Skip to navigationSkip to content

The best places to be a teacher in the US

Reuters/Larry Downing
Who wants to take a guess?
By Sonali Kohli
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

This post has been corrected.

Columbus, Ohio. That’s where American teachers should go for the most lifetime financial stability, according to a new report from the National Council on Teacher Quality.

The report looks at 2013-2014 teacher salary data from 113 US school districts, including the 50 largest districts in the country and the largest district in each state.

This chart only includes the adjusted lifetime pay—earnings over 30 years, adjusted for cost of living expenses—for the average public school teacher. Some school districts report variations in earnings based on different performance benchmarks—standardized in this study as “average,” “above average,” or “exemplary.” Each of those districts’ salary levels are ranked separately. Taking those into account, Pittsburgh would be first on the list, but only for exemplary teachers—they make $2.74 million in adjusted lifetime earnings, while the city’s above-average teachers would rank sixth, with $2.25 million. Similarly, exemplary teachers from Washington, D.C.’s school district would be second on the overall ranking, with $2.64 million in adjusted lifetime earnings, while salaries for above-average and average teachers from the district fall lower on the list, to 13 and 32, respectively.

It should be noted that the rankings do not take into account benefits and incentives, which vary widely across states and districts. There’s also no reliable way to measure if the differences in pay have an effect on student performance, since student performance is measured differently across state lines, says Nancy Waymack, managing director for district policy at the National Council on Teacher Quality.

But knowing how much money a teacher is going to make over the course of 30 years is valuable in planning for a career and family, and the prospect of an attractive long-term earnings trajectory could help bring high quality teachers to a district, Waymack tells Quartz.

Another important piece of information is the cost of living in the area. Sure, teachers make more in New York City public schools up front, but Columbus has a much lower cost of living. So the way the council figured it, New York’s maximum pay equates to only $56,767 in buying power, compared with $102,095 for Columbus teachers at the top of the pay grade.

Nationwide, the maximum teacher salary is worth about $71,000 after adjusting for cost of living differences. According to the report, it takes Columbus teachers about 11 years to achieve that level of buying power, and New York teachers more than 30 years.

In fact, with the average teacher earning a cost-adjusted $1.37 million over 30 years, New York is by one measure one of the worst places in the country to be a teacher.

Correction (Dec. 5): Since this post published, the National Council on Teacher Quality report has been corrected due to an error in calculating the cost of living adjustments. This story now reflects the accurate data. Teachers’ average maximum salary, or buying power after adjustments, has been corrected, as well as the number of years it takes for teachers in Columbus, Ohio to reach that salary. The adjusted lifetime earnings cited in the charts and in the story, and the resulting changes to some of the cities’ ranks, have also been corrected.

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.