How Much Do Elementary School Teachers Make? – Your Complete Guide to Elementary School Teacher Salaries Around the Country
Elementary school teachers are the creators, dreamers, full of inspiration and excitement enthusiasts who have the privilege of planting seeds of knowledge and watching little minds take root. Fact is, it’s a noble profession, and those who teach our earliest learners are rewarded with a challenging, dynamic, and always interesting career.
But does it pay the bills? Do elementary teachers make good money? Yes, in most cases, elementary school teaches enjoy salaries that are commensurate with their colleagues at the middle and high school levels. What is the average salary of an elementary school teacher? As of May 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BSL) reported that the average elementary school teacher salary was $65,420.
What is the starting salary for an elementary school teacher? The elementary school teacher starting salary as of May 2020 was about $40,030. With just a few years of experience, the average elementary school teacher salary comes in at about $48,350.
The highest elementary school teacher salary – likely those with significant experience, graduate degrees, and/or National Board Certification – was about $100,480.
But there’s more to an elementary school teacher salary than meets the eye. Demographics, education level, experience, and more play a part in how much you can make as an elementary school teacher.
Elementary School Teacher Salary by State
One of the largest factors affecting your earning potential as an elementary school teacher is demographics. Your salary can vary widely depending on the state, city, or school district in which you teach.
Where do elementary teachers make the most money? According to the BLS, elementary school teachers earned the highest salary in California, as of May 2020, with an average salary of $85,110.
In most cases, you’ll find the average elementary school teacher salary is commensurate with a state or city’s cost of living. For example, elementary teachers earned an average salary of just $49,620 in Louisiana – about $30,000 less than their counterparts in California. However, given the lower cost of living in Louisiana, these salaries may not be as far apart as you’d think.
Other states where the average elementary school teacher salary landed far above the national average included:
- Massachusetts: $84,810
- New York: $84,380
- Connecticut: $79,610
- Washington D.C.: $78,840
Elementary School Teacher Salary by City/Region/Metro Area
BLS stats reveal that elementary school teachers earned the highest salaries on the West Coast/Pacific Northwest (Washington, Oregon, California) and in the Northeast (New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, D.C., Pennsylvania).
The top-paying metro areas in the nation for elementary school teachers, according to average salaries, were therefore largely in line with the highest-paying regions:
- Merced, CA: $99,360
- Kingston, NY: $93,780
- Riverside (also includes San Bernardino and Ontario), CA: $92,910
- Los Angeles (also includes Long Beach and Anaheim), CA: $90,600
- San Jose (also includes Sunnyvale-Santa Clara), CA: $90,480
- Hanford (also includes Corcoran), CA: $89,450
- El Centro, CA: $88,040
- Modesto, CA: $87,210
- Bakersfield, CA: $86,580
- Bend (includes Redmond), OR: $86,270
The non-metro regions of the nation with the highest average salary for elementary school teachers as of May 2020 included:
- Massachusetts: $82,340
- North Coast Region of CA: $77,540
- Connecticut: $74,500
- Alaska: $70,580
- Western Washington: $70,470
Public vs. Private Elementary School Teacher Salary
The salaries for teachers working in public school nearly always outpace those in private schools, largely due to federal and state funding. Because private schools are largely funded through tuition and private donations alone, they cannot usually offer salaries that compete with public school teacher salaries.
According to the BLS, elementary school teachers in public schools earned an average salary of $65,470 as of May 2020, while those teaching in faith-based private schools earned an average salary of $51,270.
Elementary school teachers also often work outside of the traditional school environment. As of May 2020, elementary school teachers in child day care services earned an average salary of $36,830, and those working in educational support services earned an average salary of $56,650.
How Education and Experience Affect the Elementary School Teacher Salary
As an elementary school teacher, you’ll earn a salary that’s based on the salary schedule devised by your local school district. Because of this, salaries are generally not negotiable and are based solely on factors that usually include education level and experience. As you gain more teaching experience, your salary will increase according to the steps within your school district’s salary schedule.
Most district salary schedules also account for education level. And, in many cases, a master’s or doctoral degree in education can provide you with a significant salary increase. Earn a Master’s in Elementary Education and, chances are, you’ll enjoy more professional opportunities and a higher salary.
Many colleges and universities offer master’s degrees in elementary education through either hybrid or fully online models as to provide busy, working teachers with a convenient and flexible route to earning their graduate degree. An online teaching degree allows you to complete most or all of the components of your degree through distance-based study, most of which can be completed around the demands of your busy schedule.
National Board Certification through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards is another avenue for earning a bump in your salary as an elementary school teacher. You may earn certification in early childhood (3-8) or middle childhood (7-12) in a number of subjects, including:
- English as a New Language
- Exceptional Needs Specialist
- Library Media
- Literacy: Reading/Language Arts
- Physical Education
- School Counseling
You’ll be eligible to earn National Board Certification by taking an assessment and completing a portfolio once you have at least three years of teaching experience and you hold a valid state license.
According to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, more than half of all states offer conditional loans and/or salary incentives to encourage teachers to earn National Board Certification.
May 2020 Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and job market trends for elementary school teachers represent national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Salary statistics representing entry-level = 10th percentile; early career = 25th percentile; senior-level/highly experienced = 90th percentile. Data accessed November 2021.