Best and worst paying states for teachers


If you were looking for a high-paying career when planning your future, you probably crossed “teacher” off the list. Teachers are notoriously underpaid in the U.S. with a median annual salary of just over $61,000 a year, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics data

Low salaries and high stress are two of the main contributors to a nationwide teacher shortage that has developed and worsened since around the time of the Great Recession, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Now, some members of Congress are hoping to address the pay problem.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., introduced the Pay Teachers Act last week, aiming to set a national minimum salary for public school teachers at $60,000 using federal funds.

The bill joins another introduced late last year — the American Teacher Act — by Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., and Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., which would incentivize states to bring teacher salaries up to a minimum $60,000 using grant money from the Department of Education.

It’s unclear if either bill has a chance at passing through Congress and how quickly that could happen. Currently, the average salary for teachers in 37 states and the District of Columbia sits below $60,000, according to WalletHub research.

Teacher salaries vary widely depending on where you live. Teaching in New York, the highest-paying state, could mean earning roughly $33,000 more than teaching in Hawaii, the state with the lowest average teacher salary. 

Where teachers are paid the most

The three states that pay teachers the most all offer more than $70,000 a year on average. New York leads the nation in teacher pay with an average salary of $80,286, according to WalletHub.

Not only are teachers paid relatively well in the Empire State, but educators enjoy one of the best work environments in the nation based on metrics like class sizes, access to teaching materials and quality of school systems. These factors and more helped New York rank as the best state for teachers overall in WalletHub’s analysis.

Here’s how much teachers earn in the five highest-paying states.

1. New York

Average salary: $80,286

2. Illinois

Average salary: $70,696

3. Michigan 

Average salary: $70,137

4. Pennsylvania

Average salary: $69,949

5. Washington

Average salary: $69,005

Where teachers are paid the least

On the other side of the pay scale, teachers, on average, earn as little as $47,156 a year in Hawaii, the lowest-paying state. It may be especially difficult to make ends meet on wages that don’t keep up with the state’s notoriously high cost of living.

Here are the five places where teachers are paid the least.

1. Hawaii

Average salary: $47,156

2. Maine

Average salary: $48,968

3. South Dakota

Average salary: $49,713

4. Florida

Average salary: $50,443

5. District of Columbia

Average salary: $50,556

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