Careers

The 5 highest and lowest paying states for teachers in the US

Elementary School teacher, Ben Johnson.
The Washington Post | Getty Images
Elementary School teacher, Ben Johnson.

While kids enjoy their summer vacations, most teachers are still working. Why? Because many across the U.S. are struggling to make ends meet.

In fact, the amount teachers make can vary greatly by state. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the lowest 10 percent of high school teachers earn less than $38,180 and the highest 10 percent earn more than $92,920.

That's one reason why Shawn Sheehan, Oklahoma's 2016 Teacher of the Year, decided to move to Texas, where teachers are paid significantly more. He told NPR, "It feels good because I know I'm doing the right thing for my family, but it also feels sad."

Sheehan and his wife Kaysi, also a public school teacher, bring in $3,600 a month. "After all bills are paid, we're sitting on about $400-450 per month," he explains.

When the Sheehan family had their first child, they had to reassess their finances. "Sure, life can be done on $400, $450 a month, but I would challenge others out there to buy diapers, groceries and all the things that you need for a family of three on $400," he says.

The average salary for a high school teacher in Oklahoma is $42,460. In Texas, the average salary is $55,500, but the Sheehans will be making even more than that. Both have been offered positions that include $40,000 raises.

Oklahoma pays its teachers less than any other state, according to the BLS.

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The five lowest-paying states for high school teachers:

1. Oklahoma

Annual mean wage: $42,460

2. Mississippi

Annual mean wage: $43,950

3. South Dakota

Annual mean wage: $44,210

4. North Carolina

Annual mean wage: $45,220

5. West Virginia

Annual mean wage: $45,240

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As states compete to best educate their students, they also are vying for the best teachers. Hawaii, a state where the average salary for a high school teacher is $58,480, is currently facing a teacher shortage. The state is having difficulty filling 1,600 open teacher positions.

Barbara Krieg, assistant superintendent for the Office of Human Resources, told the AP, "Teachers are in such demand everywhere. Every school district is trying to steal from the other's district."

The five highest-paying states for high school teachers:

1. Alaska

Annual mean wage: $82,020

2. New York

Annual mean wage: $81,410

3. Connecticut

Annual mean wage: $76,260

4. New Jersey

Annual mean wage: $75,250

5. California

Annual mean wage: $74,940

In order to best recruit talented educators, some states are paying up.

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