By Ellen Wilson
If you’re looking for a change of pace, you love children and you want to give back to the community, teaching in the U.S. may be just the thing for you.
Most teachers agree it’s a very rewarding career, though your rewards are likely to come from the joy of enriching the lives of your students, not teacher salaries.
You’ll first complete a teacher education program, then you’ll need to meet the state requirements for the subject and grade level you want to teach. That process is called certification. While your education and experience is transferable to other school systems, you’ll still have to be certified if you move to a different state.
Wages for teachers vary widely from state to state and increase based on education and experience. Certification matters; if you’re certified to teach in a subject area or specialization that is in demand, you’ll earn more, though rates vary from state to state.
Many districts are waking up to the fact that low pay for teachers discourages to the candidates they want to attract, so some are finding ways to pay more.
Get specifics by contacting the state board of education for the states that interest you. Because pay can also vary by district, ask about district pay scales, too.
Teachers in Washington, D.C., New Jersey and New York earn the highest pay for starting teachers, yet thecost of living is much higher there, too.
With so many factors affecting teacher pay, we’ll look at a couple of specific examples.
Let’s start by looking at starting pay for Illinois teachers. Starting teachers earned an average of $36,363 annually during the 2011-2012 school year, 2.7% higher than the national average for inexperienced candidates during that period.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, when looking at all teachers, not just first-year educators, annual salaries averaged about $54,000 a year, while Illinois teachers averaged $59,000.
Teachers earn better than average, when compared to other state employees in Illinois. The average for all state employees is $43,000 a year.
With an advanced degree, you’ll earn about $10,000 more than teachers with only a bachelor’s degree in the state.
Like in many other states, the teacher salary in Texas starts at a state-mandated base rateand increases with supplements based on education, certification, experience and other factors.
The base rate, in Texas, is $27,320 for beginning teachers; 20-year veterans, at the state-mandated minimum, earn $44,270. But these are only minimums. In Texas, pay varies widely by district;most districts use supplements based on education, experience and other factors, to increase that rate.
For example, first year teachers with a bachelor’s degree earn $45,100 in Dallas, but $37,750 in Lubbock.
As you can see, you’ll need to find out specifics about the districts where you’d like to teach, and compare to the cost of living in the area, to truly understand how you’ll be paid as a teacher.