15 Best-Paying Cities for Teachers

Teacher in a classroom
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This story originally appeared on HireAHelper.

The past year has been uniquely difficult for teachers. After the COVID-19 pandemic shut schools down last spring, educators were forced to transition their work to virtual schooling, with little time to plan.

In the new school year, teachers have faced more difficult dilemmas. Some districts have reopened schools despite increasing COVID-19 case numbers, which has educators worried about students’ health and safety — and their own. In other districts, instruction has remained online, and teachers are struggling to keep students engaged and learning in the virtual classroom. Some districts have opted for a hybrid solution, leaving educators to navigate the difficulties of both approaches with different groups of students rotating between online and in-person instruction.

Teaching is a hard job in normal times, too, but it is acknowledged to be one of society’s most critical. Research shows that teacher quality is the single most impactful in-school factor affecting students’ learning and success. In public polls, a majority of Americans recognize the value that teachers provide and acknowledge positive roles that teachers have had in their lives. But despite teachers’ importance to society — especially now — the profession as a whole has faced stagnant wages for several decades.

Teacher Salaries Have Stagnated

Teacher in the classroom
ESB Professional / Shutterstock.com

In 2019, the average teacher made $61,730 — a figure nearly identical to the average inflation-adjusted salary earned by teachers 30 years ago. Despite stagnant wages, the teaching profession has in many ways become more difficult over time, with increasing class sizes, more testing and accountability requirements, and underfunding of support staff like counselors and social workers in schools. Teachers are increasingly fed up with this reality as the status quo. In 2018, half a dozen states — including some of the lowest-paying states for teachers, like Arizona and Oklahoma — saw teachers strike, walk out, and stage protests in efforts to encourage greater public investments in education, especially teacher compensation.

Underpayment of teachers is particularly stark compared with typical wages for other well-educated professionals. A bachelor’s degree is usually the bare minimum for entry into the teaching profession in public schools, but a majority of public school educators also hold advanced degrees. And yet, the median teacher makes $2,000 less than the median bachelor’s degree holder and about 60% of the salary of the median professional degree holder.

Best-Paying Large Metros for Teachers

A teacher helps a student with face masks on during the coronavirus crsis
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While teachers’ lower pay relative to other professions is a nationwide pattern, some states and localities — many on the West Coast and in the Mid-Atlantic region — compensate better than others based on the economics or education policies of the jurisdiction. For instance, many school districts are funded heavily based on local property tax collections, so areas with greater wealth and higher tax rates tend to have more resources available to compensate teachers well. States and districts with strong teachers’ unions are frequently able to negotiate higher salaries and benefits for their members than peers in other jurisdictions. States or localities may also offer different incentives for teachers who earn advanced degrees or certifications or who meet certain performance standards in the classroom. And it’s important to note that cost of living is a factor as well — some areas’ salaries may appear inflated or deflated depending on how far one’s dollar goes in those locations.

To find the areas where teachers have the best pay, researchers at HireAHelper calculated median annual earnings for teachers with and without an adjustment for cost of living. The data includes elementary, middle, and secondary school teachers across both public and private institutions.

Keep reading to see the large metropolitan areas offering the best pay for teachers.

15. Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD

Baltimore, Maryland
Jon Bilous / Shutterstock.com
  • Median annual earnings for teachers (adjusted): $67,045
  • Median annual earnings for teachers (unadjusted): $70,933
  • Number of teachers: 28,920
  • Cost of living (compared with national average): +5.8%

14. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV

Arlington, Virginia
Jon Bilous / Shutterstock.com
  • Median annual earnings for teachers (adjusted): $67,410
  • Median annual earnings for teachers (unadjusted): $79,140
  • Number of teachers: 65,610
  • Cost of living (compared with national average): +17.4%

13. Rochester, NY

Rochester, New York
Sirichai netthong / Shutterstock.com
  • Median annual earnings for teachers (adjusted): $69,092
  • Median annual earnings for teachers (unadjusted): $67,089
  • Number of teachers: 13,640
  • Cost of living (compared with national average): -2.9%

12. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA

The skyline of San Jose, which has a lower median rent than median mortgage payment
stellamc / Shutterstock.com
  • Median annual earnings for teachers (adjusted): $69,228
  • Median annual earnings for teachers (unadjusted): $87,713
  • Number of teachers: 19,310
  • Cost of living (compared with national average): +26.7%

11. Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN

Cincinnati
anthony-heflin / Shutterstock.com
  • Median annual earnings for teachers (adjusted): $69,555
  • Median annual earnings for teachers (unadjusted): $63,017
  • Number of teachers: 23,030
  • Cost of living (compared with national average): -9.4%

10. Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA

Aerial view of Portland with Mount Hood in the background.
josemaria-toscano / Shutterstock.com
  • Median annual earnings for teachers (adjusted): $71,202
  • Median annual earnings for teachers (unadjusted): $74,763
  • Number of teachers: 17,930
  • Cost of living (compared with national average): +5.0%

9. Pittsburgh, PA

Pittsburgh
esb-professional / Shutterstock.com
  • Median annual earnings for teachers (adjusted): $71,609
  • Median annual earnings for teachers (unadjusted): $66,167
  • Number of teachers: 24,860
  • Cost of living (compared with national average): -7.6%

8. Columbus, OH

Christian Hinkle / Shutterstock.com
  • Median annual earnings for teachers (adjusted): $72,459
  • Median annual earnings for teachers (unadjusted): $66,373
  • Number of teachers: 23,760
  • Cost of living (compared with national average): -8.4%

7. Sacramento-Roseville-Arden-Arcade, CA

Sacramento, California
Ed Gavryush / Shutterstock.com
  • Median annual earnings for teachers (adjusted): $73,344
  • Median annual earnings for teachers (unadjusted): $77,158
  • Number of teachers: 19,130
  • Cost of living (compared with national average): +5.2%

6. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA

holbox / Shutterstock.com
  • Median annual earnings for teachers (adjusted): $73,356
  • Median annual earnings for teachers (unadjusted): $87,147
  • Number of teachers: 99,300
  • Cost of living (compared with national average): +18.8%

5. Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC

Ritu Manoj Jethani / Shutterstock.com
  • Median annual earnings for teachers (adjusted): $74,925
  • Median annual earnings for teachers (unadjusted): $72,228
  • Number of teachers: 15,490
  • Cost of living (compared with national average): -3.6%

4. Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI

Harold Stiver / Shutterstock.com
  • Median annual earnings for teachers (adjusted): $75,161
  • Median annual earnings for teachers (unadjusted): $71,629
  • Number of teachers: 30,560
  • Cost of living (compared with national average): -4.7%

3. Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls, NY

Buffalo, New York
Atomazul / Shutterstock.com
  • Median annual earnings for teachers (adjusted): $76,816
  • Median annual earnings for teachers (unadjusted): $72,591
  • Number of teachers: 11,930
  • Cost of living (compared with national average): -5.5%

2. Cleveland-Elyria, OH

Cleveland, Ohio
rudy-balasko / Shutterstock.com
  • Median annual earnings for teachers (adjusted): $78,328
  • Median annual earnings for teachers (unadjusted): $70,417
  • Number of teachers: 24,360
  • Cost of living (compared with national average): -10.1%

1. Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA

San Bernardino, California
Matt Gush / Shutterstock.com
  • Median annual earnings for teachers (adjusted): $83,466
  • Median annual earnings for teachers (unadjusted): $89,559
  • Number of teachers: 38,390
  • Cost of living (compared with national average): +7.3%

Detailed Findings & Methodology

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The wage and employment data used in this analysis is from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics program. Cost-of-living data is from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis Regional Price Parity dataset. Researchers calculated and ranked the locations based on cost-of-living adjusted median annual earnings for teachers. For the purpose of this analysis, teachers include elementary, middle, and secondary school teachers in public and private institutions (not including special education or technical education teachers). To improve relevance, only metropolitan areas with at least 100,000 residents were included. Additionally, metros were grouped into cohorts based on population size: small (100,000–349,999), midsize (350,000–999,999), and large (1,000,000 or more).

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