How salaries compare for 10 types of teachers

teacher at work


Becoming a teacher takes more than having patience and a fondness for children.

Most teaching roles require a bachelor’s degree and—if teaching at a public school—passing a state exam. However, not all teachers make the same as their colleagues, even if they have the same level of education. Each teacher’s specific job and location are key factors that determine a salary level.

As far back as 2020, an Education Week article detailed the trials and tribulations of teacher shortages, along with a simple strategy for recruitment: Pay teachers a decent wage. The article also explained how “intensive on-the-job training with the support of mentors” can help keep newly hired teachers onboard for the long haul. The American teacher shortage over the past few years resulted in salary increases and teacher training updates. analyzed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to explore how much 10 types of teachers earn annually. This analysis examines the average annual incomes and total employment for teachers, ranging from preschool to high school, and includes rankings for incomes across the 10 teacher types featured in the story. That said, the top eight on this list all have average salaries within $5,000 of each other. Many teachers work nights and weekends to grade and prepare lessons and often have summers off without pay.

How salaries compare for 10 types of teachers


A preschool teacher with two students.

Preschool teachers

Children between 3-5 years old are eligible for preschool enrollment. Preschool teachers help these children learn in a creative, supportive environment that prepares students for elementary school. These teachers may need an associate or bachelor’s degree to get hired. The nation’s 71,730 preschool teachers earn less than any other category of teachers, with an average annual income of $52,420, according to the BLS.

A kindergarten teacher reading a book to a student.

Kindergarten teachers

The nation’s 118,220 kindergarten teachers work with children between the ages of 4 and 6 years old. They’ll need a bachelor’s degree and must pass a state exam for public school jobs; private schools may require just a bachelor’s degree. Some soft skills that can help teachers excel in this role include patience, empathy, creativity, and good communication techniques. At $65,050, kindergarten teachers’ salaries are the third-lowest on this list.

An elementary school teacher high-fiving a student.

Elementary school teachers

Elementary school teachers need a bachelor’s degree, and often a master’s degree in teaching, along with two years of teaching experience, according to Glassdoor. Most of the roughly 1.32 million elementary school teachers in the U.S. will share their students’ progress with their parents or guardian. They also need to be able to “control a classroom, show empathy, and prepare students for standardized tests.” The average annual income for elementary school teachers is $67,130, the fifth-highest of the 10 types of teachers.

A middle school teacher with two students.

Middle school teachers

Middle school teachers, who teach sixth- through eighth-graders, have the fifth-lowest salary of the 10 types of teachers’ jobs. The average annual income for this teaching position is $66,910. The country’s 590,400 middle school teachers need at least a bachelor’s degree to prepare students for high school while building the fundamental skills students learned in elementary schools, according to the BLS.

Middle school students and their teacher building a drone.

Middle school career/technical education teachers

With the second-highest average annual income of all 10 types of teachers, middle school career and technical education teachers help students with “technical and vocational subjects, such as auto repair, health care, and culinary arts,” according to the BLS. The average income of the 11,820 people who hold this type of teaching job is $69,430. They need at least a bachelor’s degree and some teaching experience to get hired. Job growth for this type of position is slower than most professions, at 2% over the next 10 years, according to federal data.

A teacher presenting a lesson to a group of high schoolers.

Secondary school teachers

Secondary school teachers teach classes to middle and high school students on a wide range of subjects, including math, science, art, music, and English. They may also act as mentors and counselors to students to help them plan their educational paths. These teachers have the highest average annual income on this list, at $69,580, and need to earn a bachelor’s degree and pass a state exam to get hired.

With a little over 1 million positions filled, secondary school teachers make up 12% of the teaching profession, mainly at elementary and secondary schools. Texas employs 102,360 of them, the most in the U.S.; California is a close second, employing 91,340 secondary school teachers.

A chef teaching a high school cooking class.

Secondary school career/technical education teachers

Secondary school career and technical education teachers “teach occupational, vocational, career, or technical subjects to students at the secondary school level,” according to the BLS. The average income of the 81,190 of these teachers in the U.S. is $69,310, the third-highest on this list. The New York-Newark-Jersey City metropolitan area employs 3,110 secondary school career and technical education teachers, more than any other metro area in the U.S.

A teacher working with an excited special needs student.

Special education teachers

Special education teachers, those who teach students with cognitive disabilities, often have bachelor’s degrees in special education. Most of their schooling focuses on general education, with a few specialty courses such as assistive technology, learning methods, or autism education. There are 445,010 special education teachers on school faculties around the nation.

They earn an average annual income of $68,860, the fourth-highest of the 10 types of teachers. But the type of school they work in matters a lot: Preschool special education teachers earn an average of $68,570; in kindergarten and elementary schools, they earn an average of $67,180; in middle schools, they earn $68,880 on average; and secondary school special education teachers earn an average of $70,530.

A teacher and students in an adult education class.

Adult basic education, adult secondary education, and ESL instructors

According described by the BLS, “Adult basic and secondary education and ESL (English as a Second Language) teachers instruct adults in fundamental skills, such as reading and speaking English. They also help students earn their high school equivalency credential.” There are 13,920 of these teachers in the U.S., and their average annual income is $65,910, the fourth-lowest of the 10 types of teachers. They need at least a bachelor’s degree, according to federal data. The federal government is projecting there will be a 6% decline in the number of these types of jobs over the next decade.

A group of students and their teacher in dance class.

Self-enrichment teachers

Self-enrichment teachers lead individuals or groups of students in noncareer-driven educational programs, such as art, dance, chess, or music. Sports coaches and scouts and exercise instructors are excluded from the federal data for this category. Of course, people do earn a living in all sorts of disciplines that self-enrichment teachers help students explore, but the goal of this sort of education is more about developing a recreational or hobby interest than preparing for a career. These teachers’ average annual income is $57,080, the second-lowest on this list, according to federal data.

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