15 States That Pay Teachers the Most Money

Get inspired to teach in one of these top paying states.
Updated April 11, 2024
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The average salary for a teacher in the U.S. is $57,671, and the starting salary for someone at the beginning of their career is only $46,310. 

However, how much educators earn varies quite a bit between states. In many states — mostly in the South and Midwest — the average teacher salary is below $50,000 a year.

If you’re looking to get into teaching or relocate to help avoid living paycheck to paycheck, these 15 states pay teachers the most annually.

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15. Vermont

SeanPavonePhoto/Adobe Montpelier VT USA skyline autumn buildings

Vermont was No. 15 when it came to highest average salaries at $60,187, according to data compiled by school ranking site Niche. The average starting salary for teachers in the state is $38,483.

Teachers can expect to live comfortably in the state. Though there are some expensive areas, the average rent in Vermont is $1,149 a month, according to data from the American Community Survey (ACS).

14. Delaware

Christopher Boswell/Adobe Delaware River flows smoothly by Wilmington at dawn

Delaware also tends to pay teachers better than most states in the U.S., with the average annual salary at $60,214. Starting teachers make $41,415 on average annually.

The average rent in Delaware is a little higher than Vermont at $1,286 a month, but compared to many of the other, higher-paying states on this list, the cost of living is quite low.

13. Illinois

Kent/Adobe aerial view of Moline Illinois on Mississippi River

Taking the No. 13 spot on the well-paying list, the average salary for a teacher in Illinois is $61,602 annually. Starting teachers make an average of $38,820.

This salary should allow many teachers to live comfortably as the average rent in Illinois is $1,179, according to the ACS. Rent prices tend to be higher in major cities — like Chicago — but teachers who work in cities can likely land higher salaries as well.

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12. Oregon

SeanPavonePhoto/Adobe portland oregon usa downtown

Oregon has the highest average teacher salary among states in the Pacific Northwest, though the starting salary for teachers in the state is below the national average.

Teachers in the state make $61,631 annually on average, while those just starting their education careers make $35,534 (about $3,000 below the national average). Oregon also has a higher average rent ($1,373 a month) than many other states in the country.

11. Michigan

f11photo/Adobe downtown detroit

Michigan took the No. 11 spot on the list, with an average annual teaching salary of $62,200. The state has a starting teacher salary that falls slightly below the national average at $36,234 annually.

Michigan also falls on the lower end when it comes to rent prices. The average monthly rent in the state is $1,037. Even the median rent price on Zillow is on the lower end at $1,323.

10. Pennsylvania

mandritoiu/Adobe Pennsylvania skyline on late sunny afternoon

Pennsylvania kicked off the top 10 with average teacher salaries at $65,863 annually. The starting salary for teachers in the state is also well above the national average at $44,144.

When it comes to the cost of living, teachers can likely live comfortably as the average rent is $1,110 monthly. Potential renters may find higher asking prices in hot markets — like Philadelphia — but teachers in the city can likely receive higher salaries as well.

9. Rhode Island

digidreamgrafix/Adobe Providence Rhode Island skyline on a cloudy gloomy day

Rhode Island teachers make an average of $66,477 annually and starting teacher salaries are also above the national average at $41,481.

Average rent prices are a bit more, at $1,195 monthly, but fall somewhere in the middle when it comes to average rents across the U.S.

8. Maryland

Kevin Ruck/Adobe City skyline Maryland

Maryland took the No. 8 spot on the list, with teachers making an average of $66,961 annually. Starting teacher salaries in the state are also above the national average at $44,675.

However, those considering moving to the state should be aware that average rent prices are higher than most other states in the U.S. ($1,598 a month), according to ACS data. 

It is behind only California, Washington, D.C., and Hawaii when it comes to average rent prices.

7. Alaska

Benjamin/Adobe sled dog finish yukon

Alaska also landed on the well-paying list, with teachers making an average of $68,138 annually. Starting teachers were also above the national average at $46,785 annually.

Since Alaska is such a large state, the cost of renting, owning property, and living may vary a great deal — but the “Last Frontier” lands on the pricier side when it comes to average rents ($1,345 a month).

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6. New Jersey

mandritoiu/Adobe aerial panorama of Jersey City skyline at sunset

Teachers in New Jersey make $69,623 annually and the state also has the highest average salary ($51,179) for educators just beginning their careers. It’s one of the only areas in the U.S. where new teachers average more than $50K annually.

However, the state also tends to have a high cost of living. The average rent in N.J. is $1,577 a month. On Zillow, the average asking price for a rental in N.J. is $2,500.

5. Connecticut

jonbilous/Adobe New Haven Green and downtown

Connecticut kicks off the top five (and it’s one of the only states in the country where the average teacher salary is above $70K a year). Starting teachers in the state can also expect to make above the national average, with the mean coming in at $45,280 annually.

Like many states in the Northeast, those who live in Connecticut can expect to pay a bit more for their homes, with the average renter paying $1,374 per month.

4. District of Columbia

durul/Adobe aerial view of the National Mall DC

Washington, D.C., also boasts one of the highest averages when it comes to teacher salaries, as educators make $76,131 annually. It also has one of the highest averages (behind only New Jersey) for new teachers, who make $51,359.

However, D.C. also has some of the most expensive rents in the country. The average renter pays $1,817 a month, putting D.C. behind only Hawaii when it comes to average rent prices.

3. Massachusetts

mandritoiu/Adobe Tobin bridge Zakim bridge and Boston skyline

Massachusetts made it to the top three when it comes to average teacher salaries, coming in at $77,804 annually. Teachers just beginning their careers make an average of $44,726 in the state.

Massachusetts is another state that tends to have a higher cost of living, though, with the average renter paying $1,588 a month. The average asking price on Zillow in the state was $3,200, though high rents in the state’s capital, Boston, likely pulled those averages up.

2. California

Larry Gibson/Adobe Long beach California

California landed the No. 2 spot on the list, with average teacher pay approaching $79K a year. Surprisingly, the average new teacher salary ($44,782) was not too far above the national average.

That may make living quite difficult for young teachers in California, as it has one of the highest rent averages in the country at $1,856 a month. The average asking price on Zillow is a whopping $2,750 a month.

1. New York

mandritoiu/Adobe aerial panorama of Albany New York downtown

New York pays teachers the most out of any other state in the nation — with the average coming to just under $80K a year. New teachers in the state make an average of $44,935 annually.

While New York beats out most of the competition by a long shot, it’s also one of the most expensive states in the country to live.

Current renters pay an average of $1,507 a month in the state, but the average asking price on Zillow is $3,399 (that’s more expensive than any other state, even Hawaii).

Bottom line

pathdoc/Adobe man with book thinking dreaming

Education is a much more lucrative gig to get into in some states. However, teachers (and aspiring teachers) should also take the cost of living into account before relocating.

Finding ways to live beyond your paycheck is certainly harder to do in some areas than in others. New York may pay the most, but a quick glance at asking prices for studio apartments in NYC may make those high averages seem completely obsolete.

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Author Details

Laura Gesualdi-Gilmore Laura Gesualdi-Gilmore is a seasoned freelance writer who also teaches writing courses at Rutgers University. She's based in Jersey City and enjoys travel, live music and, of course, spending quality time with her pup.

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