Best-Paying States for Teachers in 2020

Last Updated: 2 months ago
We’ve updated our rankings based on the newest numbers (from the National Center for Education Statistics data for the 2018–2019 school year). We’ve also adjusted our data to include each state’s average teacher salary—not just their average starting salaries.

“However much we’re paying our teachers, it isn’t enough.” If you (like so many other parents this year) have had to coach your child through distance learning, this thought has no doubt crossed your mind more than once.

The coronavirus pandemic has helped many of us realize just how valuable our nation’s teachers are. But is that value always reflected in their pay? conducted a deep dive into the stats to see which states offer K–12 teachers the best pay compared to other full-time workers in their area. Here’s what we found.

Interesting Findings

  • Nationally, teachers make $61,189—6.7% less than the national average salary. Even more discouraging, the average teacher salary has fallen 4.6% in the last ten years.
  • New York offers the best pay for teachers. Teachers in the Empire State get paid 11.5% more than other full-time workers in the state. Moreover, New York offers the highest average teaching salary in the country at $85,889 per year.
  • Virginia has the worst relative pay for teachers, with K–12 educators averaging a yearly salary 28% lower than other full-time employees.
  • Location is everything. While teachers generally make notoriously low wages, educators in six states (New York, California, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Alaska, and Iowa) actually make more than the average for other occupations in their area.
  • Washington and Oklahoma have improved recently, with teachers’ salaries going up by roughly 28% and 11% respectively in the past year.

Complete rankings

StateAverage teacher salary Average earnings, full-time year-round workersTeacher salary % more or less than average% change since 2010% change since 2018
1—New York$85,889 $77,058 11.50%2.60%-0.10%
2—California$82,282 $75,407 9.10%3.20%-0.10%
3—Pennsylvania$68,141 $65,346 4.30%-1.40%-1.20%
4—Vermont$61,027 $59,416 2.70%6.40%-1.30%
5—Alaska$70,277 $68,781 2.20%0.80%-1.20%
6—Iowa$58,140 $58,014 2.00%0.30%-0.10%
7—Oregon$64,385 $64,401 0.00%-0.20%0.00%
8—Rhode Island$67,040 $67,216 -0.30%-3.90%-1.60%
9—Hawaii$59,757 $60,432 -1.10%-7.10%1.20%
10—Michigan$61,825 $62,736 -1.50%-8.70%-2.20%
11—Massachusetts$82,042 $83,898 -2.20%1.30%0.00%
12—Washington$72,965 $74,808 -2.50%17.80%28.40%
13—Montana$54,034 $55,401 -2.50%1.10%0.30%
14—Delaware$62,308 $63,906 -2.50%-6.60%-1.20%
15—Wyoming$58,618 $60,252 -2.70%-10.20%-1.60%
16—Maine$54,974 $56,522 -2.70%2.00%0.10%
17—Arkansas$51,019 $53,460 -4.60%-6.50%-1.10%
18—Kentucky$53,434 $56,076 -4.70%-7.70%-1.10%
19—Ohio$57,799 $60,707 -4.80%-11.60%-2.40%
20—Oklahoma$52,412 $55,202 -5.10%-6.00%10.90%
21—Illinois$66,600 $70,680 -5.80%-8.20%-0.70%
22—Nebraska$54,506 $58,131 -6.20%0.90%-1.50%
23—Nevada$54,280 $58,713 -7.60%-9.80%-2.00%
24—Georgia$57,137 $55,202 -7.90%-7.90%-0.60%
25—Tennessee$56,567 $51,714 -8.60%-4.40%-0.50%
26—Maryland$70,463 $77,139 -8.70%-5.70%-0.90%
27—West Virginia$47,681 $52,303 -8.80%-11.20%2.30%
28—North Carolina$53,975 $59,209 -8.80%-1.40%3.20%
29—Mississippi$45,574 $50,027 -8.90%-14.60%-0.60%
30—Alabama$50,810 $55,898 -9.10%-8.60%-1.60%
31—South Carolina$50,395 $55,531 -9.20%-0.00092-1.60%
32—South Dakota$48,786 $53,853 -9.40%7.50%0.30%
33—Idaho$50,757 $56,440 -10.10%-6.20%1.00%
34—Louisiana$50,923 $56,791 -10.30%-10.90%-0.90%
35—Connecticut$76,465 $85,764 -10.80%1.70%0.50%
36—New Mexico$47,826 $53,094 -11.30%-11.50%-0.60%
37—Indiana$50,937 $57,437 -11.30%-12.80%-1.40%
38—North Dakota$53,434 $61,702 -13.40%6.40%-0.90%
39—Texas$54,155 $62,720 -13.70%-4.00%0.50%
40—Missouri$50,064 $58,145 -13.90%-5.50%-0.50%
41—Wisconsin$51,453 $60,348 -14.70%-14.40%-2.10%
42—Minnesota$58,221 $69,045 -15.70%-5.00%-1.30%
43—New Jersey$70,212 $83,250 -15.90%-7.70%-1.60%
44—Kansas$49,800 $59,743 -16.60%-8.70%-1.90%
45—Florida$48,395 $58,254 -16.90%-11.30%-1.60%
46—Arizona$49,892 $60,060 -16.90%-9.10%0.30%
47—New Hampshire$58,146 $72,025 -19.30%-3.30%-1.50%
48—Utah$50,342 $63,026 -20.10%-6.10%-0.70%
49—District of Columbia$78,477 $99,557 -21.20%4.00%0.50%
50—Colorado$53,301 $69,338 -23.10%-7.30%-0.70%
51—Virginia$52,466 $72,833 -28.00%-10.20%-1.10%

Now does this data mean that New York is the best state for teachers to work in? Not necessarily.

While our rankings factor in pay, there are a lot of other things that can contribute to the happiness and well-being of our nation’s educators—like health and safety procedures, benefits, and classroom size.

Hopefully, though, our rankings serve as a good starting point to address the clear wage disparities within an essential profession.

Do you agree with our rankings? Submit a comment to let us know what your state is doing to show appreciation for teachers.

Our Methodology

To determine our rankings, we compared each state’s average K–12 teaching salary (pulled from the National Education Center’s 2018–2019 school year data) to its average salary for full-time, year-round employees (found in the US Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey).

This means our 2020 rankings factor in the total average pay for teachers in each state (as opposed to our 2019 rankings, which considered only starting salaries). This change caused states with higher salary caps to rise significantly in our rankings, while states with low salary caps tended to fall.

We also included data on how each state’s teacher compensation has increased or decreased within the past 20 years (according to the National Education Center). But while this information is certainly interesting, it didn’t have any bearing on our rankings.