Teaching Career Center

A career in education is uniquely challenging, yet especially rewarding. School teachers are tasked with preparing their students with the knowledge that will see them through into adulthood. Adult education teachers may prepare college and university students for future careers or teach a new skill such as a language. Prospective teachers should be patient, calm, and detail-oriented, with an ability to clearly communicate information in the classroom. According to PayScale, the average K-12 teacher salary was about $49,210 as of January 2021 and for the most part, average teacher salaries have maintained pace with inflation since the early 1990s.1 All public school teachers must have a degree and be certified or licensed by the state in which they teach.

On this page you can learn more about teacher salary by state and various possible careers in education. For even more information on becoming a teacher, our Teaching Degrees Center, Teacher Certification Center, and Best Colleges for Education Majors page provide a wealth of information on specific degrees, state certification requirements, and the best schools across the country.

Table of Contents
Why Become a Teacher?
Teacher Career Realities
Types of Teaching Jobs
Top Teaching Careers and Teacher Salary Information
Teacher Career Interviews
Teacher Blogs
Education Degrees for a Teaching Career
Best States to Be a Teacher Index
Teaching Careers Outlook
Accredited and Online Teaching Schools
Frequently Asked Questions about Teaching Careers
Teacher Quote: “No one knows how to do everything when entering this field and the best of us are always learning. Ask questions, peek into classrooms, chat with new and veteran teachers and try following some blogs. Teachers are a great resource for teachers – take advantage!” –Vanessa Escobar, California Kindergarten Teacher
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

Why Become a Teacher?

Careers in education can be rewarding because educators are able to make positive impacts that may last for their students’ lifetimes. If you are considering a career in teaching, you should consider all of the career-related benefits that come with the job.

Teacher Benefits

Full-time teachers typically receive healthcare and retirement benefits that are more competitive than those found in private-sector jobs. Teachers who participate in collective bargaining or union agreements may receive additional job security. Experienced teachers who meet or exceed standards of teacher quality may also qualify for tenure, which provides an added measure of job security.

Personal Fulfillment

Another benefit of the job is being able to work in a subject that excites you. If you are strongly interested in math, history, English, or another subject, earning an endorsement in that area can keep you involved with your personal interests throughout your career – with the added benefit that your passion will engage students in the subject. Earning more than one subject endorsement can also add variety to your job and prevent your lessons from becoming repetitive. Holding multiple credentials in in-demand subjects can also lead to higher salaries for teachers.

Time Off

Another benefit of a teaching career is that teachers’ work schedules largely follow school schedules. In addition to extended vacations around major holidays and spring break, it is possible to get your summers off. Since most schools operate on a “school year” rather than on a calendar year, schools are typically open between the months of August and May. That means the months of June and July may not be required working months for teachers, so theoretically you can spend your summer relaxing, traveling, spending time with family and friends, or pursuing other interests. Keep in mind that many teachers do choose to work during the summer school session, leading summer classes. Summers are also an ideal time for teachers to accumulate the professional development hours they need to keep their certification status. Additionally, even though they may not have regular working hours during the summer, most teachers spend time during the summer months writing lesson plans, getting their classrooms ready, and making other preparations for the upcoming school year.

Teacher Career Realities

At the same time, while there are many benefits to a teaching career, those considering a career in education should be aware that there can also be drawbacks to becoming a teacher.

Long Hours

Most teachers work more than eight hours in a school day due to the time it takes to grade papers and homework, speak with parents, tutor students, and complete the administrative tasks required by schools. This additional work frequently extends to weekend hours as well, but since full-time teachers are usually paid a salary, there is no additional pay for overtime work.

Summers Off?

Many people believe that teachers have summers off, but this is not always the case. Teachers are required to fulfill professional development hours throughout their careers in order to keep their certification; this education is most often completed during the summer months. Many teachers also lead summer classes, especially as more school districts switch to year-round schedules. In addition, many prospective and new teachers underestimate the time that it takes to plan a lesson, much less the curriculum for an entire school year. Even those teachers who are not reporting to the classroom during regular school hours over the summer months are using some of that time to plan for the year ahead.

Types of Teaching Jobs

If you are thinking about a teaching career, before selecting the type of degree you intend to pursue, you should consider the type of education job you envision for yourself. There are many different types of teaching jobs available, from school counselor to special education teacher to preschool teacher. Teacher Certification Degrees provides detailed information on some of the most popular and in-demand education and teaching careers; see our teaching degree programs resource and review our guides to state requirements for beginning teacher certification as well as alternative route certification. If you are ready to look for jobs in your area, check out our Teaching Jobs Board. You can also learn more about teaching career options and average teacher salaries by specialty area using the table below.

Top Teaching Careers and Teacher Salary Information

This table breaks out popular teaching careers and includes grade level, the minimum education required, the typical education achieved, the average teacher salary, and national employment numbers, as well as the job outlook for each specialty area. With this information based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), you can learn about high areas of demand for teachers. Note that salaries can vary based on grade level, but grade-level data is not available for all teaching specialties. In addition, demand and job growth can change year-to-year based on funding availability at the state and federal levels. This information is the most current available as of May 2018 and will be updated periodically to keep pace with changes in the projections.

Job TitleGrade LevelMinimum Education NeededTypical Degree AchievedJob Outlook*Avg. Salary
US Employment (2018)**
Adult & Continuing Education TeachersPostsecondaryBachelor’s to Master’sBA/BS + Work ExperienceLow demand$49,23567,200
Art TeachersK-12Bachelor’s to Master’sBA/BS, Art + Teacher PrepLow demand$45,371N.Av.
Business Teachers9-12Bachelor’s to Master’sBA/BS + Work ExperienceLow demand$42,579N.Av.
Curriculum and Instruction SpecialistsK-12Master’sMA/MS, Curriculum and InstructionModerate demand$58,375181,600
Early Childhood EducatorsBirth-Grade 3Associate’s to Bachelor’sBA/BS, Early Childhood EducationLow demand$51,660N.Av.
Educational Technology SpecialistsK-12Master’sMA/MS, Educational TechnologyModerate demand$70,969N.Av.
Elementary School Teachers1-5Bachelor’s to Master’sBA/BS, Elementary EducationLow demand$62,2001,434,000
English Teachers6-12Bachelor’s to Master’sBA/BS, English + Teacher PrepModerate demand$46,677N.Av.
ESL TeachersPreK-12Bachelor’s to Master’sBA/BS, ESLHigh demand$45,544N.Av.
Foreign Language Teachers6-12Bachelor’s to Master’sBA/BS, Foreign Languages + Teacher PrepHigh demand$46,276N.Av.
History Teachers6-12Bachelor’s to Master’sBA/BS, History + Teacher PrepLow demand$43,846N.Av.
Kindergarten TeachersKBachelor’s to Master’sBA/BS, Early Childhood EducationLow demand$58,370135,000
Math Teachers6-12Bachelor’s to Master’sBA/BS, Math + Teacher PrepHigh demand$43,846N.Av.
Middle School Teachers6-8Bachelor’s to Master’sBA/BS in Subject + Teacher PrepLow demand$62,030610,000
Middle School Teachers, Career/Technical Education (CTE)6-8Bachelor’s to Master’sBA/BS, CTE + Work ExperienceLow demand$62,57012,000
Middle School Teachers, Special Education6-8Bachelor’s to Master’sBA/BS, Special EducationLow demand$64,39088,000
Music TeachersK-12Bachelor’s to Master’sBA/BS, Music + Teacher PrepLow demand$43,740N.Av.
Physical Education TeachersK-12Bachelor’s to Master’sBA/BS, Physical EducationLow demand$45,726N.Av.
Preschool TeachersPreKAssociate’sAA/AS or BA/BS, Early Childhood EducationModerate demand$34,410424,500
Preschool Teachers, Special EducationPreKBachelor’s to Master’sBA/BS, Special EducationModerate demand$61,61023,500
PrincipalsPreK-12Master’sMA/MS, Education AdministrationLow demand$106,951N.Av.
Reading SpecialistsK-12Master’sBachelor’s to MA/MS, Reading SpecialistLow demand$51,976N.Av.
School AdministratorsPreK-12Master’sMA/MS, Education AdministrationLow demand$76,370275,400
School CounselorsPreK-12Master’sMA/MS, School CounselingModerate demand$60,160285,500
School LibrariansK-12Master’sMA/MS, Library ScienceModerate demand$63,72044,000
Science Teachers6-12Bachelor’s to Master’sBA/BS, Science + Teacher PrepHigh demand$48,414N.Av.
Secondary School Teachers9-12Bachelor’s to Master’sBA/BS in Subject + Teacher PrepLow demand$64,3401,051,600
Secondary School Teachers, Career/Technical Education9-12Bachelor’s to Master’sBA/BS + Work ExperienceLow demand$62,81077,500
Secondary School Teachers, Special Education9-12Bachelor’s to Master’sBA/BS, Special EducationLow demand$65,320142,000
Special Education Teachers, Kindergarten and Elementary SchoolK-6Bachelor’s to Master’sBA/BS, Special EducationLow demand$63,110185,200
Substitute TeachersPreK-12Associate’s to Bachelor’sBA/BS in SubjectModerate demand$32,360587,300
Teacher AssistantPreK-12Associate’sAA/AS, Teacher’s AideLow demand$28,7501,331,600
TEFL TeachersPreK-PostsecondaryHigh SchoolBA/BS in SubjectN.Av.$45,544N.Av.
Vice PrincipalsPreK-12Bachelor’s to Master’sMA/MS, Education AdministrationLow demand$89,387N.Av.
Vocational Teachers6-12Bachelor’s to Master’sBA/BS + Work ExperienceLow demand$62,69089,400

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 provides 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.

Education Degrees for a Teaching Career

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. Our table leverages government information on the total number of all types of K-12 teachers including kindergarten, elementary, middle school, and secondary (high) school, along with special education and career specialties. Data for all of those positions are summed in the table below to create the total and projected K-12 teacher counts for the US and by state. We used the real estate value from Zillow for each state and for average teacher salary, we used government-sourced information for elementary school teachers, who are the most common type of educator. We then analyzed what that average salary will buy in terms of median house value in a state to determine the “bang for your buck” factor, as well as the growth rate in the total number of teachers from 2018 to 2028, to ultimately derive the ranking of the best states in which to be a teacher. Sort any column in descending or ascending order by clicking on the header. 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 Average2019 Avg.
Home Value
% of Median
Home Avg.
Salary Buys
(Higher =
2018 Total
K-12 Teachers
(all categories)
K-12 Teachers
(all categories)
in 2028***3,951,900
(2028 versus
Best States
for K-12
1West Virginia$45,390$110,54441%18,17018,7903%1.53
18New York$82,830$343,16424%222,960241,9309%1.12
24North Dakota$55,630$236,01224%10,03010,7507%1.06
26South Carolina$53,450$203,32826%53,83055,6703%1.02
27New Mexico$57,330$224,37426%21,18022,0204%1.01
33Washington DC$79,390$666,76712%2,1302,45015%0.93
37South Dakota$44,110$222,43520%12,29013,0406%0.89
40North Carolina$48,560$220,71022%102,090105,4903%0.87
43Rhode Island$72,310$331,45822%11,33011,4501%0.79
44New Jersey$71,880$367,10320%139,380143,9703%0.79
48New Hampshire$59,930$321,49619%16,74016,8601%0.67

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), kindergarten and elementary school teachers earn an average annual salary of $60,210 and $63,930 respectively, middle school teachers earn an average annual salary of $63,550, and high school teachers earn an average annual salary of $65,930.5-8 Job growth for K-12 teachers is projected at 3-4% through 2028.5-8 Location, grade level, and specialty/subject have the largest impact on teacher salaries.5-8 Teachers may also further their education and/or enter the administrative area of teaching in order to open up more opportunities.

The BLS expects overall job opportunities for teachers and administrators to increase by about 5% through 2028.9 The job outlook for postsecondary education administrators is slightly higher, with a projected 7% increase in hiring through 2028.10 Postsecondary teachers can expect the strongest increase in available positions, with a projected 11% growth rate from 2018 to 2028.11

In elementary and secondary schools, NCES reports that public school enrollment should increase through 2029, while private school enrollment should be lower.12 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.12 With many schools adding to their requirements for prospective teachers, the need for specialized teachers is increasing. Many schools report shortages in teachers of math, science, ESL, and special education.5-8 Subsequently, these specialties are in higher demand, with commensurately higher salaries on average.5-8

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.

Question: How much do teachers make?

Answer: Teacher salaries vary by state, education level, and career area. The average teacher salary nationwide is around $49,210.1 However, depending on the type of teaching career, individuals will make more or less than the national average. For example, the average special education teacher salary is $65,710 at the secondary school level.2 Use the tables above to find average salaries for teachers by state and career field and check with resources such as teachers’ associations to find current information for your local area.

Top Teaching Careers and Teacher Salary Information Table Notes:
*Job Outlook is based on projected employment openings from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and state-reported teacher shortage areas.
-High demand: Between 9% and 14% job growth from 2018 to 2028.
-Moderate demand: Between 5% and 8% job growth from 2018 to 2028.
-Low demand: 5% or less job growth from 2018 to 2028.
**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), November 2017: https://www.zillow.com/home-values/
***Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: https://projectionscentral.org/Projections/LongTerm

1. PayScale, Average Salary for All K-12 Teachers: https://www.payscale.com/research/US/All_K-12_Teachers/Salary and National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics: https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d13/tables/dt13_211.60.asp
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2019 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. Payscale Average Salaries: https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Country=United_States/Salary
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, 25-2012 Kindergarten Teachers, Except Special Education: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252054.htm
6. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, 25-2021 Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education: https://www.bls.gov/oes/2018/may/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/2018/may/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/2018/may/oes252031.htm
9. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Education, Training, and Library Occupations: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/home.htm
10. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Postsecondary Education Administrators: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/postsecondary-education-administrators.htm
11. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Postsecondary Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm
12. National Center for Educational Statistics, Projections of Education Statistics to 2026, Forty-fifth Edition, April 2018: https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2018/2018019.pdf