If you’ve recently received your degree in education, you may be wondering what you can expect to earn as a teacher so that you can tackle your student loan debt.
While there are several ways to pay down your student debt more effectively to save money, such as student loan refinancing, your income and budget are ultimately the most significant indicators of your capacity to make your payments.
So how much do teachers make? The average in the U.S. is $61,730, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Salary figures can vary wildly for teachers depending on where you plan to teach, the type of school, your degree level, and more.
Because your salary is an important factor in determining your ability to pay off your student loans, here’s what you need to know about the average teacher salary.
Average teacher salary by state in 2020
While areas within a state can vary when it comes to teacher pay, the National Center for Education Statistics has provided some average salaries across the board in each state.
Of course, yours may be lower as a first-year teacher, or it may be higher if you’ve obtained a master’s degree. Also, the type of school where you teach can impact how much you earn. We’ll also dig deeper into most of these factors.
However, understanding the average teacher salary by state can help give you a basic idea of what to expect based on where you plan to live and teach. Here are the overall averages, as well as averages for teachers with a master’s degree.
|State||Average Teacher Salary|
|District of Columbia||$78,477|
Average teacher salary by location in 2020
“Location, location, location,” is a common mantra in real estate, as the neighborhood and surrounding area are key factors in determining home values. The same goes for teacher salaries.
According to a report by the Rural School and Community Trust, school districts in rural areas pay less on average than school districts in towns and urban areas. But if you want to maximize your earnings, a suburban school district is where you want to be.
Here are the averages the Rural School and Community Trust found:
- Suburban districts: $74,153
- Urban districts: $73,357
- Town districts: $72,165
- Rural districts: $69,797
Of course, the cost of living can also vary depending on your location, and rural areas tend to be less expensive than others. So depending on your situation and location, a lower salary could go further than a higher one.
Average teacher salary by school type in 2020
Teaching children in first grade is a completely different experience than teaching high school seniors. But when it comes to teacher salary, there’s not that much difference between elementary, middle, and high school teachers.
Here are the median salaries for each school type, based on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:
- High school: $61,660
- Middle or junior high school: $59,660
- Elementary school: $59,420
While the median salary for high school is higher than the other two school types, it’s important to consider your preparation in school, your specialties, and your career goals when choosing which grade you want to teach.
How to pay off teacher student loans
Now that we’ve answered the question of how much do teachers make and provided the average teacher salary by state, location, and school type, here are some tips on how to eliminate your student loan debt sooner regardless of your salary:
- Teacher Forgiveness program: If you have federal direct student loans, you could qualify for forgiveness of up to $17,500. To qualify, you must work full-time for five or more years as a highly qualified teacher for a school that serves low-income students. Find out more about the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program to see if it’s right for you.
- Public Service Loan Forgiveness program: The PSLF program is another program for teachers with federal student loans through the U.S. Department of Education. To get your loans forgiven, you’ll need to work in public service, which is the case for most teachers, full-time while making 120 qualifying monthly payments. Once you meet all the requirements, your remaining balance will be forgiven.
- Student loan refinancing: Refinancing your student loans with a private lender won’t lead to forgiveness — in fact, you’ll lose access to government forgiveness programs if you refinance your federal loans into a new private loan. But depending on your income and credit history, you may be able to qualify for a lower interest rate on your loans, which isn’t an option with federal loan consolidation. Refinancing can also lower your monthly payment and give you some extra flexibility with your loans. Just be sure you don’t need access to federal benefits before you apply.
If you’re considering applying for student loan refinancing, plan to shop around and compare multiple lenders to ensure you get the best rate available to you. Purefy’s Compare Rates Tool allows you to do this with several lenders without requiring you to submit your information more than once.
Once you have some rate offers to compare, research all of your other options as well, including forgiveness programs, to find the best path forward for you.