From $39k to $155k, Teacher Salaries in the U.S. Are All over the Map

(The Center Square) A 28-year-old teacher’s video announcing he quit his job in Ohio to go work as a manager in Walmart went viral in July and his story landed him on ABC’s Good Morning America.

“Leaving teaching after 6 years to go be a manager at Walmart and make more not using my degree,” Seth Goshorn posted in his video that received more than 63,000 likes on TikTok.

Goshorn had a gross salary of $48,962 in 2021 – his final full year as a teacher at Plain Local School District in Canton, Ohio. He left for a $55,000-a-year job as a Walmart manager. According to district documents, Goshorn worked four years as a teacher.

Goshorn’s story continued a long-running debate on teachers salaries in this country. It’s a complicated issue because teachers’ compensation can vary greatly.

About 125 miles southwest of Canton, where Goshorn had a base pay of $44,735, teachers in the Columbus school district in Ohio are threatening to strike. A teacher with four years of experience in that school district had a base salary of $59,721, or 33% higher than Goshorn’s base pay.

National Education Association survey reports the average teacher salary in 2021 was $67,507. That’s higher than what the inflation-adjusted average teacher salary of $59,693 was in 1970, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

But teachers’ salaries are difficult to encapsulate in a single salary figure. Salaries for teachers can vary drastically, depending on the size and location of the school district.

While a first-year-teacher in Jackson, Mississippi made $39,318 in 2021, 1,400 miles away a veteran teacher in Boston, Massachusetts, had gross pay of $154,968 that same year. But cost of living plays a part in teacher compensation. Median rent in Jackson, Mississippi, was $856 a month from 2016-2020 compared to Boston’s $1,685, according to the U.S. Census.

In Seattle, a teacher with 15 years experience and a Master’s degree can have a base salary of $121,138. That teacher with the same credentials in Norman, Oklahoma’s public school district would have a base salary of $54,296. That same teacher would have a base salary of $65,559 in Charlotte-Mecklenburg public schools in North Carolina and $126,103 at Scarsdale, New York’s public school district.

The vast majority of teachers in the U.S. are compensated based on two criteria – years of service and level of college credits attained.

The base salaries reported in this story come from teacher pay scales and do not include the cost of benefits or any extra pay for accepting optional duties such as teaching summer school or coaching a school sports team.