Teacher Salaries Mapped: Best and Worst States For Teacher Pay

Explore our map of average teacher salaries across the U.S., highlighting the best and worst-paying states.

It is an old trope; Teachers get terrible pay. Of course, the retort is "Well, they only work half the year." Teachers play a vital role in shaping the future generation, yet many of them are underpaid, which can have a significant impact on their morale and ultimately affect the quality of education they deliver. The poor pay has resulted in a teacher shortage and school districts scrambling to find creative solutions. In this article, we will delve into the topic of teacher pay by state, examining the best and worst states for teacher pay and providing insights into how much teachers make across the United States.

Teacher Pay By State

powered by Proxi

The Varied Landscape of Teacher Salaries

When we look at teacher pay across the United States, we see a significant disparity from state to state. The average teacher salary in the U.S. is $66,397, but this figure varies drastically depending on the state. Let's explore the states with the highest and lowest average public school teacher salaries.

Best States for Teacher Pay

  • New York: With an average teacher salary of $85,889, New York stands out as the state with the highest compensation for teachers. Teachers in New York earn approximately 11.5% more than the average full-time, year-round employee.
  • California: Another state that prioritizes teacher pay is California, where teachers earn an average salary of $82,746 The state's commitment to compensating teachers fairly reflects its dedication to providing quality education to its students.
  • Massachusetts: Ranking third in teacher pay, Massachusetts offers its educators an average salary of $82,510. This state recognizes the importance of valuing its teachers' contributions to the education system.

Worst States for Teacher Pay

  • Mississippi: Unfortunately, Mississippi has the lowest average teacher salary in the nation, standing at $45,574. This figure falls significantly below the national average and highlights the challenges faced by educators in this state.
  • West Virginia: Following closely behind Mississippi, West Virginia offers an average teacher salary of $47,681, which is also below the $50,000 mark. This low salary makes it difficult for teachers to make ends meet and may discourage aspiring educators.
  • New Mexico: New Mexico is another state where teacher pay is lower than the national average. Teachers in New Mexico earn an average salary of $47,826, which poses financial challenges for them and affects their overall job satisfaction.

Starting Teacher Salaries: A Closer Look

While the average salaries for teachers can provide valuable insights, it is equally important to consider starting teacher salaries. Starting salaries can often be significantly lower than the overall average, making it difficult for new teachers who are trying to establish themselves financially. Let's explore the starting median annual salaries in different states.

States with the Best Starting Salary

  • District of Columbia: The District of Columbia leads the way with a starting teacher salary of $55,209. This higher starting salary provides a solid foundation for educators entering the profession and helps attract top talent to the district.
  • New Jersey: Following closely behind is New Jersey, where starting teachers earn $51,443. This state recognizes the need to offer competitive starting salaries to ensure that talented individuals are encouraged to pursue a career in teaching.

States with the Worst Starting Salary

  • Montana: Montana is the lowest-paying state in the United States, standing at $31,418. This figure is significantly below the national average and poses a challenge for new teachers trying to make a living.
  • States with Starting Salaries Below $40,000: It is disheartening to note that 34 U.S. states have starting teacher salaries below $40,000 a year. This low starting salary can be demoralizing for new teachers and may deter them from pursuing a long-term career in education.

The Impact of Cost of Living on Teacher Salaries

While average teacher salaries provide a glimpse into the compensation teachers receive, it is essential to consider the cost of living in each state. The National Center for Education Statistics has developed the Comparable Wage Index, which takes into account the cost of living and cost of labor in each state to normalize teacher pay. This index provides a more accurate reflection of the financial rewards teachers receive relative to other earners in their state. Let's do a state-by-state look at the impact of the cost of living on teacher salaries.

States with Higher Compensation Relative to Cost of Living

  • New York: Despite its high cost of living, New York still manages to offer teachers a higher compensation relative to other earners, with a difference of $17,403 between the average salary and the cost of living.
  • Alaska: Alaskan teachers earn an average salary of $75,462, which is $9,606 over the cost of living.
  • California: Teachers in California earn $9,901 more than the cost of living in California.

States with Lower Compensation Relative to Cost of Living

  • Florida: Teachers in Florida face the challenge of lower compensation relative to the cost of living. With an average salary of $49,407 and an annual cost of living of $53,628, Florida's teachers often struggle to make ends meet and may face financial difficulties.
  • Utah: Another state with a lower compensation relative to the cost of living is Utah. Teachers in Utah earn an average salary of $51,374, which falls below the national average and is well below the state's cost of living of $57,051.
  • Colorado: Teachers in Colorado will have the most difficult time making ends meet. Teachers are paid $56,973 and the state's cost of living is $63,323, meaning they fall $6,350 short.

Average Teacher Salary By State

State Average Teacher Salary Average Cost of Living
Alabama $52,953 $49,452
Alaska $75,462 $65,856
Arizona $49,526 $50,132
Arkansas $51,140 $45,500
California $82,746 $72,845
Colorado $56,973 $63,323
Connecticut $75,389 $74,168
Delaware $64,670 $61,258
Florida $49,407 $53,628
Georgia $56,329 $53,478
Hawaii $61,889 $65,768
Idaho $49,057 $48,816
Illinois $66,354 $61,229
Indiana $54,308 $52,478
Iowa $54,347 $52,352
Kansas $51,076 $50,619
Kentucky $54,897 $50,643
Louisiana $51,919 $49,546
Maine $56,102 $54,540
Maryland $69,761 $74,149
Massachusetts $82,510 $74,146
Michigan $63,727 $58,983
Minnesota $64,214 $65,377
Mississippi $45,574 $44,758
Missouri $54,369 $51,337
Montana $54,452 $51,896
Nebraska $53,340 $51,909
Nevada $58,013 $58,509
New Hampshire $57,928 $62,581
New Jersey $70,553 $69,969
New Mexico $47,826 $48,881
New York $85,889 $68,486
North Carolina $53,975 $53,483
North Dakota $53,527 $51,691
Ohio $58,487 $54,326
Oklahoma $47,929 $50,254
Oregon $62,893 $59,393
Pennsylvania $67,535 $58,725
Rhode Island $69,336 $66,389
South Carolina $50,914 $53,503
South Dakota $48,984 $49,098
Tennessee $51,269 $50,001
Texas $54,091 $54,254
Utah $51,374 $57,051
Vermont $56,787 $61,973
Virginia $60,265 $63,907
Washington $67,495 $66,216
West Virginia $47,681 $48,811
Wisconsin $55,712 $56,525
Wyoming $58,269 $54,905

The Impact of Inflation on Teacher Pay

While it is essential to consider the current state of teacher pay, it is equally crucial to examine its evolution over time. The National Education Association's annual report highlights that while teacher pay has slightly increased in the past year, it has failed to keep up with inflation over the past decade. This disparity has resulted in chronic low pay, which significantly affects the teaching profession. Let's explore the impact of inflation on teacher pay.

The Decline of Teacher Pay

According to the National Education Association, the national average teacher salary for the 2022-23 school year is estimated to be $68,469, reflecting a 2.6% increase from the previous year. However, when adjusted for inflation, teachers are, on average, making $3,644 less than they did ten years ago. This decline in real wages highlights the persistent issue of inadequate compensation for teachers.

The Call for Change

The alarming decline in teacher pay has prompted bipartisan efforts among state lawmakers and governors to raise teacher salaries. Additionally, Democrats in Congress have proposed raising all public school teachers' base pay to $60,000. While these initiatives show promise, there is still a long way to go in addressing the issue of teacher pay adequately.


Teacher pay by state varies significantly across the United States. While some states prioritize compensating teachers fairly and recognizing their invaluable contributions, others fall short, leading to chronic low pay and its detrimental effects on the teaching profession. It is crucial for policymakers, education leaders, and communities to address this issue and ensure that our educators receive the compensation they deserve. By valuing and investing in our teachers, we can create an environment that attracts and retains top talent, ultimately benefiting our students and the future of education.

No items found.

Adventure Awaits!

How would you like to plot your course!?