While it’s true that teachers don’t go into the vocation for the money, it’s just as true that trained and qualified educators work hard and deserve to be paid fairly for their skills and their efforts. Naturally, prospective math teachers want to know that they will be able to earn a living. While teaching is not as lucrative as mathematical science careers, and there are certainly school districts in which teachers are underpaid, the overall median salary for all elementary and secondary school teachers is considerably more than the median salary for all occupations in America.
High School Math Teachers
The median salary for high school math teachers is $59,170, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). As an occupation, high school teachers earn the highest salaries of all elementary and secondary school educators. They also earn more than $20,000 per year above the median wage for all occupations in the U.S., which is $37,690. The 84 percent of high school teachers who work in public schools earn more than $6,000 more than their private school counterparts.
To work in a public school, high school math teachers need to complete formal studies in teaching as well as earning a bachelor’s degree in their subject area. Public high school teachers in all states must have a high school or secondary education teaching license or certification as per their state’s requirements, according to the BLS. High school math teachers may teach classes in algebra, trigonometry, calculus and statistics. Some high school math teachers run Advanced Placement (AP) courses, which are rigorous college-level classes that culminate in an AP exam and offer high school students the chance to begin accumulating college credit early.
There are 1,018,700 high school teachers in every subject of study working in the United States, the BLS reported.
Middle School Math Teachers
Middle school teachers work with students in the sixth through eighth grades. The median salary for these educators is $57,720, the BLS reported. Middle school teachers at public schools earn more than $10,000 above the salary for those at private schools and account for 85 percent of all middle school educators.
Like high school teachers, middle school teachers must earn a teaching license or certification. You typically will need to complete college courses in elementary or secondary education – depending on your state’s requirements for middle school teachers – in addition to your math studies. Some colleges even offer specialized bachelor’s degree programs for middle school math teachers.
Math teachers in the middle grades might cover subject matter such as positive and negative numbers, pre-algebra and introductory courses in geometry and algebra.
Teaching Math in Elementary School
The median salary for elementary school teachers is $57,160, the BLS reported. Among elementary school teachers, median wages at public schools are $13,000 more per year than they are at private schools.
Students don’t just jump right into pre-algebra. First, children in even the lowest grade levels must begin learning their numbers as well as basic mathematical operations, including addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Elementary school teachers are the ones who equip young students with this crucial math foundation. One challenge math majors face when they choose to teach at the elementary school level is that they don’t have the opportunity to focus on teaching math exclusively. Elementary school teachers are often responsible for covering multiple subject areas, particularly at the lowest grade levels. If you want to be an elementary school teacher because of your love of math, you must also be comfortable teaching English, science, social studies and other subjects. While this requirement may seem like a drawback for some aspiring teachers, for others, it can be refreshing.
Not all states require elementary school teachers to major in a subject area like high school teachers must, but it is still a good idea to study both education and mathematics rather than relying on just one set of courses for your education.
Increasing Your Earning Potential as a Teacher
If you want to work with children but still want to earn more, there are things an educator can do to increase salary potential. For one thing, moving to a better-paying region and school district can significantly increase your wages. The top paying states for secondary school educators, with median wages ranging from $74,940 to $82,020, include Alaska, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and California. For middle school teachers, the best states are New York, Alaska, Connecticut, Washington, D.C. and Massachusetts, and educators in these regions earn median salaries of $74,400 to $80,940. Elementary school teachers earn the most – $77,330 – in New York, followed by Connecticut, Washington, D.C., Massachusetts and California. Teachers should be aware that the requirements for a teaching license vary from state to state, so moving to a new location may require additional efforts to get a new license.
Changing location isn’t the only way teachers can improve their earnings. Going back to school to attain your master’s degree in education can also result in a pay boost of thousands of dollars per year. If you feel that it’s time to move out of the classroom environment, you could work toward advancing into a school administration role. School principals earn a median salary of $95,860, and in the highest paying districts, they can make over $140,780. There are advantages and disadvantages to this career move, but it is an option for educators who are ready for new challenges and willing to go back to school themselves.
While not the highest paying job in mathematics, math teachers earn median salaries near that of a mathematician who works at a college or university, the BLS reported – and they enjoy the fulfilling nature of working with youth.