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How Much Do Starting Teachers Make?

If you’re nearing the end of your teacher training, you may wonder…How much do starting teachers make?

There’s no one answer to that question. Starting teacher pay really varies from state to state, and even city to city. Starting pay also differs depending on the age group or subject that’s being taught. And of course, the true worth of a starting teacher’s pay additionally depends on the cost of living in the area where the teacher works.

How Much Do Starting Teachers Make in Each State?

The National Education Association lists average starting teacher salaries by state. There is a wide range for starting teacher salaries overall. South Dakota is at the lowest end, with an average entry-level teacher salary of $29,851. Washington DC is at the top for starting pay. In our nation’s capitol, first-year teachers make an average of $51,539 per year.

The majority of states start their teachers out with pay that is between these extremes. For the most part, teachers can expect to start out between the low $30K range to the low $40K range in most states.

How Much Do Starting Teachers Make in Different Cities?

The ten thousand dollar spread between $30K and $40K may seem extreme. But don’t write off the $30K states just yet. Bigger cities tend to have higher entry-level teacher pay than small towns. Often, when a state’s first-year teachers have a lower average salary, it’s because the state as a whole is less urbanized. The urban areas in any state will still always pay better than the state average.

Take Georgia. Its average starting teacher salary is $33,664 (source: NEA). But in this state’s most urbanized region, the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta area, the average salary for first year teachers is $39,415 (source: The Riley Guide’s pages for elementary, middle, and high school teachers).

How Much do Starting Teachers Make When They Teach Different Age Groups?

In the long run, teachers who work with younger students make less money. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, kindergarten and elementary school teachers make an average of $54,500 per year, while middle school teachers make an average of $55,860, and high school teachers average in at $57,200 per year. That’s a near-$2,000 difference between elementary school teachers and high school teachers.

The gains that come with teaching older students happen over a long period of time, though. At the entry level, pay for teaching younger and older students is very similar. To give one example, calculates a typically small starter pay difference in Texas, where starting elementary teachers make $40,660 per year, and high school teachers have an entry-level salary of $40,680 per year.

Still, on occasion, there can be a more dramatic gap between salaries for beginner elementary and high school teachers. Sokanu indicates that the state of Washington pays its first year elementary school teachers a full thousand dollars less than its new high school teachers, giving these groups $42,430 and $43,430, respectively.

How Much do Starting Teachers Make in Relation to Cost of Living?

This is where the real value of any salary comes into focus. A paycheck is only as good as the things it can buy. As you look at entry-level teacher pay in different states and regions, you’ll notice a trend: for the most part, the higher the salary, the more expensive the cost of living is.

There are some states that buck this trend, however. The best entry level teacher pay is found in places where starting salaries are higher than the national average, and cost of living is lower than average. For a detailed look at states with the very best ratio of teacher pay to cost of living, check out my earlier post on average starting teacher salary by state.


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