K-12 Teacher Salary

Teachers prepared for K-12 education are responsible for the basic education and preparation of the population. Since obtaining at least a high school graduate education is considered vital in the contemporary workplace, the role of K-12 educators is important in maintaining a competitively skilled workforce.

Educators are increasingly under scrutiny as the standards and legislation related to public education becomes more intense. A contemporary teaching position is increasingly public, and an educator’s performance is rated by the school, government, and local community on a broad range of levels. This means that an educator must be amply prepared for their position. Quality teaching is also usually rewarded, with skilled veteran teachers having an above average level of job security. Quality educators, are expected to display exemplary moral values and behaviors, strict work ethic, and an intense passion for their student’s success.

Salary Overview

The average wage of a K-12 educator is based primarily on the factors of education level and years of experience in a given district. Similar to most professions, the higher the level of education, the more pay is expected. It is important to note that most districts prefer teachers whose experience follows their level of education. For example, a master’s degree teacher will be expected to have at least one to two years of work experience behind them.

Salary level also depends upon the grade level being taught, although the differences are minor. In general teachers in grades 9-12 (high school) will make the most, followed by teachers in grades 7-8 (middle school), and finally grades K-6 (elementary school). This change is primarily because teachers in middle and high school are usually required to have a specialized “endorsement” in a subject area (such as math, social studies, or language arts) which means additional education. These factors considered, the average salary of a K-12 educator is $48,000 to $53,000 annually in public education.*

*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/

The salaries of public educators are also determined by the funds available at the state and federal levels. This can vary with changes in state and federal laws relating to education funding. Private education institutions (those not accepting government education funds) are not necessarily affected by these laws, and may determine their own teacher salaries.

Job Description and Outlook

It is the primary responsibility of a grade-school teacher to provide education services that meet state and federal education standards. These standards are generally clear and are tested often using various state and federal standardized testing methods. It is accepted that a teacher’s performance is determined by the test results of the students. Similar to salary, this only applies to schools which accept government monetary assistance. A private school which is responsible for its own funding may also have its own standards of teacher performance irrelevant of government standards.

The job market for teachers follows the changes in local population. Areas of higher population growth usually results in more teaching positions available. In general, states in the south and west are expected to see the most growth.*

*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/

Available teaching positions are strongly related to state and federal education funding. As state budgets become increasingly strained, education funding is often cut, resulting in school closure and teacher layoffs.

Training and Educational Requirements

Public school educators are expected to have at least a bachelor’s degree that matches the grade levels they wish to teach. Middle and high school educators must have an additional endorsement related to the subject(s) they wish to teach. As federal regulation regarding teacher training and preparation becomes more intense, the necessity of a teaching degree can only increase. A standard teaching degree should include at minimum classes in instructional strategies, classroom management, curriculum design and instruction, and the basics of educational theory and history.

In addition to their general degree, teachers are usually required to have “continuing education” credits throughout their career. This can include a variety of seminars, workshops, and classes.

A variety of specializations also exist within the teaching profession. These include, but are not limited to: librarian, special education, music, physical education, speech pathology, and foreign language. These specializations greatly expand the job opportunities available and often require special endorsement training and testing.

Outside of the public school realm, a variety of private educational institutions exist which may practice different or specific educational methods. The Montessori Method of education is a good example of a widespread private education practice. Specific training in the method is required in these instances.


In addition to a standard degree, public school teachers are require to hold a “teaching license” specific to the state in which they are employed. The requirements to hold a license are similar but vary by state. Usually a series of tests are administered to determine an applicant’s approval to hold a license. If an educator moves from one state to another, they must obtain that state’s teaching license.

Professional Organizations

The National Teachers Association: The “labor union” for teachers in the United States. State level teachers unions which vary by state. Specialized organizations related to an endorsement. For example, the “National Science Teacher’s Association”.

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