Teaching may be more of a calling than a mere job, but even the most dedicated educators still need to earn a living. To find the math education careers with the best pay, you need to consider salary differences by grade level, public versus private school settings and in different states. To really boost your income potential, you can consider earning a Master of Education in Math Education degree or, alternatively, building on your math teaching education and experience and earning an educational leadership degree to move into an administrative role.
Math Teacher Salaries by Grade Level
Teachers often choose their grade level based on what age children they most prefer to work with – as they should. However, the grade level you teach may also affect how much money you earn. Generally, the higher the grade level of your students, the more advanced content area knowledge you need to be able to teach effectively, and the more money you make. However, these salary differences are often slight. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that high school teachers earn the most, with a median wage of $59,170, followed by middle school teachers at $57,720 and elementary school teachers at $57,160.
Since many math education degree programs focus on preparing students to teach at the secondary school level, this better salary potential is good news for a lot of aspiring math teachers.
Where the Best-Paid Teaching Jobs Are
When you compare cash-strapped public schools where programs and funding are always being cut to ritzy private schools where parents shell out thousands of dollars per year for tuition, you might think private school teachers would earn higher wages. As it turns out, the opposite is true. There far fewer jobs for instructors in private schools as opposed to public schools. Private school teachers account for just 12 to 13 percent of all teaching jobs at the elementary, middle and high school levels, the BLS reported. At each grade level, public school teachers out-earn their private school counterparts by thousands of dollars per year. High school teachers earn a median wage of just $53,120 in private schools compared to $59,860 in public school settings. In the middle grades, public school teachers earn $10,000 per year more than private school teachers, with median wages of $58,670 compared to $48,360. Elementary school teachers see the largest wage gap, at more than $13,000 annually. Public school teachers in this grade level earn a median wage of $58,390, but private school teachers make just $45,300.
It isn’t only public school vs. private school that matters, but also where in the nation you work that affects your earning potential as an educator. For high school teachers, the states that pay the most are Alaska, New York, Connecticut, California and New Jersey, with average annual salaries that range from $76,430 to $85,420, the BLS reported. Elementary school teachers earn the most money in New York, where the average wage is $80,540, followed by California, Connecticut, Alaska and Washington, D.C. Teachers in these areas make tens of thousands of dollars more than teachers in the lowest-paying states – such as Oklahoma, South Dakota, Arizona and Mississippi – where the median salary for educators is below $45,000.
Even within a state, different school districts have different salary schedules. The difference between the median wage for teachers in the highest-paying district versus the lowest-paying district in the same state can be as high as $50,000 per year.
Improve Earning Potential With a Master’s Degree
Changing your grade level, type of employer or state of employment might not be feasible or desirable, especially once you graduate with your math education degree. Fortunately, one factor that contributes to earning a higher wage as a math teacher is in your control: earning a graduate degree. Teachers who earn a master’s degree typically see a salary bump of at least a few thousand dollars per year. The wage gap between teachers with graduate degrees and those without tends to increase with level of experience. More highly educated teachers at the start of their careers see an average pay boost of $3,205 that climbs to $8,411 per year late in a teacher’s career.
Going back to school is an investment. To earn your master’s degree, you would typically need to spend two more years in school. However, some of the fastest graduate programs in math education can be completed in half that time. Your coursework in one such program might include classes specially tailored to teaching and learning mathematics content for the grade level as well as graduate-level work in instructional design and grading and assessment.
Some math teachers ultimately decide to step out of the classroom and into a school leadership position. Administrative roles in education offer lucrative salaries. Principals who work at the high school, middle school and elementary school level earn a median wage of $94,390, according to the BLS. If you want to advance to a school principal role, a master’s degree in educational leadership or educational administration might be a better fit for your future career plans.
Principals usually have several years of experience as teachers before they make the move from managing to one classroom to managing an entire school’s operations.