Facts about the teaching profession
How does a teaching career stack up to other careers you can get with the same degree? Explore job satisfaction, work-life balance, salary, benefits, retention, creative freedom, respect, and impact.
Did you know…
Did you know… Teachers in the United States rate their lives better than all other occupation groups, trailing only physicians.
Percentage shown is the % of people ranking their lives at the top of the ladder* minus the % of people ranking their lives at the bottom of the ladder.*
*The Cantril Self-Anchoring Scale
Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey with a random sample of 172,286 workers, aged 18 or over, from Jan. 2-Dec. 30, 2012. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3.5 percentage points for the smallest group (physicians) but less than ±1 for larger groups such as professionals, service workers, or managers/executives.
From Cantril, H. The pattern of human concerns. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1965.
Why do teachers rate their lives so highly compared to other professionals?
For the past five years Get the Facts Out has been working to understand why teachers rate their lives so highly. We’ve mined data from lots of different sources and collected some of our own. What we have found falls into three main categories:
- Work-Life Balance
- Student and Colleague Relationships
- Financial Stability
The sections below provide facts and data to support these three advantages to the teaching profession.
Did you know… Teachers have flexible summers that they can use to travel, learn, spend time with family and friends, and recharge.
On several occasions we have had a group of teachers and other professionals sit down and review data about their respective professions, reflect on their own experiences, and talk about the benefits of each other’s careers.
In every case the other professionals are impressed with several aspects of teachers’ work-life balance:
- Flexible Summers to recharge and spend time with friends and family and pursue other interests.
- Known Calendar: This means teachers can confidently schedule vacations well in advance. Folks in the private sector report to us that they must request time off and depending on seniority and project schedules, may or may not have it granted. In addition, its not unusual for their planned time off to be canceled/rescheduled because a project is running behind.
- Intermittent Breaks: three and four-day weekends and holiday breaks. Teachers work hard and this built in time to recharge creates a healthy cycle of challenge and rest – which is ideal for the human brain. These breaks are also aligned with their children’s schedule (if they have school aged kids), and, potentially the biggest benefit is that school is closed so work does not pile up while teacher’s are on break.
- Day-To-Day Work Schedule: Consistent and flexible. Teachers’ schedules are flexible in the early afternoon after school lets out. This means teachers can accomplish personal tasks during business hours or pick their children up from school.
Did you know… Science teachers report having higher or equivalent overall job satisfaction compared to other STEM professionals.
We asked science and math teachers to tell us, “What provides you with day-to-day satisfaction?”
The teachers silently wrote down their reasons. Then responses were exchanged between tables and each table kept only those that everyone at the table agreed with.
When we looked at the 60 responses that rose the top, they fell into six themes.
- Over half talked about students – both relationships with students and watching them learn: the light bulb moment or seeing them grow over the semester or years.
- Next was work schedule: Teachers can take care of other life things during business hours from 3:30 – 5 which other employees typically can’t; a teacher’s work schedule aligns with their kids, including holidays and breaks.
- Teaching is challenging/scientific: ‘Teaching is a science; teachers constantly use their STEM skills as teachers!’
- Colleagues: – Strong relationships between fellow teachers, “Other committed teachers make amazing coworkers and friends.”
- Learning content: “Always learning new and emerging areas of my content (eg. physics)“, “Teaching provides the drive/reason to explore new and challenging areas of my content.”
- Creative Freedom: Teachers get to decide what happens in their room. “There’s a lot of responsibility but it’s nice to be able to make all of the decisions (within basic guidelines) in my room.“
Did you know… At year 15, the middle 50% of teacher salaries ranges between $68,000 and $114,000, nationally.
Typical teacher salary facts:
- Teacher’s receive yearly raises for years of experience, cost of living, and continued education in the teacher’s subject area. Salary tables for most districts are publicly availably online.
- About half of science and math teachers earn a Masters degree by age 30. There are degree programs across the U.S. designed for practicing teachers to earn their degree while teaching full time.
- Teacher’s receive additional pay for any work outside of the classroom including coaching, student clubs, or subbing for a fellow teacher. See below for more info.
Example Base Teacher Salaries
|Doctoral degree Year 1|
|Jackson Public Schools (Jackson, MS) ||$43,721 - $44,218||$46,746 - $47,156||$48,971 - $49,506||$56,122 - $56,742||$48,603 - $49,297|
|Billings Public Schools (Billings, MT) ||$41,803 - $54,723||$47,769 - $63,411||$56,783 - $64,911||$72,283 - $82,789||$56,480 - $58,223|
|Boulder Valley School District (Boulder, CO) ||$54,789 - $64,535||$58,275 - $70,833||$77,202 - $101,992||$83,565 - $124,605||$93,708 - $95,817|
|Half Hollow Hills Central School District (Dix Hills, NY) ||$59,364 - $70,016||$72,307 - $83,997||$83,177 - $101,299||$113,206 - $130,291||$83,662 - $87,251|
|Long Beach Unified School District (CA) ||$69,749 - $69,754||$72,944 - $83,492||$80,354 - $93,725||$106,266 - $121,569||$72,470 - $80,973|
- Jackson Public Schools – 2022-2023 Teacher Salary Scale
- Billings Public Schools – 2021-2022 Salary Schedule
- Boulder Valley Schools – 2022-2023 Pay Schedule
- Half Hollow Hills Central District- 2023-2024 Pay Schedule
- Long Beach Unified Schools – Certified non-management 2022-2023 salary schedule
The above table contains a sampling of salaries from across the nation.
- Jackson Public Schools in Mississippi are located in the South where the median household income is $46,300.
- Billings, MT median household income is $57,403.
- Boulder Public Schools in Colorado, represents a large urban district where the median household income is $74,256.
- Long Beach Public Schools in California represent a West coast large urban district where the median household income is $69,316.
Example Administrator Salaries
|St. Vrain Valley Schools Administrator Salaries|
|Asst. Principal- High School||215 Days||$106,596||$147,205|
|Director – Innovation Programs||248 Days||$118,819||$164,083|
|Principal - High School||225 Days||$131,042||$180,963|
|Asst Superintendent – Innovation Center||248 Days||$173,327||$239,356|
|Deputy Superintendent||248 Days||$208,955||$288,557|
Did you know… Teachers earn additional pay of $1,000 – $8,000 for optional activities like coaching, running after school cubs, and tutoring.
In addition to base teacher salary schedules (described above) there are salary schedules for stipends earned for extra duties such as coaching basketball, sponsoring the chess club, or subbing for a colleagues’ class during your plan period.
Each stipend varies by the teacher’s level of commitment, skill, and experience.
- Coaching gigs pay between $1,500 for an assistant JV coach to $16,000 for a head Varsity coach of a big sport.
- Some teachers coach a different sport each season earning a separate stipend for each sport.
- Club sponsorship typically pays a bit less ranging from $500 for something like National Honor Society, $2,500 for Academic Decathlon, or up to $12,000 for an experienced Marching Band Director.
Did you know… Teacher salaries are competitive with other jobs you can get with the same degree.
- Bars represent the middle 50% of salaries, i.e. between the 25th and 75th percentiles.
- Teaching is a school-year position, all others are 12 month
- Reprinted from the 2019 Salary Survey, with permission of the National Association of Colleges and Employers, copyright holder.
Did you know… Grade 7-12 science and math teachers get paid more than most college teaching faculty.
Below is a comparison of full-time college teaching faculty (PhD holders) with grade 7-12 teachers. College teaching jobs require at least a Master’s degree and most a Doctoral degree. Grade 7-12 teachers typically begin with a Bachelor’s degree and most have earned a Master’s by mid-career.*
Data from the AIP Physics Faculty Calculator.
Full-time teaching faculty typically spend 70% – 80% of their time teaching and the remaining helping out in the department or doing research with students.
Note: Tenure-track professors, who usually require a Ph.D., were not included since that type of position is very different. They have limited teaching responsibilities and are primarily research-focused. This type of faculty in Bachelor’s granting departments have similar salaries to grade 7-12 teachers, but those in Doctoral-granting departments tend to make more.
* There are degree programs across the country designed for practicing teachers to earn their advanced degree while teaching full time.
Did you know… You can get a job almost anywhere in the U.S or abroad as a science or math teacher.
U.S. teaching positions
Math and science teachers are in high demand and there are open positions in every area of our nation.
There are middle and high schools in every nieghborhood, in every town in every state. But, there are only a handful of colleges and universities that prepare teachers. These universities are just not graduating enough new teachers to fill the need.
This is good for you if you are interested in becoming a math or science teacher because you can decide what area of the U.S. you would like to live and it’s extremely likely that you’ll be able to find a job within commuting distance.
This is often not the case for engineers and especially for college faculty where the norm is that you move to the position, wherever it may be.
International teaching positions
There are schools across the world that teach the U.S. curriculum in the English language. These schools are looking for U.S. certified teachers. This means you can pick the country you’d like to live in, for example Korea, Hong Kong, Germany, … and likely find a teaching position where you would teach your subject area in English to students who are living abroad for a year or two.
These positions pay similarly to U.S. positions and often come with travel support and potentially housing.
Tips for finding an international position:
- Start your job search in November – most international schools start hiring then
- Check out the Department of Defense Education Activity website.
- Attend the University of Northern Iowa job fair
- Use Search Associates – a website for finding international teaching jobs that will pair you with a counselor to help, not free but they almost guarantee you will find a job
- Pay for a membership for the International Schools Review – has honest reviews of what working at potential international schools will be like
Did you know… There are student loan forgiveness programs and scholarships for math and science teachers.
There are several Federal loan forgiveness programs and the most common is the teacher loan forgiveness program that forgives up to $17,500 after teaching math or science for five consecutive years.
Federal Loan & Grant Programs
Teacher Loan Forgiveness
- $17,500 of Direct / FFEL subsidized and unsubsidized loan forgiveness for highly-qualified math and science teachers in low-income schools
- 5 years of consecutive teaching
- These types of loans are awarded to all types of majors, only the forgiveness is specific to teaching.
- $4,000/year for undergrads, postbac, or graduate students
- Available to students enrolled in a participating teacher prep program
- Teach 4 years out of 8 after graduation or grant converts to a Direct loan.
Perkins Loan Cancellation for Teachers
- A percentage of loans are forgiven each year for five years until fully forgiven – 100% forgiveness. 15% years 1 and 2, 20% years 3 and 4, and the final 30% forgiven year 5.
- Teach math or science in high needs or low-income school
** Although Perkins loans have not been issued since 2018, students who have already received Perkins loans are eligible under the forgiveness program which will continue until there are no more Perkins recipients.
State Teacher Loan Forgiveness Programs
- Many states offer student loan forgiveness programs in addition to the Federal forgiveness programs listed above.
District Teacher Loan Forgiveness Programs
- Many districts, not all, offer some loan forgiveness to teachers in addition to the federal and state forgiveness programs listed above. Information is usually found on the district website.
Want to know more about Federal Student Aid? studentaid.gov
Here is a great article about Teacher Loan Forgiveness Programs https://studentaid.gov/articles/teacher-loan-forgiveness-options/
Scholarships are also available specifically for those who want to teach.
- AAPT’s Lotze Scholarship for future physics teachers
- ACS’s Hach Scholarships for future and current chemistry teachers
- AAEE’s Jones Scholarships for future teachers in subjects of critical need and future teachers of color
- Check with a teaching advisor for teaching-specific scholarship opportunities at your institution.
Did you know… Most teaching jobs have better retirement benefits than other jobs you can get with the same degree.
Teachers retire on average at age 59 compared to age 63 for all other careers.
Teachers in the US retire a full 4 years sooner than the average American. That’s because public school teachers have state-sponsored pension plans and these have been negotiated over the years as part of the teachers total rewards package.
Pension plans are defined benefit plans. In most cases these provide several times the retirement benefit of the typical 401K plan or defined contribution plan, which is typical in the private sector.
To learn more about teacher retirement plans read this GFO blog article that details the differences and links to data for each state. Our “Loan Forgiveness – By State” page also includes a map with downloadable information on retirement by state.
Did you know… Nearly all teachers report having creative freedom in their classrooms.
Did you know… 87% of teachers report that they are treated with respect by students and their parents.
A recent survey taken from the 2017 Educator Quality of Work Life Survey by aft the American Federation of Teachers – A Union of Professionals and BATs the Badass Teachers Association which had ~5000 teacher responses showed that teachers typically feel respected by students, students’ parents, and their school but not by the media.
“I am treated with respect by…”
Did you know… About half of all science and math majors report an interest in becoming a teacher.
A recent report from the American Physical Society contains survey data from over 7000 U.S. STEM majors demonstrating that nearly half of all STEM majors have an interest in teaching.
You may ask, how do we have a shortage of math and science teachers If half of STEM majors are interested in becoming teachers?
Because teaching is the best kept secret!
Teachers rate their lives better than all other occupation groups, trailing only physicians; yet, our research shows that faculty and students are not aware of the benefits of the profession, both intellectual and financial.
Did you know… A larger fraction of STEM students of color indicate an interest in teaching compared to their White counterparts.
Pictogram of Prospective Teachers
POPT (popped) Responses from a series of nine statements that directly address a student’s interest in becoming a grade 7-12 math or science teacher. These statements are part of the PTaP Instrument.
- Hispanic students are significantly more likely to have interest or plan to pursue teacher certification than White students at p=0.05 (76.8% vs. 59.8%)
- Asian students are significantly more likely to have interest or plan to pursue teacher certification than White students at p=0.10 (69.6% vs. 59.8%)
- Hispanic students are significantly less likely to be in the neutral category than White students at p=0.05 (11.4% vs. 21.6%)
- Hispanic students are significantly more likely to be in the “has interest” category than White students at p=0.10 (57.3% vs. 47.2%)
- Asian students are significantly less likely to be in the “does not want to teach” category than White students at p=0.10 (10.1% vs. 18.6%)
Planning to Pursue Certification includes those who answered agree/strongly agree (A/SA) to either “I plan to pursue certification at my institution” or “I plan to pursue certification through another route”. Has Interest includes those who A/SA with any of the six I would if (IWIf) statements and/or those who answered A/SA to “I want to become a grade 7-12 teacher” (WTT) but did not A/SA with either certification statement. Neutral includes those remaining who chose neutral on any one of WTT, either certification statement, or IWif statement. Doesn’t Want to Teach includes those who D/SD with all seven statements – WTT, certification, and IWif statements.
Did you know… Research shows that the classroom teacher has a greater impact on student learning than all other aspects of schools (e.g., class size and funding per student).
“Teaching has 6 to 10 times as much impact on achievement as all other factors combined … Just three years of effective teaching accounts on average for an improvement of 35 to 50 percentile points.”
How We Can Achieve Unprecedented Improvements in Teaching and Learning
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
(2006, p. 9)
Did you know… Behind every advance in medicine or technology is a teacher who left a lasting impression.
Our research as well as research from ACT that finds that
- The #1 reason people choose NOT to teach is misperceptions about pay. Specifically a perceived (not real) pay gap between teacher salaries and other jobs they can get with the same degree.
- The #1 reason people choose TO teach is to make a difference. An excellent use of your skills is to become a teacher and help the next generation realize their full potential.