Is a Teacher’s Salary Good?

The answer to the question “is a teacher’s salary good?” is relative. On average, teachers do not earn as much as people in other comparable professions. However, depending on your needs and circumstances, a teacher’s salary can be good or bad.

Is a Teacher’s Salary Good?

Yes, a teacher’s salary is good since they make a median income of over $65,000 yearly. This is higher than the national average salary for U.S. workers which is $54,132, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. It is also close to the median household income of $70,784.

A woman in white long-sleeves and black pants teaching her student about Paramecium

However, with the increased cost of living, many teachers teaching in public schools still need help to make ends meet. They are often required to work long hours outside the classroom performing duties such as grading papers and preparing lesson plans. This extra work may make it challenging to maintain a healthy work-life balance or enjoy the salary they earn.

How Much Do Teachers Make?

According to the National Education Association, the average salary for teachers in the United States is $65,293 per year. This is lower than the salaries of other professionals, such as doctors, lawyers, and engineers.

However, the average salary of a teacher can vary greatly depending on factors such as:

  • Level of education
  • Years of experience
  • Location
  • Expertise in special education
  • Enrollment in teachers’ unions

Level of Education

A teacher with a master’s degree or higher generally earns more than one with a bachelor’s degree. For instance, high school teachers will generally earn more than elementary school teachers.  This is because they generally require a higher level of education with good professional development.

According to, elementary school teachers earn a median of $62,251 while secondary school teachers make $63,300 on average. High school teachers with Master’s Degrees or MBAs will earn a median of $62,242 while those with Associates degrees earn $61,209.

Of course, attaining more training is an investment you will need to pay off. Most student teachers get scholarships and loans to finance their higher education. Sometimes, those who cannot repay their student loans can benefit from forgiveness programs.


Many districts use a “step” system for determining teacher salaries and professional development. Each year of experience is associated with a specific pay level. Teachers with more years of experience will typically be placed on a higher step and therefore earn more money.

More experienced teachers may be given additional responsibilities, such as mentoring new teachers or serving as department heads, which can result in higher pay. Besides, your school district may provide “longevity pay” to supplement your average salary for each year of service with the district.


Different states pay teachers differently. The state you teach in will typically inform things like the cost of living, the level of education required for the job, and the local demand for teachers. These will affect the average salaries for teachers working in student learning centers around the country.

Generally, teachers in urban areas earn higher salaries than those in rural areas. This is due to the higher cost of living in cities. Teachers in states with a higher cost of living, like New York, tend to earn higher salaries than those with a low cost of living, like Oklahoma.

A woman wearing white long sleeves counting money in the office

Expertise in Special Education

Typically, teachers who teach students with disabilities earn more than their counterparts. However, this can depend on the location and other factors. Special education teachers earn a higher salary due to the added qualifications and professional development.

These teachers often require additional certification and training to work with children or students with disabilities, and they may also be required to have a deeper understanding of the laws and regulations related to special education.

In some locations, the pay and benefits for special education teachers might not be higher than for general education teachers. However, most teachers with special training often report feeling more fulfilled in their jobs and are proud of the difference they make in the lives of their students.

Union Membership

On average, teachers who are members of a union tend to enjoy additional pay and better benefits compared to non-unionized teachers. This is because unions negotiate with school district administrators and boards to secure better pay and benefits for their members.

Unionized teachers also have more job security and protection against arbitrary dismissal. However, it is worth noting that union membership and teacher pay can vary widely depending on location and other factors.

Other Factors That Influence a Teacher’s Salary

Whether a teacher’s average salary is good or not depends on an individual’s needs and circumstances. Some of the factors you need to consider to determine if a teacher’s salary suits you include the following:

  • Your current lifestyle
  • Your quality of life
  • The cost of living
  • Your current Financial situation

Your Lifestyle

If you are used to a particular lifestyle, you need to ensure that the national average salary for a teacher can maintain that lifestyle. It would be best to calculate your monthly expenses first. This includes considering items like your car payment, rent or mortgage, credit card bills, student loans, groceries, and any other regular bills you have.

Once you know how much you spend each month, you can compare that to a teacher’s monthly income. If your monthly expenses are less, the national average salary for teachers may need to be better to cover everything. In that case, you may need to consider another line of work or negotiate a higher salary.

Your Quality of Life

It is also essential to consider how teaching jobs affect your quality of life. A teacher’s salary may provide financial security and the ability to afford luxuries. However,  it may not be good if it negatively affects your quality of life.

You may not consider the salary as “good” if the job is highly stressful, has long working hours, and does not align with your values or interests.

The Cost of Living

By comparing your area’s living cost to the average salary you are offered, you will better understand whether the salary is sufficient to cover those expenses.

If the cost of living is high and the salary is low, you might find it challenging to afford necessities. On the other hand, if the cost of living is low and the teacher’s average salary is high, you can save more or improve your standard of living.

A male professor in long sleeves and black pants teaching his students in a science classroom

Your Financial Goals

Is the national average salary for a teacher enough to support your financial goals? Does the long-term earning potential align with your future goals? These questions will help determine if a teacher’s salary is good or if you require additional pay.

If the amount offered allows you to save, invest, and meet your basic expenses, you can consider it “good.” Otherwise, you should counteroffer the salary before going to the classroom.

Related Questions

Is Teaching a Stable Profession?

There are a lot of variables to consider when answering the question of whether or not teaching is a stable profession. Things like the current job market, funding for education, and political factors can all affect the stability of the profession. Teaching is considered to be a relatively stable profession.

Are Teachers Underpaid?

Most teachers need to be paid more for the invaluable work they do. Some often have to spend their money on classroom supplies and are not given enough time to plan their lessons. Considering that most teachers have to deal with disruptive students, the pay may not be good enough for some.


While starting salaries are only sometimes as high as in other professions, teaching can be rewarding. Teachers benefit from job security and generous retirement plans like the 403(b) plan. However, before becoming a teacher, you should self-evaluate to see if you are indeed cut out for the job and whether the average salary suits you.

Jared Bauman is the owner and editor of He has started and sold several companies, along with owning several investment properties. His interest in personal finance started as a young kid, developed through his entrepreneurial ventures and real estate investments, and continue through his conversations with friends and colleagues.

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