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After 10 years at work, teachers in some states make less than $40,000

A teacher works with students in Orlando, Florida.
A teacher works with students in Orlando, Florida.
Tom Benitez/Orlando Sentinel/MCT via Getty Images
Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.

The average teacher in South Dakota with a bachelor's degree and 10 years of experience earns $33,600 per year — less than the average South Dakotan auto-repair worker. And relatively low salaries for experienced teachers with bachelor's degrees are the norm, not the exception, in the US, according to a new report from the Center for American Progress.

It's rare for those teachers to be earning more than $50,000, even after 10 years on the job, in most states. In some states, after 10 years, teachers with bachelor's degrees haven't even hit $40,000 per year:

Screen_shot_2014-07-22_at_6.58.34_pm Nationally, average salary for a teacher with a bachelor's degree and 10 years' experience is $44,900. That might be why 16 percent of teachers have a second job outside of school during the academic year.

What doesn't show up on this map: Many teachers have more education than just a bachelor's degree, and those teachers earn a higher salary. More than half of all teachers have at least a master's degree, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Teachers with 10 years of experience and a master's earn about $5,000 more per year on average.

But that doesn't mean they've caught up to other college graduates. In 18 states, teachers with a graduate degree and 10 years in the classroom still make less than $45,000 per year.

That falls in line with other data that show teachers in the US are paid relatively well compared to teachers in other countries, but not as well when compared to other American college graduates:


It's hard to make a direct comparison because most salary statistics use medians, not averages. Average salaries tend to be higher than median salaries, although it's not clear if this is true in education. Between ages 30 and 34, the median worker with a bachelor's degree is earning about $52,600 per year according to the US Census Bureau; with a master's, the median worker earns about $60,500 annually.

And yes, teachers benefit from longer vacations than most other workers — but 18 percent keep teaching during the summer, and 15 percent get other summer jobs. That doesn't change the salary picture too much: A school system summer contract is worth about $2,500. A summer job somewhere else is worth about $3,400.