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How much do you get paid teaching in the USA?

Updated: Oct 17

Teaching is surely one of the most impactful occupations in the world. In the United States, teachers play a key role in the country’s economy. However, the question is how much you can get paid for teaching in the US. Are teachers underpaid in the US? What should you expect if you’re planning to get a teaching job? In this article, we will briefly answer these questions to help you set clear expectations. Let’s get started!


Data from the Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics show that the average public school teacher salary nationwide is $63,645. In the United States, the average teacher earns $16.00 per hour.


To get a clear picture of average teacher wages, we need to consider a number of factors and how much certain types of teachers make based on where they live and what they teach. We understand that the teaching profession is probably the most important one when it comes to nation-building and preparing the young generation for the future. Therefore, it’s fair to say that teachers should receive a healthy living wage.


Here is a quick fact: teaching is not the highest-paid occupation in the US. However, performance-based pay systems enable teachers to earn high wages. Performance-based pay not only drives teachers to meet their targeted objectives but also allows them to make more money. Teachers in cultural exchange programs make more money while students get a high-quality education. Still curious how much do teachers get paid in America? Keep reading!


How much do you get paid teaching in the USA?

Average teachers’ salary in the US


The National Education Association found out that an average teacher earned $60,477 a year for the 2017-2018 school year. It is almost similar to the average salary of an event planner and a personal trainer. While the starting salary is below $40,000 in most of the school districts, teachers find plenty of opportunities to grow.


How much money do teachers make in the US? A high school teacher makes $71,000 a year while an average elementary school teacher makes $67,000 a year. According to US News, middle school teachers made a median of $59,660 in 2019. The top 25% of them made over $76,000 in 2019. So, we can say it all depends on your unique teaching experience, qualification, and where you decide to teach.


How much do teachers get paid in the USA? Let’s find out the average salary of teachers based on their school levels.


Cities with the highest pay for high school teachers


Napa, Fresno, Santa Cruz, Stockton, and San Jose pay the highest salary in the high school teaching profession.

​Napa, California

$99,170

Fresno, California

$96,200

Santa Cruz, California

​$95,500

Stockton, California

$94,410

San Jose, California

$92,500

States with the highest pay for high school teachers


According to the NCES, the following states and districts pay the highest mean salary to High School Teachers: New York ($88,890), California ($86,900), Massachusetts ($84,130), and New Jersey ($78,900), and Connecticut ($78,510).

​New York

$88,890

California

$86,900

Massachusetts

$84,130

New Jersey

$78,900

Connecticut

$78,510


How much money do elementary school teachers make?


The average income of an elementary teacher may vary from state to state. So, we will take a quick look at the 5 states where elementary school teachers make the most money.


The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) revealed that the average wage of an elementary school teacher is $63,930 in 2020. This means that elementary teachers make more than the average annual wage of all occupations ($53,490).


Now it’s obvious that salaries vary by location. Certain states offer higher average pay than others. If we talk about the top-paying state, elementary teachers are paid an average salary that is $18,900 more than the national average. Likewise, the lowest-paying state has an average salary that is $19,870 less than the national average.


So, it’s important for you to find a job in a high-paying state, especially if you’re an international teacher looking for a teaching job in the US.


Here is average elementary school teacher salary in the top 5 states:


  • New York: $82,830

  • California: $82,560

  • Massachusetts: $82,450

  • Connecticut: $82,450

  • Alaska: $75,860


States like Oregon and Maryland have considerably increased the average elementary school teacher salary over the last five years. Teaching in Maryland will allow you to make somewhere around $75,380.


At the same time, we should mention some states with the lowest salaries for public school teachers. For example, teachers in Mississippi made an average of $45,574 in the 2018-2019 school year. Florida and South Dakota are also two of the lowest-paying states where elementary teachers don’t make as much compared to other states. So, where do you want to teach as an elementary school teacher?


How much money do middle school teachers make?


According to BLS’s latest data, the salary of an average middle school teacher is $63,550. The average annual income of elementary, middle, and high school teachers is more than the average annual wage for all occupations. On top of this, the average salary of school teachers in the US is increasing year over year. Here are the top 5 states where middle school teachers get the most salary:


  • New York: $87,050

  • Alaska: $80,730

  • Massachusetts: $80,520

  • California: $80,160

  • Connecticut: $79,510

How much money do high school teachers make?


According to the U.S. News, an average high school teacher with more than five years of experience makes around $65,930. The same source found out that the following are the top 5 best-paying cities for high school teachers:


  • Bakersfield, California: $97,680

  • Fresno, California: $93,410

  • San Francisco, California: $93,350

  • El Centro, California: $90,970

  • New York, New York: $90,050


If we look at the data, high school teachers earn more than elementary and middle school teachers. Here is what BLS tells us about the top-five states in which high school teachers make the most money in 2020:


  • New York: $87,240

  • California: $85,080

  • Massachusetts: $81,070

  • Connecticut: $78,540

  • New Jersey: $78,090


Some of the top-paying states witness high school teacher pay grow by more than 20% over the last five years. For example, the average high school teacher’s salary rose from $57,410 in 2014 to $71,780 in 2019. It is clear that an increasing number of states have realized the value a good teacher can bring to the table.


Careers Related to High School Teachers


  1. Elementary School Teachers - $65,420 on average. Educators in elementary schools teach reading, math, science, and history to young children.

  2. Middle School Teachers earn an average salary of $64,990. Middle school teachers prepare students for high school by maintaining the knowledge learned in elementary school and preparing them for the advanced curriculum in high school.

  3. School Counselors earn an average salary of $62,320. They help students deal with academic issues and interpersonal problems.

  4. Children and Family Social Workers - average salary $52,370. Children and families are the focus of the work of a child and family social worker. Social workers assist in academic functioning, adoption, and child placement.


Are teachers in the US underpaid?


School districts are among the top employers on their lists. Nonetheless, teachers are considered underpaid employees as compared to the impact they create. In 2018, PDK Poll found out that 71% of Americans believe teachers should be paid more. Teachers who make less than $45,000 a year feel undervalued by their community.


However, the US is one of the highest-paying nations when it comes to teaching or any other profession. Besides, there’s a shortage of qualified teachers in some school districts. International teachers should consider teaching in the US. If you’re wondering how you can get a teaching job in the US, make sure to explore more about the Cultural Exchange Program for teachers.


How do teachers get raises?


Teachers who keep working on their skills and education are likely to receive higher wages. Typically, teachers earn raises for each additional year of experience, but obtaining more education also helps teachers make more money. For example, getting a Master’s degree can increase your salary. Some districts pay a premium to those holding a master’s or doctoral degree.


Final thoughts


The stats we just mentioned in the article will surely help you understand how much you can earn while teaching in the US. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to our question: “how much do you get paid teaching in the USA”. Nonetheless, you can generate a rough figure based on where you want to teach and what school level you want to teach.


One thing is for sure the US is probably the best country for international teachers to boost their careers and earn a decent amount of money while doing so. If you’re interested in finding a teaching job in the US, don’t forget to visit J1teachers.com, a platform where international teachers and US schools meet each other and find a path to achieve their goals.


Wander what are the applying steps of a J-1 visa for teachers? We have already prepared another post where we explain the topic in detail.



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