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Can Teachers Make a Good Living?

Can Teachers Make a Good Living?

Perhaps you are thinking about going into the teaching field and wonder if it would be a good career choice. Or you’ve noticed very hard-working teachers going above and beyond for their students and wonder, “is their salary as rewarding as their career?” 

Do teachers make enough money to live comfortably? Maybe you just want to have all the facts presented to you before you look into teaching as a profession. Read on to discover more about a teacher’s salary, how job location impacts their salary, how teachers feel about the money they make, and what some teachers can do to make a good living.

How Much Do Teachers Typically Make for a Living?

The national average for a teacher’s salary is $61,730. What teachers make varies from state to state and even from city to city within the state. According to USA TODAY, some metropolitan cities like San Jose, San Francisco, Napa, Miami, and Honolulu are too expensive for all teachers. While the teaching salary in New York is high, so is the cost of living. Rent can take up 28% of your salary in New York. Some locations that are more affordable for teachers to live in and have reasonable housing prices are Baltimore, Maryland and Springfield, Ohio. In the case that it is not easy for teachers to move to where the higher-paying salary is, most of them end up taking on a heavier workload.

Since some cities and states are affordable for only the highest-paid teachers, new teachers are unable to afford the median rent almost anywhere in the country. In more expensive areas, teachers are having to pick up side jobs or commute long distances just to make ends meet.

As reported by EducationWeek, a livable wage is defined as allowing employees to earn enough money to prevent them from falling into poverty. While most teachers are able to afford food, shelter and basic necessities on their teaching salary, they are unable to save enough money in case of an emergency like a car breakdown or an injury that requires medical attention. Thus, according to what a livable wage represents, the average teacher is not making a good living.

What Teachers Say About their Pay

Teachers have had to rely on their parents or their partners’ income to make ends meet.

Some teachers stated that having a roommate also helps them to afford housing. While many live in the fear of not being able to pay medical expenses that they don’t even go to get a broken tooth fixed according to Time Magazine. A career that the whole country relies on to educate the leaders of tomorrow should not be underpaid. Having to fight for livable wages should not even be an issue in a developed nation. Teachers are paying a heavy price for wanting to make a difference in the world by choosing a vocation that does not respect them enough to pay them for their merit.

Teachers believe that they should be paid for what they are worth. Currently, being a public school teacher is the most underpaid profession as noted by Job Network. Teachers enter this profession to make a difference and to inspire students to succeed in life but are not often compensated or respected in their efforts to provide for a better future. Several teachers across the nation shared their stories about surviving on a teacher’s salary with Time Magazine. Most of them discussed having to spend a lot of their own money for classroom supplies and did not get reimbursed due to the lack of state funding for public schools. Since the cost of living in some cities is higher than the wage they are earning, many of the teachers have had to work extra jobs just to be able to get by even though they were already working full-time/overtime. Many of them practice budgeting and shop at discount stores to make ends meet. Moreover, a lot of the teachers have had to contemplate whether or not they can afford a trip to the dentist, go to a friend’s wedding, or afford having another child. When they entered the profession, they did not realize how close they would be cutting it in terms of surviving on their salary alone. Some have even had random strangers come up to them talking about how little teachers get paid, it’s become a naked truth. All of these teachers expressed that they want to be able to lead a fulfilling life in a career that they truly love and all they are asking for is a livable wage.

We Need More Teachers

Some teachers are leaving the profession they admire because they cannot make a good living. The disgruntlement of being unable to afford to start the family they dream of, the pressure of working multiple side jobs and the tensions of not being able to pay their rent have forced teachers to abandon this profession. Teachers help shape tomorrow’s leaders but aren’t even given enough resources to run a classroom. In 2019, West Virginia’s teachers led a strike while Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky, North Carolina and Oklahoma staged a walkout due to the unlivable wages as reported by CNN. Even as they were planning to strike, the teachers in West Virginia thought about the children and packed lunches for them with the help of volunteers, so that the children living in poverty would not miss a meal during the two-day strike. Although the majority of American voters believe teachers are underpaid, they still have voted against proposals to increase state taxes to fund schools. The public support for teachers is inconsistent.

According to The National Education Association, teachers have to negotiate raises every year if they are even provided with that option. While class sizes are growing, the average teacher’s

salary is decreasing and some parts of the nation are facing a shortage of teachers. Now, education associations in some states such as Illinois and Maine are advocating for an increase in the starting salary to attract and retain new educators. It is pertinent for states to attract more people to this profession because this shortage hurts not only students but also teachers and the public education system as a whole.

How Teachers Can Try to Make a Good Living

The world will never stop needing more teachers. Everyone has a memorable story about their favorite teacher that had a positive impact on who they are as a person now.

The opportunity to make a difference and nurture young minds is rewarding one. If you are passionate about becoming a teacher and leading our future to success, there are several actions you can take to live a comfortable life as a teacher.

  • You can work in a city that has a low cost of living. A low cost of living means less money being spent on commute or rent and more money going into the savings account. There would be less traffic, lower property taxes and smaller class sizes.
  • You can work in a district with higher pay. If you are not used to the small-town life, you can move to a district in a metropolitan area like New York or Chicago. Even though the cost of living is high in New York, most teachers get a high-paying salary.
  • Cooking at home. Eating out every day can make your burn through the paycheck pretty quick so you will save a lot of money by dining in. Other benefits of cooking at home are knowing what’s actually in your food and the cleanliness it was prepared with.
  • Market your talents or be a virtual assistant. If you would like to share your lesson plans or other talents, Sites like Skillshare are worth exploring. You’ll have more freedom in setting your schedule.
  • Spend less on classroom supplies. Try working with what the school has provided you with. Stick with only getting the basic materials like paper, pens, pencils and containers.
  • Ask about teacher discounts. There are some perks of being an educator. A lot of local businesses as well as big companies such as Home Depot, Office Depot and the Container Store offer teachers discounts. Make sure you take advantage of the discounts!

If you want to join this impactful career then there are numerous ways that can help you to live comfortably and make a good living as a teacher. Although the average teacher does not earn enough money to survive, teachers can make a good living if the odds are not stacked against them. Living in an area where the cost of living is low but the salary is high immensely helps. Teachers are greatly needed by this nation to shape a better tomorrow, we must treat them with respect and provide them with a livable wage.

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Written by Beau Mueller

Beau is a teacher, entrepreneur and the founder of The Moneywise Teacher! He started this website to help educators make and save more money.

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