Teaching Career Center

A career in education is uniquely challenging and rewarding. School teachers are tasked with preparing their students with the knowledge they will need for their future. On this page, you will learn more about teacher personality attributes, key information for 35 teaching-related careers, salary information by state, and more.

Table of Contents

Qualities of a Good Teacher

Careers in education can be rewarding because educators can make positive impacts that may last for their students’ lifetimes. Here is a list of some attributes common among successful educators:

  • Patience and empathy: Understanding the diverse backgrounds and learning approaches of students, showing patience and empathy toward student needs.
  • Passion for teaching and learning: Genuine enthusiasm and passion for education, inspiring students to engage in the learning process.
  • Effective communication skills: Ability to explain concepts clearly and communicate with students, parents, and colleagues effectively.
  • Strong planning and organizational skills: Ability to develop lesson plans, organize materials, and manage time effectively to cover the required curriculum.
  • Strong knowledge of subject matter: Mastery of the content they teach, staying updated with current information and methodologies.
  • Classroom management skills: Ability to maintain a positive, safe, and productive learning environment for all students.
  • Technology proficiency: Familiarity with educational technology and the ability to integrate it effectively into the classroom to enhance learning.
  • Cultural competency: Understanding and respecting cultural differences.
  • Collaboration and teamwork: Ability to work effectively with other teachers, administrators, and parents.

Benefits of Being a Teacher

There are many benefits of a K-12 teaching career.

  • Personal fulfillment: Finding satisfaction in students’ learning and success.
  • Variety in daily work: Each day brings new challenges and opportunities.
  • Creativity: Designing your own lesson plans and teaching methods.
  • Social interaction: Engaging with students, parents, and colleagues.
  • Excellent benefits: Usually includes health insurance, retirement plans, and paid vacations.
  • Schedule flexibility: Summer vacation and other school breaks.
  • Job security and pay increases: Holding multiple credentials in in-demand subjects can also lead to a higher salary, greater job satisfaction, and job security for teachers.
  • Career advancement opportunities: Paths to administrative roles, curriculum development, and specialization.

Top Challenges of Teaching

The benefits of teaching can be offset by a few key challenges.

  • Classroom management and student behavior: Balancing discipline with support while managing diverse behavioral issues.
  • Workload and time management: Handling extensive responsibilities including lesson planning, grading, and administrative tasks. Hours often extend past 40 per week.
  • Adapting to diverse learning needs: Meeting the individual educational needs of students with varying learning styles and abilities.
  • Salary: Payscale reports averages range from $50,117 (elementary ed.) to $56,051 (secondary special ed.), though location, educational qualifications, and tenure can impact pay.1
Teacher Quote: “Teaching can be one of the most rewarding and energizing careers. Never lose sight of the kids who drew you to this career. When we forget the human aspect of teaching and get bogged down by the pressures of testing, standards, and curriculum, we are forgetting about the needs of our learners. Let your dedication to helping your students succeed drive your energy for the rest. If you do this, you will have a fantastic and wildly exciting road ahead of you.” –Krista Wallden, Delaware Third Grade Teacher

Teacher and Educator Careers and Salaries

This table compares 35 teaching-related careers and includes grade level, minimum education required, typical education achieved, average teacher salary, and national employment numbers, as well as the job outlook for each specialty area. Based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and state-reported teacher shortage areas, high demand areas are considered those with expected job growth of 9% and up over 10 years; moderate demand areas are those with expected growth of 5% to 8%; and low demand areas are those with expected job growth of less than 5%. Note that salaries can vary based on the grade level taught, but grade-level data is not available for all teaching specialties.

Job TitleGrade LevelMinimum Education NeededTypical Degree AchievedJob Outlook*Avg. Salary
US Employment (2022)**
Administrators (School)PreK-12Master’sMA/MS, Education AdministrationModerate Demand$106,690285,910
Adult & Continuing Education TeachersPostsecondaryBachelor’s to Master’sBA/BS + Work ExperienceLow Demand$63,13036,490
Art TeachersK-12Bachelor’s to Master’sBA/BS, Art + Teacher PrepModerate Demand$49,013N.Av.
Business Teachers9-12Bachelor’s to Master’sBA/BS + Work ExperienceModerate Demand$68,635N.Av.
CounselorsPreK-12Master’sMA/MS, School CounselingHigh Demand$64,200308,000
Curriculum and Instruction SpecialistsK-12Master’sMA/MS, Curriculum and InstructionModerate Demand$73,080198,660
Early Childhood EducatorsBirth-Grade 3Associate to Bachelor’sBA/BS, Early Childhood EducationHigh Demand$44,540534,610
Educational Technology SpecialistsK-12Master’sMA/MS, Educational TechnologyModerate Demand$66,490216,600
Elementary School Teachers1-5Bachelor’s to Master’sBA/BS, Elementary EducationModerate Demand$68,0001,394,200
English Teachers6-12Bachelor’s to Master’sBA/BS, English + Teacher PrepModerate Demand$68,635N.Av.
ESL TeachersPre-K-12Bachelor’s to Master’sBA/BS, ESL + Teacher PrepHigh Demand$55,220N.Av.
Foreign Language Teachers6-12Bachelor’s to Master’sBA/BS, Foreign Languages + Teacher PrepHigh Demand$68,635N.Av.
History Teachers6-12Bachelor’s to Master’sBA/BS, History + Teacher PrepModerate Demand$68,635N.Av.
Kindergarten TeachersKBachelor’s to Master’sBA/BS, Early Childhood EducationModerate Demand$65,120119,250
LibrariansK-12Master’sMA/MS, Library ScienceModerate Demand$62,910N.Av.
Math Teachers6-12Bachelor’s to Master’sBA/BS, Math + Teacher PrepHigh Demand$68,635N.Av.
Middle School Teachers6-8Bachelor’s to Master’sBA/BS in Subject + Teacher PrepModerate Demand$67,790611,120
Middle School Teachers, Career/Technical Education (CTE)6-8Bachelor’s to Master’sBA/BS, CTE + Work ExperienceModerate Demand$67,68011,110
Middle School Teachers, Special Education6-8Bachelor’s to Master’sBA/BS, Special EducationModerate Demand$69,53082,970
Music TeachersK-12Bachelor’s to Master’sBA/BS, Music + Teacher PrepModerate Demand$53,900N.Av.
Physical Education TeachersK-12Bachelor’s to Master’sBA/BS, Physical EducationModerate Demand$63,827N.Av.
Preschool TeachersPreKAssociateAA/AS or BA/BS, Early Childhood EducationHigh Demand$38,640415,360
Preschool Teachers, Special EducationPreKBachelor’s to Master’sBA/BS, Special EducationHigh Demand$69,62022,970
PrincipalsPreK-12Master’sMA/MS, Education AdministrationModerate Demand$101,320N.Av.
Reading SpecialistsK-12Master’sBachelor’s to MA/MS, Reading SpecialistHigh Demand$56,974N.Av.
Science Teachers6-12Bachelor’s to Master’sBA/BS, Science + Teacher PrepHigh Demand$68,635N.Av.
Secondary School Teachers9-12Bachelor’s to Master’sBA/BS in Subject + Teacher PrepModerate Demand$69,4801,042,090
Secondary School Teachers, Career/Technical Education (CTE)9-12Bachelor’s to Master’sBA/BS, Special EducationModerate Demand$67,61088,280
Secondary School Teachers, Special Education9-12Bachelor’s to Master’sBA/BS, Special EducationModerate Demand$71,290152,490
Special Education Teachers, Kindergarten and Elementary SchoolK-6Bachelor’s to Master’sBA/BS, Special EducationModerate Demand$68,580195,010
Substitute TeachersPreK-12Associate to Bachelor’sBA/BS in SubjectHigh Demand$42,680397,200
Teacher’s AssistantsPreK-12AssociateAA/AS, Teacher’s AideModerate Demand$33,7401,254,240
TEFL TeachersPreK-PostsecondaryAssociate to Bachelor’sBA/BS in SubjectN.Av.$63,130N.Av.
Vice PrincipalsPreK-12Bachelor’s to Master’sMA/MS, Education AdministrationModerate Demand$102,400N.Av.
Vocational Teachers6-12Bachelor’s to Master’sBA/BS + Work ExperienceModerate Demand$67,645N.Av.

See table notes at bottom of page.

For Bilingual Teachers, see ESL or Foreign Language Teachers. Also see our guide for prospective Gifted and Talented Teachers. For more in-depth information, see our Guide on How to Become a Teacher for an overview of teaching careers.

50+ Teacher Career Interviews

Our teacher interviews feature over 50 teachers who share the lessons they have learned during their careers, as well as advice for new teachers who are embarking on teaching careers.

Teacher Quote: “Teacher librarians in California have very strict degree requirements, as they need a single and/or multiple subject credential and a librarian credential. This differs in each state, but most require something similar. And we cannot overlook the impact the shift to Common Core is having in many states.” –Dr. Mary Ann Harlan, lecturer at the San Jos State University School of Information

Teacher Blogs

Our Teacher Blogs by Innovative Educators page is a resource for prospective teachers to find the best blogs written by teachers. These educators share what it’s like to work as a teacher, the top education issues being discussed by the teaching community, and the latest trends and ideas in effective teaching. Teachers from various areas of education share their experiences, along with ideas on providing the best education for young people and adults.

Teacher Quote: “I recommend furthering one’s education by going on to earn additional degrees, participating in Professional Learning Communities and other types of professional development. I look for professional development opportunities in my own system as well as opportunities from other reputable organizations.” –Marla Vaughn, President of the Alabama Conference of Educators

Best States to Be a Teacher Index

The sortable table below will help you learn about teacher salary by state, state-level teacher hiring outlooks, and our view of the best states to be a K-12 teacher. Data for all K-12 teaching positions are summed in the table below to create the total and projected K-12 teacher counts for the US and by state. For average teacher salary, we used government-sourced information for elementary school teachers (the most common teacher type). To analyze how far that salary will go, we compared it to each state’s median house value from Zillow. We also factored in the growth rate in the total number of teachers from 2020 to 2030 to ultimately derive the ranking of the best states in which to be a teacher. At the top of the table in a gray box below the top row, the US average can be found as a broad point of comparison.

RankStateUS Average2022 Avg.
Home Value
% of Median
Home Avg.
Salary Buys
(Higher =
2020 Total
K-12 Teachers
(all categories)
K-12 Teachers
(all categories)
in 2030*** 3,193,200
(2030 versus
Best States
for K-12
1West Virginia$49,890$154,97932%13,08014,0708%1.46
5New York$89,580$436,74521%203,340234,66015%1.32
7North Dakota$55,530$248,79322%7,8808,85012%1.27
23New Mexico$61,890$288,22721%16,14017,4708%1.09
24Washington DC$82,340$631,98313%8,59010,01017%1.09
29South Carolina$54,140$284,39619%41,10045,06010%1.05
41South Dakota$48,390$292,77717%9,2909,8906%0.85
42New Jersey$75,150$468,09616%98,220104,5406%0.83
43North Carolina$49,560$323,48715%108,790116,4207%0.82
45Rhode Island$72,720$427,88117%9,4809,9505%0.81
47New Hampshire$63,010$448,03414%13,44014,2106%0.73

See table notes at bottom of page.

Teacher Quote: “Our greatest work is done behind the scenes, but the school day and our salary is based around when we are ‘performing’. It’s challenging to create high-quality lessons that engage students and give students opportunities to learn, but it is even more challenging to do that on a daily basis.” –Elissa Miller, Illinois High School Math Teacher

Teaching Careers Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job growth for K-12 teachers is projected at about 7% through 2031.5-8 Location, grade level, and specialty/subject have the largest impact on teacher salaries. Teachers may also further their education and/or enter the administrative area of teaching in order to open up more opportunities.

In elementary and secondary schools, NCES reports that public school enrollment should increase through 2029, while private school enrollment should be lower.9 Although school enrollments are expected to grow in the next decade, NCES reports that student-to-teacher ratios will actually improve, primarily because the number of school teachers is rising faster than the number of students.9 With many schools adding to their requirements for prospective teachers, the need for specialized teachers is increasing. Many schools report shortages of teachers in areas like math, science, ESL, and special education.10 Subsequently, these specialties are in higher demand, with commensurately higher salaries on average.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Should I become a teacher? How do I decide which teaching career is right for me?

Answer: A career in teaching isn’t right for everyone. In order to succeed as a teacher you should have a real love of learning and be able to work with children in the age group(s) you prefer. Arranging a classroom-based observation or internship can help you decide if you’re truly interested in teaching. Becoming a teacher assistant is also a great way to introduce yourself to the profession.

Question:What degree do you need to be a teacher?

Answer: In order to teach in public schools, you must become certified or licensed by your state, which requires at least a bachelor’s degree. Private schools are not required to hire teachers with a bachelor’s degree, but typically candidates who have this qualification are preferred. If you already have a bachelor’s degree but did not take courses in teaching or education, you may need to return to school to complete a teacher preparation program.

Question: How long does it take to become a teacher?

Answer: The time it takes to become a teacher depends on your previous education. If you do not have a college degree, you can earn a bachelor’s degree in education in four years of full-time study. With an associate’s degree, you may be able to complete a bachelor’s degree in education in as little as two years. Those who already have a bachelor’s degree may be eligible for alternative certification programs, which can be completed in as little as one year.

Popular Teaching Careers and Salary Information Table Notes:
*Job Outlook is based on projected employment openings between 2020 and 2030 from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics as well as state-reported teacher shortage areas.
-High demand: 9% and higher
-Moderate demand: 5% to 8%
-Low demand: Less than 5%
**Based on data from the BLS.

Best States to Be a Teacher Index Table Notes:
*Bureau of Labor Statistics, Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oessrcst.htm
**Zillow, US Home Prices & Values (all home type composites), May 2023: https://www.zillow.com/research/data/
***Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: https://projectionscentral.org/Projections/LongTerm

1. Payscale Average Salaries: https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Country=United_States/Salary
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2022 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm
3. Glassdoor Average Salaries: https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/index.htm
4. Salary.com Average Salaries: https://www.salary.com/research/salary/
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, 25-2012 Kindergarten Teachers, Except Special Education: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252012.htm
6. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, 25-2021 Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252021.htm
7. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, 25-2022 Middle School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252022.htm
8. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, 25-2031 Secondary School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252031.htm
9. National Center for Educational Statistics, Projections of Education Statistics to 2026, Forty-fifth Edition, April 2018: https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2018/2018019.pdf
10. US Department of Education, Teacher Shortage Areas: https://tsa.ed.gov/#/reports