Where Do Teachers Get Paid the Most? 20 Cities with the Highest Teacher Salaries for the Cost of Living
Reviewed by Jon Konen, District Superintendent
Let’s face it: teachers don’t earn nearly what they should. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), K–12 teachers, on average, brought home just shy of $59,000 in 2018. Though countless articles extolling cities with the highest teacher pay exist, most don’t take into account how the local cost of living impacts what those earnings can buy. If things like housing, food, and transportation are costly, a high salary doesn’t necessarily mean you have a lot of disposable income.
Our ranking of teacher salaries is different: we factor in the cost of living to help you decide what city will give you the most bang for your teacher buck. If you’re flexible about where you want to teach, this article may help you find the right city for you.
Known as the Biggest Little City in the World, Reno, Nevada gives off a small-town vibe while managing to provide many of the amenities you expect to find in much larger cities. It’s also just 40 miles from the beauty and fun of Lake Tahoe.
Reno’s Washoe County School District enjoys a 95% average daily attendance rate, with a low chronic absenteeism rate of 9.3%, compared to the nationwide average of 16%. Many teachers in low-income or underserved schools in the Reno area are eligible to receive up to $5,000 in bonus pay as part of the state’s teacher incentive program. The district also takes teacher input seriously, as evidenced by a recent survey of educators, which they used to update their Culture of Respect policy.
If you’re looking for a nearby elementary or secondary education degree program, check out the University of Nevada, Reno’s College of Education. Here you can pursue undergraduate, master’s, and doctorate programs taught both online and in person.
If you want to live the Florida life without suffering through some extreme temperatures, Tampa may be the place for you. Here you can enjoy luxe beaches and a year-round temperate climate that doesn’t go above 99 degrees… or, at least it never has before!
Tampa is part of the Hillsborough County Public Schools, the seventh-largest school district in the nation. Each year more than 215,000 students pass through the more than 230 schools, providing options in suburban, rural, and urban school settings. The district’s push to increase graduation rates has paid off, with 86% of their students graduating in 2019, up from 73% just five years earlier.
Are you looking to earn a flexible and well-regarded elementary or secondary education teaching degrees? The University of South Florida provides these programs and more. The College of Education also offers several scholarships and grants to help reduce the financial burden of becoming a teacher. Online and campus-based options exist to fit your schedule.
Boise, Idaho, also known as the City of Trees, is a great home base for exploring the state’s 4.7 million acres of forests and taking advantage of many outdoor activities.
The Boise School District consists of 32 elementary schools, eight junior high schools, and five high schools. While some reports state that up to 30% of teachers nationally leave the profession within five years of being in a classroom, Boise teachers average 14 years of experience.
Boise State University is an excellent option for pursuing teaching programs in elementary or secondary education, as well as several administrative degrees.
While Las Vegas, Nevada, tends to conjure up images of gambling and late nights on the Strip, Sin City offers so much more than wild weekends and Cirque du Soleil performances, including many conservation areas and national parks in the vicinity.
The Clark County School District educates approximately 320,000 students annually thanks to the dedicated work of more than 42,000 professionals, including nearly 19,000 licensed teachers. All told, the district comprises 360 schools, providing professional opportunities for educators of varied interests.
The University of Nevada, Las Vegas can meet teacher education needs at every academic level, with options for both online and in-person study via the Teaching & Learning Center. Whether you’re interested in teaching at the elementary or secondary level, the school offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs, as well as a few certificate programs.
#16: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
If you’re looking for history, culture, and excellent field trip options, look no further than The City of Brotherly Love. Renowned for being home to the Liberty Bell, more than 2,000 outdoor murals, and the oldest continually running theatre in the English-speaking world, Philadelphia is a gem. Moreover, it also boasts the eighth-largest school district in the nation.
More than 203,000 elementary and secondary students fill the halls of the city’s schools each day under the guidance of nearly 20,000 qualified employees. This leading Pennsylvania district is also a great option if you want to work with students and families of myriad backgrounds. As of 2020, learners speak 166 languages.
If you’re looking for a state-approved education program in the heart of the city, consider Temple University. The College of Education offers more than 50 degrees and certificates focused on teaching, administrative, therapeutic, and support roles.
#15: Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles, California is typically thought of as a tourist destination, with people looking for their favorite celebrities, but there is something for everyone. Whether taking in a sunrise from the Griffith Observatory, hitting up a new yoga studio, or discovering something unexpected, you will find your niche in the city—and be able to afford it.
Second in size only to New York City’s school district, the Los Angeles Unified School District educates nearly 675,000 students each year, including 556,000 K-12 learners. In the last two decades alone, the district has built 137 new schools to accommodate continued growth—a great sign for teachers seeking job stability. Employing more than 25,000 teachers, the district has a student to educator ratio of roughly 22 to 1.
If you’re looking for a potential degree program, The Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California offers bachelor’s through doctoral programs alongside multiple professional development certificates to help you met your educational goals.
Residents of Houston, Texas speak more than 145 languages, and the city’s 10,000 restaurants represent the foods of more than 70 countries. The underground pedestrian tunnel system connects 95 city blocks and facilitates pedestrian access to major business and entertainment locations. If English as an additional language is your passion, this could be an excellent place for you to teach!
The Houston Independent School District (HISD) mirrors Houston’s diversity in its nearly 210,000 students and more than 11,000 teachers who come from all walks of life. In 2013, HISD became the only district in the nation to win the Broad Prize twice. This prestigious award recognizes public schools that made the most significant strides towards student achievement.
While H-Town is home to many universities, the University of Houston is a great option to check out. Teachers-to-be interested in elementary or secondary training can find what they’re looking for, and so can those who want to pursue an advanced degree in teaching, administration, or counseling.
#13: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Minneapolis has been named the Most Literate City in America. Minneapolis residents aren’t just big readers, though—they also are huge bicyclists and maintain the largest urban sculpture garden in the country, encompassing 11 acres and over 40 permanent pieces of art.
Minneapolis Public Schools educates more than 35,000 students on any given day and maintains an impressive student to teacher ratio of 10:1. This Minnesota district prides itself on encouraging and supporting diversity and has a mission of teaching students to become global citizens.
Whether you hope to engage with elementary or secondary learners, this half of the Twin Cities (as well as nearby St. Paul) provides numerous public and private colleges to help you achieve your goals. The University of Minnesota’s College of Education and Human Development offers many undergraduate and graduate programs to meet your needs.
#12: Kansas City, Missouri
Kansas City, Missouri, known locally as KCMO, is home to an incredible arts scene, including a renowned art museum, an excellent children’s theatre, and one of the world’s most beautiful music and performance venues. If you are more of a science or history teacher, there are field trip options for you as well, with an educational science center and a 100-year-old train station that hosts a variety of traveling history and science exhibits.
The Kansas City Public School District demonstrates its commitment to supporting teachers by providing some of the highest wages in all of Jackson County, Missouri. There are about 15,568 students in the PK-12 school population, and all of them qualify for free lunch. The student to teacher ratio is 24:1, and average daily attendance is 85%.
If you’re looking for an exceptional post-secondary education program, consider checking out the University of Missouri at Kansas City. Undergraduate programs exist in early childhood, elementary, secondary, and multi-level education specializations while graduate programs focus on teaching, administration, counseling, and curriculum development.
Madison, Wisconsin, was named one of the best cities for biking, as well as the fittest city in America by Fitbit in 2016. If you want a city with a young vibe, it’s worth noting that more than 50% of residents are aged 30 or younger.
The Madison Metropolitan School District comprises 32 elementary schools, 12 middle schools, and six high schools that educate more than 27,000 learners. The student to teacher ratios hover around 10:1, allowing for small, participatory classrooms. Nearly 61% of teachers possess a master’s degree or higher, and the district maintains an 84% graduation rate. As of 2020, students speak more than 100 languages.
The University of Wisconsin at Madison is an obvious choice for gaining a top-tier undergraduate or graduate teaching degree; the education department currently offers 14 bachelor’s programs and 20 master’s and doctoral programs.
Although San Antonio isn’t the largest city in Texas, it is the most visited one. Attractions such as the Alamo and the River Walk entice tourists, as do the many other cultural and historic sites—which also provide for many educational opportunities.
The San Antonio Independent School District has served the area since 1854 and today educates nearly 50,000 learners in more than 90 schools. Given the cultural diversity of the city, it’s no surprise that roughly half of these schools offer dual-language programs to encourage shared experiences amongst students and teachers alike.
Current and future teachers can find educational programs to meet their elementary or secondary teaching goals at the University of Texas’s San Antonio campus. The College of Education and Human Development offers programs focused on teaching, administration, counseling, and curriculum design.
Anchorage, Alaska, is perfect for those who love winter sports, seeing a variety of wildlife around town, and not paying sales tax. Even though metropolitan Anchorage covers nearly 2,000 square miles—the size of Rhode Island—the population of the city is less than 300,000 people.
Nearly 50,000 of those residents are children enrolled in the Anchorage Public School District. Approximately 130 schools speckle the region. While 80% of learners identify English as their first language, the remaining 20% of students speak more than 110 languages, including Spanish, Hmong, Samoan, Filipino, and Korean.
Students enrolled at the University of Alaska at Anchorage can find programs in early childhood education, educational leadership, teaching and learning, language education, and special education. Those seeking elementary or secondary programs leading to licensure can also check out Alaska Pacific University.
#8: Indianapolis, Indiana
Indianapolis is a fun city to call home. Aside from hosting the annual Indy 500, the largest single-day sporting event in the world, the Crossroads of America also has the largest children’s museum on the globe. For those who are outdoorsy, the 3,900-acre Eagle Creek Park is one of the nation’s largest municipal parks.
As the capital of Indiana, Indianapolis maintains the largest school district in the state, with more than 30,000 students enrolled in the Indianapolis Public Schools. The district relies on approximately 2,600 licensed educators to lead their classrooms, averaging around 11 learners per teacher.
Located in the heart of the city, Indiana University Purdue University of Indianapolis offers undergraduate programs in early childhood, elementary, and secondary education alongside a second bachelor’s degree program for career changers. Graduate-level programs focus on counseling, leadership, special education, urban education, and other advanced topics.
Long known as Charm City, Baltimore can claim more than its fair share of notable names throughout history. Billie Holiday, Babe Ruth, Johns Hopkins, and Michael Phelps, not to mention American railroads, all got their starts in this corner of Maryland.
Baltimore City Public Schools serves the metro area comprising 80,000 students—approximately half of whom are enrolled in Pre-K-5 classes. Approximately 76% of students in the city are African American, with Hispanic/Latino and white learners making up another 21%.
Loyola University Maryland sits in the heart of Baltimore and provides both in-person and online programs. Undergraduate teacher certification programs exist in both elementary and secondary education while advanced programs focus on curriculum and instruction, ESL, leadership, technology, and counseling.
The tech boom around Salt Lake City has led many to predict it will be the next Silicon Valley. If you consider yourself outdoorsy, you’ll be happy to know this part of Utah enjoys a special type of dry, fluffy snow that’s perfect for ski sports.
The Salt Lake City School District serves the metro SLC area, allowing teachers to choose from roles in elementary, middle, or high schools alongside a few charter schools and community learning centers. All told the district provided educations to 23,410 learners during the 2018-2019 school year.
The University of Utah at Salt Lake City can meet your educational needs with both undergraduate and graduate programs taught in traditional, hybrid, and online formats. In addition to bachelor’s programs leading to elementary or secondary teacher licensure, degrees are also available in special education and urban education.
Immortalized in shows such as Portlandia and Stumptown, this Oregon city is known for being quirky. The city has the highest number of cyclists per capita, as well as the largest natural urban wilderness in the U.S.
Portland Public Schools works diligently to ensure students and teachers alike feel known and supported. The district serves approximately 50,000 students spread across 81 schools. Nearly 3,800 teachers lead K-12 classrooms, creating a student to teacher ratio of approximately 13 to one.
#4: Sacramento, California
This California city holds the unique honor of having the largest number of trees per capita than any other city across the globe. Locals are also serious about farm-fresh produce, hosting 40 farmers’ markets and many farm-to-table restaurants.
The Sacramento City United School District was founded in 1854, making it one of the oldest districts west of the Mississippi. Approximately 42,671 students walk its halls each day, and SCUSD educates its students so they will be lifelong learners.
The University of California’s Davis campus provides education degrees at every level that can be pursued at the brick-and-mortar campus or online. Aside from providing standard teaching credentials, the School of Education also prides itself on offering lots of opportunities for student involvement. A few examples include an undergraduate research conference, an M.A. symposium, and an annual teaching credential barbecue.
As America’s 15th largest city, nearly 800,000 people currently call Columbus, Ohio home. One reason for The Arch City’s popularity is that almost half of the country’s population lives within 600 miles, providing easy access to hubs such as New York City, Chicago, and Atlanta.
As the largest public school system in Ohio, Columbus City Schools educates about 50,000 students each day at one of its 109 schools. CCS is committed to hiring qualified teachers who mirror the diversity seen in classrooms; the district strongly encourages applications from minority candidates. In 2019, teachers won a three-year contract that ensures annual pay increases and reduced class sizes.
The Ohio State University’s College of Education and Human Ecology is a natural choice if you want a degree from a highly regarded institution with plenty of degree options. In existence for more than 125 years, the department offers degrees at every level and plenty of opportunities to get involved in meaningful ongoing research.
Second grade Columbus teacher Harjas C. says, “I’ve always wanted to work in inner city Columbus – this is my third year in it. Our school is lucky to be on a great campus, where we are funded with new and innovative ideas and teachers. I make above average for a second-year teacher. As a young adult, this is enough for me to do well in this city.”
Although the Big Apple gets most of the limelight, Albany serves a vital role as the capital of New York. The oldest continuous settlement from the 13 colonies, the city is the home of the first passenger railroad, a variety of museums, and, of course, the state capitol building.
There are about 10,000 students enrolled in the City School District of Albany. The district recognizes its diversity as a top strength, with African American, Hispanic, and Asian/Pacific Islander learners making up over three-quarters of the student body. The district works diligently to mirror this diversity in its professional hires.
The University at Albany, a member of the State University of New York system, was first founded as a preparatory school for teachers, and that mission remains at the heart of the institution. Undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral programs exist for students interested in elementary or secondary teaching certification as well as degrees in administration, counseling, and curricular development.
Topping our list of the best cities for teachers is Buffalo, the second-largest city in New York. Known as the City of Good Neighbors, Buffalo has a rich history of helping others, including being the birthplace of daycares in the United States.
The Buffalo School District serves more than 34,000 students in approximately 60 elementary, middle, and high schools alongside several alternative and specialized learning centers. Nearly 3,000 teachers educate these learners, leading to a student to teacher ratio of 12:1. This helps to create an environment where individualized teaching and learning can occur.
Canisius College, a private Jesuit institution, provides campus-based and online education degrees at every level. Many of these programs lead to teacher certification opportunities. The department also hosts the Western New York Teacher Residency, the Institute for Autism Research, and the Center for Urban Education.
How We Calculated the Top-Paying Cities for K-12 Teachers
Our team used average salary data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, May 2018) for teachers in various cities across the nation. We matched this data with cost of living information for available cities from the data source Numbeo.com (December 2019) using costs for a single individual renting their home.
Where city data existed in both data sets, we divided annual average salary by cost of living. Cities were ranked according to how many times the cost of living was earned in average salary for teachers in that city.