male teacher teaching group of children

What Is the Average Salary of a Teacher?


Some people say that teachers’ salaries look good on paper. That is, until you consider the amount of work teachers spend outside of school hours, planning lessons, prepping classrooms, and purchasing supplies with their own money. After all the time it takes to become certified, it’s wise for all future educators to know their potential salary to see if that will be the right career choice for them.

If you’re planning to become a teacher, there’s nothing wrong with wondering, “What is the average salary of a teacher?” Even the most idealistic and pure-intentioned educators want to feel that their time and work are appreciated. Teacher salaries vary significantly depending on the location, from the state to the city, or even the school district. 

While this guide cannot give you figures for the particular area in which you plan to teach, it will give general pay for how much you can expect to earn as a school teacher. Let’s look first at factors that determine how much a school teacher gets paid.

Factors that Determine Teacher Salaries

Public or private. There is a significant difference in the way public and private schools are funded, and this difference directly affects how much teachers are paid at those institutions. Public schools operate tuition-free and are funded by state and federal governments, and by property taxes and other local sources. Private schools charge students tuition, the major source of funding along with endowments and scholarships. Without government funding, many private school teachers receive much lower salaries compared to public school teachers.

Location. Teacher salaries are generally higher in areas with more expensive property taxes. While this makes sense on a cost-of-living level, many critics say that funding public education with local property taxes unfairly advantages those schools in affluent areas, and disadvantages those schools in poorer areas. Such disparities also exist between states, with vastly different student expenditures in different parts of the country. For example, in 2016 to 2017, New York spent $25,025 per student, while Idaho spent only $6,761 per student.

Education. Naturally, your teaching degree and level of education also affect your pay, with less compensation for a bachelor’s degree than you would earn with a master’s or doctorate. If you’re already employed at a school and choose to further your education, earning an advanced degree or even units toward an advanced degree may boost your salary. Some universities even offer paid intern programs, in which you can work as a salaried teacher while you earn your teaching certificate

get your education degree

Experience. As is true in any career, your teacher salary will increase as you gain experience and move up from entry-level status. If you remain in the profession long enough, you should see significant salary increases from entry-level to mid-level to your late-career salary. Be aware, though, that experience is not everything, and that switching to another district or state could result in a salary decrease. 

Average Teacher Salaries

So, what is the average starting salary for a teacher? According to the National Education Association, the national average for entry-level teacher salaries was $39,249 in 2017 to 2018, with the District of Columbia having the highest starting average ($55,209) and Montana having the lowest starting average ($31,418). The national average for all public teacher salaries — including everyone from entry-level to late-career teachers — was $59,660 in 2016 to 2017, with the highest average in New York ($81,902) and the lowest in West Virginia ($45,555). However the NEA notes that, considering inflation, teacher salaries actually decreased from 2008 to 2018 by 4%.

Let’s look at figures from one particular state. The California Department of Education provides a chart that shows Statewide Average Salaries from 2017 to 2018, separated into elementary school districts, high school districts, and unified school districts. Beginning, midrange, and highest average annual teacher salaries are displayed according to the average daily attendance (ADA) in each type of school district. Here are the average salaries across California’s elementary school districts:

  • District with ADA of less than 1,000 students
    • Beginning teacher annual salary: $45,252
    • Midrange teacher annual salary: $65,210
    • Highest teacher annual salary: $84,472
  • District with ADA between 1,000 and 4,999 students
    • Beginning teacher annual salary: $49,378
    • Midrange teacher annual salary: $77,190
    • Highest teacher annual salary: $96,607
  • District with ADA of 5,000 or more students
    • Beginning teacher annual salary: $45,741
    • Midrange teacher annual salary: $81,840
    • Highest teacher annual salary: $102,065

As you can see, compensation generally increases with teacher experience and more populated school districts. The chart further indicates that compensation is higher in high school districts.

Other Benefits

If you’ve researched the average starting teacher salary in your state and came away discouraged, remember that teaching positions typically include a number of perks, including health insurance, retirement, and vacation time. Continued advocacy for fair teacher compensation is important — so is finding people who are passionate about educating today’s children and helping them to become tomorrow’s leaders.

become a teacher today

About Alliant

Alliant International University’s CTC-approved California Teaching Credential programs combine the flexibility of on-line courses with the classroom experience you need to become a credentialed teacher. In addition to single subject, multiple subjects, and education specialist credentials, Alliant also offers a Certificate in California Teachers of English Learners (CTEL), Leading to CLAD Certificate. An Alliant representative is available now at (866) 825-5426 to discuss your options.


  1. “Public School Revenue Sources,” National Center for Education Statistics
  2. “Why Are Private-School Teachers Paid Less than Public-School Teachers?” by Ben Orlin of The Atlantic…
  3. “Report Finds $23 Billion Racial Funding Gap for Schools,” by Laura Meckler of Washington Post…
  4. “Funding Disparities,” New America…
  5. “Rankings of the States 2017 & Estimates of School Statistics 2018,” National Education Association
  6. “2017-2018 Average Starting Teacher Salaries by State,” National Education Association
  7. “Average Salaries & Expenditure Percentage,” California Department of Education

What will your impact be?

Return to Top