The Best Paying States for Teachers

Though not all educators would want relocate to one of the best paying states for teachers, those in certain states do make considerably higher salaries than their counterparts elsewhere.

Many factors affect teachers’ salary, and even within states or individual cities, compensation can fluctuate from district to district. In the United States, the average teacher’s salary is $47,659, and only 15 states record a higher average salary than the U.S. as a whole. States with the highest average pay tend to be the most populous, contain large metropolitan areas and be located in the Northeast. A list of the five states with the highest average salary follows, but more comprehensive information on teacher salaries and certification requirements can be found on our state pages.

1. District of Columbia
Though technically not a state, the District of Columbia ranks first with the highest average teacher salary. Much of this has to do with the cost of living, which is 34% higher than the national average. The public schools there have recently implemented a program called IMPACT, in which teachers are evaluated each year and can be rewarded handsomely for earning an assessment of “Highly Effective”. Those teachers can receive a bonus of up to $25,000, and educators who are scored as such multiple years in a row can expect their base salaries to increase by up to $20,000.

Interested in how to become a teacher in the District of Columbia? Check out our page onDistrict of Columbia teacher certification.

2. Connecticut
The number two state is Connecticut, which shares some of the same characteristics as the District of Columbia. The cost of living index is 127 compared to the U.S. average of 100, so higher salaries are required to maintain the same standard of living. Connecticut has a large range in teacher salary, from $32,000 at the lower end to $98,000 at the top. Though a small state, Connecticut has both very wealthy and very poor areas, which contributes to this range.

Interested in how to become a teacher in Connecticut? Check out our page on Connecticut teacher certification.

3.  California
California narrowly beats out Illinois for the third spot on the list, but ranks highest in cost of living among these states, with an index of 137. With increasing state budgetary problems in recent years, California’s per pupil spending is low by comparison, but voters are in favor of paying more taxes to increase spending on education. 

Interested in how to become a teacher in California? Check out our page on California teacher certification.

4. Illinois
School districts do not face a teacher shortage in Illinois, which comes as no surprise given their high pay and a cost of living that is slightly below the U.S. average. Teacher’s unions there have been successful in striking for higher pay according to some sources, so that may explain why their salaries are out of sync with the cost of living. In addition to their high pay, teachers become vested in the state retirement program after only five years of work.

Interested in how to become a teacher in Illinois? Check out our page on Illinois teacher certification.

5. New Jersey
The small, but densely populated state of New Jersey rounds out the top five. It shares many characteristics with Connecticut, with many areas serving as bedroom communities for New York City and Philadelphia, which lie across state lines to the north and south. The cost of living is 30% higher than the national average, but again, there is much variation from community to community. Median pay varies by up to $18,000 a year within the state, as each district decides its own pay schedules. Governor Chris Christie has been criticized by some and lauded by others recently for suggesting that math and science teachers are more valuable than gym teachers, and therefore should be paid more.

Interested in how to become a teacher in New Jersey? Check out our page on New Jersey teacher certification.

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