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June 10, 2022

Teaching Careers: 5 Surprising Facts

Teacher teaching line of high school students sitting by screens in computer class.

If you're considering becoming a teacher, here are some facts about teaching careers that might surprise you.

How about steady, in-demand employment with salary that is higher than the U.S. average, vacation time and other benefits and the biggest perk of all: social impact and knowing your work matters? Read on to learn more.

1. Average Teacher Salaries Are Higher than the U.S. Average

Currently, there are over 1.5 million kindergarten and elementary school teachers and another 1 million high school teachers in the United States. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates another 200,000 new jobs will be added by 2030.

On average, teachers earn more than you might think. According to the National Education Association, the average teacher salary in 2019–2020 was $64,133, and the average starting teacher salary was $41,163.

Teacher salaries vary greatly by state, with the highest average salaries found in New York ($87,069), California ($84,531), and Massachusetts ($84,290) and the lowest in Mississippi ($46,843), South Dakota ($48,984), and Florida ($49,102).

Compare this to the average yearly salary in the U.S., which is $51,168, and the truth is many teachers can (and do) earn a salary that is higher than the U.S. average.

2. Pensions Are Better for Retirement

While retirement might seem like a long way off, the benefit of having a pension when you retire, rather than relying on 401(k) savings, is a huge benefit for teachers.

Approximately 85 percent of teachers participate in a pension program. Pension programs are funded primarily by the employer and typically require only a small employee contribution—or none at all—each pay period.

In return, after a certain age and number of years served, teachers continue to receive the same level of income via their pension after retirement.

In contrast, 401(k) programs require employees to save significantly more per paycheck in order to build up enough savings to even come close to their regular income in retirement.

A recent study from the National Institute on Retirement Security that focused on six states found a large majority (77 percent) of educators "can expect to collect pension benefits that are greater in value than what they could receive under an idealized 401(k)-type plan."

So, while other professions may earn a bigger salary, teachers may actually have a higher take-home pay and a more comfortable retirement.

3. Teachers Get Significantly More Vacation Time

Unless you are a ski instructor or snowplow driver, you'll be hard-pressed to find a job outside of education that offers summers off.

Most teachers use summer vacation as a time to relax, travel and recharge—and not set an alarm clock!

While some teachers might opt to get another job in the summer, the fact is a summer job is often much different—and less stressful—than working at the same job year-round.

In most school districts, teachers also enjoy longer breaks for winter and spring vacations. This is a nice perk for teachers with school-age children who share the same breaks and also saves money on child care when your kids are out of school.

While it is true that many paraprofessionals or substitute teachers who are paid hourly, or by the day, are not paid during these breaks, most salaried teachers choose to have their paychecks stretched out over the entire year, meaning their pay stays the same year-round.

teacher relaxing

4. The Teacher and Substitute Shortage Means Job Security and Higher Pay

The growing teacher and substitute teacher shortage means good teachers are in high demand.

With so many open positions, teachers have many opportunities to choose from. Teachers with some experience or a successful track record can afford to be more selective and find the job or district where they really want to work.

Teachers may also find incentives and pay increases as many states are racing to improve teacher pay and job conditions in order to attract and retain good employees.

And full-time teacher's aren't the only ones getting a lift — on average, districts have increased substitute pay by 20 percent. Some districts in Georgia, Kentucky, and Nebraska are now paying substitute teachers over $20 per hour. Other districts are offering substitutes bonuses for working at least three days a week for eight weeks.

5. Teachers Really Do Make a Difference

Now more than ever, people are yearning for a career with meaning. People want to know their work is making a tangible, visible difference in the world.

Teachers know the work they do matters.

Every day, teachers experience the difference they make. They get to be heroes, role models and cheerleaders.

Teachers get to see students' faces light up when they understand a lesson, feel excited when their students make progress, and inspire others with their own passions.

Teaching might not be the easiest job, but teachers make a difference in the lives of their students, their communities, and the world at large.

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