Elementary School Teacher Salary

Interested in becoming an elementary school teacher? This complete guide will give you all the information you need to know about salaries for elementary teachers, from starting salaries, salaries for elementary teachers with master's degrees, and even Montessori teachers.

What is an Elementary School Teacher's Salary?

Elementary school teachers are responsible for instructing children typically from kindergarten to sixth grade on subject areas like reading, math, social studies, and science. Teacher's salaries are a source of national conversation with many states evaluating their payment structure for all teachers. The county or state in which you live, your experience level, and the degree you hold can play a significant part in your earning potential. Also, it's been reported that salaries for local school teachers are about 25% higher on average than those of private school teachers.

Clearly there are many factors to consider when understanding your potential salary as an elementary school teacher, so let's dive into some specifics.

Average Elementary School Teacher Salary

The average salary for all elementary school teachers across the United States is $60,830 with the lowest 10% of teachers earning about $37,000 and the top 10% of teachers earning about $92,000. Many factors contribute to an elementary school teacher's salary including experience, degree earned, and geographic location. Teachers in specialized fields, such as special education and bilingual education, typically may expect a slightly higher average pay. For example, special education teachers at the elementary level have a mean annual wage of $61,960.

If you're interested in raising your potential salary by a great extent, one option is to become a National Board Certified teacher. To earn this distinction, you must have a bachelor's degree and three years of teaching experience, pass a rigorous examination, and present a three-part portfolio. Due to its extensive requirements, elementary school teachers who have National Board Certification earn a significantly higher average salary of $64,496.

Another option to boost your potential salary is to consider getting a more advanced teaching degree. Let's take a look at salary information at various degree levels.

Elementary School Teacher Salary with Bachelor's Degree

The average salary for elementary school teachers with a bachelor's degree is about $50,000. You must have at least a bachelor's degree, typically in elementary or early childhood education, to begin your career as an elementary school teacher. Over the course of your bachelor's degree program, you should complete education-related coursework and student teaching. After acquiring your degree, you must then pass state certification examinations such as the Praxis prior to beginning your careers. Depending on your state, after you earn certification and/or licensure in elementary education, you may teach from kindergarten to sixth grade classes.

Elementary School Teacher Salary with a Master's

It's becoming more and more common for elementary school teachers to pursue a more advanced degree, such as a master's. In fact, as of 2017 almost half of all elementary school teachers have earned their master's degree. This could be due to reasons such as potential for increased pay and more competitiveness in the job market. Further, some teachers may be required by their state to earn a master's degree for continued certification.

Even if a master's degree is not required in your state, you may choose to pursue the degree to improve your skills and earning potential. For example, according to a report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) in 2016, a teacher starting out in their first year of teaching can earn about 10.5% more with a master's degree as opposed to a bachelor's degree. Similarly, with 5 years of experience, you can expect to earn about 15% more with a master's degree. This can lead to significantly higher lifetime earnings in your teaching career.

Montessori Elementary Teacher Salary

Some elementary school teachers work in schools focused on a particular educational methodology, like the Montessori Method. Montessori schools focus on multisensory education, and teachers create curriculum in all subject areas using specially designed materials. Although these programs can be found for students through the high school level, they are most common in elementary schools. Although specific salary data for this group is limited, on average, teachers in elementary school Montessori programs make $35,418. If you're interested in pursuing this career, you'll need to seek specific training through the American Montessori Institute or the American Montessori Society. You must typically already hold a bachelor's degree to be qualified to pursue Montessori training for the elementary level.

Elementary School Teachers Salary By State

The average salary of elementary school teachers can vary drastically from state to state, due in part to differing costs of living and geographical teaching needs. The following five states offer the highest average salaries for elementary school teachers:

State Average Elementary School Teacher Salary
New York $80,540
California $77,990
Connecticut $77,900
Alaska $77,030
Massachusetts $76,590

In other states, the average salary for teachers can be much lower. The states that offer the lowest teacher salaries are as follows:

State Average Elementary School Teacher Salary
West Virginia $45,530
Mississippi $44,230
Arizona $44,220
South Dakota $41,570
Oklahoma $40,530

Elementary School Teacher Starting Salary

As with many careers, your salary when you enter the field is lower than what you might expect to be paid once you gain more experience. The median entry-level salary for certified elementary school teachers is $39,353, although this does vary nationwide, with states like New Jersey offering their new teachers around $50,000, and states like Missouri paying only around $31,000. If you enter the teaching field without having certification through a program like Teach for America, you can expect a slightly lower starting salary of around $34,000.

Elementary vs. High School Teacher Salary

On average, high school teachers make slightly more than elementary school teachers. Although in most locations public school teaching salaries are determined by the teacher's years of experience and degree level, high school teachers make an average of $62,860, while elementary school teachers make about $60,830. There are several factors contributing to this higher reported average, including the fact that more high school teachers hold a master's degree than elementary school teachers, which contributes to a jump in salary. Additionally, high school teachers have more opportunities for higher pay by teaching specialized courses like those offered by the Advanced Placement (AP) system.

All statistics come from PayScale.com (2018), the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2017), and the National Education Association (2017).