Education is a field in which wages all too often remain stagnant. That isn’t something you want to hear when you are considering earning your degree, and potentially going into debt to do so, in this field that is very rewarding in other ways. As you consider your degree options in education, it can help to consider which areas of education have the best potential for salary growth. With this information in mind, you can determine which position, whether in administration or in classroom teaching, is the best option for you.
Salaries on the Rise for School Administrators
Educational administrative and leadership roles are among the highest-paying positions in education. Principals, superintendents and other school administrators have continued to see their wages rise in recent years, often at higher rates than that of educators who work inside the classroom. For example, school administrators in New York saw quadruple the raise increase that teachers saw over a span of years. Salaries for school administrators have risen by upwards of 20 percent over the course of just a few years – much more than teachers from the same districts are likely to see in their pay increases or what private-sector workers can typically expect.
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Some of that growth is beginning to slow, however, as states struggling to fund education look at ways to cut costs. School principals already make a median wage of $95,310, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and superintendent salaries rise well into the six-figure range, according to The School Superintendents Association. Decreasing the growth rates of these well-paying administrative roles has become an attractive option for many areas, especially those in which teachers themselves remain underpaid. The good news is that even a raise at a more modest percentage can equate to thousands of extra dollars per year when the base salary was already near or above the six-figure mark.
Despite the income disparities, The School Superintendents Association refuted the idea that administrators are overpaid compared to teachers, noting the longer contract period, with no summers off, and the more rigorous experience and educational requirements.
Salaries for Classroom Teachers
The teachers in elementary, middle and high school classrooms,the ones instructing children and adolescents every single day, are the heart of the field of education. Without them, there would be no need for administrators and leadership personnel, for educational sites like libraries and museums or for postsecondary institutions like colleges and trade schools. Yet teachers in many areas have been underpaid for many years. Although salaries in some of these states are finally starting to rise, there remain concerns over teacher’s wages.
Over the decade that passed between the 2008 through 2009 school year and the 2018 through 2019 school year, teacher salaries decreased in 42 states, according to Business Insider. In 2019, the governors of 22 states called proposed raising teacher salaries in their State of the State addresses, according to Education Week. By the middle of the year, 15 of those states had signed legislation related to raising teacher salaries, including:
- New Mexico
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
In three states – Delaware, Florida and Louisiana – bills passed in state assemblies and legislatures but remained on the governor’s desk waiting to be signed into law, Education Week reported. Similar bills in Maine, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and West Virginia were still in legislature at this point.
Although these raises are a step in the right direction, many of these states – six of the states that passed legislation and three of the states that did not – were already in the lowest-paying bracket for elementary school teachers, paying less than $51,490, the BLS reported. In the states the National Education Association (NEA) identifies as the lowest-paying – Mississippi, West Virginia and Oklahoma – the planned raises still won’t put the average teacher salary anywhere near the $60,477 that the NEA identified as the average salary for public school teachers nationwide during the 2017 through 2018 school year.
High school teachers are usually the best paid, earning a median salary of $60,320, according to the BLS. The median wage for middle school teachers is $58,600, while elementary and kindergarten teachers earn $58,230 and $55,470, respectively.