Enrichment Education

The best-paying states for teachers

One analysis found South Dakota, Vermont and California increased teacher salaries between 2010 to 2021 and in Washington state teacher pay increased nearly 23 percent.

Story at a glance

  • Teachers’ salaries have declined by about 3 percent nationally from 2010 to 2021. 

  • In the U.S., the average teacher salary is $65,090. 

  • Pennsylvania, California and New York have the highest average teacher salaries in the country, compared to all other occupations. 

Teachers’ wages vary drastically across the country — and educators will even find that some states offer higher salaries depending on what grade level they teach. 

Using data from the National Center for Education Statistics and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Business.org analyzed how teachers are compensated across the country, ranking the best and worst average teacher salaries in comparison to the average salary for all other occupations.  

Nationally, teacher salaries have declined by about 3 percent from 2010 to 2021, with pay dropping more than 10 percent in Indiana, Florida, Wyoming, Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana.  

Other states, including South Dakota, Vermont and California, actually increased teacher salaries, and in Washington state teacher pay increased more than 23 percent from 2010 to 2021.  

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Grade level also matters, with Business.org finding elementary school teachers earn about $61,350 on average, middle school teachers earn about $61,320 and high school teachers earn about $61,820. 

Here are some of the best-paying states for teachers in the 2020-2021 academic year: 

  1. Pennsylvania 

According to Business.org, the average teacher salary for the 2020-21 school year was $71,281 for teachers in Pennsylvania — while all other occupations averaged at $55,260. That’s a nearly 29 percent difference in teacher salaries compared to all occupations. 

  1. California 

The average teacher salary was $85,892, with all other occupations averaging $68,510. Teachers in California earn about 25 percent more than all other occupations. 

  1. New York 

Teachers are paid about $87,738 on average, while all other occupations are paid about $70,460 in New York; that’s a difference of about 24 percent. 

  1. Rhode Island 

Teachers in Rhode Island are paid on average $75,966 and all other occupations earn about $62,120 — a 22 percent difference. 

  1. Connecticut 

The average teacher is paid $79,742, while all other occupations average $62,130. Teachers are paid about 21 percent more. 

  1. Hawaii 

In Hawaii, teachers are paid on average $70,922 and all other occupations earn about $59,760 — a nearly 19 percent difference. 

Though Business.org found teachers earn 11 percent more than the average salary across the nation — making $65,090 a year while the national average salary is $58,260 — one survey found 80 percent of Americans feel teachers are underpaid.  

One report by the Economic Policy Institute found that from 1996 to 2021, public school teachers’ weekly wages increased just $29 — from $1,319 to $1,348. Teachers earn about 23 percent less compared to other college-educated workers, the report found.  

Teacher pay is one potential explanation behind the national teacher shortage, with an estimated 300,000 educators and support staff needed in classrooms across the country.