Back to School Spotlight: Where Does a Teacher’s Salary Stretch the Furthest?

Where teaching pays the most

Teachers have the power to positively influence their students and encourage them to pursue their interests and dreams. In fact, according to Malcolm Gladwell, teaching is in many ways the “model profession of the 21st century”. After all, teachers need to blend leadership, social and cognitive skills, while being adaptable and opening themselves up to new bodies of knowledge.

But if teaching is an important job that is vital to the future of work, pay for this profession doesn’t necessarily reflect the fact. Teachers’ strikes placed the subject in the media spotlight this spring. And rising housing prices and cost of living are another factor that could impact whether many teachers can even afford to stay in the profession.

So as back-to-school season approaches, we decided to take a deep dive into the profession.

Where teaching pays the most

Of course, the US is a huge country and conditions vary in different cities; in some places, educators are better paid than in others. So which exactly are the cities where teacher salaries go the furthest?  To find out, our analytics team used Indeed salary data to identify the cities with the highest average salaries, and then adjusted them for cost of living using the most recent information from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).

Where it pays most to be a teacher in the U.S.

Which city places first? It’s none other than Seattle, Washington, which jumped up two spots from number three last year.

On average, a teacher in Seattle can expect to be paid $62,557 a year. And while Seattle does have a higher cost of living compared to the national average (in fact, it’s about 24% more expensive than the “typical” US city), the salary once adjusted for cost of living still ranks the highest among teaching jobs in other cities, at $55,989.

Following Seattle are Richmond, Virginia and Atlanta, Georgia, with average teaching salaries of $53,477 and $51,539. Although there’s a large gap between Seattle’s average salary and number two and three on the list, the gap narrows greatly once adjusted as Richmond and Atlanta climb to $55,563 and $53,446 respectively.

Another interesting fact to note is that the majority of the cities can be found in the Sun Belt region of the U.S., which stretches across the Southeast and Southwest and includes states like Virginia, Georgia, Texas, Florida, Tennessee, and North Carolina.

We also see an abundance of Texan cities on the list, with San Antonio ranking fourth, Houston ranking seventh, Austin ninth, and Dallas landing at #10. There’s no shortage of cities in Florida, either, with Orlando, Tampa and Jacksonville placing #11, #12 and #13 respectively.

The problem, and what this means for the profession

But while these cities may offer higher pay than many teachers are receiving elsewhere, just how serious is the problem of pay for other educators?

To put things in perspective, nearly one in five teachers work a second job, while a survey found that 94% of teachers use their own money to buy school supplies. We also see that teachers in states with lower average teaching salaries are more likely to look for non-educational jobs on Indeed.

Exactly what are they clicking on? A lot of different options: some are looking to do part-time work in addition to teaching jobs. The top job is babysitter/nanny, with 4.1% of teachers clicking on it. Other contenders high on the list include administrative assistant (3.2%), receptionist (3.0%) and customer service representative (3.0%).

Conditions are improving in some states, however. Following this year’s strikes, some educators did win pay increases.  For instance, in West Virginia, teachers ended up winning a 5% pay increase from lawmakers after a two week strike and in Oklahoma, where average teaching salaries have traditionally been low, teachers won a $6,000 raise after striking for nine days.

What can teachers do to cope with low pay?

So what else can teachers do to remedy this situation? Teachers can relocate to an area with a higher average teaching salary. However, if they’re moving to a different state, there’s a chance they might need to retest for a license, depending on what state a teacher is moving to.

But many teachers may not want, or be able, to move state. Here, employers can help by letting teachers know about and sign up for district and statewide incentives. These include professional development programs, which can have an effect on salary increases, or teacher incentive programs, which offer performance-based incentives for teachers.

Tutoring or teaching summer classes is another option, as is pursuing further education, whether by getting a master’s degree or teaching a higher grade level or post-secondary education. Pursuing higher education is usually associated with an increase in salary, and teaching a higher grade level does tend to pay slightly more.

Teachers can also go the route of pursuing a position in administration, though this often requires an advanced degree and years of related teaching experience. Those wanting to go the administration route can take on the role of principal or vice principal of a school, superintendent of a school district or an instructional coordinator.

While the future of teaching salaries remain unclear, there’s no denying the impact teachers have on society. So as the school year starts back up again, we wish all educators a great school year and thank them for their dedication to our children!

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Methodology: To find out where it pays most to be a teacher, our data team used Indeed salary data to identify the cities (among the 25 largest) with the highest average salaries, then adjusted for cost of living using the most recent information from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).