The Best and Worst States for Working as a Teacher

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A teacher and students in a school computer lab
Monkey Business Images /

Teaching can be rewarding. But long, grueling hours are spent preparing, grading, going to meetings — often for wages that are arguably too low.

Still, the particular issues that teachers face can vary by region. A recent WalletHub analysis reveals which states are the best, and worst, at how they pay and otherwise treat teachers.

The financial data website evaluated each state and the District of Columbia based on 23 key indicators of “teacher-friendliness,” such as income growth potential, student-to-teacher ratios and teacher safety. Then, WalletHub gave each state a total score out of 100 points that accounts for all 23 indicators.

Some of the WalletHub findings are encouraging, though others are unnerving. Read on to find out where your state ranks for teachers.

51. Arizona

Barna Tanko /

Total score: 33.95 out of 100 points

Don’t lose your teaching job in Arizona if you can help it. The state has the second-lowest maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit of any state at $240, as Money Talks News reported in “How Generous Are Unemployment Benefits in Your State?” Only the state of Mississippi has a lower maximum weekly unemployment benefit.

50. New Hampshire

Teacher in a classroom
India Picture /

Total score: 35.47 out of 100 points

The Granite State ranks dead last in the category of opportunity and competition, according to the WalletHub study. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it doesn’t fare much better — at No. 47 — for teachers’ annual salaries adjusted for costs of living in New Hampshire.

One positive note: In the category of academic and work environment, New Hampshire comes in at No. 11.

49. Hawaii

Honolulu, Hawaii
Filip Carmen /

Total score: 37.51 out of 100 points

Low-paid teachers likely will have trouble buying a house in Hawaii. Starter homes in the state have the highest median value of all 50 states at $331,500, as Money Talks News reported in “How Much Is a Starter Home in Your State These Days?

Only starter homes in Washington, D.C., have a higher median value — although just barely, at $335,700.

48. Louisiana

New Orleans, Louisiana
f11 photography /

Total score: 37.87 out of 100 points

The Bayou State isn’t the best place to be unemployed if you’re a teacher — or in any other profession, for that matter. As Money Talks News has reported, Louisiana has the third-lowest maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit among the 50 states at $247.

47. West Virginia

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Total score: 40.71 out of 100 points

Teachers generally don’t get paid much, so it helps that the median value of starter homes in the Mountain State are the lowest in the nation at $42,300, as Money Talks News reported in August.

In fact, that is less than the average annual wage for elementary, middle as well as high school teachers in West Virginia.

46. New Mexico

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Total score: 41.07 out of 100 points

The Land of Enchantment isn’t that enchanting a place for schools. New Mexico’s school systems are the worst in the nation, according to a previous WalletHub study, which the website factored into these rankings on best states for teachers.

For the teachers in those schools, New Mexico also ranks low in the categories of opportunity and competition (No. 44) as well as academic and work environment (No. 42).

45. Oklahoma

Phil Anthony /

Total score: 41.92 out of 100 points

Teachers in the Sooner State are the lowest-paid in the nation, as Money Talks News reported in April, citing what is still the latest data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And WalletHub ranked the state No. 50 in the category of teachers’ academic and work environment.

It’s gotten so bad there that more than 30,000 teachers in Oklahoma have left the profession over the past six years.

44. South Carolina

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
StacieStauffSmith /

Total score: 42.20 out of 100 points

The Palmetto State finds itself way down at No. 49 in the category of academic and work environment for teachers, according to WalletHub’s analysis. It ranks a little higher, at No. 38, in the category of teacher opportunity and competition.

43. District of Columbia

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Total score: 43.49 out of 100 points

One of the hardest things about being a teacher in the nation’s capital may be trying to buy a house.

Washington, D.C., has a higher median cost for a starter home than any of the 50 states at $335,700, as Money Talks News reported.

42. Maine

South Portland, Maine
Sean Pavone /

Total score: 44.72 out of 100 points

It’s feast or famine for teachers in the Pine Tree State, according to the WalletHub analysis. Maine ranks No. 48 for teachers’ opportunity and competition.

On the bright side, though, Maine ties with New Jersey for having the third-lowest student-to-teacher ratio. And it ranks No. 11 in the category of academic and work environment for teachers.

41. Tennessee

Nashville at night.
CrackerClips Stock Media /

Total score: 44.79 out of 100 points

Teachers in the Volunteer State make the 34th-lowest average annual wage in the nation, Money Talks News has reported.

But, there is a silver lining. The state’s living wage — essentially the amount you need to earn to meet basic expenses in any given geographical area — is the third-lowest in the nation.

40. Colorado

Crossing guard
LightFieldStudios /

Total score: 45.49 out of 100 points

The Centennial State has been hit by three teachers strikes in the past two years, with the common themes being stagnant salaries that don’t meet the rising standard of living in the state.

Money Talks News reports that the living wage necessary to meet basic expenses in Colorado is the 10th-highest in the U.S.

39. Missouri

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Total score: 45.92 out of 100 points

Teacher turnover is a problem in the Show-Me State. Only about a third of teachers stay in the job for five years after being hired.

One reason is likely salary — Missouri ranks 40th in the U.S. for its average annual teacher salaries.

38. Alabama

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Total score: 46.13 out of 100 points

Educators in the Heart of Dixie won’t have to stretch their budgets too much to buy a home. The median price for a starter home in Alabama is $52,800, Money Talks News reports.

That starter home cost is the third-cheapest in the nation. Only Oklahoma and West Virginia are less expensive states to buy that first house.

37. Nevada

Las vegas in daylight
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Total score: 46.41 out of 100 points

Packed classrooms are the norm in the Silver State, which WalletHub says has one of the highest pupil-to-teacher ratios.

Only Utah, California and Arizona have higher ratios of pupils to teachers.

36. Michigan

Detroit, Michigan
Linda Parton /

Total score: 46.94 out of 100 points

Teacher preparation programs in Michigan saw a 70% drop in enrollment between the 2008-09 school year and 2016-17, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

That means 16,000 fewer potential teachers enrolled in K-12 prep programs at colleges over those eight years.

35. Arkansas

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Total score: 47.46 out of 100 points

The Natural State has the second-lowest living wage in the nation — $10.62 per hour to provide the basic necessities for a one-person household, Money Talks News reports.

Only South Dakota has a lower living wage for a single teacher’s household, at $10.38 per hour.

34. Rhode Island

James Kirkikis /

Total score: 47.48 out of 100 points

Teachers in the Ocean State have the sixth-highest average annual salaries in the nation, as Money Talks News reports. Elementary, middle and high school educators get more than $71,000 per year, on average.

They’ll need every penny of that salary to buy a house, however: Rhode Island has the ninth-highest average cost for a starter home.

33. Florida

Pelican on a dock in Key West, Florida.
Romrodphoto /

Total score: 47.64 out of 100 points

The Sunshine State has one of the lower average annual salaries for teachers, according to Money Talks News.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has said that he wants to “set a minimum salary for every public school teacher in Florida at $47,500.” That means that every teacher newly hired or currently in place would make at least that much.

32. Mississippi

KPG_Payless /

Total score: 48.32 out of 100 points

The Magnolia State isn’t a good place for a teacher (or anyone) to lose a job. Unemployment benefit payments are the lowest in the country, at about $235 per week.

It’s not the greatest place for teacher to make money either, with Mississippi’s teacher pay coming in third-lowest in the nation.

However, WalletHub’s study ranks the state No. 7 for teacher opportunity and competition.

31. Wisconsin

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Total score: 48.79 out of 100 points

If you’re teaching in Milwaukee, renting a one-bedroom is not a bad option. Renting there saves roughly $301 a month over buying a home, Money Talks News reports.

The Wisconsin city is No. 2 on a list of 13 cities where it’s cheaper to rent than to buy.

30. Texas

Riding bikes in Houston
Nate Hovee /

Total score: 48.90 out of 100 points

The Longhorn State falls in the middle of the pack for average annual teacher pay, and it ranks No. 10 for opportunity and competition in the WalletHub study.

However, the state is also near the bottom (No. 44) for teachers’ academic and work environment.

29. Montana

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Total score: 50.18 out of 100 points

Teachers who are not getting paid much will at least have an easier time of it during tax season in Big Sky Country.

Montana ranks No. 3 on WalletHub’s “Best and Worst Tax States for Low-Income Residents.” Sales tax takes only a 1.7% bite out of income, and income tax in Montana consumes around 1.33% of residents’ income.

28. North Carolina

Teacher in a classroom
ESB Professional /

Total score: 50.25 out of 100 points

WalletHub ranks the Tar Heel State No. 5 for teachers’ opportunity and competition but only No. 43 for their academic and work environment.

North Carolina also ranks near the bottom of the pack for annual average teacher pay, according to Money Talks News.

27. South Dakota

Wall drugstore in South Dakota
robert cicchetti /

Total score: 50.42 out of 100 points

Like North Carolina, South Dakota is at the bottom of the pack when it comes to teachers’ salaries.

Middle school teachers here earn an average annual wage of $43,860. High school teachers make an average of $42,960 and elementary school teachers earn $43,140 on average, Money Talks News reports.

Luckily for teachers there, however, South Dakota has the lowest living wage in the country: A worker in a one-person household needs to make just $10.38 per hour to meet basic expenses.

26. Nebraska

Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge in Omaha, Nebraska
Melissa A. Woolf /

Total score: 50.48 out of 100 points

WalletHub estimates that the Cornhusker State will have one of the lowest teacher-to-student ratios by the year 2026. If so, only North Dakota, Iowa and Washington, D.C., will have fewer teachers per student by then.

25. Georgia

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Total score: 50.65 out of 100 points

The average cost of a starter home is $100,000 in Georgia, according to a Money Talks News report.

But MTN also notes that housing prices in Atlanta are rising at one of the fastest rates of any U.S. metro area.

24. California

Peace Bridge
Jon Bilous /

Total score: 50.81 out of 100 points

Teachers in the Golden State are the third-highest paid in the nation, with elementary and high school educators earning more than $80,000 annually.

That’s a good thing, because California’s living wage is the fifth-highest in the U.S.

23. Indiana

Semmick Photo /

Total score: 51.02 out of 100 points

WalletHub points out two troubling statistics about the Hoosier State in its study:

  • The teacher turnover rate here is one of the highest in the U.S.
  • It has the third-lowest spending per pupil in the U.S.

On a brighter note, WalletHub does rank the state No. 16 for educators’ opportunity and competition.

22. Maryland

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Image Not Available

Total score: 51.04 out of 100 points

Teacher pay in Maryland is higher than in many states. High school teachers here earn an annual average wage of $72,610, for instance, Money Talks News reports.

Teachers in the state have been on the march in 2019, asking legislators to increase funding for schools. In March, 170 busloads of teachers and school supporters flooded the State Capitol in support of schools, which they say have been underfunded by as much as $2.9 billion per year.

21. Ohio

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Total score: 51.07 out of 100 points

Teachers in the Buckeye State are the 16th-highest paid in the nation — tied with Vermont — as Money Talks News reports in “Here’s How Much Teachers Are Paid in Every State.”

Elementary and middle school teachers are paid just over $62,000 per year on average.

20. Virginia

Orhan Cam /

Total score: 51.62 out of 100 points

The Old Dominion has the fourth-best school systems in the country, trailing only Massachusetts, New Jersey and Connecticut, according to the WalletHub rankings.

At the same time, the state also has one of the highest levels of teacher turnover, says WalletHub.

19. Vermont

Edward Fielding /

Total score: 51.88 out of 100 points

Only the District of Columbia has higher teacher turnover than Vermont, according to the WalletHub study.

On a more positive note, the Green Mountain State’s school systems are the fifth-best in the U.S., says WalletHub.

18. Iowa /

Total score: 52.08 out of 100 points

The Hawkeye State had the No. 1 high school graduation rate in the country, at 91%, in 2016-17. That’s the most recent school year for which statistics were available, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

New Jersey (90.5%), Tennessee (89.8%), Texas (89.7%) and Kentucky (89.7%) rounded out the top five.

“Education is a top priority for my administration, and I am proud of our record investments in pre-K-12 education last year and my efforts to build on that with $93 million in additional dollars,” said Reynolds,” said Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds.

17. Alaska

Float plane in Alaska
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Total score: 52.58 out of 100 points

The Last Frontier ranks No. 1 for teacher opportunity and competition in the WalletHub study, but 45th for teachers’ academic and work environment.

The state is also third in public-school spending per student, trailing only New York and Washington, D.C.

16. Idaho

CSNafzger /

Total score: 52.72 out of 100 points

The Gem State isn’t dishing out a lot of jewels for students. It ranks dead last in public-school spending per student, according to WalletHub.

Teachers don’t get lot of money either. Idaho ranks 42nd of 50 on average annual teacher salaries, Money Talks News reports.

15. Washington

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Total score: 52.95 out of 100 points

Low-paid teachers lose big chunks of their income to taxes here because Washington is the worst tax state for low-income residents, according to Money Talks News.

The state’s total tax burden as a percentage of income is a whopping 14.59%, despite the Evergreen State having no state income tax.

14. Kentucky

Churchill downs entrance, Louisville, Kentucky
Thomas Kelley /

Total score: 53.11 out of 100 points

The Bluegrass State crosses the finish line first with the lowest rate of teacher turnover in the nation, followed by Montana, Missouri, New York and Alabama, says WalletHub.

13. Kansas

People in Kansas looking at large pumpkin
mark reinstein /

Total score: 53.27 out of 100 points

Kansas ranks 38th in the nation for average annual teacher pay, according to Money Talks News.

Elementary, middle and high school teachers receive between $51,000 and $52,000 per year on average.

The Jayhawk State fares better on two other metrics, teacher opportunity and competition and their academic and work environment, coming in 18th on both, WalletHub says.

12. Oregon

Students playing instruments with teacher in music class
Monkey Business Images /

Total score: 53.37 out of 100 points

Average annual salaries here range from $67,910 for elementary school teachers to $75,280 for middle school teachers, Money Talks News reports.

But Oregon has one of the highest rates of pupils per teacher in the country, WalletHub says. And the state is losing teachers to Washington, to the north, where chronically underpaid teachers rallied and won hefty raises in 2018.

11. Delaware

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Total score: 53.82 out of 100 points

Folks in the First State have an overall tax burden of only 5.24% of their income, ranking it as the best tax state for low-income residents.

In Delaware, property tax is 1.63% of income and income tax is 1.54% of income.

10. New York

Monkey Business Images /

Total score: 54.03 out of 100 points

Teachers in the Empire State enjoy the highest average annual pay in the U.S., Money Talks News reports.

Elementary, middle and high school educators here earn, on average, $83,000 or more each year.

But teachers must make every penny count, since New York has the fifth-highest cost of living in the country, according to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center.

9. Utah

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Total score: 54.50 out of 100 points

Utah ranks among the bottom five states for public-school spending per student and for having the highest number of pupils per teacher, according to the WalletHub study.

Only Idaho has less public-school funding per student.

8. Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts street scene.
Sunny Chanruangvanich /

Total score: 55.49 out of 100 points

The Bay State’s teachers are the second-highest paid in the nation, as Money Talks News reports.

Here are average annual salaries for teachers:

  • Elementary school, $82,600
  • Middle school, $79,030
  • High school, $80,020

7. Minnesota

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Total score: 55.61 out of 100 points

In the North Star State, teachers who lose their jobs have a little softer landing. Minnesota allows the third-highest maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit in the U.S., at $717.

That’s behind only Massachusetts and Washington.

6. Illinois

Chicago, Illinois
Kristopher Kettner /

Total score: 55.93 out of 100 points

Land of Lincoln teachers are the 18th-highest paid in the nation. Their wages are fairly competitive with workers in the private sector, Money Talks News reports.

That’s good, because Illinois is the second-worst tax state for low-income residents. The state’s total tax burden is 13.18% of residents’ income, on average, MTN also reports.

5. Connecticut

Hartford, Connecticut
James Kirkikis /

Total score: 56.53 out of 100 points

WalletHub ranks Connecticut No. 2 for teachers’ academic and work environment.

It also credits the Nutmeg State with having the nation’s third-best school systems, behind only Massachusetts and New Jersey.

4. Wyoming

Teacher and student high five
michaeljung /

Total score: 56.98 out of 100 points

Wyoming teachers are the 21st-highest paid in the nation, with educators at the elementary, middle and high school levels earning roughly $60,000 annually, on average, according to Money Talks News.

Teachers here actually earn more than private-sector workers with comparable educations in the Equality State, according to a 2018 report by Governing Magazine.

3. Pennsylvania

Market Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
4kclips /

Total score: 59.67 out of 100 points

Richard Ingersoll of the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education issued a landmark study on American teachers 30 years ago. He has updated the study recently, with these striking findings about the American elementary and secondary teacher workforce:

  • Fully 44% of new teachers leave within five years.
  • Over 76% of public school teachers are women, high even for a profession that historically has been female-dominated.
  • Half of teacher turnover occurs in 25% of public schools; the highest rates of turnover are in high-poverty, high-minority, urban and rural public schools

With the public demanding smaller classroom sizes and more teacher specialists, the number of teachers has increased by more than three times the rate of student enrollment growth in public, private, and charter schools.

2. New Jersey

People pack the beach in Atlantic City, New Jersey
Chris Parypa Photography /

Total score: 60.15 out of 100 points

WalletHub rates New Jersey’s school systems the second-best in the country, behind only Massachusetts.

WalletHub says the state has the fourth-highest public-school spending per student.

Its ratio of pupils to teachers is low, tied with Maine for third in the U.S.

1. North Dakota

Little boy with cowboy hat on North Dakota Farm
Olga Enger /

Total score: 61.69 out of 100 points

Supporting the Peace Garden State’s ranking as the best state for teachers to work are high scores on the categories examined in WalletHub’s study. North Dakota ranks No. 3 for teachers’ academic and work environment and No. 11 for teachers’ opportunity and competition.

The state also has the second-lowest pupil-teacher ratio, according to the study.

North Dakota ranks 28th, near the middle of the pack, for teacher pay, but teachers find a mid-range cost of living here as well, at No. 26.

What do you think about your state as a place for teachers to work? Tell us what you think below or on our Facebook page.

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