Are you considering a career in education and wondering how teacher pay works across the entire year?
Are you trying to win an annoying political argument about teacher pay (groan) with a friend or family member? If so, I’ve got the answers that you need.
How do teachers get paid in the summer? Teachers do not earn pay over the summer months, but many school districts will offer to divide their salaries across the full 12 months.
This allows teachers to continue making their monthly payments when they aren’t earning over the summer holidays, winter break and spring break.
A teacher contract will specify the number of days for which a teacher is being paid. For example, here in Texas, teachers are earning pay for a minimum of 187 days of work.
Also, a few school districts will pay teachers a small stipend for extra professional development beyond what is required to maintain their licenses.
Here is more information about teacher pay that you might find interesting.
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1. Most districts will divide your salary across 10 months or 12 months.
Teachers are paid for the days they work during the school year. Professional development that takes place over the summer months and all the preparations that take place over the summer vacation in the classroom are almost always unpaid.
At the beginning of the school year, most public school districts will allow you to divide your salary across a 12-month pay structure rather than across the school year. This allows for some much needed stability, while obviously lowering monthly pay. It can help people manage their personal finances.
Here is an example for a teacher with a salary of $55,000.
$55,000 / Paid on a 12-month schedule = $4583.33 per month
$55,000 / Paid on a 10-month schedule = $5500.00 per month
Of course, those figures are before taxes and benefits are taken out of the paycheck, including the money that goes into teacher pensions for retirement.
Many teachers will work summer jobs or lead summer camps for extra income. Sometimes these teachers will elect to only be paid for the 10 months that they are in the classroom in order to raise their monthly income.
Finally, my first school offered a bi-weekly payment, but my current school district has a once a month pay schedule.
Even though we begin our school year in August, the first paycheck doesn’t arrive until late September. In my first year of teaching, this would have been very challenging if I was the only income earner in my household.
2. Teachers are not paid hourly.
Like many professionals, teachers earn an annual salary rather than getting paid an hourly rate. With few exceptions, their paycheck is the same amount each time, regardless of how many hours they work.
This can be nice, because paychecks are steady and predictable, even allowing for regular income during vacations, including summer break. Salaried employees like teachers often have better access to benefits packages and paid sick time, as well.
However, there can be serious drawbacks to being on a salary as a teacher. Most teachers would earn far more if they were paid a reasonable hourly rate.
The culture in many schools is to work far too many hours, and many teachers feel embarrassed or uncomfortable about setting limits between their personal and work life.
In fact, there are plenty of administrators and other school leaders who apply pressure to teachers who don’t respond within a few hours to parent communications, no matter what time of day the email or call was received. There is an expectation to turn around grades, student data, IEP updates and parent letters very quickly.
Given the expectations of the job and time spent with students in the classroom, those expectations can be unrealistic and unfair.
3. Almost all teachers work beyond their contracted hours and days.
Teachers must work their contracted hours, which is often about 15 minutes before students arrive until about 30 minutes after they leave. At my school district, I’m required to arrive by 7:15 am and can leave as early as 4:00 pm.
School districts are required to allow teachers a duty-free lunch, but this is only about 25 minutes in total. For this reason, teachers pack a lunch daily or eat the cafeteria food.
Teachers must also be given 45 minutes of planning time during their school day, which is often called a conference. My leadership team is wonderful about honoring this time each day, but in many struggling schools, teachers have to give this up to cover someone else’s class quite frequently, as substitute teachers are becoming harder to find.
Additionally, administrators and parents can use planning time for meetings. On campuses where parent involvement is high or a teammate needs lots of support, this time can vanish quickly.
The problem for most teachers is that every other minute of the day is in front of students.
Grading papers in front of students or sitting in front of a computer to work on your lesson plans with students in the room will earn you a lower score on your performance review – it’s very, very frowned upon.
When students are in the classroom, teachers are expected to be interacting with students and ensuring their academic progress.
Therefore, the only real time to work on all other tasks falls outside of your contracted hours.
Here are some examples of tasks that should be completed outside the presence of students:
- making copies
- creating online assignments
- organizing and maintaining classroom supplies
- fundraising for unmet needs
- completing IEP updates
- lesson planning
- responding to emails
- communicating with families
- displaying student work in shared spaces
- improving classroom functionality and organization
- updating your student data trackers
There are many teachers who choose to simply draw a hard line between work and home, and refuse to work outside their contractual hours. They leave at the end of the school day and do not bring work home. They have learned to prioritize the tasks most likely to positively impact student learning.
While a few experienced and efficient teachers can perform fairly well while maintaining these boundaries, many do not succeed and will receive poor summative reviews at the conclusion of the school year. They may find it difficult to get the teaching positions they want and will not be rewarded within their school district.
It’s not uncommon for teachers to work 5-10 hours each week outside of their contracted hours, and new teachers work far more than that. The learning curve in education is steep.
For teachers who need help finding a work/life balance, the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek is an excellent resource. Listening to Angela Watson’s free podcast is a great way to decide if you’d like to invest in her paid courses.
Teachers with a work and home life balance who also excel at their job are some of the most efficient, high-functioning individuals in the American workforce.
4. There are limited opportunities to earn extra money at school.
Teachers have a few ways to make extra money throughout the year from their school district. Second jobs are common in the profession.
This year, I earned an extra $1000 for coaching a University Interscholastic League team – specifically, 4th and 5th grade oral reading. This was quite fun, a minimal amount of work, and well worth the extra spending money. Look for any extracurricular programs that you would be excited to lead and see if the hourly rate or stipend is worth your time.
In my second year of teaching, I earned an extra $500 to coach middle school cheerleading, which was absolutely not worth the money at all. Be careful before adding a side hustle to your plate, especially if more experienced teachers tell you that it won’t be worth the hassle!
In my school district, being a summer school teacher pays decently for the limited hours required. Teachers work for 5 hours a day, for a total of 12 days (Monday-Thursday for 3 consecutive weeks). They earn about $1600, so it works out to about $26 per hour in an area with a low cost of living.
Occasionally, teachers will be offered a small stipend for completing extra professional development. Unfortunately, these professional development opportunities happen most often over the summer, when the cost of childcare often makes the extra pay null for teachers with children.
In my school district, teachers can earn a bit of extra money for offering tutoring after school during the spring months leading up to state testing. It’s not much, but many teachers would be tutoring outside of their contracted hours anyway. High quality tutors are almost always in high demand if you know where to find jobs.
If you have a master’s degree, school districts will typically reward this with a lump sum addition to your salary. In my case, my master’s degree earns me a flat $1500 a year on top of my salary schedule.
For this reason, it’s a nice benefit, but certainly doesn’t justify obtaining a master’s degree you don’t already hold. A bachelor’s degree is all that’s required, and oddly, advanced degrees are usually not a good return on investment in education.
Outside of the school building, many teachers choose to be a private tutor over the summer as a way to supplement pay.
5. Teacher pay and benefits vary dramatically across the United States.
While teachers are often some of the lowest paid professionals in their communities, pay varies dramatically from one state to the next and even across school districts within the state.
Here are the top 10 average teacher salaries in the United States, per SI Live.
- New York – $87,738
- Massachusetts – $86,315
- California – $85,892
- Washington, D.C. – $80,659
- Connecticut -$79,742
- Washington – $79,529
- New Jersey – $77,489
- Rhode Island – $75,966
- Maryland – $94,514
- Alaska – $72,861
You can see that the average teacher salary is highest in areas which also have the highest cost of living, which is to be expected. Six of these states (New York, Massachusetts, California, Connecticut, Maryland and Alaska) fall in the top 10 states in the US for cost of living.
It’s also worth mentioning that 9 out of 10 of these states consistently vote blue, with Alaska being the exception to the rule.
Conversely, here are the 10 states with the lowest average salary for teachers.
- Mississippi – $45,574
- West Virginia – $47,681
- New Mexico – $47,826
- Florida – $48,395
- South Dakota – $48,786
- Kansas – $49,800
- Arizona – $49,892
- Missouri – $50,064
- Utah – $50,342
- South Carolina – $50,395
Oklahoma used to be in the third spot, which is currently held by New Mexico. Their 9-day walkout in the spring of 2018 forced the legislature to raise pay. Of these 10 states with the lowest teacher pay, all but New Mexico consistently vote red.
Teacher benefits vary as widely as teacher pay. In some states and school districts, teachers have excellent access to good quality healthcare, while others will find health insurance plans to be expensive and poor quality compared to what’s available in the private sector.
Still, you can be almost guaranteed to have health insurance plans and dental plans available to you that you wouldn’t have working for yourself or a small business, so that’s a big benefit.
Every teacher participates in a state-sponsored pension system for retirement. To learn more about teacher pensions, see this helpful website.
Teachers always receive a limited amount of paid sick leave and personal days – although most teachers will tell you it’s not worth taking them unless there’s an emergency (planning and preparing for a substitute is a PAIN).
Finally, it’s hard to overstate how nice the hours can be for families who want to share the same schedule. While there’s a good chance you’ll be bringing work home to do after the kids are in bed, you’ll be home in time to prepare dinner and spend time together as a family.
And no other profession can compare to education when it comes to spending time together over the holidays. For many teachers, that’s the most valuable benefit of all.
For a few people, the job is worth the challenges.
Not everyone is cut out to be a teacher, but for those who are committed, focused, and able, the career is worth the pain.
Most of us are proud to call ourselves teachers, and we love the students we serve. We know that our kids need us, and we enjoy spending time with them and empowering them to reach their potential.
Teaching and instructional coaching is never dull. The field never stops changing with new research coming out. While I enjoy the changeable nature of the profession and the shifting expectations, other people have no tolerance for it, and they’re usually the first to burn out.
Therefore, successful teachers are adaptable, willing to learn new things and test out different strategies in the classroom. Great teachers constantly evolve while holding tight to the parts of their classroom that truly move students forward.
Truly great teachers know that it’s never very important to put on a show, because it’s not about how the lesson was taught or who was standing at the front of the room. Rather, the only thing that truly matters is whether or not students learned.
There’s simply no glory in teaching. I cannot stress that enough. However, there are relationships to be made and a deep sense of satisfaction that can come from watching someone else grow.
It takes a tremendous amount of experience, strategy, and care to accomplish such a thing.