Here’s How Much Teachers Are Paid in Every State

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Teachers choose their career for many reasons, but it’s fair to say a dream of big bucks is seldom one of them.

Education is famously a low-paid profession, although rewards come in other, less tangible ways. That “If you can read this, thank a teacher” bumper sticker may be a cliche, but it’s also true.

Elementary school teachers in the U.S. earned an average annual wage of $62,200 as of 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Middle school teachers earned an average of $61,040 at that same time. High school teachers averaged $62,860 per year.

But teacher pay varies considerably by state. States also vary as to which level pays best. Often, elementary school teachers make less than their middle school and high school counterparts, but not always.

Following are the average annual wages for elementary, middle and high school teachers in each state. The states are ranked based on elementary-school pay.

50. Oklahoma

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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $40,450

Middle school teachers: $41,660

High school teachers: $42,540

These are tough times for Sooner State teachers. Over the past six years, 30,000 educators there have left the profession, according to a recent state report, the Tulsa World reported in February. In a statement about the report, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister said, “Steep budget cuts over the last decade have made the teaching profession in Oklahoma less attractive, resulting in a severe teacher shortage crisis and negative consequences for our schoolchildren.”

49. South Dakota

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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $43,140

Middle school teachers: $43,860

High school teachers: $42,960

South Dakota is struggling with a critical shortage of special-education teachers. This fall, Augustana University in Sioux Falls will launch a new online-only master’s of arts and special education program to train them, the Argus Leader reported in March.

48. Mississippi

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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $43,860

Middle school teachers: $46,370

High school teachers: $47,190

Mississippi’s grades are mixed. U.S. News & World Report ranks it No. 47 when it comes to preparing students for college in general. And yet, based on the quality of the state’s pre-kindergarten education, it was among five states that tied for No. 1. Those other states are Alabama, West Virginia, Rhode Island and North Carolina.

47. Arizona

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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $44,430

Middle school teachers: $43,560

High school teachers: $48,610

Arizona ranks low when it comes to preparing students for college. U.S. News & World Report recently listed the state No. 48 of all 50 states in a ranking that was based on college readiness, high school graduation rates and student test scores, among other factors.

46. West Virginia

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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $44,890

Middle school teachers: $45,540

High school teachers: $47,050

West Virginia teachers are flexing their muscle. Educators there have gone on strike twice in two years, winning victories each time, The New York Times reported in February.

45. North Carolina

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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $46,500

Middle school teachers: $47,050

High school teachers: $47,580

In February, North Carolina’s state schools superintendent, Mark Johnson, announced the creation of “Teach NC,” a public-private partnership aimed at recruiting more aspiring teachers, the Raleigh News & Observer reports.

44. Arkansas

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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $48,560

Middle school teachers: $49,570

High school teachers: $51,780

In February, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed a measure guaranteeing that the state’s teachers earning the minimum salary will receive $1,000 raises in each of the next four years, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported.

43. Louisiana

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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $48,740

Middle school teachers: $49,960

High school teachers: $51,810

Pay for new teachers in Louisiana stacks up better against their counterparts nationwide than veteran teacher pay does. The state ranks 17th in the nation for new-teacher pay. However, it falls to 37th when averaged among all teachers, the Advocate reported in January.

42. Idaho

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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $48,990

Middle school teachers: $53,660

High school teachers: $51,170

In March, Idaho Gov. Brad Little signed into law a bill that will increase starting teacher pay in the state to $40,000 by 2021, CBS2-TV reported. As of March, the minimum teacher salary in the state was only $35,800.

41. Alabama

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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $49,850

Middle school teachers: $50,210

High school teachers: $51,180

Alabama is experiencing a teacher shortage that state education officials consider a crisis, AL.com reported in March. At least 1,700 educators in grades seven through 12 are teaching core subjects — math, science, history and social studies — without the correct certifications, according to School Superintendents of Alabama Executive Director Ryan Hollingsworth.

40. Missouri

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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $49,860

Middle school teachers: $55,070

High school teachers: $54,280

Missouri is facing difficulties keeping teachers. Only about a third of those hired stay on the job for five years, a recent state report showed.

39. Florida

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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $50,070

Middle school teachers: $53,140

High school teachers: $54,120

The Sunshine State’s teacher shortage meant more than 2,000 jobs remained unfilled midway through the 2018-2019 school year, according to the Florida Education Association, the Orlando Sentinel reported in January.

38. Kansas

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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $51,020

Middle school teachers: $51,790

High school teachers: $51,490

Figures from the Kansas State Department of Education showed that the Sunflower State was short more than 600 teachers when school began in the fall of 2018, WKMUW reported. That’s 99 more than in the fall of 2017.

37. South Carolina

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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $51,240

Middle school teachers: $52,520

High school teachers: $54,400

South Carolina already had a teacher shortage, but it grew even worse in 2018. That’s when 7,300 teachers left their jobs before the current school year started, according to a Winthrop University study, the Post and Courier reported in January.

35. Montana (tie)

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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $52,360

Middle school teachers: $55,880

High school teachers: $50,670

Montana is struggling to find teachers for its small, rural schools. The state used emergency licenses to certify 75 teachers to staff positions in 40 communities this school year, the Billings Gazette reported in February.

35. Indiana (tie)

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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $52,360

Middle school teachers: $52,690

High school teachers: $53,030

Some teachers in the Hoosier State are turning to crowdfunding sites to raise money for classroom supplies, WXIN-TV reported in March.

34. Tennessee

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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $52,610

Middle school teachers: $52,260

High school teachers: $53,620

Tennessee teachers are the most inexperienced in the nation, according to the Tennessee Education Report, Nashville’s WTVF-TV reported in February. The report shows that 19.2 percent of the state’s educators are in their first or second year.

33. Colorado

Asian woman teacher checking homework at her desk.
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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $53,400

Middle school teachers: $53,400

High school teachers: $55,110

Teachers in Colorado could earn much more in a private sector job, according to a 2018 report by Governing Magazine. The study found teachers in the state make only 83 percent of the average salary of similarly educated private-sector workers.

32. Maine

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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $53,570

Middle school teachers: $53,770

High school teachers: $54,240

More than 60 Maine schools have closed since the 2008-2009 school year due to declining enrollments in the state. Rural areas are hit the hardest, CentralMaine.com reported in March.

31. Kentucky

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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $53,830

Middle school teachers: $54,620

High school teachers: $56,200

In Kentucky, teachers do not have the legal right to strike. But some educators have turned to the “sickout” as a form of protest, the Courier Journal reported in March. Thousands of teachers call in sick for the same day, meaning school districts cannot remain open but teachers can go to the Legislature to protest bills they deem negative for public education.

30. Iowa

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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $54,500

Middle school teachers: $55,300

High school teachers: $56,510

Iowa’s high-school graduation rate reached an all-time high of 91.4 percent in 2018, the Iowa Department of Education reported in March. Gov. Kim Reynolds said of the accomplishment, “This latest success is directly tied to our strong K-12 education system and Iowa’s innovative, engaging approach to education, which shapes the lives of our young people as well as the economic vitality of our state.”

29. New Mexico

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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $55,390

Middle school teachers: $52,810

High school teachers: $55,380

New Mexico saw a sharp increase in the number of educators who lost their licenses to teach in 2018, KRQE News 13 reported in late February. The state education department revoked 29 licenses in 2018, compared with just five in 2016 and 2017 combined.

28. North Dakota

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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $55,860

Middle school teachers: $60,900

High school teachers: $55,400

This year, North Dakota lawmakers introduced a number of bills in an attempt to alleviate the teacher shortage there, the Bismarck Tribune reported in February. One bill would allow those without a teaching license to teach in non-core subject areas once they meet certain requirements.

27. Georgia

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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $56,360

Middle school teachers: $58,190

High school teachers: $58,050

The Georgia Department of Education recently surveyed more than 53,000 educators to find out why 4 in 10 drop out of the profession by their fifth year. Mandated tests, teacher-evaluation methods and low salaries and lack of support were among the top reasons given.

26. Texas

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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $56,520

Middle school teachers: $56,580

High school teachers: $58,190

In March, hundreds of Texas teachers gave up their first day of spring break to travel to the State Capitol in Austin and rally for increased funding for public schools.

25. Wisconsin

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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $56,770

Middle school teachers: $59,880

High school teachers: $58,360

In January, the University of Wisconsin System announced the creation of a task force that will work to find solutions to the Badger State’s teacher shortage.

24. Nevada

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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $56,970

Middle school teachers: $58,460

High school teachers: $57,910

Nevada ranked low — 49th out of 50 — in a recent ranking from U.S. News & World Report showing how well states are preparing students for college.

23. Nebraska

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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $57,490

Middle school teachers: $60,280

High school teachers: $57,500

In late 2018, Nebraska saw more schools fall into the lowest of four performance levels in a state-ordered ranking system, the Lincoln Journal-Star reported. At that point, there were 155 Nebraska schools, or 14 percent, and 24 districts, or 10 percent, classified at the lowest level.

22. New Hampshire

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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $58,230

Middle school teachers: $57,640

High school teachers: $61,510

New Hampshire ranked No. 2 in the nation in a recent ranking from U.S. News & World Report measuring how well the states are preparing students for college.

21. Wyoming

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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $58,940

Middle school teachers: $60,750

High school teachers: $60,620

Wyoming’s average teacher salaries are higher than the average private-sector worker in that state with comparable education, according to a 2018 report by Governing Magazine.

20. Utah

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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $59,880

Middle school teachers: $61,880

High school teachers: $59,070

A recent study of 4,000 Utah college students shows that more high-achieving scholars would consider going into teaching if there were higher salaries, career growth options and more scholarships and financial aid.

19. Hawaii

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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $61,240

Middle school teachers: $60,900

High school teachers: $60,810

Scenic Hawaii may not be a paradise for teachers. Only 50 percent of educators hired five years ago are still teaching, the Aloha State’s highest turnover rate since 2001, KITV reports.

18. Illinois

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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $62,140

Middle school teachers: $63,860

High school teachers: $72,370

The average salary for teachers in Illinois is very close to that of private-sector workers here, with just a few hundred dollars separating the two averages, Governing Magazine reports.

16. Ohio (tie)

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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $62,430

Middle school teachers: $62,130

High school teachers: $61,930

Strong salary and pensions, plus the benefits of low-cost living, helped Ohio rank No. 10 in the 2018 Best States for Teachers analysis by personal-finance site WalletHub.

16. Vermont (tie)

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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $62,430

Middle school teachers: $59,170

High school teachers: $65,850

Vermont placed near the top of a recent ranking from U.S. News & World Report measuring how well the states are preparing students for college.

15. Delaware

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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $63,040

Middle school teachers: $63,380

High school teachers: $65,040

Salaries for Delaware teachers rose faster than those for private-sector employees in the state between 2010 and 2016, Governing Magazine reported in a 2018 study.

14. Minnesota

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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $64,950

Middle school teachers: $61,410

High school teachers: $64,610

Less than half of Minnesota’s licensed teachers actually work in public-school classrooms, according to a report issued in January by the state’s teacher licensing board.

13. Washington

Kids working with robotics.
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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $65,180

Middle school teachers: $65,630

High school teachers: $67,550

Teachers in Washington state, home to many well-paying tech companies, struggle to earn as much as their private-sector neighbors, according to Governing Magazine. By 2016, teachers’ average pay here remained one of the lowest percentages in the nation compared with private sector salaries, at 80 percent.

12. Michigan

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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $66,180

Middle school teachers: $64,540

High school teachers: $62,950

According to recent statistics from the Michigan Education Association, 1 in 5 Michigan teachers leave the profession in their first five years.

11. Pennsylvania

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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $66,860

Middle school teachers: $67,950

High school teachers: $64,830

The minimum starting pay for teachers in Pennsylvania is just $18,500, a salary that hasn’t changed in 30 years, PennLive.com reported in February. There’s now a proposal to raise it to $45,000.

10. Virginia

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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $67,610

Middle school teachers: $66,870

High school teachers: $68,770

Despite ranking relatively high based on teacher pay, Virginia was ranked dead last by Oxfam America in the nonprofit’s 2018 analysis of the best and worst states for workers in general. This ranking took into consideration each state’s policies for not only wages but also worker protections and the right to organize.

9. Oregon

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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $67,910

Middle school teachers: $75,280

High school teachers: $72,640

Some Oregon teachers are being tempted by higher pay in neighboring Washington state, where long-underpaid teachers fought for and won hefty raises in 2018, Oregon Public Broadcasting reports.

8. New Jersey

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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $70,660

Middle school teachers: $72,290

High school teachers: $76,390

New Jersey ranked high in a recent ranking from U.S. News & World Report measuring how well the states are preparing students for college, landing at No. 3 of all 50 states.

7. Maryland

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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $71,060

Middle school teachers: $69,710

High school teachers: $72,610

More than 170 school buses brought Maryland teachers and their supporters to the state capital of Annapolis in March to rally for a dramatic increase in school funding.

6. Rhode Island

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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $71,990

Middle school teachers: $72,180

High school teachers: $71,440

Rhode Island is short of teachers in certain subjects, including special education, math and science. A program training educators at Rhode Island College in Providence hopes to address that deficit by also ensuring students in elementary education programs study one of those areas.

5. Alaska

Schoolboy with backpack in snow.
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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $74,070

Middle school teachers: $75,770

High school teachers: $77,920

The Last Frontier is close to last in that recent ranking from the U.S. News & World Report measuring how well the states are preparing students for college. It came in at No. 46 out of 50.

4. Connecticut

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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $75,480

Middle school teachers: $76,130

High school teachers: $76,980

Connecticut scored quite high overall — coming in at No. 5 out of 50 — in the recent ranking from U.S. News & World Report measuring how well the states are preparing students for college. In the category of college readiness, it ranked No. 1 in the nation. Of Connecticut’s high school graduates, 62 percent passed the SAT or the ACT.

3. California

African American woman with grade school students wearing red caps.
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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $80,100

Middle school teachers: $75,660

High school teachers: $80,510

California teachers lead the nation when their salaries are compared with those in the private sector, according to Governing Magazine. The average teacher salary was 117 percent of the average for private-sector workers in the Golden State in 2016.

2. Massachusetts

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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $82,600

Middle school teachers: $79,030

High school teachers: $80,020

Massachusetts, famous for its outstanding colleges and universities, came in at No. 1 in a recent ranking from U.S. News & World Report measuring how well the states are preparing students for college.

1. New York

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Average annual wage for elementary school teachers: $83,010

Middle school teachers: $83,490

High school teachers: $85,300

Although elementary, middle and high school teachers in the Empire State all have the highest average annual pay in the nation, they also have some of the highest living expenses in the nation. New York had the fourth-highest average annual costs of living in 2018, according to a ranking by the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center.

Where does your state rank for teachers’ pay? Is it a living wage in your area? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Krystal Steinmetz and Kari Huus contributed to this report.

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