How Do U.S. Teaching Salaries Compare to Those in Other Countries?

By Kate Stoltzfus — June 06, 2017 2 min read
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Unhappy with an American teaching salary? Try moving to Europe.

While some U.S. cities are better than others for teachers, there are also stark differences in annual educator pay around the globe. And 2016 research from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development reveals the ‘best’ and ‘worst’ countries for teacher compensation based on teaching salaries, Business Insider reports.

At the top of the ‘best’ list: Luxembourg, one of the world’s wealthiest countries. The country pays its educators more than any other in the world—up to $137,000 in U.S. dollars annually for a veteran teacher and $79,000 for a new teacher (more than teachers in many other countries will earn annually throughout their careers).

Other countries that pay their teachers well include Switzerland ($103K for a seasoned high school teacher), Germany ($84K), and Belgium, Korea, and Austria ($76K). In contrast, the Czech Republic pays the top elementary and high school teachers only $20K per year, followed by Hungry and Poland ($25-$27K), Turkey ($32K), Greece ($35K), and Chile ($36-38K). Finland, which is known for high teacher retention, pays its teachers a wide range based on years of experience (about $35K for a new elementary teacher and about $49K for a veteran high school teacher.)

Teacher compensation in some countries also varies by gender and length of time or grade taught. Though teachers in Korea start out pulling in about $27,000 a year in U.S. dollars, they make upwards of $75,000 by the end of their careers. In Austria, high school teachers make $9,000 more than those at the elementary level, while Chile’s male teachers in elementary school make $4,000 more than female teachers.

The United States, where the average new teacher makes $44,000 and can expect to earn up to $67,000 at the peak of a career (by OECD’s calculations), ranks 7th worldwide in how well it pays high school teachers and 5th for elementary teachers. Within the country itself, the pay gap between U.S. teachers and all workers in other fields with the same education and experience has grown significantly in recent decades, according to a 2016 study from the Economic Policy Institute. (My colleague Kristine Kim recently wrote about the best-rated U.S. cities for educators. If only looking at salary, Alaska has been rated as the highest-paying state for teachers in the country, with Las Cruces, N.M., as the city with the highest median salary).

Teachers’ pay scale affects them in a variety of ways—not only in terms of whether or not they can afford housing and how they pay for teaching supplies, but also whether or not they stay in the classroom. After Oklahoma became the state with the lowest teaching salary last week, the state’s 2016 teacher of the year publicly announced he was moving to Texas, according to a recent post on Teacher Beat.

Check out the full report to see how other countries around the world measure up in terms of teacher pay.

Photo credit: Image by Flickr user 401(K) 2012, licensed under Creative Commons

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.