The average teacher salary for preschool, primary, secondary, and special education teachers is $59,980 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The average median annual salary for this same group is $56,790.
You can easily make more or less money as a teacher. It all comes down to your specialty, your experience, your location, and your industry.
Average Teacher Salary by Specialty
Average teacher salaries and percentile wage estimates vary greatly based on what type of teacher you become.
Preschool teachers work in elementary schools, daycare centers, or child development facilities. These teachers earn an average salary of $34,410.
Percental wage estimates from the BLS look like this:
- Lowest 10% earn less than $20,610
- Median wage is $29,780
- Highest 10% earn more than $55,350
Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers
According to the BLS, Percental wage estimates for both groups look like this:
- Lowest 10% earn less than $37,780
- Median wage is $57,980
- Highest 10% earn more than $95,270
Middle School Teachers
Middle school teachers (minus career/technical education and special education) earn an average annual salary of $62,030.
Percental wage estimates from the BLS look like this:
- Lowest 10% earn less than $39,090
- Median wage is $58,600
- Highest 10% earn more than $93,180
High School Teachers
High school teachers, also called secondary school teachers, earn an average annual salary of $64,340. This figure does not include career/technical education teachers or special education teachers.
Percental wage estimates from the BLS look like this:
- Lowest 10% earn less than $39,740
- Median wage is $60,320
- Highest 10% earn more than $97,500
Special Education Teachers
Average pay for special education teachers varies based on the age of the kids they work with:
- Preschool: $61,610 average annual salary
- Kindergarten and Elementary School: $63,110 average annual salary
- Middle School: $64,390 average annual salary
- High School: $65,320 average annual salary
Percental wage estimates for all special education teachers look like this:
- Lowest 10% earn less than $39,680
- Median wage is $59,780
- Highest 10% earn more than $97,070
Adult Literacy and High School Equivalency Diploma Teachers
Adult Literacy and High School Equivalency Diploma Teachers teach GED prep classes, English as a second language courses, literacy classes, and remedial education courses. These teachers earn an average salary of $58,110 per year.
Percental wage estimates from the BLS look like this:
- Lowest 10% earn less than $32,370
- Median wage is $53,630
- Highest 10% earn more than $89,710
Career and Technical Education Teachers
Career and Technical Education Teachers train students in auto repair, cosmetology, culinary arts, and other hands-on fields. Those who teach middle school students earn an average salary of $62,570 while those who teach high school students earn an average salary of $62,810.
Percental wage estimates from the BLS for all career and technical education teachers look like this:
- Lowest 10% earn less than $34,980
- Median wage is $56,750
- Highest 10% earn more than $92,640
Postsecondary teachers work at community colleges, universities, four-year colleges, and professional schools. This is the highest paid teaching field, but it all depends on the specific subject you teach. View the pay breakdown by subspecialty here.
Percental wage estimates for all postsecondary teachers look like this:
- Lowest 10% earn less than $29,760
- Median wage is $78,470
- Highest 10% earn more than $175,110
Average Teacher Salary by Experience Level
Teachers start out making less money, but their income increases as they gain more experience in the classroom. Payscale* reports that teachers make the following based on their number of years of experience:
- Less than 1 year of experience: $41,309 average annual salary
- 1-4 years of experience: $41,540 average annual salary
- 5-9 years of experience: $45,045 average annual salary
- 10-19 years of experience: $50,655 average annual salary
- 20+ years of experience: $60,295 average annual salary
*Payscale collects data directly from employees while the BLS collects salary information from employers.
Average Teacher Salary by Industry
For the most part, teachers either work in the public or the private sector. Teachers working for local public schools typically receive higher pay and better benefits.
In May 2018, the BLS reported that local public elementary and secondary schools paid teachers a median annual salary of $59,420. Teachers working at a private public elementary or secondary school received a median annual salary of only $46,410. Similarly, in 2018, special education teachers who worked in the public sector earned $8,000 more per year than their private school counterparts.
Average Teacher Salary by State and City
What state you choose to work in as a teacher partially determines your earning potential. The following data comes from the BLS’ dataset for all Education, Training, and Library Occupations. Teaching occupations comprise most of the occupations listed in the category.
States with the Highest Average Teacher Salary
The BLS identifies the following as the top five states/territories that pay teachers the most on average:
- District of Columbia: $80,820 average annual salary
- New York: $70,260 average annual salary
- Massachusetts: $69,360 average annual salary
- California: $66,050 average annual salary
- Connecticut: $65,970 average annual salary
It might seem tempting to move to a state where teachers earn a significantly higher salary, but don’t let the numbers fool you. According to CNBC, Washington DC, New York, Massachusetts, California, and Connecticut are the 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 4th, and 7th most expensive states to live in. The extra money you earn each week will need to go toward higher grocery, transportation, housing, and utility expenses.
States with the Lowest Average Teacher Salary
Based on BLS data, the following states pay teachers and related workers much less than the national average.
- Oklahoma: $35,130 average annual salary
- South Dakota: $40,050 average annual salary
- Montana: $43,120 average annual salary
- Idaho: $43,410 average annual salary
- West Virginia: $43,460 average annual salary
Not surprisingly, your earning potential is also much lower in the above states. For example, in South Dakota, the highest-paid 10% of workers only earn more than $62,330. Compare that to Washington D.C. where workers can make upwards of $132,300 per year. That’s a substantial difference even when accounting for cost of living.
Cities with the Highest Average Teacher Salary
Some cities pay much more than others too. The BLS reports that the following metropolitan areas pay teachers, librarians, and related educators the most:
- Ithaca, NY: $93,070 average annual salary
- Iowa City, IA: $83,120 average annual salary
- College Station-Bryan, TX: $79,780 average annual salary
- Durham-Chapel Hill, NC: $75,810 average annual salary
- Columbia, MO: $74,040 average annual salary
Is Becoming a Teacher Worth It?
Becoming a teacher requires a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and a state certification. A master’s degree can expand your opportunities, including earning a higher salary. Unfortunately, for many teachers, the higher salary comes at the expense of taking out more student loans.
In 2018, tuition for a bachelor’s degree cost an average of $34,740 at a private college, $9,970 at an in-state public college, and $25,620 at an out-of-state public college. Room and board cost an average of $10,800 at public colleges and $12,210 at private colleges per year. After grants and scholarships, it’s unlikely that you’ll pay sticker price for tuition. However, that doesn’t mean teachers are exempt from the burden of student loans.
Looking at the class of 2017, the average student who borrowed graduated with $28,500 in student loan debt. When you compare that figure to a teacher’s salary, it becomes apparent that paying back loans isn’t easy.
A study by Credible.com found that those with a bachelor’s degree in education have a higher student debt-to-income ratio than the average for all undergraduate degrees and all graduate degrees. Graduates who studied education during undergrad have a 12.06% debt-to-income (DTI) ratio. It’s recommended to have a DTI ratio of less than 36%. While student loans won’t even get you halfway to 36%, they do make it more difficult to take on additional monthly debts like a mortgage payment, rent, car payment, and credit card payments.
So, is taking on all that debt on a teacher’s salary worth it?
It all depends. As with any choice of major, college, and career, it’s important that you understand the numbers behind your decision. Since teachers make less than the average bachelor’s degree holder, you need to avoid taking on debt that you will not be able to pay off based on anticipated future earnings. For aspiring teachers, this may mean opting for a lower cost school or working extra hard to earn scholarships.
The average teacher salary might not look as appealing as the average engineer salary, but teaching is still a worthwhile profession. If you’re passionate about what you’re teaching, then the rewards will certainly outweigh the costs.
To minimize the financial stress of becoming a teacher, follow these tips:
- Research college default rates and alumni salaries to more accurately compare education programs
- Start out at a community college to save money before transferring to a four-year college or university
- Go to college close to home and live at home save on rising room and board costs
- Only borrow the minimum amount of money needed to cover mandatory costs like tuition, fees, room, and board.
- Work part-time or over the summer to earn money for transportation, books, and supplies.
- Prioritize applying to school districts that will pay for your master’s degree and other continuing education courses and certificates
- Refinance any private student loans to reduce your monthly payment and/or lower your interest rate
- Consolidate your student loans into an income-based repayment plan so that you qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program
- When you’re searching for housing after graduation, look at the homes available for sale through the HUD Good Neighbor Next Door (GNND) Program. If you qualify, you could receive a 50% discount on a home. Saving on your living expenses will make it easier to pay off your student loans.
- Check your eligibility for teacher loan forgiveness with this Teacher Loan Forgiveness Tool and then apply for the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program (if eligible) to receive a principal reduction of $5,000 to $17,500.
Work over the summer either for a summer program at your school district or at another job to bring your loan balance down faster. This way, you’ll pay less over the life of your loan.
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Compare the Best Student Loan Refinance Rates
Here are our top student loan refinance picks for 2019
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Student Debt Relief Loan Refinancing Advertiser Disclosure
College Ave: College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply. (1)The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as the borrower or cosigner, if applicable, enrolls in auto-pay and authorizes our loan servicer to automatically deduct your monthly payments from a valid bank account via Automated Clearing House (“ACH”). The rate reduction applies for as long as the monthly payment amount is successfully deducted from the designated bank account and is suspended during periods of forbearance and certain deferments. Variable rates may increase after consummation. (2)$5,000 is the minimum requirement to refinance. The maximum loan amount is $300,000 for those with medical, dental, pharmacy or veterinary doctorate degrees, and $150,000 for all other undergraduate or graduate degrees. (3)This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a refi borrower with a Full Principal & Interest Repayment and a 10-year repayment term, has a $40,000 loan and a 5.5% Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $434.11 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $52,092.61. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary. Information advertised valid as of 1/27/2021. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
ELFI: Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply. To qualify for refinancing or student loans consolidation through ELFI, you must have at least $15,000 in student loan debt and must have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher from an approved post-secondary institution.
LendKey: Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
CommonBond: Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate.
Splash Financial: Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval.com
Earnest: To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest’s fixed-rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with autopay) to 7.89% APR (with autopay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.50% APR (with autopay) to 7.27% APR (with autopay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms of 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 0.26% and 5.03% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of April 23, 2019 and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay Discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 04/23/19. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice.
Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 303 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, e-mail us at email@example.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
Ascent: Ascent Student Loans are funded by Bank of Lake Mills, Member FDIC. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions. Certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. For Ascent Terms and Conditions please visit: www.AscentFunding.com/Ts&Cs. Rates are effective as of 2/1/2023 and reflect an automatic payment discount of either 0.25% (for credit-based loans) OR 1.00% (for undergraduate outcomes-based loans). Automatic Payment Discount is available if the borrower is enrolled in automatic payments from their personal checking account and the amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month. For Ascent rates and repayment examples please visit: AscentFunding.com/Rates. 1% Cash Back Graduation Reward subject to terms and conditions. Cosigned Credit-Based Loan student must meet certain minimum credit criteria. The minimum score required is subject to change and may depend on the credit score of your cosigner. Lowest APRs require interest-only payments, the shortest loan term, and a cosigner, and are only available to our most creditworthy applicants and cosigners with the highest average credit scores.