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The best-paying cities for teachers
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The best-paying cities for teachers

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Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

The past year has been uniquely difficult for teachers. After the COVID-19 pandemic shut schools down last spring, educators were forced to transition their work to virtual schooling, with little time to plan. In the new school year, teachers have faced more difficult dilemmas. Some districts have reopened schools despite increasing COVID-19 case numbers, which has educators worried about students’ health and safety—and their own. In other districts, instruction has remained online, and teachers are struggling to keep students engaged and learning in the virtual classroom. Some districts have opted for a hybrid solution, leaving educators to navigate the difficulties of both approaches with different groups of students rotating between online and in-person instruction.


Teaching is a hard job in normal times, too, but it is acknowledged to be one of society’s most critical. Research shows that teacher quality is the single most impactful in-school factor affecting students’ learning and success. In public polls, a majority of Americans recognize the value that teachers provide and acknowledge positive roles that teachers have had in their lives. But despite teachers’ importance to society—especially now—the profession as a whole has faced stagnant wages for several decades.



In 2019, the average teacher made $61,730—a figure nearly identical to the average inflation-adjusted salary earned by teachers 30 years ago. Despite stagnant wages, the teaching profession has in many ways become more difficult over time, with increasing class sizes, more testing and accountability requirements, and underfunding of support staff like counselors and social workers in schools. Teachers are increasingly fed up with this reality as the status quo. In 2018, half a dozen states—including some of the lowest-paying states for teachers, like Arizona and Oklahoma—saw teachers strike, walk out, and stage protests in efforts to encourage greater public investments in education, especially teacher compensation.



Underpayment of teachers is particularly stark compared to typical wages for other well-educated professionals. A bachelor’s degree is usually the bare minimum for entry into the teaching profession in public schools, but a majority of public school educators also hold advanced degrees. And yet, the median teacher makes $2,000 less than the median bachelor’s degree holder and about 60% of the salary of the median professional degree holder.



While teachers’ lower pay relative to other professions is a nationwide pattern, some states and localities—many on the West Coast and in the Mid-Atlantic region—compensate better than others based on the economics or education policies of the jurisdiction. For instance, many school districts are funded heavily based on local property tax collections, so areas with greater wealth and higher tax rates tend to have more resources available to compensate teachers well. States and districts with strong teachers’ unions are frequently able to negotiate higher salaries and benefits for their members than peers in other jurisdictions. States or localities may also offer different incentives for teachers who earn advanced degrees or certifications or who meet certain performance standards in the classroom. And it’s important to note that cost of living is a factor as well—some areas’ salaries may appear inflated or deflated depending on how far one’s dollar goes in those locations.

To find the areas where teachers have the best pay, researchers at HireAHelper calculated median annual earnings for teachers with an adjustment for cost of living. The data includes elementary, middle, and secondary school teachers across both public and private institutions.

Here are the metropolitan areas offering the best pay for teachers.



The Best-Paying Large Metros for Teachers

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

15. Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD

  • Median annual earnings for teachers (adjusted): $67,045
  • Median annual earnings for teachers (unadjusted): $70,933
  • Number of teachers: 28,920
  • Cost of living (compared to national average): +5.8%

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

14. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV

  • Median annual earnings for teachers (adjusted): $67,410
  • Median annual earnings for teachers (unadjusted): $79,140
  • Number of teachers: 65,610
  • Cost of living (compared to national average): +17.4%

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

13. Rochester, NY

  • Median annual earnings for teachers (adjusted): $69,092
  • Median annual earnings for teachers (unadjusted): $67,089
  • Number of teachers: 13,640
  • Cost of living (compared to national average): -2.9%

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

12. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA

  • Median annual earnings for teachers (adjusted): $69,228
  • Median annual earnings for teachers (unadjusted): $87,713
  • Number of teachers: 19,310
  • Cost of living (compared to national average): +26.7%

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

11. Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN

  • Median annual earnings for teachers (adjusted): $69,555
  • Median annual earnings for teachers (unadjusted): $63,017
  • Number of teachers: 23,030
  • Cost of living (compared to national average): -9.4%

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

10. Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA

  • Median annual earnings for teachers (adjusted): $71,202
  • Median annual earnings for teachers (unadjusted): $74,763
  • Number of teachers: 17,930
  • Cost of living (compared to national average): +5.0%

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

9. Pittsburgh, PA

  • Median annual earnings for teachers (adjusted): $71,609
  • Median annual earnings for teachers (unadjusted): $66,167
  • Number of teachers: 24,860
  • Cost of living (compared to national average): -7.6%

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

8. Columbus, OH

  • Median annual earnings for teachers (adjusted): $72,459
  • Median annual earnings for teachers (unadjusted): $66,373
  • Number of teachers: 23,760
  • Cost of living (compared to national average): -8.4%

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

7. Sacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade, CA

  • Median annual earnings for teachers (adjusted): $73,344
  • Median annual earnings for teachers (unadjusted): $77,158
  • Number of teachers: 19,130
  • Cost of living (compared to national average): +5.2%

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

6. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA

  • Median annual earnings for teachers (adjusted): $73,356
  • Median annual earnings for teachers (unadjusted): $87,147
  • Number of teachers: 99,300
  • Cost of living (compared to national average): +18.8%

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

5. Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC

  • Median annual earnings for teachers (adjusted): $74,925
  • Median annual earnings for teachers (unadjusted): $72,228
  • Number of teachers: 15,490
  • Cost of living (compared to national average): -3.6%

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

4. Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI

  • Median annual earnings for teachers (adjusted): $75,161
  • Median annual earnings for teachers (unadjusted): $71,629
  • Number of teachers: 30,560
  • Cost of living (compared to national average): -4.7%

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

3. Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls, NY

  • Median annual earnings for teachers (adjusted): $76,816
  • Median annual earnings for teachers (unadjusted): $72,591
  • Number of teachers: 11,930
  • Cost of living (compared to national average): -5.5%

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

2. Cleveland-Elyria, OH

  • Median annual earnings for teachers (adjusted): $78,328
  • Median annual earnings for teachers (unadjusted): $70,417
  • Number of teachers: 24,360
  • Cost of living (compared to national average): -10.1%

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

1. Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA

  • Median annual earnings for teachers (adjusted): $83,466
  • Median annual earnings for teachers (unadjusted): $89,559
  • Number of teachers: 38,390
  • Cost of living (compared to national average): +7.3%

Detailed Findings & Methodology

The wage and employment data used in this analysis is from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics program. Cost-of-living data is from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis Regional Price Parity dataset. Researchers calculated and ranked the locations based on cost-of-living adjusted median annual earnings for teachers. For the purpose of this analysis, teachers include elementary, middle, and secondary school teachers in public and private institutions (not including special education or technical education teachers). To improve relevance, only metropolitan areas with at least 100,000 residents were included. Additionally, metros were grouped into cohorts based on population size: small (100,000–349,999), midsize (350,000–999,999), and large (1,000,000 or more).

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