The Best-Paying States for Teachers in 2020

Published on August 10, 2020
2 min read

“However much we’re paying our teachers, it isn’t enough.” If you (like so many other parents this year) have had to coach your child through distance learning, this thought has no doubt crossed your mind more than once.

The coronavirus pandemic has helped many of us realize just how valuable our nation’s teachers are. But is that value always reflected in their pay?

zhulitouzi.com conducted a deep dive into the stats to see which states offer K–12 teachers the best pay compared to other full-time workers in their area. Here’s what we found.

Interesting findings

  • Nationally, teachers make $61,189—6.7% less than the national average salary. Even more discouraging, the average teacher salary has fallen 4.6% in the last ten years.
  • New York offers the best pay for teachers. Teachers in the Empire State get paid 11.5% more than other full-time workers in the state. Moreover, New York offers the highest average teaching salary in the country at $85,889 per year.
  • Virginia has the worst relative pay for teachers, with K–12 educators averaging a yearly salary 28% lower than other full-time employees.
  • Location is everything. While teachers generally make notoriously low wages, educators in six states (New York, California, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Alaska, and Iowa) actually make more than the average for other occupations in their area.
  • Washington and Oklahoma have improved recently, with teachers’ salaries going up by roughly 28% and 11% respectively in the past year.

State-by-state comparison

State
Average teacher salary
Average earnings, full-time year-round workers
Teacher salary % more or less than average
% change since 2010
% change since 2018

1—New York

$85,889

$77,058

11.50%

2.60%

-0.10%

2—California

$82,282

$75,407

9.10%

3.20%

-0.10%

3—Pennsylvania

$68,141

$65,346

4.30%

-1.40%

-1.20%

4—Vermont

$61,027

$59,416

2.70%

6.40%

-1.30%

5—Alaska

$70,277

$68,781

2.20%

0.80%

-1.20%

6—Iowa

$58,140

$58,014

2.00%

0.30%

-0.10%

7—Oregon

$64,385

$64,401

0.00%

-0.20%

0.00%

8—Rhode Island

$67,040

$67,216

-0.30%

-3.90%

-1.60%

9—Hawaii

$59,757

$60,432

-1.10%

-7.10%

1.20%

10—Michigan

$61,825

$62,736

-1.50%

-8.70%

-2.20%

11—Massachusetts

$82,042

$83,898

-2.20%

1.30%

0.00%

12—Washington

$72,965

$74,808

-2.50%

17.80%

28.40%

13—Montana

$54,034

$55,401

-2.50%

1.10%

0.30%

14—Delaware

$62,308

$63,906

-2.50%

-6.60%

-1.20%

15—Wyoming

$58,618

$60,252

-2.70%

-10.20%

-1.60%

16—Maine

$54,974

$56,522

-2.70%

2.00%

0.10%

17—Arkansas

$51,019

$53,460

-4.60%

-6.50%

-1.10%

18—Kentucky

$53,434

$56,076

-4.70%

-7.70%

-1.10%

19—Ohio

$57,799

$60,707

-4.80%

-11.60%

-2.40%

20—Oklahoma

$52,412

$55,202

-5.10%

-6.00%

10.90%

21—Illinois

$66,600

$70,680

-5.80%

-8.20%

-0.70%

22—Nebraska

$54,506

$58,131

-6.20%

0.90%

-1.50%

23—Nevada

$54,280

$58,713

-7.60%

-9.80%

-2.00%

24—Georgia

$57,137

$55,202

-7.90%

-7.90%

-0.60%

25—Tennessee

$56,567

$51,714

-8.60%

-4.40%

-0.50%

26—Maryland

$70,463

$77,139

-8.70%

-5.70%

-0.90%

27—West Virginia

$47,681

$52,303

-8.80%

-11.20%

2.30%

28—North Carolina

$53,975

$59,209

-8.80%

-1.40%

3.20%

29—Mississippi

$45,574

$50,027

-8.90%

-14.60%

-0.60%

30—Alabama

$50,810

$55,898

-9.10%

-8.60%

-1.60%

31—South Carolina

$50,395

$55,531

-9.20%

-0.00092

-1.60%

32—South Dakota

$48,786

$53,853

-9.40%

7.50%

0.30%

33—Idaho

$50,757

$56,440

-10.10%

-6.20%

1.00%

34—Louisiana

$50,923

$56,791

-10.30%

-10.90%

-0.90%

35—Connecticut

$76,465

$85,764

-10.80%

1.70%

0.50%

36—New Mexico

$47,826

$53,094

-11.30%

-11.50%

-0.60%

37—Indiana

$50,937

$57,437

-11.30%

-12.80%

-1.40%

38—North Dakota

$53,434

$61,702

-13.40%

6.40%

-0.90%

39—Texas

$54,155

$62,720

-13.70%

-4.00%

0.50%

40—Missouri

$50,064

$58,145

-13.90%

-5.50%

-0.50%

41—Wisconsin

$51,453

$60,348

-14.70%

-14.40%

-2.10%

42—Minnesota

$58,221

$69,045

-15.70%

-5.00%

-1.30%

43—New Jersey

$70,212

$83,250

-15.90%

-7.70%

-1.60%

44—Kansas

$49,800

$59,743

-16.60%

-8.70%

-1.90%

45—Florida

$48,395

$58,254

-16.90%

-11.30%

-1.60%

46—Arizona

$49,892

$60,060

-16.90%

-9.10%

0.30%

47—New Hampshire

$58,146

$72,025

-19.30%

-3.30%

-1.50%

48—Utah

$50,342

$63,026

-20.10%

-6.10%

-0.70%

49—District of Columbia

$78,477

$99,557

-21.20%

4.00%

0.50%

50—Colorado

$53,301

$69,338

-23.10%

-7.30%

-0.70%

51—Virginia

$52,466

$72,833

-28.00%

-10.20%

-1.10%

Now does this data mean that New York is the best state for teachers to work in? Not necessarily.

While our rankings factor in pay, there are a lot of other things that can contribute to the happiness and well-being of our nation’s educators—like health and safety procedures, benefits, and classroom size.

Hopefully, though, our rankings serve as a good starting point to address the clear wage disparities within an essential profession.

Do you agree with our rankings? Submit a comment to let us know what your state is doing to show appreciation for teachers.

Our Methodology

To determine our rankings, we compared each state’s average K–12 teaching salary (pulled from the National Education Center’s 2018–2019 school year data) to its average salary for full-time, year-round employees (found in the US Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey).

This means our 2020 rankings factor in the total average pay for teachers in each state (as opposed to our 2019 rankings, which considered only starting salaries). This change caused states with higher salary caps to rise significantly in our rankings, while states with low salary caps tended to fall.

We also included data on how each state’s teacher compensation has increased or decreased within the past 20 years (according to the National Education Center). But while this information is certainly interesting, it didn’t have any bearing on our rankings.

Sources

  1. National Center for Education Statistics, “Estimated Average Annual Salary of Teachers in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools, By State: Selected Years, 1969–70 Through 2018–19,” Accessed on August 6, 2020
  2. US Census Bureau, “Earnings in the Past 12 Months (In 2018 Inflation-Adjusted Dollars),” Accessed on August 6, 2020
Courtenay Stevens
Written by
Courtenay Stevens
Courtenay cut her teeth (and occasionally her tongue) on the world of business when she was eight years old, licking envelopes to help her dad mail calendars to his clients. Ever since, she has fostered a passion for entrepreneurship, which makes small business one of her favorite topics to write about. When Courtenay isn’t writing, she enjoys podcasting about pop culture and attempting to keep up with her hellspawn (aka children).
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