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How much should teachers make?

I recently overhead a conversation about how school teachers don't make enough money. I've heard countless conversations making a similar claim. What I've never heard is someone stating just how much a teacher should make. I'm curious, what salary do you think is enough?

By ScubaWags6
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It's not just about what they make but in many areas of the country, teachers are coming out of their own pockets for supplies and teaching aids for their students.

BeeHappy Level 9 Mar 3, 2019

Good point. How's this for a starting point on the discussion...?

expatri Level 5 Mar 3, 2019

Maybe this will help. Teachers in the US have to have a college bachelor's degree as a requirement for licensure. 36 states and DC also require their teachers to have a master's degree. The average teacher's salary K-12 falls somewhere between $54,000-$58,000. Salaries such as this equate more to plumbers, pipefitters, police officers, technicians, electrical and electronics drafters. Professions that do not require a college degree, but instead require training, and certainly do not require a master's degree.

The average salary nationwide for professions with bachelor's degrees is $61,000. The average salary nationwide for professions with master's degrees is $78,000.

So you can see that teachers are highly educated but making under other professions with the same education. There is no opportunity for advancement. The only way to make more money in education is to trade the classroom for an administrative position, which many do.

So why the disparity? Discrimination based on gender. If this were a male dominated profession, there would be higher salaries. The average US teacher is...
Age 42
Makes $55,100
Works 53 hours per week

Contrast this with high school football coaches. Most also teach with adjusted class schedules (meaning they teach fewer classes) to account for coaching responsibilities. In addition to a teacher's salary, coaches earn anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000 extra for being the head football coach. Assistants earn less, but still extra. Except in Texas, where high school football coaches are full-time positions and carry an average yearly salary of $98,000.

linxminx Level 7 Mar 3, 2019

You make great points. But you omit the fact that teachers have summer, spring break, winter break and all major holidays off. So comparing annual income of plumbers and electricians with the nine-month salary of teachers doesn't work. I believe teachers should be paid better. But I believe most Americans should be paid better as well.

@OHJim Actually they may have some of those holidays but they do always start at least a week before school goes back, and considering they work way more hours when school is on then I think they deserve the time off.

@OHJim It depends upon what you mean by "off". If I spend 20 minutes per essay reading, editing, and grading them, and I have 3 sections of honors English 9, with 85 students total in those sections...that's 28 hours spent on one assignment during my "off" time (Christmas or spring break, because adding an extra 28 hours to a regular work week is literally not possible). That doesn't count grading anything else, planning anything else, etc., and it assumes 20 minutes will be enough for every single one of them, which it will not be. (If the essay is 3-5 pages long, that's 255-425 pages. So in effect you are editing a book written by amateurs for just one assignment.) Granted, it is significantly less time than the 12-16 hours a day spent during an actual work week, especially when you are new. But you must also grant me that with all the wonderful "off" time, still no one is in line to be a teacher, and most new teachers quit after five years.

The job is much more complicated and much more time consuming than people generally realize--unless they are teaching PE or something.

@OHJim "Off" means teachers do not get paid for summers and holidays. It does not mean they aren't working. Plumbers charge by the hour, right? So if they work, they're getting paid. There is usually a minimum you have to pay, so if the job takes 10 minutes, the customer pays a minimum of one hour. Regardless, we're talking about college-educated professionals versus skilled, hourly-workers. So it's apples to oranges. When you put the college-educated professions side-by-side, teacher salaries still rank low.

BTW, today is Monday of spring break. Guess where I'll be at? In my office...catching up on the work I have to do that I can't get done during regular working hours. @greyeyed123 is right. The job is more complicated and time consuming than people realize.

I agree with a salary in line with other professionals. ($61000/$78000). I would support a differential for urban areas to compensate for housing and other expenses. However, in my opinion, this compensation should be for a 46 week school year. I agree with @Quarm that the school year should be longer. In order to not devastate the tourism industry (i.e. amusement parks) half the country should begin early June-the other mid July. The current calendar was devised to allow for the farms to be worked. A completely outdated solution which puts the country at a dis-advantage globally.


In an effort to piss off all you sports fans, I believe that a teacher should make more than ANY professional athlete. Shit they are just playing a game.

Do you propose raising the pay for teachers to 7 figures, or lowering the pay of sports players to 5 figures?

@ScubaWags While it was a little tongue-in-cheek, I think most teachers are underpaid. If they were paid for all the hours they worked, by the hour, they'd be almost as expensive. A very serious related issue is the fact that, except for private schools, public schools are 'paid' by community real estate taxes. This injects a big imbalance because poorer communities have just as many children (often in greater need) but have a lower real estate base. I'm retired now but taught Elementary school in an impoverished district so I know what I'm saying. These kids were at an unfair disadvantage just because of where they lived.

@ScubaWags Both

They're playing a game that brings their corporations and bosses BILLIONS of dollars though, and they are DIRECTLY responsible for bringing in that money based on their skill level. That's why they have agents that negotiate contracts based on that skill and "draw". Comparing athletes and entertainers to teachers is apples an oranges and kind of ridiculous. Pay doesn't go by importance to society, sadly, but it's the real world. Everyone also thinks the athletes life is simple. Go play a game and get paid. You don't see the 15-20 hour days they put in for exercising, practicing, traveling, studying, and being away from their families, and there is more to it than even that. Athletes probably work harder than anyone. The bottom line is that sports are a for profit enterprise and the pay is commensurate with the draw that players have based on their skill and ability to bring people to the games and buy their merchandise. Not saying it's fair, but like I said it's the real world.


Think the question needs to be taken in a wider context: how much should everyone earn? The most functional and happiest societies seem to have small income differences between top and bottom

You comment dodges the question, what should a teacher (Master's degree), make compared to the janitor with a high school education or less?

@dahermit no - not dodging it: it’s a question that I can’t answer in isolation.

@dahermit The level of education does not necessarily determine the monetary value of the job. A firefighter who had no degree could very well be worth a higher salary than a master of fine arts, especially if your house is on fire.

@dahermit I've thought about it Dahermit. I think they should make about double what the janitor makes - with the total range of salaries from top to bottom in a society, spanning 1 to 6 times the bottom salary. That's a bit arbitrary - but then this is the internet and I'm just a bloke looking at how countries that have managed to keep salary ranges low, have done really well.

I'm working in Switzerland at the moment. A checkout till worker in a supertmarket earns about USD50k per year. A graduate from a decent universtity earns about $75k per year - and that will rise very quickly to about $110k - $120k (over 3 years or so). From there rises will be very modest. So I work with folks who are 25 years into their careers and earn $140k a year.

That seems to work pretty well.


Ask a teacher how much they should make. they should determine their worth, not someone else.


The conversation I have heard many times here in Michigan is that teachers "...make too much money...", and have "...all Summer off." Those who make such statements are pretty much ignorant of the reality of the situation. In my school district in Michigan, a starting teacher had to have a bachelor's degree with teacher certification. Then they had to go on (in the Summer and/or nights), and get an additional minimum of 18 semester hours or attain their master's degree. The first 9 hours was not reimbursed by the comes out of the teacher's pocket. When it comes to, "all Summer off", typically the starting date for teachers in our district was August 14-15 for "teacher's work days" through June 10 or so (snow days added), for the school year...about two months off...if they are not in grad school. When It comes to pay grades, consideration should be given to, amount of education, some get more than a master's... meaning continuing on in grad school to get an education specialist's degree or a doctorate, or other grad school classes. Also in our district, there were pay steps relative to how many years they had been teaching in the district. Therefore, what would be a fair wage for a person who typically has a master's degree or more, and has been a teacher for an average of more than ten years? More than a bar tender? I found it interesting that the lower a person's education level the more likely they were to consider teacher's to be overpaid.

dahermit Level 7 Mar 3, 2019

Your comment is excellent in that it describes what I hear down here in Ohio, and what a niece & nephew who are secondary education teachers in Georgia tell me.

I am from Michigan, which used to be described as an “Education State”. Those who wanted to become teachers really competed to attend the universities that taught teachers because they produced the best teachers. As a result, public education in Michigan was among the best in the country. When I moved to California, my twelve-year-old daughter first attended a public school that was teaching easily two years behind what she already knew, so I had to move her to a private school. My understanding is that the level of education has deteriorated in Michigan since then (January 1981). My feeling is, the changes in public education over the years since then have not been positive, as graduates are less educated than they used to be. Many who attend college need remedial courses. And children are not being taught to reason, in my opinion, the biggest failing. We need to re-examine the way we teach and find better ways...even if it means going back to the “old” ways. Children should not be allowed to progress until they have mastered each level, or they are destined to fail. Teachers are forced to pass kids to the next level, when they are not capable. So IMO, educators are not “worth” a high salary, because a high percentage of students are not being educated.

@MissKathleen What became painfully obvious to me when I first became a teacher (Michigan), was that I was not in control of the education system...the administrators were. I had no control over the students...they administrators and parents had empowered children with the "rights" of adults and we (teachers), ended up with no control over the classroom...the "students" did want they wanted with impunity. If a student called me a @#$%^**, I knew he/she would still be there the next day. The only people subject to discipline were the teachers. Therefore, it was not my fault that "...a high percentage of students are (were) not being educated.", and I should not be penalized financially for the failure of the system.
What the schools system had when Michigan was the "Education state" was discipline. Now "they" (the students), have "rights"...just ask them.

@dahermit You won’t get an argument from me on those points. Why didn’t you leave?

@MissKathleen I did. As did many more. Michigan now has a shortage of teachers. When I went into privet industry, I found that several of my new colleges had been teachers at one time and left the field. No other profession has so many that have left that profession.


The answer to the OP's question is very simple economics 101... whatever the market will bear. If you produce a product of low value, than compensation will reflect accordingly.

The deeper question that should be addressed is, why do our societies and cultures find so little value in education? The multitude of answers to that question could fill many threads. For an example of the economics of this situation look no further than an educational institution's athletics program. They rarely run into funding issues, and in fact usually help keep other departments afloat with their excesses. Once again that is market forces at work showing where our values lie. In my opinion, until our values change on this issue I expect that teachers will always be "underpaid".


Depending on local cost of living, but I’d say 6 figures, easy. Yes, I’m being serious. We should hold them in the same regard we hold doctors and others who contribute greatly to society.

Including those not worth a crap?

@Antidronefreeman all teachers. And if they suck, we should be able to fire them. It actually is pretty easy to do in I think most of the country.

@Antidronefreeman Before you assume that "bad teachers" are the problem become one and find out what it is really all about.


There are too many factors involved to give just one number. Regardless, we live in a time where education itself is considered the enemy by many an imbecile. That in itself speaks volumes of how we need teachers more than ever.


$70,000 per year on average. They should certainly make more than politicians.


I think teachers should be one of the highest earners in the society along with soldiers and health professionals.


In the district I served, teachers had an increasing pay scale that benefited them with years of service and degrees obtained. Those who have earned a Masters degree and have some years of service do quite well.

The problem is the new hire rate can be in the low $30k range, so new teachers coming out of college with loan debt have a very difficult time in most markets. The Denver metro area where I live has become quite pricey for housing, so there's a big struggle for young teachers. What makes matters quite worse is that the bargaining agreements typically include a "probationary period" of three teaching years, and the district may choose to "non re-new" teachers during that period without having to make a case. And I have been witness to discussions at the district leadership level - as a board member - where there is a strategic aim to non re-new x number of teachers each year, to keep their tenure numbers down, and lower the aggregate labor cost. The district knows they will have an abundant list of applicants and transfers to back fill the non re-newed positions. This district does not have the economic challenges that many inner city districts do, so I found this behavior to be appalling.

Many of my daughters' friends went into teaching at the K-12 level, and the salary numbers I have cited come from them. I'd like to see the entry level for new teachers to be in the $45k range, with the same escalations for service years and educational attainment.

Byrdsfan Level 8 Mar 3, 2019

I started teaching in 2002, and after a previous 4 year degree in my subject area, and nearly two years on top of that for teacher ed, I earned less than I was making as a grocery store assistant manager in 1999. Even worse, as a teacher we got paid each month, so I had no income at all until the end of September. I had to get a $2000 loan from my parents to cover me for the month, and paid it back $200 a month for that year...which put me BELOW what I was making at the grocery store. (And on top of all of that, our contract is for 9 months work, but our PAY is split into 12 equal monthly that after one month's work--putting in 1/9th of my year's work--, I got paid 1/12 of my salary. People still think we get paid for doing nothing during the summer, when in fact we are simply getting the rest of our pay for work we already did. This isn't such a big deal after 15 years...but for first year people, it's a kick in the gut and a red flag that maybe you should have picked a different career.)

I now have nearly 7 years of college, 15 years experience, and am approaching what I should have been paid to start all those years ago.

One good thing is that I learned to live on a low income and saved everything else for fear of being trapped financially. My investment income last year eclipsed my salary by quite a lot (almost double), and now I'm feeling guilty for considering quiting teaching. I know there is no one to replace me. Last year they hired a guy who taught one year of 5th grade, with no high school certificate, and a journalism degree. They gave him honors classes his first year for some reason, and wanted the rest of us to help him get up to speed (as if it was that simple). I'd been teaching 13 years, with a professional certificate, a degree in my subject, a 3.9 post grad GPA, and a 4 year college honors program under my belt before they even suggested I teach honors.

I always knew I was overqualified and undervalued, but reality has kind of slapped me in the face last year and this year. (We also almost went on strike at the beginning of the year because the money the state set aside for our salaries suddenly was being funneled elsewhere. Fortunately we got our money...but not before the district told us to have our room keys ready to turn over because subs would be replacing us. I knew they were bluffing then! They don't have enough subs during the school year to cover sick days, much less cover every single teacher! Besides, the subs were on our side anyway.)

I am thankful there are people like you who work so hard to educate our children and grand children. I only wish teachers like you were truly compensated and appreciated for all the good you do for society!!!


I read all the comments and have something to add. Not only do we have to consider what they do and how much education they need to do what they do we should also consider that most teachers, like anyone else who has attended college, have student loans. Does anyone think it is ridiculous that most people have to give up so much money in student loans? I think education should be based on aptitude and achievement. So many people go to college, study a subject as a major, and never get a job in their field so they decide to go for a teaching certificate. Many hate teaching but what else do you do with a history degree? So few go on to write books or curate museums or lead historical trips. So, there is allot to consider in our education system and not just salary.


It depends on where they live and the standard of living in their area. It also depends on their educational level and their time in service and their academic ratings. Unfortunately, education is falling short everywhere because the old system of funding did not take exponential population growth into consideration. My late partner was a master educator at the public elementary level. She got her masters and made a decent salary but it did not compare to other fields at her skill and education level. However, there were also perks (vacation, health care, retirement, job satisfaction) which also have a huge value.


At least as much as a professional basketball player..


They should make what lawyers make. To retain a teaching certificate one needs a Masters degree and possibly even a certain amount if continuing education credits each year. That's about the same as a law degree and the impact teachers make on society it's probably more than lawyers do though not nearly so high profile.

moonmaid Level 8 Mar 5, 2019

Teachers should be like rockstars, they're responsible for our future, we need show appreciation


I assume you have a master's degree, and know what that takes in money and time...I do not, but shepherded my ex thru it...

There is an abysmal amount of ignorance surrounding the work that teachers actually do and how much time it takes, off line and at home.


It should be high enough to make it a very competitive field. Our best minds should be working to get into the teaching profession. The less you pay, the lower quality people you will get to teach our youth, and if you look at the comments on an article on say climate change on Facebook, you'll see what's happening in our country. I have no doubt that this country can go backward very quickly, if we don't have a decent system in place to educate our children.
Teaching is one of our most important professions, and it should be treated that way.


Minimum at least 1 billion dollars a day. To teach, to pass knowledge, understand and wisdom, priceless. The greatest ignorance is not appreciating those that are willing to share the knowledge they have so that others would known.

The greatest Evil of mankind is withholding knowledge, especiallyconsidrring mankind is the animal most capable of enjoying such knowledge. It really sad to see that a price must be put on education when it should be completely freely given. God damn Masonic lodge secret religion racist devil worship God damn keep people ignorant and have a world of secrets so that those having the secrets can capitalize and have capitalism slave wage labors. And people wonder why the world is so god dsmn fucked up.

Antifred Level 7 Mar 4, 2019

word, man.


I would certainly hope it would be a wage that would attract reliable and decent people to the profession who like learning and teaching. They are training our kids to be useful citizens, one would hope that teachers are also useful citizens.


As much as they possibly can, just like everybody else.

Bobby9 Level 7 Mar 3, 2019

That's actually a very difficult question for one simple reason....if you make one dollar then you will always want one more. It will never be enough money wise. On the other hand, teaching should be a privilege for those who feel the calling, then money takes a different perspective. I think we all at least can agree that no one would make a fortune by just teaching, even when it is a fundamentally important job for society.

In what other profession is a "calling" the determinant factor in their compensation? And, just how would a person be determined to have a "calling"?

@dahermit Every activity has its own calling and I don't think we know why some click with certain individuals and not others. If the calling is to make money then teaching is not the best option

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