10 Ways to Get a Salary Increase for Teachers

Most people become teachers not for the monetary incentives, but because they have a passion for education, their subject matter and making a difference. However, that’s not to say that teachers can’t earn a respectable salary; according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), high school teachers earn a median salary of $62,870.

So for the teachers out there who aren’t earning anywhere near that average income, you’re probably wondering, “how do I get there?” The good news is there are many steps you can take — even for this upcoming academic year — to earn higher pay and increase your overall earnings.

10 Ways Teachers Can Increase Their Salaries

1. Professional Development

Many school districts require their teachers to participate in some form of professional development annually. While this is largely to keep your certifications, it can also serve as a stepping stone toward a teaching salary increase. 

Professional development can take the form of single classes, continuing education units, conferences, or even in-school development days. Many schools offer slight pay raises for a certain number of hours of professional development. Be sure to check your contract or with your administration to determine exactly what is required. 

2. Earn a Certificate

For teachers sitting on the fence between taking single continuing education courses and pursuing a complete master’s degree, education certificate programs are a great option. Certificates demonstrate advanced proficiency in a subject — much like a master’s degree — without the same time or monetary commitment.

Certificate programs are typically offered by colleges and universities, and provide teachers with the opportunity to gain advanced knowledge about specific areas of education strategy, administration or their subject matter. Much like professional development, the salary increase correlated with earning a certificate may be spelled out in your contract.

3. Get a Master’s Degree

Getting a master’s degree is probably the most sure-fire way to move up the teacher pay scale. Typically, school district pay scales are based on your degrees, additional credit hours and years of experience, meaning an advanced degree will usually correlate with a pay increase.

The other good news is that some schools may subsidize a certain number of credits as you work toward your advanced degree. This can mean it will take longer to earn a master’s degree if you’re looking to not spend any of your own money, but can prove to be worth it in the long run. 

4.  Annual Salary Increases

The annual pay raises in education are another dependable source of salary increases for teachers. These incremental raises are often referred to as “steps” in the world of education, and are a set percentage increase in salary from one year to the next. Annual raises take into account things like cost of living and inflation, as well as your years of experience of any additional education you acquire throughout the year.

5. Move to an Area Where Teacher Salaries Are Higher

Teacher’s salaries are quite varied across the country, and certain geographic regions consistently pay their educators more than others. While up and moving away is not always the easiest thing, it can be a quick way to increase your pay as a teacher. 

In terms of highest paying and lowest paying states and territories on average for teachers, here are the top performers:

  • Highest paying: New York, California, Massachusetts, Washington D.C. and Connecticut
  • Lowest paying: South Dakota, Florida, New Mexico, West Virginia and Mississippi

6. Coach or Teach After School Activities

Leading or overseeing after school activities — sports, clubs, tutoring and more — all come with some sort of stipend. And depending on the type of activity you volunteer for, you can take on multiple organizations a semester, meaning you can collect multiple stipends at a time. These are a great way to pad your base salary and earn moderate additional income as a teacher.

7. Take on Leadership Positions

Another way to earn more money as a teacher is by taking on additional leadership responsibilities within your school or district. These types of roles and responsibilities will vary, but you can expect additional compensation for volunteering to be a department head, new teacher mentor, test monitor or even union representative.

Plus, if you’ve taken a certificate or continuing education course focused on leadership in pursuit of a salary increase, this is another way to leverage that experience for more money.

8. Move Into Administration

If you aspire to work outside of the classroom, moving into an administrative role is  another way to increase your salary. One caveat: Most administration roles will require additional credentials or an advanced degree.

At the school level, potential administration opportunities could include principal, vice principal, head of counseling or dean of students. If you’re more interested in district-wide leadership, potential career paths include director, superintendent and vice superintendent.

9. Teach Summer School

It’s not uncommon for teachers to work a part-time job in the summer, both because they have the free time and because it’s an opportunity to earn some extra cash. So as a trained educator, one sensible summer job you are uniquely qualified for is summer school teacher. Volunteering to teach summer school comes with a compensation separate from your annual salary, usually in the form of a stipend of additional pay throughout the year.

10. Learn a Second Language

According to a 2015 study from the National Center for Education Statistics, 21% of students in California need additional English instruction. Additional states such as Texas, New Mexico and Colorado believe 10% of their students need additional help. This presents a great opportunity for teachers to move into a high-demand education field where salaries are typically higher.

Some states are offering higher wages for teachers trained in a second language, as they can be of particular help in ESL classrooms. According to one report, the additional compensation for bilingual teachers ranges from $2,000-$5,000 per year. 

FAQs About Teacher Salaries

What’s the average salary for a teacher?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), teachers earn a median salary of $62,870.

What’s the average salary for a school administrator?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), elementary, middle and high school administrators earn an average salary of $98,490.

How is teacher pay determined?

Just like with many professions, teacher’s pay is based on education level, years of experience, subject area and grade level, and geographic area. Where education differs, however, is that salary scales are universally applied and more rigid — meaning that teachers within a district school with the same education and experience qualify for the same pay.

How can I know if my CE credits will transfer if I change jobs?

CE units from a university are usually accepted when a teacher wants to change jobs within their district. However, “in house” or PD credits are sometimes not accepted. So, if a teacher wants to transfer districts for potentially higher pay, they would want all their units to be accepted so going the CE route is more secure.

If you’re curious about pursuing further education to increase your salary as a teacher, earning a certificate is a great place to start. Not only does it qualify you for a raise or additional responsibilities, it also deepens your knowledge about particular subjects, strategies and career paths. The University of San Diego Division of Professional and Continuing Education has a dedicated Education department that offers hundreds of education-centric courses and dozens of certificates to suit a wide variety of interests and pursuits. Please contact us to learn more about our diverse education certificate and individual course options.Previous