What is the National Average Teacher Salary in the US?

Brandi Glass
December 15, 20225 min read
Teacher smiling at whiteboard

Teaching is a rewarding career that will allow you to make a difference in the lives of hundreds of people every single year. You’ll help shape the next generation, support children as they handle important life events and play a part in making the country a better place.

Although teaching is incredibly important work, there’s no denying that it has a reputation for a low average teacher salary. You might be surprised by how much you can earn, however: some teachers are on six-figure wages.

Money isn’t everything, but it can improve your quality of life and make a career more viable. So, keep reading to discover the national average teacher salary and the factors that affect it.

What is the National Average Teacher Salary?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), high school teachers earned a median average wage of $61,820 per year in 2021. For 80% of high school teachers, their salary was between $46,090 and $100,310.

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers, meanwhile, earned $61,350 per year on average in 2021. 80% of them earned between $43,950 and $99,420.

In short, the median average salary for teachers in the US is around $61,500. However, there’s significant variation in how much individual teachers earn. On the low end, teachers’ annual wages may be under $45,000. On the high end, meanwhile, they could earn six-figure salaries.

What Factors Affect the Average Teacher Salary?

There are numerous factors that influence whether a teacher’s salary is closer to $45,000 or $100,000. Here are some of the key things that will determine your salary:

Type of School

We’ve already mentioned that high school teachers tend to earn slightly more than kindergarten and elementary school teachers. That’s not the only school type that affects the national average teacher salary, however.

Teachers in private and charter schools tend to earn less than those in state schools. On the other hand, there’s more room to negotiate higher rates in private schools, plus you could benefit from a more positive classroom environment.

Substitute teachers are also paid different rates. If you’re interested in this career path, we’ve written an entire article on substitute teachers’ wages and how they’re growing, as well as a step-by-step guide to getting your substitute teacher license.

College professors also attract different pay rates, as do language school teachers, private tutors and more. Additionally, you could supplement your income by working as a school teacher during term time and taking on tutoring gigs during school vacations.

Location

Most states will set teacher salaries based on the local cost of living. Depending on where you live, you could see significant differences in your take-home wages.

In this case, however, being paid more isn’t always a good thing. You might end up with a better salary but reduced spending power, especially if there are high housing costs. When considering locations, it’s best to look at the bigger picture: how much will you earn, how much will be left over after you’ve paid your living expenses and how far will that surplus go?

Years of Experience

Many school districts use a “step and lane” system to determine teacher pay rates. You move up a step with each additional year of experience, which means that you can expect to earn more every year of your career.

However, there is a caveat here: some districts only include years spent working in their own district. If you move to a different town or state, you may end up back on the first step and looking at a whole new climb up the pay ladder.

Postgraduate Credits

While years of experience represent steps in the “step and lane” pay system, lanes refer to your level of education. Each step is divided into multiple lanes, which means that you can increase your yearly salary by gaining more qualifications.

Different districts have varying requirements for their lanes. In some, you’ll need a master’s or Ph.D. to move into a higher-paying lane. In other districts, credit hours will be sufficient.

Job Title

Most state schools in the US do not pay higher rates to teachers with increased responsibilities or better performance (although there are some exceptions). That said, if you go into a management position and become a principal or vice principal, you will command a higher salary.

The most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that principals across the US earned an average of $92,900 a year. Some had salaries of $138,800 or higher.

This survey is based on self-reported data from principals who chose to participate, so the national average principal salary might be slightly different. However, it gives a good indication of the type of wages you can expect to earn if you decide to pursue a career as a principal.

Can You Negotiate a Higher Teacher Salary or Better Benefits?

If you’re working as a public school teacher, the bad news is that you probably can’t negotiate a higher salary. Your wage will be entirely dependent on your step and lane.

While this can be frustrating for teachers who feel that their high performance is overlooked, it does have some benefits. There’s complete pay transparency, which means you’ll never discover you’ve been paid less than an inexperienced coworker who was better than you at negotiating. It also reduces the pay gap, as women and minorities will be guaranteed the same pay as fellow teachers with the same educational and career background.

Alternatively, if you work in a private school, you may well be able to negotiate a more attractive salary package. Just remember that salaries are typically lower outside of public schools.

Launch Your Teacher Career with an Eye-Catching Resume

A well-crafted resume is key to career success, whether you’re working in state kindergartens or applying for roles in private high schools.

Your resume needs to highlight your strongest points, from your excellent classroom management to your experience of working with children with learning disabilities. It also needs to be adapted to the role in question, professionally laid out and machine-readable. You don’t want your resume to be discarded just because it’s in the wrong file format.

Our teacher resume templates will help you craft a polished and professional resume that will pass muster with recruiters and computers alike. What’s more, our resume builder will make helpful suggestions based on your experience level and skill sets, from the ideal resume structure to recruiter-approved phrasing.

Build your resume in minutes so you can stand out from other applicants.