How to Boost Your Teacher Salary

Kate Gallgher
Kate Gallgher
High school principal; M.A. in Urban Education, ESL Program Specialist

According to data released from the NEA (National Education Association), the average starting teacher salary in the 2017-2018 school year was $39,249. This data was pulled from the averages of each state in the United States. The NEA also released the 2017-2018 average salary of teachers who are not new to the profession to be $60,477. So, how is the increase in salary earned? There are several ways to raise your teaching salary beyond the annual percent increase or moving to the next “step” in your school or district’s salary scale.

Graduate Degree and Additional College Credits

Typically, teacher salary scales outline increases based on years of experience and increments of additional post baccalaureate credits earned. It is important to mention that these additional credits are expected to be master’s- or doctorate-level classes and be related to the field of education. Many school districts will cover the cost of these courses through their tuition reimbursement benefits, but come with a committed number of years of service post credit completion. Should a teacher leave the school district before the contracted amount of time after course completion, the teacher is responsible for repayment to the district or school.

Add-On Certifications

When taking post baccalaureate courses, it is smart to choose courses that count toward a program that awards an additional certification through your state department of education upon completion. Additional certifications not only make you more marketable as an educator, but they can qualify you for a different position within a school or district. For example, a supervisory or principal’s certification opens doors to administrative positions which will most likely have a higher salary, depending on the number of years of service you already have. If teaching is your first career, there will likely be a time when you are ready to move into a new position within the area of education. There are many opportunities within the education field beyond classroom teaching.

There are also certifications that can be added onto your original certification that do not require additional college coursework. These certifications can be earned by taking and passing an exam. For example, in Pennsylvania, after successfully completing coursework for a degree in elementary education and passing the Praxis exams to teach grades 4-6, you can take an additional exam and become qualified with additional add-on certifications. This is an excellent way to create marketability for yourself and also add more security to your job.

With the unknown future of our education system at this time, it is smart to take steps to prevent risk of furlough by adding on certifications in areas that make you valuable to a school district. Pay attention to areas of need in your district and state. A special education or ESL specialist certification can help you attain and retain a position faster than a social studies or English certification. Also, in some districts, teachers are paid additional amounts for having and using a special education or ESL certification.

Supplemental Positions

Supplemental positions are contracts that are in addition to your primary teaching role within a school. These supplemental positions come with a stipend that is typically paid at the end of the school year as an additional pay.

Summer Work

One common way to increase your pay is to teach summer school or sign up to complete committee work over the summer. At my school this summer, our summer school courses were virtual, but we still had teachers who supervised and earned additional pay. Before the end of the school year, we also have staff sign up for several committee options if they are interested. This committee work is optional, but if teachers choose to participate, they are compensated at their regular hourly wage as outlined in their contract. This can add up to thousands of dollars of extra pay for a teacher if they are on multiple committees.

Extra-Curricular Activities

Most schools have clubs, after-school activities, and athletics (if they are a secondary school). Usually, advising a club or activity or coaching a team also comes with a stipend through contract. Each of these positions most likely has a pre-determined and school board-approved amount that it pays for the year or season. Some clubs are voluntary, but many times there is additional pay through stipend which will raise your salary.

Leadership Positions

In addition to summer work and extra-curricular activities, schools generally have a variety of teacher leadership positions that pay a stipend annually. Examples of these are department chairs, grade-level leaders, and chairs of school-year committees such as PBIS, MTSS, or SAP. The work that schools do is important and vast. It cannot be done without teacher leadership.

While teacher salaries are low in comparison to the importance of the work, it is crucial to remember that salary should not be equated to value. Teachers are invaluable to our society and our future, and while they are not always compensated as such, they should remember that their impact is helping to shape the next generation.

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