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Becoming a Teacher

For Prospective Teachers

Explore the Teaching Profession

Explore teacher satisfaction, work-life balance, salary, benefits and impact or find a certification program.

Did you know…

✔ Teachers in the United States rate their lives better than all other occupation groups, trailing only physicians.

✔ Teachers have flexible summers that they can use to travel, learn, spend time with family and friends, and recharge.

✔ Science teachers report having higher or equivalent overall job satisfaction compared to other STEM professionals.

✔ At year 15, the middle 50% of teacher salaries range between $68,000 and $114,000, nationally.

✔ Most teaching jobs have better retirement benefits than other jobs you can get with the same degree.

✔ There are student loan forgiveness programs and scholarships for math and science teachers.

✔ You can get a job almost anywhere in the U.S. or abroad as a science or math teacher.

✔ Behind every advance in medicine or technology is a teacher who left a lasting impression.

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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.*

Life Satisfaction

*The Cantril Self-Anchoring Scale

Ladder Q1 only

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?

teacher with moleculeFor 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

When considering a career path, you might be thinking about what salary and benefits you can obtain and your financial stability.

You might be concerned about whether the work will be intellectually and emotionally stimulating and the quality and predictability of your work schedule. You could be exploring different opportunities to learn new skills and acquire new knowledge.

Your emotional health also plays a big role in your quality of life.

When taking different factors into account, what professional career path would give you the greatest satisfaction and sense of accomplishment?

Did you know… Teachers have flexible summers that they can use to travel, learn, spend time with family and friends, and recharge.

young girl and her dog in the back of a car packed for a summer trip

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.

Day-to-day satisfaction

When asked to list all the things that make teaching satisfying from day-to-day, over half the reasons listed related to student interactions. These included teacher – student interactions, student – student interactions, when students light up with understanding and watching students’ long term growth.

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Did you know… At year 15, the middle 50% of teacher salaries ranges between $68,000 and $114,000, nationally.

Teacher salaries are very comparable to other jobs you can get with the same degree.

Total Rewards

While base salary is a major factor in determining financial well-being, there are many other aspects that create the full financial picture such as time off, retirement benefits, health insurance, various retailer discounts, and loan forgiveness.

Teacher Salary Additions/Bonuses

Did you know most teacher salaries include income beyond their base salary? Teachers are compensated for duties outside the classroom including:

  • Coaching
  • Clubs
  • Special committees

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 

DistrictBachelor's degree
Year 1
Bachelor's degree
Year 5
Master's degree
Year 5
Master's degree
Year 15
Doctoral degree Year 1
Jackson Public Schools (Jackson, MS) [1]$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) [2]$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) [3]$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) [4]$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) [5]$69,749 - $69,754$72,944 - $83,492$80,354 - $93,725$106,266 - $121,569$72,470 - $80,973
  1. Jackson Public Schools – 2022-2023 Teacher Salary Scale
  2. Billings Public Schools – 2021-2022 Salary Schedule
  3. Boulder Valley Schools – 2022-2023 Pay Schedule
  4. Half Hollow Hills Central District- 2023-2024 Pay Schedule
  5. 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 School215 Days$106,596$147,205
Director – Innovation Programs248 Days$118,819$164,083
Principal - High School225 Days$131,042$180,963
Asst Superintendent – Innovation Center248 Days$173,327$239,356
Deputy Superintendent248 Days$208,955$288,557

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.

Black male computer science teacher smiling while talking to his class

Teachers in the US retire a full 4 years earlier than all other careers. 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.

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Did you know… Student loan forgiveness programs and scholarships are available for math and science teachers.

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.

TEACH Grants

  • $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

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.

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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

young lady smiling while looking at a globe with a magnifying glassMath 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 neighborhood, 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 not always 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… Behind every advance in medicine or technology is a teacher who left a lasting impression.

Black male math teacher surrounded by his students

  • 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.


Engineers make Bridges

Artists make Paintings

Scientists make Rockets

Teachers make them All.