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How Do Teacher Salary Steps/Lanes Work?

How Do Teacher Salary Steps/Lanes Work?

Teaching is one of the most important jobs in the world. A teacher often goes above and beyond for their students to make sure they are getting the very best education that they can provide.  However, if you are making a move into the education field, you might be wondering, “How do the teacher salary steps/lanes work?”

Quite often, school systems will provide you with a complicated chart with hundreds of different salaries marked, which might make it complicated to navigate. If you are new to the education system you will need a comprehensive view of how most salary systems operate in the field.

The first order of business is to understand what school systems mean when they talk about lanes and steps. Lanes and steps are two terms that are used to determine where a teacher’s salary will fall once they are hired. While these factors are usually used in public schools, many private and charter schools will also use these to figure out where a new teacher’s salary will start.  

What Do Teacher Salary Steps and Lanes Mean?

What Do Teacher Salary Steps and Lanes Mean?


A lane is the main category in which a new teacher will be placed. Lanes are based on whatever credentials you have as a teacher. Generally speaking, when a teacher has a basic bachelor’s degree, they will start in the first lane, which has the lowest starting salary rate. The second lane is for teachers with Master’s degrees in education. This will give the teacher a slight bump in salary.  After that, each subsequent lane will require graduate hours to achieve. In order to reach the third lane, a teacher will need to complete fifteen additional fifteen hours in graduate studies on top of their Master’s degree.

The same can be said for the fourth lane, which will require a Master’s degree and thirty additional graduate hours. Lane five will require fifteen more graduate hours which will total to forty-five total hours on top of the Master’s degree. Each of these lanes gives an additional boost to the teacher’s salary.

By the time a teacher gets to lane six, they will need to have a doctorate. Each of these lane adjustments will give a 5% raise, but this can change based on the specific school system the teacher is working for. In order to move up lanes, teachers will need to provide transcripts from their schools and submit them to their new school’s human resources department. Once the transcripts are reviewed and accepted, the lane adjustment should be implemented.


Steps in a teacher’s salary are based on how many years a teacher has been teaching. If a teacher is new, they will start off on the lowest step, step one. If a teacher has been teaching for five years, then they will be lifted up to step six. Each step provides an additional 2% raise to the teacher’s overall salary. Again, this can change based on the specific school system that the teacher teaches in.

However, it should be noted that in order to receive additional steps when hired, the teacher will need to provide proof of educational experience from outside schools. This requires teachers to fill out specific paperwork with information about the schools they taught at previously. This can take some additional time, as human resources departments often have to call each school to confirm the previous teaching experience. Once they confirm the experience, the steps are added to the teacher’s salary.

Annual Raises

On top of the lane and step adjustments to the teacher’s salary, many school systems will offer an automatic step for each school year completed by the teacher. If a new teacher starts with a Bachelor’s degree in their first year teaching, then after that first year, that teacher’s salary will go up to step two for the next school year.  In order to receive this annual raise though, the teacher might have to fulfill a certain requirement of days worked.

Examples of How Teachers Move Up the Salary Pay Ladder

Examples of How Teachers Move Up the Salary Pay Ladder

This process can seem somewhat complicated to those just entering the educational field. To illustrate this salary system, here are a few examples of how exactly it works in practice.

There is a teacher who is hired for a teaching position. This teacher has a Master’s degree and five years of teaching experience. After submitting all of their necessary documents, the teacher’s salary will be listed as Lane 2, Step 5. This will give them a substantially higher salary than a teacher that is just starting out. After successfully finishing that first year with the new school, they will then be bumped up a step and start the second school year at Lane 2, Step 6.

Another example of this would be a teacher that just graduated from college and is in their first year teaching. That teacher would start on Lane 1, Step 1. This would put them on the lowest rung on the ladder. If that same teacher successfully completes their first year of teaching, then the following school year, they would be raised up to Lane 1, Step 2, which would give a slightly higher salary.

One final example would be a teacher that is working for a particular school system.  That teacher has a salary of Lane 2, Step 7. This shows that the teacher has a Master’s degree and has been teaching for six years.  During this school year, the teacher completes an endorsement for their license.

Endorsements are additional tags that teachers can get on their licenses to make them available to teach additional subjects. In order to do this, that teacher will be taking graduate courses. Since the teacher has completed an additional fifteen hours of graduate coursework, that teacher must then get their transcripts from their graduate university and submit them to their school’s human resources department. Once accepted, that teacher will receive a lane jump and will be placed in Lane 3, Step 7.


While there are many arguments on whether or not teachers get paid enough for the work that they do, this is a salary system that does give benefits and rewards to those teachers that remain loyal to a particular school system. Teachers that are looking to stay with a school system for a long time will be rewarded with additional steps, but the school systems also motivate teachers to continue their education by continuing their studies in graduate school.

A teacher that continues their education in graduate courses will certainly have a much higher salary.  While each lane or step adjustment does not seem like a lot by itself, it does build up over time and can produce a fairly lucrative salary for the teacher.

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Written by Elijah Ben

Elijah Ben is a content writer, world traveler, musician, educator, and actor.  He has a master’s degree in educational psychology and has been a teacher for almost twenty years.  Elijah Ben dreams of stepping foot on every continent, continuing his education, completing his book, and recording a second album.

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