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Calculating the relative value of teacher salaries can be somewhat tricky, as the amount of time teachers work can vary widely depending on the state, district, school, and individual teacher. Teacher pay is relatively high in terms of per-hour payment, if a minimal amount of work and effort is assumed. Many teachers, however, spend extensive periods of time at home designing lesson plans, coming up with innovative ways to engage their students, and giving feedback on assignments. If all of this time is taken into account, the relative worth of teacher salaries can diminish a great deal.
Teacher salaries vary quite a bit based on the state the teacher teaches in. For example, a report by the American Federation of Teachers reported average salaries on the national level to be $51,009 US Dollars (USD) in 2006-2007. Teachers in the state of California had an average salary of $63,640 USD, 125% of the national average. At the other end of the spectrum, teachers in South Dakota had an average salary of $35,378 USD, 69% of the national average. Of course, these numbers also reflect the cost of living in their relative states: the three highest-salaried states, California, Connecticut, and New Jersey, are also three of the most expensive to live in, while the three lowest-salaried states, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Utah, are three of the cheapest states to live in.
The level of education achieved also impacts teacher salaries quite a bit. The average salary for a teacher with a Bachelor’s Degree, for example, was $38,332 USD. This is quite a bit lower than the average salary for a teacher with a Master’s Degree, which is $67,887 USD. This difference in salaries becomes even more apparent as longevity comes into play, with teachers who have been teaching for longer making quite a bit more money than recent teachers. And the numbers become even more dramatic when looking at those who teach in metropolitan areas.
Those who teach in cities also make substantially more than those who teach rurally, generally speaking. For example, a teacher with a master’s degree with maximum longevity, teaching in Santa Ana, California, had a salary of $94,585 USD. In New York City the salary was $94,154 USD, and even in Oklahoma City, at the bottom of the list of large cities surveyed, the salary was $47,850 USD. This is quite a bit different from the salary of entry level teacher salaries, which in Oklahoma City were $31,950 USD, and in New York City were $45,530.
When compared to many other professional fields, of course, teacher salaries are still relatively low. The median salary for an emergency room doctor, for example, is $173,445 USD, and the median salary for a pediatrician is $120,412 USD. But when compared to even some high-paying professions at their starting grades, salaries do not appear too terribly low: a starting lawyer has an average salary of $57,013 USD, and a lawyer who had been working less than five years has an average salary of $64,063 USD. And when compared with other professions, teaching fares even slightly better: the average editor makes $53,143 USD, the average gardener makes $31,000 USD, and the average executive chef makes $75,596 USD.