Special Report
Teaching Profession

Teacher Salaries, Looking at Comparable Jobs

By Christopher B. Swanson — January 03, 2008 2 min read

Teacher compensation has emerged as a major issue in efforts to strengthen the teaching profession and boost student learning.

Experts have argued that relatively low earnings pose an impediment to recruiting top-notch candidates and retaining talented veterans. The challenges may be especially severe in such fields as mathematics and science, where jobs in the private sector can command particularly high wages.

Although analysts have repeatedly attempted to examine the competitiveness of teacher pay, a variety of factors complicate this line of research. Nuances include whether teachers are nine-month or 12-month workers, whether fringe benefits should be considered in addition to salary, and whether to analyze hourly, weekly, or annual pay.

Return to the main story, Human Resources a Weak Spot.

But perhaps the most basic and important consideration is how to determine “comparable” salaries.

In the real estate market, smart buyers and sellers base their decisions on the prices of comparable properties. In much the same way, gauging teacher compensation requires identifying relevant comparison groups—occupations against which teacher salaries are evaluated.

Reaching the Parity Line

An original analysis by the EPE Research Center finds that public school teachers nationwide make 88 cents for every dollar earned in 16 comparable occupations. Ten states reach or surpass the pay-parity line, meaning teachers earn at least as much as comparable workers.

BRIC ARCHIVE

SOURCE: EPE Research Center, 2008

Studies have chosen different routes, matching teachers against such classic professions as law and medicine, occupations with similar education or skill requirements, workers with a college degree, and even the labor force as a whole.

Not surprisingly, the lack of consensus has produced studies with mixed results. Teachers can appear to be well compensated based on certain comparisons, but underpaid based on others.

Yet there is one point of agreement: Very little is known about the competitiveness of teacher salaries relative to those of other occupations within individual states.

Explaining State Patterns

Occupations Comparable to K-12 Teachers

• Accountants and auditors
• Architects, except naval
• Archivists, curators, and museum technicians
• Clergy
• Compliance officers, except agriculture, construction, health and safety, and transportation
• Computer programmers
• Conservation scientists and foresters
• Counselors
• Editors, news analysts, reporters, and correspondents
• Human-resources, training, and laborrelations specialists
• Insurance underwriters
• Occupational therapists
• Other teachers and instructors (excludes preschool, K-12, and postsecondary)
• Physical therapists
• Registered nurses
• Technical writers

SOURCE: EPE Research Center, 2008. Analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Occupational categories adapted from How Does Teacher Pay Compare? (Economic Policy Institute, 2004).

To shed light on this question, the EPE Research Center conducted an original analysis for Quality Counts 2008. Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, or ACS, we indexed the earnings of public school teachers at the elementary and secondary levels against salaries for a set of 16 occupations with similar skill demands, identified in a 2004 study by the Washington-based Economic Policy Institute.

Pooling two years of ACS data for nearly 6 million individuals allowed the Research Center to explore pay patterns at both the national and state levels.

With a median salary of $50,784 in 2006 dollars, workers in our set of 16 comparable occupations outearn teachers by a notable margin. This difference corresponds to a pay-parity-index value of 88.0 for the nation, meaning that teachers earn about 88 cents to every dollar earned by comparable workers.

Perhaps more telling, we found the distribution of teacher salaries rather tightly constrained, while far more workers in the comparable occupations enjoy well-above-average incomes.

Teacher Earnings Constrained

National data from the American Community Survey show that teachers enjoy higher median earnings ($44,690) than the average worker ($36,564). But with a median salary of $50,784, workers in 16 comparable occupations out earn the average teacher and also have a better chance of earning a very competitive salary.

BRIC ARCHIVE

SOURCE: EPE Research Center, 2008

In other words, there is less opportunity to earn a very competitive salary in teaching than in other lines of work.

State-level results show that the competitiveness of teacher salaries varies greatly across the nation.

In the states where teachers fare the worst, the parity index drops below 80, with North Carolina posting a score of 78.8 and Missouri, 79.3.

By contrast, teachers attain parity or earn more than workers in comparable occupations in 10 states, with the highest teacher-parity scores found in Montana (110.2) and Rhode Island (111.8).

Related Tags:

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Measuring & Supporting Student Well-Being: A Researcher and District Leader Roundtable
Students’ social-emotional well-being matters. The positive and negative emotions students feel are essential characteristics of their psychology, indicators of their well-being, and mediators of their success in school and life. Supportive relationships with peers, school
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Making Digital Literacy a Priority: An Administrator’s Perspective
Join us as we delve into the efforts of our panelists and their initiatives to make digital skills a “must have” for their district. We’ll discuss with district leadership how they have kept digital literacy
Content provided by Learning.com
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
How Schools Can Implement Safe In-Person Learning
In order for in-person schooling to resume, it will be necessary to instill a sense of confidence that it is safe to return. BD is hosting a virtual panel discussing the benefits of asymptomatic screening
Content provided by BD

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Profession Nearly 9 in 10 Teachers Willing to Work in Schools Once Vaccinated, Survey Finds
Nearly half of educators who belong to the National Education Association have gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
4 min read
Nurse Sara Muela, left, administers the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to educator Rebecca Titus at a vaccination site setup for teachers and school staff at the Berks County Intermediate Unit in Reading, Pa., on March 15, 2021.
Nurse Sara Muela, left, administers the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to educator Rebecca Titus at a vaccination site set up for teachers and school staff in Reading, Pa., on March 15.
Matt Rourke/AP
Teaching Profession Q&A Nation's Top Teachers Discuss the Post-Pandemic Future of the Profession
Despite the difficulties this school year brought, the four finalists for the National Teacher of the Year award say they're hopeful.
11 min read
National Teacher of the Year Finalists (clockwise from top left): Alejandro Diasgranados, Juliana Urtubey, John Arthur, Maureen Stover
National Teacher of the Year Finalists (clockwise from top left): Alejandro Diasgranados, Juliana Urtubey, John Arthur, Maureen Stover
Courtesy of CCSSO
Teaching Profession Teachers Are Stressed Out, and It's Causing Some to Quit
Stress, more so than low pay, is the main reason public school teachers quit. And COVID-19 has increased the pressure.
7 min read
Image of exit doors.
pavel_balanenko/iStock/Getty
Teaching Profession Opinion Should Teachers Be Prioritized for the COVID-19 Vaccine?
Not all states are moving teachers to the front of the vaccination line. Researchers discuss the implications for in-person learning.
6 min read
Teacher Lizbeth Osuna from Cooper Elementary receives the Moderna vaccine at a CPS vaccination site at Roberto Clemente High School in Chicago, Ill., Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021.
Chicago public school teacher Lizbeth Osuna receives the COVID-19 vaccine at a school vaccination site last week.
Anthony Vazquez/Chicago Sun-Times via AP