How to Make More Money As a Teacher

a male teacher standing behind helping two female students study

You’ll often hear that teachers don’t get paid enough for what they do. While full-time teachers may get compensated a fair amount for the practical aspects of their jobs, the day-to-day life of a teacher can be unpredictable — time spent addressing students’ behavioral issues, responding to emails, meeting with parents and even grading can rack up the hours and make it feel like teachers are constantly working overtime without additional pay. 

At last estimation, full time elementary school teachers in the U.S. make just over $70,000 a year, while high school teachers make a little more than $47,000 a year, according to Indeed. Of course, this varies by school, district, region, experience and teaching specialty, so teachers can make much more or less than these averages. Bear in mind that the American school year lasts fewer than 200 days, so teachers who take summer jobs can boost their annual income significantly outside of their teaching jobs. 

So how can you earn enough money to make your salary commensurate with all these extra responsibilities? Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to make more money as a teacher without adding more hours to the work day. 

What Teaching Skills Can Help Boost Pay?

What Career Decisions Can Help Boost Pay?

How to Earn More as a Teacher: 3 Ideas

How to Get Promoted as a Teacher

FAQs About Increasing Your Pay as a Teacher

Helpful Resource Links

What Teaching Skills Can Help Boost Pay?

Pay typically increases depending on the amount of education a teacher has; teachers with master’s degrees or doctorates can generally earn more than those with bachelor’s degrees. No matter their education level or salary, most school districts offer educators comprehensive health and life insurance and retirement plans.

Certificates or specializations in specific subject areas or skill sets can increase a teacher’s value, which can be directly reflected in their salary. Here are a number of classroom skills that can boost teachers’ pay:

  • Digital literacy: The ability to deftly incorporate technology into the classroom — while teaching students to be responsible digital citizens — is practically a necessary skill for teaching any subject. 
  • Teaching STEM & STEAM: Having these hot-button acronyms in your teaching toolbox means that you are equipped to engage students with science, technology, math, engineering and/or arts curriculum in ways that are most meaningful and relevant to their lives. 
  • Social-emotional instruction: Teaching social and emotional development have become increasingly important in American schools over the past several decades, as children spend most of their developmental years in the classroom. Teachers are no longer expected to simply “stand and deliver” course information; those who possess emotional intelligence and adequate knowledge of child psychology can also teach concepts like kindness, communication and conflict resolution.  
  • Project-based learning (PBL) instruction : Student-centered pedagogy presents learners with real-world challenges and invites them to solve problems using a hands-on, creative, often collaborative approach. The ability to lead students through project-based activities while maintaining order in the classroom is a highly valued teaching skill.
  • Multilingual: Speaking two or more languages doesn’t only prepare teachers for foreign language instruction — it can also be a valuable classroom asset in communities with high multilingual or non-English speaking populations. Like in many other professions, bilingual or English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers can earn slightly more per year than their monolingual colleagues, and some can even take advantage of bonuses
  • Coaching and leadership skills: If teachers are looking to move into administration or school leadership positions, growing their leadership skills is a great place to start. Likewise, adding athletic coaching skills to standard classroom teaching abilities can boost teachers’ pay, although this usually means adding more hours to the workday while coaching after-school sports. 

Of course, building new skill sets takes additional study. Fortunately, many schools or districts offer to pay for or contribute to teachers’ master’s degree programs or other continuing education. 

What Career Decisions Can Help Boost Pay?

The more strategic decisions you make earlier in your career, the more predictable and lucrative your teaching career can be. Of course, hindsight is 20/20 — but it’s never too late to make decisions that result in a higher paycheck! 

Location, location, location

It matters where you teach — not just the type of school, but the town, county, state or part of the country you choose. States with higher populations or median income will generally pay their teachers more, so do your research if you have geographic flexibility. Be sure that, if you do move for a teaching job, you have the proper certification to teach in your new state. 

Employment by degrees

While this is not true in every state or school, teachers are sometimes required to have a master’s degree at minimum to earn a teaching certification. A master’s degree in education is a significant investment that nonetheless pays off in higher earning potential, invaluable teaching expertise and even the ability to move into school leadership positions. 

Taking the lead 

As a rule, positions in educational administration generally come with higher salaries than instructional positions. Becoming a principal or superintendent almost always requires candidates to have advanced degrees, but the long-term earning potential cancels out the cost of graduate school. 

As in many fields, the teaching profession experiences an attrition rate that can turn some aspiring teachers away. However, a 2021 report from SchoolMint compiled a number of studies that identified certain skill sets and career decisions that result in much lower rates of attrition than the national average. Factors that encourage teachers to stay in their profession include better administrative support, access to teacher mentoring programs and the ability to specialize in teaching a certain academic subject. 

How to Earn More as a Teacher: 3 Ideas

While significant teacher raises or promotions may not be in the cards for certain school districts, teachers can still make more money with a few savvy moves.  

Teach summer school

For teachers without second jobs, or those who only receive paychecks during the school year, summer can feel like a long stretch without income. Signing up to teach summer school can result in an “appreciation” raise during the school year and can bridge the gap between paychecks. 

Pursue professional development

The greater your teaching skill set, the more valuable an asset you are to schools everywhere. Many teachers take continuing education courses, pursue certificates and even earn their master’s degrees while working full-time during the school year. Year after year, schools continue to prioritize new teacher candidates with advanced degrees

Pay off your student loans

While getting out of debt won’t necessarily increase your paycheck, it will allow you to keep more of what you earn. Take advantage of federal loan repayment programs (like these from the U.S. Department of Education) to see how you can pay your loans faster while remaining financially solvent. 

Other ways to boost your earning potential that don’t require additional schooling include becoming a department head, mentoring or tutoring during office hours or study periods, becoming a mentor for new teachers and advising student groups. For teachers who do have additional hours to give outside of school, coaching sports, leading after school activities, chaperoning school dances or teaching remedial classes can increase their paychecks. 

No matter how many new skills you acquire or extra jobs you take, experience is the greatest salary booster of all. The longer you teach, the more valuable you become — since there really is no greater teacher than, well, the classroom! 

How to Get Promoted as a Teacher

These tips are no guarantee of a promotion, but here are a few career best practices that will likely get your dedication recognized.

  1. Work to earn tenure: Tenure — which provides job security — is often awarded after a number of consecutive years spent teaching at one school. 
  1. Communicate your goals: It doesn’t hurt to let your department head or a school administrator know that you’re committed to working toward higher-level positions in your school. Communicate that you are interested in taking on more responsibilities and motivated to learn the necessary skills to advance your career.
  1. Lend your support: Even if a role promotion isn’t in your plans, signing up to be an afterschool club moderator, chaperone, summer school teacher or committee chair can result in some financial recognition. 
  1. Consider an advanced or additional degree: Most teachers want to do better for their students, and will make extra effort (within their means) to improve and grow their skills. Letting your administrators and supervisors know that you intend to pursue a master’s degree or doctorate can signal that you are fully committed to the profession, and some districts will even pay for continuing education. 

Though not standard practice, some U.S. school districts have implemented a career ladder program designed to keep great teachers in the classroom. This kind of program allows teachers to progress from mentor, to master teacher, to lead teacher in their school or department, with relative increases in pay. Some programs progress beyond the classroom, preparing teachers to take on even higher paid administrative roles. 

FAQs About Increasing Your Pay as a Teacher

What’s the most I can earn as a teacher?

A teaching salary is highly dependent on geographical location, even down to the part of town you teach in. The Bureau of Labor Statistics finds that, as of May 2021, the annual mean wage for elementary and high school teachers tops out at roughly $87,000 and $94,000, respectively. Salaries typically increase for academic specializations.

Do I need a master’s degree to make more money as a teacher?

While a master’s degree is not necessarily an indicator of teaching skill, teaching candidates with master’s degrees are consistently given preference over those with bachelor’s degrees only. Regardless, the more time and dedication given to improving your teaching ability, the more likely you will be considered for higher-level (i.e. higher paid) positions.

In which states can teachers earn the highest salary?

Data varies, but the states in which public school teachers consistently make the most money include New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, Rhode Island, California and Connecticut. In the wake of the COVID-19 public health crisis, some states have passed legislation raising teacher salaries.

Looking for ways to enhance your teaching skills and potentially earn more money? Check out these resources for professional development and continuing education for teachers.

Continuing Education for Teachers

Certificates, online course series and more. 

Connect with Educator Programs 

Request more information about teacher programs from the University of San Diego. 

Teacher Training Courses

Earn credits in over 500 continuing education courses. 

Educator Certificates

Earn a certificate in leadership, bullying prevention or classroom management in 8 credit hours. 

Professional Development Facilitation and Leadership Certificate

Make the transition to teaching adults in this 6-month, self-paced program.

5 Reasons Why Continuing Education Matters for Educators

Wondering if continuing education is worth it? Read this guide to learn why educators go “back to school.”

5 REASONS WHY CONTINUING EDUCATION MATTERS FOR EDUCATORS

Download eBook: 5 Reasons Why Continuing Education Matters for Educators