The top-paying cities for teachers

Whether you’re a teacher or not, you’ve likely heard some variation on the theme of “teachers are underpaid.” Given what all that they do and the power that they hold over the education of children, teens, and adults alike, this is a very true statement–especially when you factor in all of the unpaid hours of prep and care that go into a teaching career outside of the classroom. But while teachers will always be comparatively underpaid in a world where Kardashians get multi-million-dollar endorsement deals, the good news is that if you are a teacher, you can seek out regions and cities with higher-paying opportunities.

Teacher salaries can vary pretty widely across states–according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the highest-paid 10 percent of high school teachers earn more than $92,920, while the lowest-paid 10 percent of high school teachers earn $38,180. For reference, the national median annual salary for secondary teachers is $58,030. And while pay isn’t necessarily the only consideration as you plan (or advance) your career as an educator, having this information at your disposal can help you make the best career decision for yourself–or at least help set expectations.

Let’s look at teacher pay across the country, by region.

The Northeast

Includes Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont

In terms of teacher salaries, the Northeast is the top region in the entire country. This region features some of the highest teacher salaries in the nation, holding four of the top ten national cities in WalletHub’s most recent annual “Best & Worst States for Teachers” rankings. However, these states also have a higher cost of living–particularly in the highest paying states: New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.

Here are the median annual teacher salaries by state in the Northeast, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  1. New York: $81,410
  2. Connecticut: $76,260
  3. New Jersey: $75,250
  4. Massachusetts: $74,040
  5. Rhode Island: $65,490
  6. Pennsylvania: $64,320
  7. New Hampshire: $57,570
  8. Vermont: $56,670
  9. Maine: $52,410

According to WalletHub, these states also rank high in other quality of life categories for teachers, such as “opportunity and competition” for teaching jobs, as well as academics and work environment. New York, the first-place state for teachers overall, is also ranked the best in terms of opportunity, and is in the top ten for academics and work environment.

For secondary school teachers in this region, here are the highest-paid metropolitan areas:

  1. Nassau County, New York – $99,090
  2. Kingston, New York – $86,470
  3. Danbury, Connecticut – $83,890
  4. New York City – $83,660
  5. Leominster-Gardiner, Massachusetts – $82.630

For elementary school teachers in this region, here are the highest-paid metropolitan areas:

  1. Nassau County, New York – $106,970
  2. Kingston, New York – $86,080
  3. Waterbury, Connecticut – $82,080
  4. Danbury, Connecticut – $81,450
  5. Brockton, Massachusetts – $79,640

All of these cities have annual teacher salaries that are well above the national median–and in some parts of New York (particularly New York City and Long Island), nearly double the national median.

The South

Includes Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington D.C., and West Virginia

If you’re looking at living and teaching in the South, there’s some good news and some less-great news. The good news is that national teaching shortages are leaving open many teaching opportunities in the region. The less-great news is that as a region, the South features some of the lowest teacher salaries in the nation–well below the national median.

Here are the median annual teacher salaries by state in the South, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  1. Maryland – $63,770
  2. Virginia – $62,940
  3. Washington, D.C. – $61,610
  4. Delaware – $58,260
  5. Georgia – $55.640
  6. Texas – $55.030
  7. Kentucky – $53,860
  8. South Carolina – $50,470
  9. Alabama – $49,870
  10. Tennessee – $49.770
  11. Florida – $49,550
  12. Arkansas – $48,870
  13. Louisiana – $48,560
  14. West Virginia – $44,480
  15. North Carolina – $44,410
  16. Mississippi – $42,860
  17. Oklahoma – $40,780

On the WalletHub ranking of best states for teachers, two southern states make the top 20: Kentucky and Texas. Both of these states are slightly below the national median, salary-wise, but get high marks for opportunity and low competition for teaching jobs.

For secondary school teachers in this region, here are the highest-paid metropolitan areas:

  1. Washington D.C./Arlington/Alexandria, Virginia – $73,310
  2. Silver Spring/Frederick, Maryland – $72,130
  3. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina – $65,450
  4. Charlottesville, Virginia – $65,030
  5. Jackson, Mississippi – $62,760

For elementary school teachers in this region, here are the highest-paid metropolitan areas:

  1. Washington D.C./Arlington/Alexandria, Virginia – $75,590
  2. Silver Spring/Frederick, Maryland – $65,940
  3. Houston, Texas – $58,510
  4. Athens, Georgia – $58,360
  5. Richmond, Virginia – $58,170

In the South, the key to finding the best teacher salaries seems to be in densely populated areas, like the northern Virginia/Washington D.C. area, and large cities like Houston.

The Midwest

Includes Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin

Second only to the Northeast, the Midwest has a number of states featured prominently in WalletHub’s survey, with Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Iowa making the top 20. The Midwest also ranks well on the teacher opportunity scale, with Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Minnesota, Ohio, Indiana, and Iowa in that top 20 as well.

Here are the median annual teacher salaries by state in the Midwest, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  1. Illinois – $66,470
  2. Michigan – $60,790
  3. Minnesota – $60,750
  4. Ohio – $58,700
  5. Wisconsin – $55,800
  6. Iowa – $54,290
  7. Nebraska – $54,240
  8. Indiana – $50,360
  9. North Dakota – $47,910
  10. Kansas – $47,900
  11. Missouri – $44,710
  12. South Dakota – $42,270

As you can see, about a third of the states in this region match the national median salary for teachers.

For secondary school teachers in this region, here are the highest-paid metropolitan areas:

  1. Mankato, Minnesota – $84,550
  2. Rockford, Illinois – $79,090
  3. Chicago, Illinois – $75,750
  4. Milwaukee, Wisconsin – $65,740
  5. Detroit, Michigan – $65,320

For elementary school teachers in this region, here are the highest-paid metropolitan areas:

  1. Rockford, Illinois – $77,160
  2. Detroit, Michigan – $67,220
  3. Elgin, Illinois – $66,340
  4. Flint, Michigan – $65,870
  5. Grand Rapids, Michigan – $64,980
  6. Cleveland, Ohio – $64,480

The areas with the highest salaries in the Midwest are not necessarily the big cities themselves, but rather large suburban districts just outside the big cities.

The West

Includes Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming

And last but certainly not least, we have the Western parts of the United States. The region is highly diverse geographically and population-wise, and their teaching career stats are no different.

Here are the median annual teacher salaries by state in the Midwest, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  1. Alaska – $79,400
  2. California – $75,060
  3. Washington – $64,850
  4. Oregon – $63,730
  5. Wyoming – $58,480
  6. Hawaii – $57,900
  7. Utah – $56,070
  8. Nevada – $55,450
  9. New Mexico – $52,150
  10. Colorado – $50,790
  11. Montana – $49,930
  12. Arizona – $46,070
  13. Idaho – $45,500

That’s a pretty broad range from Alaska to Idaho, but outside of the Northeast, the West has the most states at or above the national median salary for teachers. On the WalletHub survey of teachers’ quality of life in different states, four of these western states are ranked in the top 20 best states for teachers: Wyoming, Oregon, Utah, and California. However, in the list of top states for teacher opportunities and low competition for teaching jobs, that number grows to include six states in the top 20: Oregon, California, Nevada, Wyoming, Utah, and Alaska.

For secondary school teachers in this region, here are the highest-paid metropolitan areas:

  1. Fairbanks, Alaska – $92,110
  2. Anchorage, Alaska – $89,570
  3. Anaheim, California – $87,280
  4. Yuba City, California – $85,820
  5. Fresno, California – $81,130

For elementary school teachers in this region, here are the highest-paid metropolitan areas:

  1. Fairbanks, Alaska – $110,420
  2. Riverside, California – $81,320
  3. Modesto, California – $80,810
  4. Anaheim, California – $79,840
  5. Los Angeles/Long Beach, California – $75,800

As you can see, the highest teacher salaries can be found Alaska’s largest cities. But while Alaska is tops on the salary scale, it ranks 48th on WalletHub’s survey of academics and work environment–so if you’re thinking about heading to a classroom way up north, it’s important to consider the teacher quality of life issues as well.

Whether you’re a seasoned teacher looking for a change of scenery, or a future teacher trying out where to stake your career, we’re hoping that this salary info helps you make the most informed decision for your teaching career.

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