Teacher pay – education is not a valid measure

This survey from the US Census Bureau is meaningless. It compares teacher earnings with other similarly educated workers. Such a measure means nothing.

Although teachers are among the nation’s most educated workers, they earn far less on average than most other highly educated workers and their earnings have declined since 2010.

More than 95% of elementary, middle and high school teachers have a bachelor’s degree or more. In 2019, the average earnings of elementary and middle school teachers with a bachelor’s degree or more who work full-time, year-round was $53,800. For high school teachers, it was $57,840.

These earnings fall short of what their similarly educated peers earn:

  • Biological scientists ($69,880).
  • Urban and regional planners ($79,790).
  • Physical therapists ($81,580).
  • Statisticians ($96,320).


The job of teacher is different in many ways for example, teachers:

  • Are paid from property taxes in most cases and pay reflects what the community can afford.
  • Have good benefits, including a traditional pension and in most cases retiree health benefits.
  • Work far fewer hours in a year than traditional jobs, even recognizing that their work day during school days is beyond eight hours
  • Generally, have less than standard performance evaluation systems.
  • Have a higher level of job security than in the private sector.

In summary, measuring pay based on education is meaningless.

Being a teacher-a good teacher – is one of the most important jobs there is and it cannot be measured by pay alone. I suspect most teachers enter the profession for reasons other than making lots of money.


  1. I agree that the survey is meaningless and that being a GOOD teacher is a very important job and should be reasonably compensated. In some locations teachers (particularly starting teachers) are probably underpaid, but in others, the pay plus benefits seems reasonable, if not generous. As usual, the media loves to paint everything as black and white, and you know what side they are generally on.

    This is an article I just saw about a young teacher who decided to go work at Walmart for better pay. https://6abc.com/teacher-quits-for-job-at-walmart-teaching-teachers-seth-goshorn/12078891/?ex_cid=TA_WPVI_FB&utm_campaign=trueAnthem%3A%20New%20Content%20(Feed)&utm_medium=trueAnthem&utm_source=facebook&fbclid=IwAR2Hrcw2Kl7j7bnVQ0lbCaFV2mqOw7P3ThUsDW6ECs_g2XHTAeVfG14eH0E

    This gentleman lives in Ohio (I know nothing about Ohio teacher salaries, but suspect that are lower than in the high cost area I live in where they can be quite generous and include significant benefits). One thing caught my attention. He talks about the “misconception” that teachers only work 9 months a year and then explains that they must work extra hours to grade papers, make lesson plans, etc. What does that have to do with anything? The typical school day is 6 1/2 hours. Most people work an 8 to 9 hour day to start, and it is not unusual to work more. I understand that some teachers will work extra hours, but they still do it over 9 months (and generally have as much vacation during that period as people who work a full year).

    The survey you cite and the type of illogical reasoning set forth in this article does nothing to help further a reasonable discussion about the adequacy of teacher pay and benefits — but those pushing a particular agenda have no real desire or willingness to have a “reasonable” discussion.


  2. Divide the salary of teachers by 1301 hours the teachers work compared to 2080 that others worked. It’s like the garbage man complaining about the smell working and the teacher complain about low pay. You graduated with a master’s degree and still took a low paying job. What did they teach you in school?


  3. You could not pay me enough to be a teacher today with the wokeness in the classroom or lack of student and parent accountabilities. It is just something I would not do. But at the same time, I can’t hit a fast ball, so I didn’t stand a chance in MLB either. There are teachers who could not do my job between the hours, education, skills, and physical requirements.

    Teaching is also where the union comes before the students.

    There are some great teachers out there and they do not work for just the money.
    But a teacher is like a weatherman. They just don’t get fired for doing a bad job. In fact, the true results won’t be known until the student reaches college or the workforce and the blame for failure is often placed on the student.

    Now let’s compare teachers to others who are “similarly educated workers”. According to Payscale these are the worse paying bachelor degrees:
    Metalsmithing: $40,300
    Medical Assisting: $44,800
    Mental Health: $45,000
    Early Childhood Education: $45,400
    Outdoor Education: $46,300
    Rehabilitation Counseling: $46,400
    Child and Family Studies: $46,500
    Addiction Studies: $47,000
    Equine Studies: $47,100
    Early Childhood & Elementary Education: $48,400

    So, the question is are they over paid for their education level? Do they have to be right 100% of the time like a nurse, doctor, or engineer? Does a teacher with a master degree make a difference when teaching the same material after 30 years? Or do they just instruct from school district mandated material and it is up to the students to prove that they learned the material? Do teachers today teach students critical thinking or do they just instruct and guide them from one standardize test to another? What’s that really worth when during the pandemic parents had to teach their children at home. Are teachers worth the money when parents can instruct their children using the same material? Don’t get me wrong. There is value in children learning social interaction and team work by going to school. But I think teachers in some school districts who wanted to keep schools closed even after most of the world re-opened after the pandemic proved that as teachers they were not offering any extra value to the education process. So are they over paid?


  4. The salaries in Massachusetts are way higher compared to the southeast and areas of the southwest. Apparently they lead the country per this article.
    Can all teachers nationwide be paid as much ? Only if the voting public agrees to a much heavier burden of taxation. In Georgia, there is voter support for the public schools but voters don’t have the deep pockets to double teaching salaries. If there were only as many teachers to be supported as statisticians then teachers would be compensated likewise.


  5. Evidently, other parts of the country (outside of southern New England) must have extremely low salaries in order to make the average in the 50s. My friend (single female) teaches high school history in a wealthy Massachusetts suburb and makes 120,000 a year. My niece, also single, teaches Special Ed. in Connecticut and makes 90k in a middle class town. Both have excellent defined benefit pensions and retiree health. They are homeowners and spend a large part of their summers travelling. I know other people, where both husband and wife are teachers and they live in million dollar + homes in neighborhoods of doctors, lawyers etc. Certainly the education and annual hours worked differ from their neighbors. It’s a pretty good life from what they tell me.


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