Best States for Teacher Pay
We’ve updated our rankings based on the newest numbers (from the National Center for Education Statistics data for the 2019–2020 school year).
In the US, teacher pay has declined over the past decade, but showed small growth between 2019 and 2020.1 Teachers earn 13% more than the average salary across the nation, making $63,645 per year while the national average salary is $56,310.2 Meanwhile, 80% of Americans feel like teachers are underpaid.3
Teachers help develop the next generations of movers and shakers, the ones who will join the workforce or own their own small business. While teaching touches most aspects of our communities in some way, some states have less-than-average teacher pay.
We compared the average salary of primary and secondary school teachers to the average salary for all jobs in each state and Washington, DC. How does teacher pay compare to your paycheck?
The best-paying states for teachers
- The East Coast features six of the best-paying states for teachers, including New York, which pays teachers the highest salary at an average of $87,233.
- Pennsylvania ranks the highest for comparative teacher pay, where teachers earn 30% more than the average wage.
- On the West Coast, California shows strong support for teachers with a 28.8% higher-than-average salary of $84,659.
The worst-paying states for teachers
- Washington, DC, and Virginia rank last on our list, with teachers earning 17% and 10% less than the average wage, respectively.
- Seven states (including the District of Columbia) pay teachers below the state’s average salary: Minnesota, North Dakota, Florida, Arizona, Colorado, Virginia, and Washington, DC.
- Mississippi has the lowest salary for teachers at $45,192 per year, but that’s still 8.6% higher than the average wage in the state.
State-by-state comparison of teacher earnings
Average teacher salary for 2019-2020
Average salary of all other occupations
% difference teachers earn compared to all occupations
|51||District of Columbia||$79,350||$95,330||-16.80%|
How has teacher pay changed over time?
Nationally, teacher salaries dipped by about 3% from 2010 to 2020. But seven states saw dramatic decreases in teacher pay of over 10%: Mississippi, Louisiana, Indiana, Florida, Wyoming, Arkansas, and Ohio.
However, some states like South Dakota, Vermont, and California saw small teacher salary increases below 7%. And Washington state stands out with a nearly 16% increase in teacher pay from 2010 to 2020.
Teachers in the US can find some comparatively good-paying gigs in most states, but with changing CDC classroom guidelines for COVID and a salary pay that’s mostly shifted downward, will it be enough to retain a solid teaching population in the future?
Want to learn more about different pay across occupations? Check out our other articles on comparing average salaries in the US. We examine compensation trends in the tech industry, caregiving, and more!
Using data from the National Center for Educational Statistics, we compared the average teacher salary to the salary of all occupations, which we obtained from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The NCES data includes primary and secondary school teachers.
We also compared changes in teachers’ mean salary over the years from 2009–2010, 2010–2020, and 2019–2020. To compare the salary data accurately, we used 2019–2020 dollars as the constant.
- National Center for Education Statistics, “Estimated Average Annual Salary of Teachers in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools, by State.” Accessed July 28, 2021.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Occupational Employment Wage Statistics.” Accessed July 28, 2021.
- Proprietary Business.org Pollfish Survey of 700 adults age 18 or older conducted on July 29, 2021.