In this article, we are going to focus a little less on how to become a teacher, and more so on something that is important to already being a teacher: salaries and getting a raise. We will be focusing on different standard teachers’ salaries in the same five states we previously covered (California, Georgia, Illinois, New York, and Texas), as well as looking into what can be done to earn a pay increase in teacher wages over time.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the nation-wide average salary for public elementary and secondary school teachers from 2014 to 2015 was $ 58,950, down slightly from previous years’ averages according to the data. Each state may tend to have salary averages that deviate significantly (or barely) from the national average. States also vary in what they provide as the requirements for getting a salary increase, which tends to be experience and possession of a higher education credential (such as a master’s degree).
Here are the salary statistics for each state listed:
California provides a very clear outline of what its teachers make. According to the California Department of Education, the median average income for Public School Teachers from 2018 to 2019 was $83,059. This is an overall average that is listed at the end after a series of various charts with different breakdowns of the median salaries for different levels of educators and administrators and those averages based on small, medium, and large Average Daily Attendance (ADA) rates.
The three main categories of teachers listed are beginning, midrange, and highest. For beginning teachers in Elementary School Districts, with a medium ADA rate, they could potentially earn up to $50,574 a year. In High School Districts, the salary is $49,328, and in Unified Districts, it is $49,782. Compared to the medium-ADA rate Highest earners, where they can potentially earn $98,993 in Elementary Districts, $99,665 in High School Districts, and $97,722 in Unified Districts. The lowest average salary for a teacher is $44,318 for beginning teachers with an ADA rate of <1,500 in Unified Districts, while the highest teacher salary average is for the highest-earning High School District teachers with large ADA rates: $112,761.
Experience appears to be the most prominent factor in how much teachers can earn per year in California. The Commission on Teacher Credentialing indicates that a higher degree is just as acceptable as a bachelor’s degree, so it is not explicitly clear if having a masters will lead to a pay increase.
Georgia also provides data on their average teacher salaries for educators in their state. Unlike California, the Georgia Department of Education lists a break-down of salaries based on teacher and administrator, but what Georgia lists is a more extensive breakdown of pay by years of creditable service, and there is no breakdown of different districts or ADA rates.
The Base Equals salary in Georgia was $37,092 in the fiscal year of 2020. The lowest average was for T-1-level certified teachers at Salary Step E making $35,217, while the highest was $76,980 for PROF T-7-level certified teachers. Among every certification category, the average pay rates tend to increase as years of experience go up. T-1 certified teachers make roughly $46,384 with 21+ years of experience, while the PROF T-7 certified teachers make $72,530 with the same years of experience.
Not only does experience matter, but certification appears to be important for salary rates as well. The Department of Education also explains clearly how teachers can upgrade their certification. The act of “upgrading,” according to the guidelines, is “earning a higher degree and raising the certificate level.” Teachers can increase their earning potential if they are able to combine their experience with having a higher degree, and subsequently, obtaining higher teaching certification.
Unlike the two previous states, Illinois does not appear to provide any state-produced sources on salary information. Salary.com, however, provides salary information for entry level, elementary, and high school teachers in Illinois.
Entry level teachers make on average of around $45,778 annually, with the possible range of pay being from $39,967 to $52,849. Elementary school teachers earn more with an average of $61,285, and their range is $50,202 to $72,690. High school teachers make a similar amount as elementary teachers with an average of $64,001, and a range of $50,701 to $75,101. All salary information was updated as of March 29, 2021.
The numbers provided by Salary.com do not specify what circumstances apply to highest and lowest earnings (e.g., certification type or experience). The Illinois State Board of Education, much like California, does not indicate the difference between having a bachelor’s degree and having a higher degree in their certification requirements. There are administration certifications with master’s degree requirements, but teacher certifications remain open to bachelor’s and master’s degree holders.
Like Illinois, there are no significant state-provided sources for salary information. Salary.com provides some information, although not very much. The average salary for New York state teachers is $71,055, with a range of $61,034 to $82,030. These numbers are updated as of March 29, 2021.
These averages appear to be higher than many of the averages seen in the previous states, and the average might be higher than what Salary.com is providing. Education Week reported on the Rockefeller Institute of Government’s report on teacher earnings in the state of New York, which states that the average salary is $79,588. The report even indicates that New York’s teachers are paid the highest in the nation, when compared to other states’ teacher salaries.
New York’s teacher certification requirements do not indicate different certification types for holders of bachelor’s degrees vs. holders of master’s degrees. Instead, the different levels of certification are mainly based on how much experience the teacher has. Going from Initial Certification to Professional Certificate takes two years, and then the Professional Certificate is valid for five years.
Texas does provide a state-provided teacher’s salary report. The Texas Education Agency issued a very extensive report on the average salaries of teachers in the state. This report contains information from the 2012-2013 fiscal year, but the breakdown of different salaries is very detailed. The report illustrates how salaries differ between the Education Service Center Regions across Texas, and between differing counties. Much like with some other states, Texas differentiates salaries based on years of teaching experience. The average yearly salary for new teachers with zero years of experience was $35,636 in 2012 to 2013, while a teacher with 25 years of experience made an average of $54,015.
Texas does not provide much explanation about the difference in salaries between teachers with their bachelor’s or master’s degrees. Instead, their data focuses primarily on experience.
Which matters more? Experience or Having a Higher Degree?
Experience seems to be the most consistent indicated method for earning a higher salary across the country. Many states that do not differentiate between bachelor’s-level or master’s-level certification focus more so on experience than on how the degree level impacts salary. For many teachers, the process begins with having the necessary qualifications to obtain certification, and then it is a matter of time before salary increases are possible.
However, this does not mean that a higher degree is not worth having for a higher salary. According to the National Council on Teacher Quality, “on average, a master's degree earns teachers an additional $2,760 in their first year of teaching compared to a bachelor's degree.” In addition, “This salary advantage expands to an average of $7,358 per year by the time a teacher reaches the maximum point of the pay scale.” So, it seems that having a master’s degree does tend to lead to a pay increase, even if states do not explicitly mention this on their certification information webpages. Nationally, having a higher degree, in addition to gaining experience, does increase one’s overall earnings potential.
It is important to remember that a master’s degree and other post-graduate credentials do not need to be earned in the United States for them to aid in getting a salary increase. Foreign higher education credentials can be evaluated by agencies, such as Scholaro, to provide a degree’s US-equivalency. Credential evaluations give international students, who become teachers in the United States, the ability to qualify for a higher salary. For example, holders of Russian specialist diplomas, Italian post-graduate teaching certificates, or European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) second-cycle, master’s degrees could benefit from having a credential evaluation for the purpose of obtaining a higher level of teaching certification, or simply for the sake of providing reasoning in the case of negotiating for a pay increase. When applying for a credential evaluation, it is important to make sure if the report would be accepted by the board of education in the state where you wish to pursue certification and/or salary increase.