Teaching Profession

Teachers Report Lower Pay, More Stress Than Workers in Other Fields

By Evie Blad — June 19, 2024 4 min read
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The teachers are not all right.

They work longer hours and earn less pay than comparable workers. And twice as many teachers said they experienced frequent job-related stress or burnout this year compared to their peers in other fields, according to a nationally representative survey released June 18 by the RAND Corporation.

Despite those challenges, teachers did not seem more likely to leave their jobs than comparable workers; 22 percent said they wanted to leave their current job, compared to 24 percent of adults in other sectors.

The findings should concern district leaders, whether or not teachers actually follow through on the intent to leave, said Sy Doan, a RAND policy researcher who coauthored the report.

“Educator well-being is an important issue, regardless of its connection to teacher retention,” Doan said. “The natural question is, how many of those people actually leave their job? But the intention to leave your job signifies low job satisfaction, and that affects well-being, morale, and job performance.”

RAND researchers compared a January survey of 1,500 K–12 teachers fielded with a poll of 500 comparable employees—adults with bachelor’s degrees working at least 35 hours per week in other industries.

Their findings come as school and district leaders struggle to address concerns about teacher morale and support educators in the hard work of pandemic recovery.

Student behavior and low salaries are key teacher stressors

Fifty-nine percent of teachers reported frequent job-related stress in the 2023-24 school year, compared to 33 percent of comparable working adults. Teachers were also more likely to indicate symptoms of depression, at a rate of 19 percent compared to 12 percent of comparable workers. And 60 percent of teachers’ responses indicated burnout, compared to 33 percent of comparable workers.

While teacher well-being showed a slight improvement over last year’s survey, “teachers were still more likely than the general population of working adults and more likely than comparable working adults to experience poor well-being on almost every indicator,” RAND researchers found.

Asked to select their top three workplace stressors from a menu of options, teachers overall were most likely to list managing student behavior, low salaries, and administrative work.

Those challenges parallel what teachers told EdWeek reporters as part of the media organization’s annual The State of Teaching Project. The project’s Teacher Morale Index also largely paralleled the new RAND research, finding that teachers’ morale is currently more negative than positive.

Teachers have complained about an uptick in misbehavior and struggles with student engagement since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the survey, 66 percent of teachers with five or fewer years of experience listed behavior as a top stressor, compared to 45 percent of overall teachers.

Black teachers and teachers with 10 or fewer years of experience were more likely to cite low salaries as a top stressor than teachers overall.

More than a fifth of teachers say they intend to leave their jobs

The proportion of teachers who reported intentions to leave their jobs by the end of the 2023-24 school year was similar to the proportion of comparable workers who reported an intent to leave.

Twenty-two percent of teachers said they intended to leave their job, and 17 percent said they wanted to leave the profession. Black and Latino teachers were more likely than their white peers to say they planned to leave.

Workers who self-report plans to leave their jobs don’t always do so, Doan said.

The report cites a recent study that found that roughly 30 percent left their jobs within a year of indicating plans to do so.

“Applying that rough measure to our data suggests that approximately 7 percent of teachers nationally will leave their jobs by the end of the 2023–2024 school year and approximately 5 percent will leave the profession,” the RAND team wrote.

Teachers at all salary levels believe they are underpaid

Teachers reported an average base salary of $70,000, compared with an average base pay of roughly $88,000 for comparable working adults. Thirty-six percent of teachers said their pay was adequate, compared to 51 percent of comparable workers.

Teachers’ estimates of their average salary closely match data from the National Education Association, which put the average salary at about $71,700 in the 2023-24 school year.

On average, teachers said they wanted a $16,000 increase in their pay, and teachers in all salary bands indicated they should earn more. On a recent EdWeek Research Center survey, teachers put that figure slightly higher—around $20,000.

Teachers report longer hours than other workers

Teachers reported working an average of 53 hours per week, compared to 43 hours of weekly work reported by comparable workers. And teachers were significantly less likely to say they were satisfied with their pay and workload than other comparable workers.


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.
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