Teacher Salaries and Benefits
Although it is true that few people will say that they went into teaching for the salary (many of these teachers' first professions began at higher starting salaries than most teaching jobs), there is tremendous room for growth and extra income.
The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) studied U.S. teachers' salaries and concluded there is a wide range both within and among states. Keep in mind that the salaries are as varied as the cost of living in each state. For example, it may cost you twice as much for housing in New York or California as it does in Alabama; the salaries reflect such differences. In fact, New York and California currently offer among the highest average teacher salaries.
The graph titled Median Salary of K–12 Teachers takes into account all K–12 teachers in the United States. For the average teacher, salaries are highest at the high school level.
Remember that these are salary ranges. Some teachers earn more, and some earn less. And don't forget benefits. In addition to salary, most school districts pay into a retirement system and offer benefits such as medical insurance as part of the employment package.
How Your Salary Grows
In teaching, years of experience make a difference. The second graph shows that the median starting salary for a teacher is around $34,000. Teachers employed in a public school setting are considered government employees. There are generally salary steps with yearly increments. In some districts, it may take 25 years to reach the top step. As you gain credit for each year, you move up the salary scale. It may take a few years for a teacher to move beyond this starting salary. However, after five or more years, the salary begins a steady increase.
Most districts also give you credit for courses completed. This benefit varies from district to district, but the concept is the same. As you continue your education and earn more credits, you earn more money. A master's degree, either an MA in education or a Master of Education degree, gives a teacher's salary a boost. In many districts, those with master's degrees make about twice as much as those with bachelor's degrees.
There is more good news. Teachers can earn additional money by helping with extracurricular or cocurricular activities. Departments need leadership, student council government needs supervision, teams needs coaches, and plays need directors. If you have a hobby that you'd like to share with students, maybe you can sponsor an after-school club. You can also help with after-school tutoring programs, administering and grading placement exams, or even teach summer school. Any of these activities adds to your base salary.
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