39,350 $55,880 $76,710 $107,700 $155,710
Sociology Teachers, Postsecondary $83,310 $38,440 $54,350 $74,140 $100,020 $138,500
Social Sciences Teachers, Postsecondary, All Other $87,950 $31,350 $48,220 $71,600 $107,870 $178,500
Health Teachers, Postsecondary $113,370 $42,580 $59,690 $89,440 $143,460 NA
Health Specialties Teachers, Postsecondary $122,320 $43,370 $61,280 $97,370 $160,580 NA
Nursing Instructors and Teachers, Postsecondary $81,350 $40,370 $55,620 $73,490 $97,390 $129,070
Education and Library Science Teachers, Postsecondary $73,800 $33,240 $48,150 $65,390 $89,420 $123,560
Education Teachers, Postsecondary $73,680 $32,680 $47,350 $64,780 $893,00 $124,580
Library Science Teachers, Postsecondary $75,450 $45,010 $56,550 $71,560 $90,550 $111,230
Law, Criminal Justice, and Social Work Teachers, Postsecondary $96,110 $35,620 $50,770 $73,970 $121,000 $188,530
Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Teachers, Postsecondary $72,390 $35,910 $46,910 $61,900 $87,620 $124,180
Law Teachers, Postsecondary $130,710 $360,00 $59,250 $111,140 $179,140 NA
Social Work Teachers, Postsecondary $77,520 $34,940 $51,320 $68,300 $93,900 $134,740
Arts, Communications, and Humanities Teachers, Postsecondary $80,670 $37,220 $50,950 $69,390 $97,230 $139,080
Art, Drama, and Music Teachers, Postsecondary $82,560 $36,360 $51,550 $69,960 $98,690 $146,290
Communications Teachers, Postsecondary $78,090 $35,870 $49,570 $68,910 $95,250 $133,570
English Language and Literature Teachers, Postsecondary $78,150 $37,180 $48,860 $66,590 $94,790 $135,020
Foreign Language and Literature Teachers, Postsecondary $79,160 $38,910 $50,890 $67,640 $96,850 $137,860
History Teachers, Postsecondary $83,990 $40,600 $55,410 $74,590 $99,860 $134,170
Philosophy and Religion Teachers, Postsecondary $82,420 $38,860 $53,410 $71,890 $98,160 $135,170
Miscellaneous Postsecondary Teachers $60,200 $20,590 $34,650 $51,150 $74,730 $109,070
Graduate Teaching Assistants $36,390 $18,320 $21,640 $33,700 $46,670 $59,290
Home Economics Teachers, Postsecondary $77,170 $38,770 $52,930 $71,380 $96,460 $123,010
Recreation and Fitness Studies Teachers, Postsecondary $72,190 $32,620 $44,890 $62,620 $89,610 $127,970
Vocational Education Teachers, Postsecondary $58,520 $32,520 $40,880 $53,120 $70,340 $94,100
Postsecondary Teachers, All Other $76,990 $27,490 $46,150 $65,660 $97,640 $136,490
Preschool, Primary, Secondary, and Special Education School Teachers $59,980 $33,050 $43,770 $56,790 $73,830 $93,860
Preschool and Kindergarten Teachers $40,070 $21,440 $25,510 $33,970 $49,820 $67,800
Preschool Teachers, Except Special Education $34,410 $20,610 $24,040 $29,780 $39,060 $55,350
Kindergarten Teachers, Except Special Education $58,370 $35,680 $44,310 $55,470 $69,420 $86,310
Elementary and Middle School Teachers $62,150 $38,170 $46,340 $58,350 $75,090 $94,660
Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education $62,200 $37,780 $46,120 $58,230 $75,330 $95,270
Middle School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education $62,030 $39,090 $46,840 $58,600 $74,600 $93,180
Career/Technical Education Teachers, Middle School $62,570 $39,890 $47,770 $59,230 $74,770 $92,550
Secondary School Teachers $64,230 $39,860 $48,070 $60,320 $77,500 $97,120
Secondary School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education $64,340 $39,740 $47,980 $60,320 $77,720 $97,500
Career/Technical Education Teachers, Secondary School $62,810 $41,250 $49,220 $60,250 $74,930 $91,190
Special Education Teachers $63,890 $39,220 $47,570 $59,610 $76,620 $97,190
Special Education Teachers, Preschool $61,610 $34,300 $44,020 $55,840 $72,570 $100,160
Special Education Teachers, Kindergarten and Elementary School $63,110 $38,980 $47,520 $59,390 $75,940 $95,730
Special Education Teachers, Middle School $64,390 $40,690 $48,820 $60,250 $77,080 $97,290
Special Education Teachers, Secondary School $65,320 $40,560 $48,630 $60,600 $77,820 $98,290
Special Education Teachers, All Other $62,500 $34,580 $44,030 $56,680 $76,110 $98,730
Other Teachers and Instructors $40,250 $19,660 $24,260 $33,050 $48,440 $68,820
Adult Basic and Secondary Education and Literacy Teachers and Instructors $58,110 $32,370 $42,200 $53,630 $71,010 $89,710
Self-Enrichment Education Teachers $44,960 $20,820 $26,760 $38,720 $56,390 $77,770
Miscellaneous Teachers and Instructors $37,840 $19,350 $23,530 $30,850 $43,950 $62,760
Teachers and Instructors, All Other, Except Substitute Teachers $48,040 $21,090 $26,680 $39,540 $60,520 $83,680
Substitute Teachers $32,360 $18,850 $22,510 $28,680 $37,340 $48,540
Instructional Coordinators $67,490 $36,360 $49,280 $64,450 $82,860 $102,200
Teacher Assistants $28,750 $18,670 $21,940 $26,970 $34,190 $41,020