2018's Best and Worst States for Teachers Explore the Best and Worst Places to Live and Work as a Teacher

Teachers want to know what the best and worst states are for teaching. Different states offer varying benefits and wages, so getting a job in one state could offer better security than another. With the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projecting that almost 1.9 million teacher jobs will open between 2014 and 2024, the future for teachers is looking positive – depending on the state they teach in. Using ranking factors such as salaries, projected growth and classroom sizes, we’ve determined what the 10 best and worst states are for teachers. See who made the top and who fell behind below.

Our Methodology
Rank State Expand Total Per-Pupil Spending Annual Salary Salary Growth Ranking Score State Image Description
1 Alaska $20,172 $55,342 27% 43.28

Alaska tops our list of best states for teachers in large part because of their high per student spending, salary and job growth prospects. Alaska is the second highest state in terms of per pupil spending, with around $20,172 being spent per pupil per year. Even the busy Anchorage school district averages $15,419 in spending per pupil each year. The job outlook for teachers is also positive in Alaska, showing signs of faster growth than many states in the nation. Alaska may be one of the least populated states in the nation, but they certainly know how to treat their teachers.

2 Wyoming $16,055 $61,435 23% 41.89

The median income of $61,435 a year for high school teachers may not seem like a lot, but with incredibly low costs of living in Wyoming, it’s more than enough for teachers to live comfortably. Wyoming seems to care about their children, too; they’re one of the highest employers of kindergarten teachers per capita in the nation, according to the BLS. The result is smaller than average class sizes, at both the elementary and secondary levels. Wyoming might be the least populated state in the nation, but they’re experiencing a healthy rate of population growth. This allows them to better prepare for more people, more students and more teachers.

3 Connecticut $18,377 $60,191 19% 37.83

Connecticut has the need for hundreds of teachers, and each year these positions go largely unfilled. The problem, however, isn’t spending – in fact, Connecticut teacher’s make the third highest median salary in the nation. The problem is that Connecticut doesn’t have enough qualified applicants to fill the position. A quick look at specific teaching positions in Connecticut will show you that many positions are not just growing, but in demand and looking for current, qualified individuals. Despite the shortage of teachers, Connecticut has still managed to have lower-than-average classroom sizes. The positive growth outlook, combined with the high teacher salaries, makes Connecticut one of the top states for teachers.

4 Virginia $11,237 $65,526 33% 37.67

With one of the highest median salaries for both high school and elementary school teachers, Virginia is among the best paying states. Virginia is also a relatively large employer of teachers; however, their number of educators per capita is slightly below the nation’s average. But with the high pay teachers get, the small classroom sizes and the above-average money spent per pupil, Virginia may employ fewer teachers than the national average because they’re still looking to grow. The outlook for teaching jobs in Virginia is positive, and teachers are bound to enjoy well-paying, well-supported careers there.

5 Nebraska $11,946 $60,564 35% 35.78

Nebraska benefits from having a relatively low cost of living, making lower wages go a lot further. That doesn’t stop Nebraska from paying teachers a competetive salary. Also, Nebraska employs more teachers per capita than most states, according to the BLS. While Nebraska has larger classroom sizes than some of the other best states, they make up for it by spending more per pupil than most states. One concern about Nebraska is slow population growth over the past decade – however, the anticipated growth for Nebraska in the future is more positive, and with an influx of people, they’re going to need more teachers to fill new positions and replace the retiring workforce.

6 Iowa $10,944 $61,984 45% 35.5

Elementary school teachers have it good in Iowa. The number of teachers employed per capita outpaces most of the nation, and the median salary for elementary school teachers can reach $76,000 for the top 10%. While the numbers are slightly lower for secondary school teachers, Iowa still outpaces most the nation in terms of teachers per capita. Perhaps the best thing going for Iowa is their steady increase in wages. Over the past 15 years, wages for all teachers in Iowa have risen year over year. If this trend continues, the long-term prospect for teaching in Iowa is looking great.

7 Maine $13,257 $45,981 20% 35.22

Maine is one of the largest per capita employers of teachers, with roughly 9.5 secondary school teachers per 1,000 residents. This is a large reason that Maine has one of the lowest average classroom sizes at the secondary level in the nation, with an average of just 17.7 students per classroom. Interestingly, the opposite can be said for elementary school teachers, with Maine in the bottom half of the nation for per capita employment. Maine will likely put more effort into hiring elementary school teachers, and that means more job opportunities opening in the future. This potential for job and salary growth is a large reason Maine is a top state for teachers.

8 Delaware $14,120 $61,166 26% 33.72

The first thing that sticks out about Delaware is their incredibly high median salary for teachers. Elementary school teachers made a median of $60,600 in 2017, and secondary education teachers made a median of $63,640. Both salaries are well above the national average, which is impressive considering Delaware is not among the most expensive states to live and work in. While Delaware’s class sizes can be larger than the national average, this could be due to their shortage of teachers. They currently rank in the bottom half in terms of teachers employed per capita, meaning they will need more teachers in the future. The chance for large employment growth in the near future is good, meaning more open positions with better-than-average pay.

9 Georgia $9,427 $63,206 19% 33.61

Georgia is projected to have the highest short term growth rate for both elementary and secondary school teachers, better than any other state in the nation. While the median wage for both positions are still slightly below the national average, Georgia has a below-average cost of living, so teachers can expect to make competetive salaries for the state. Outside of rural areas, cities like Atlanta could see major growth in the demand for teachers, so this could end up being a worthwhile destination both in the short and long term.

10 Texas $8,861 $62,256 27% 33.5

With over five million students registered in the state’s public school system, Texas is the second largest employer of high school teachers and the largest employer of elementary school teachers. The long-term projections for employment in Texas are incredibly positive. Over a ten-year period, Texas is expected to increase their number of teacher positions by around 20%, one of the highest marks in the nation. Although they don’t have the highest per pupil spending, there is excellent job security in these positions, and Texas is a rapidly growing state that needs eligible teachers.

Rank State Expand Total Per-Pupil Spending Annual Salary Salary Growth Ranking Score State Image Description
41 Nevada $8,615 $51,507 27% 19.11

Nevada is among the lowest in the nation in terms teacher employment per capita, which isn’t good considering the state is experiencing steady population growth. On top of that, Nevada’s class sizes are above average, and the median salary for both elementary and secondary school teachers are slightly below the national average. Things may not be bad in Nevada forever, however – short term projections show an increase in the number of teachers hired, and Nevada is projected to increase their number of teachers by over 34% by 2024. Unfortunately, this growth may not come with higher wages, and their below-average per pupil spending of $8,615 a year shows no sign of increasing.

42 Alabama $9,128 $54,996 16% 16.94

Alabama is projected to have sluggish long-term job growth, meaning there won’t be many new positions opening in the future. With below average per pupil spending and above average class sizes, Alabama doesn’t do much to help their teachers out. However, a low cost of living makes the wages more affordable than they would be in other states, and Alabama is still projected to see an increase in teacher positions – more than can be said about other states. The Alabama State Department of Education recently started the Alabama Learning Exchange, or ALEX, to connect educators to curriculum resources, which may be especially helpful for teachers in need of classroom ideas and support.

43 California $10,467 $52,711 27% 16.83

With over six million students enrolled in public education in the state, California is really in need of quality teachers. However, California is in the bottom in terms of teachers per capita. The biggest problem in California is the shortage of teachers caused by funding. While signs point to it being an excellent place to work, the competition or a job in California makes it tough on teachers. On top of that, California is the second worst in the nation in terms of average classroom sizes and below average in per pupil spending.

44 Indiana $9,687 $56,077 9% 16.17

While the median pay for teachers in Indiana last year was competetive for the state, signs show that it might not be the best place to bring your career. Since 2009, the median wages for teachers in Indiana has increased by less than $1,000, making it one of the worst states in terms of wage growth, according to the National Education Association. On top of that, the average class size was larger than the national average last year, and Indiana’s annual per pupil spending of $9,687 falls short of the national average of $10,700. Job growth is expected to be incredibly slow over the coming years, but at least growth is expected – something that can’t be said for some other states.

45 Hawaii $12,855 $27,485 16% 15.6

Anyone planning on getting a teaching job in Hawaii may have a hard time finding a position. Hawaii is well below average in terms of teachers per capita, and they’re expected to have very slow growth. This slow growth and underemployment is likely a large reason why Hawaii has some of the largest average class sizes in the nation. Even with teachers retiring in the coming years, there just won’t be many open positions in Hawaii. On the plus side, Also, their spending per pupil is above the national average. But with one of the highest costs of living in the nation, Hawaii may not be the best option for teachers.

46 Florida $8,881 $49,826 2% 15.2

Florida teachers have experienced minimal growth in their income over the past 10 years. In 2007, teachers’ median wages were just below what they are today, according to the National Education Association. Today, Florida teachers make a median of $49,826 a year, well below the national average. A large reason for this could be due to the Great Recession where Florida took one of the hardest hits of all the states. It doesn’t seem like significant income growth will come any point soon, either – estimates see Florida adding just under 6,000 jobs by 2024, a small number for the size of the state.

47 Idaho $6,923 $51,520 24% 14.89

While the cost of living isn’t particularly high in Idaho, their median salary ranks among the lowest in the nation for high school teachers. Idaho is also projected to add just 80 secondary school positions by 2019, so getting a job there might be more difficult than in other states. The numbers are similar for elementary school positions. On top of that, Idaho is the second lowest in the nation in terms of per pupil spending, with the average cost per pupil coming in at $6,923 per year – nearly $4,000 lower than the national average.

48 North Carolina $8,687 $47,944 16% 14.33

North Carolina pays a median salary of $45,690 for elementary school teachers and $46,370 for secondary school teachers. They are also below the national average in terms of per pupil spending at just $8,687. On the plus side, North Carolina is just below average in terms of teachers employed per capita, which could be part of the reason that the average North Carolina classroom has fewer students than the average American classroom. However, low growth projections in both the short term and long term may spoil that as fewer teachers are hired and more students start school.

49 Utah $6,575 $49,514 15% 10.78

The biggest problem with Utah is that they don’t have the funds to support their education. Their average per pupil spending of $6,575 per year is the lowest in the nation. On top of that, Utah also has by far the highest average classroom sizes for both the elementary and secondary school levels. While their teachers’ income has seen slight increases, the average median salary is still below the national average. One of the upsides is that Utah is projected to have a large increase in the number of teacher positions over the coming decade. However, the growth in new positions may not mean higher salaries for teachers.

50 Arizona $7,489 $46,909 19% 10.11

There are plenty of reasons Arizona is the worst state for teachers, which may explain the April 2018 teacher strikes throughout the state. For starters, their per pupil spending is among the worst in the nation, as are their average classroom sizes. Arizona is already one of the lowest paying states for teachers and the educational support staff, such as instructional assistants and custodians. With the cost of living in the state, teachers just aren’t making a livable wage. With these points in mind, Arizona may not be the best option to pursue a career in teaching.

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