It is important to consider an entire benefit package when evaluating total income. So although it seems to be a commonly-known fact that teacher compensation is less than that of other professions, when weighing in teacher benefits, the big picture may not be as bleak. Still, an important question to ask when considering teaching as a career is: do teachers get benefits?
Yes! Teachers do get benefits. Benefit packages can vary by state and by district, but generally speaking, teachers receive health insurance, pensions, paid time off, and social security, much like other professions.
Because benefits can vary, it is important to look into offerings of the specific states and districts where teachers work, but here we’ll give you some general information about the benefits that a full time teacher can expect.
What Types of Benefits Do Teachers Get?
Like in other professions, teaching compensation typically includes the following in its benefit package:
- A contracted annual salary (more on this later)
- Health insurance
- A pension plan
- Paid time off
- Social security (in some cases)
We’ll break down for you the different types of benefits and explain what teacher benefit packages often look like.
Do Teachers Get Health Insurance?
Most full time teachers have the option to take advantage of health insurance programs offered by their districts. Health insurance plans can include health, dental, vision, and prescription drug coverage. Unfortunately with the rise in healthcare costs across the nation, teachers are having to pay more toward their health insurance than they have in the past. However, plans for households and families can often carry lower premiums and deductibles than those in other professional jobs, so even though teachers are contributing more toward their health insurance than in the past, they still may not be not paying quite as much as employees in other industries.
Do Teachers Get Retirement Benefits?
Most public school teachers are eligible for defined benefit plans, which promise a payout to teachers that is calculated based on how long the teacher has worked and how much they have made in their time working. If a teacher meets certain eligibility requirements to retire, the teacher will receive this benefit payment monthly after retiring. The longer a teacher works and the more money he/she made while working, the higher the payment will be.
Pensions are typically funded by the district, although teachers also contribute to this fund. The state then takes care of investing the money that will later fund the pension.
While rules and requirements can vary greatly by state, generally, pensions have specific rules around:
How long a teacher has worked. Teachers must have worked a minimum number of years (usually between 5 and 10) to be eligible to receive this benefit. If they leave before that benchmark, they may lose all or part of the benefit.
When the teacher retires. Benchmarks will often measure a combination of the teacher’s age and the years of total service. (For example, you may have to be 60 and have worked for at least 20 years, or be at least 65, or have earned at least 35 years of experience.) Different states have different benchmarks for when teachers can retire and begin taking advantage of this benefit, so this, too, can vary by state.
A benefit to teachers that begin teaching at a young age is that they can often be eligible for retirement well before they are 65 years old.
Related: When Should a Teacher Retire?
Do Teachers Get Paid Time Off?
Teachers sign a contract every year that stipulates a set number of days they will work for a set income. Most contracts include around 180 days over the course of ten months. Holiday pay can vary by district, but some holidays or days off of school can be included in the teacher’s pay, where others may not be. (For example, Christmas day may be a paid holiday, but the teacher may not be paid for the week off of school surrounding the holiday.)
Teachers also are often given sick days to use for illness or to take care of family members who are sick. Often this number is relatively low, but teachers can build or accrue unused sick days over time.
Teachers that need to take longer breaks from employment for circumstances like having a baby or caring for a dying loved one are eligible for job protection under the Family and Medical Leave Act which guarantees employees 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave each year. Some districts will allow employees to take their sick time during this leave as well.
Do Teachers Get Paid During the Summer?
Teachers are compensated only for the contracted time that they work. Summers are not included in these contracts, so teachers do not usually earn an income over the summer. However, payment schedules for teachers can vary by district, so teachers may receive a paycheck over the summer.
Some districts will spread the teacher compensation over twelve months, so the teacher will receive a paycheck throughout the summer, but paychecks throughout the year could be slightly smaller. Other districts only pay teachers during the ten months that they are working, so there are two months in the summer in which teachers do not receive a paycheck.
Many districts give teachers the choice: they can either receive their compensation throughout the entire year, or they can receive paychecks only in the months they are working. But, regardless of how the teachers collect their compensation, the time off in the summer is not contracted time, so teachers are not compensated for that time.
Summers off can be viewed as a benefit to teaching. It can give teachers some much-needed time off to refresh before starting another school year, or it can be critical time for a teacher to pursue additional education credits needed to work toward pay increases. In many districts, once teachers obtain a master’s degree, they are given a bonus or pay increase. Summers can be a good time to dedicate efforts toward this professional growth.
How About Social Security?
Whether teachers will collect social security benefits depends on the states in which they teach. 10 out of the 50 states in the U.S. exclude teachers from social security benefits, which actually amounts to about 40% of teachers that do not receive social security benefits, a 2014 analysis from Bellwether Education Partners reported. Sometimes, states that don’t have social security benefits offer more in terms of pensions, but this is a good factor to consider when thinking about retirement.
Do Teachers Get Raises?
Many districts use what is called a “step and lane” salary schedule to determine how much a teacher is compensated. In this system, a table clearly outlines how much a teacher can be compensated based on how many years of experience he/she has (“steps”) and how much education he/she has (“lanes”). Teachers then earn higher pay for each year of experience they add and additional credits or degrees they earn.
Districts that do not use a predetermined salary schedule often implement other systematic procedures to calculate raises for teachers using a specific set of criteria. Job performance, years of experience, and education may all be contributing factors in these decisions.
Ultimately, teacher salaries are determined by the communities they teach in, so teachers that work in more affluent communities can often expect higher salaries than teachers who work in communities with lower incomes.
What Other Benefits Do Teachers Get?
Like in other full time professions, teachers are often given benefits that you don’t really think about until you need them. Contributions toward programs like life insurance, Medicare, worker’s compensation, and unemployment insurance are all typically benefits included in a teacher’s benefit package. Again, while many of the specific benefits and packages can vary by district and by state, it’s always important to meet with a Human Resources representative if you have questions about the benefits awarded to you in a teaching job.
Another important consideration to consider when evaluating an entire benefit package is the sense of purpose and enjoyment one gets from the position. Teaching can be incredibly rewarding and afford creative opportunities that other jobs cannot. While compensation and benefits are certainly important considerations, they’re not the only elements to consider. Someone that is gifted at connecting with others and finds fulfillment in guiding students may want to also weigh their happiness and quality of life when weighing the pros and cons of the profession.
How Do Teacher Benefit Packages Compare to Those in Other Jobs?
Teachers do tend to be paid less than workers in other industries with comparable education. However, benefit packages are often comparable and in some cases, may be even better than in some other industries.
Ultimately, teachers need to look at the complete salary and benefit package when making this comparison. Benefits like the pension and good health insurance may make up for a lack in salary, but this will really depend on teachers’ individual situations. Examining the entire benefit package before considering a teaching position will help in deciding whether the teaching position provides the compensation you desire.