No one goes into education to become a millionaire; despite the work that goes into becoming a teacher, we hear that teachers are underpaid and overworked, and even the best careers in education are still nowhere near the average CEO salary – though superintendents, principals, and other administrators probably work much harder than your average CEO. Still, educators are drawn to the profession a love of learning, of caring, and of making a difference in the lives of children, youth, and adults.
Educators are just like everyone else, though, always looking for advancement, higher pay, and more opportunity. Some move into more specialized teaching roles; some of the best-paid teaching jobs include special education and gifted education. Others move into administrative roles, earning higher degrees to become principals and college administrators. Whatever the path, the best careers in education are always in demand, and earning the higher degrees necessary for higher positions is a good investment.
How We Chose the Highest-Paying Careers in Education
For selecting the best-paid teaching jobs and administrative careers, our methodology was simple: consulting Bureau of Labor Statistics data on various positions in the education field. From there, we simply arranged jobs in order of average salary at the national level, from highest to lowest.
When you are looking into the best careers in education, you will want to consider the role of a superintendent. A superintendent is a leader for an entire school district and strives to obtain the goals set by the school board in relation to student education. The career path is a challenge, but it gives educators an opportunity to advance in their careers and achieve unique goals in relation to the education of students from elementary school to high school. A superintendent is a professional in education with a master’s degree in education administration or leadership. The job requires the ability to make and implement plans across multiple schools.
The salary expectations for a superintendent depend on the state and the local school district. While the exact income differs significantly, you can expect to earn between $98,750 and $156,000 per year. Keep in mind that starting salaries for a superintendent are usually lower than the income you can expect as you gain experience in your district and implement plans for student education.
Average Salary: $98,750
2. School Principal/Assistant Principal
Searching for the best-paid teaching jobs may result in evaluating the role of a principal or an assistant principal in a local school. The responsibilities of a principal focus on the goals of the school. A principal may meet with parents to discuss specific concerns related to their children, hire new teachers, or engage in teacher development. The position may also require administrative skills that focus on ensuring that the school runs smoothly and the curriculum meets the standards of the district and state. A principal must have a master’s degree and five years of teaching experience before taking an exam to qualify for the position and move into the administrative role. An assistant or vice-principal helps the principal keep up with the demands of his or her position as a leader.
The salary expectations for a school principal depend on your state and district. While the specific income level may vary, the average income for a principal is around $95,000 per year. The salary of a principal may range from $70,000 to $138,000 per year. If you are working as an assistant principal, then you can expect an average income of around $88,500 per year. The salary range for an assistant principal is between $59,000 and $130,000 per year.
Average Salary: $95,310
3. University/College Administrator
A college administrator, or a university administrator, focuses on the day-to-day running of the school. The responsibilities of the career path focus on tasks like budgeting, organizing events, appropriate disciplinary action, and public relations. The position focuses on leading the school to ensure that it runs smoothly during normal days and during times of crisis. The administrator must have the skills to keep up with the challenges of administration work and leadership roles within the school. College administrators have a master’s degree or higher in education administration or leadership that allows them to handle the challenges of following local, state, and federal regulations related to post-secondary education.
A college or university administrator is a high-paid position in education. The average salary for a university administrator is around $94,340 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The salary range may vary based on your state and experience level, so you may start out with a salary of roughly $61,000 per year. As you gain experience or take on roles in states with a higher income level, your salary may increase. The college administrators with the highest income earn around $128,000 per year.
Average Salary: $94,340
When you are looking for the best-paid teaching jobs for your area of interest or specialized skill, then you may consider working as a professor in a college or university. A college professor prepares course material, teaches students in a classroom environment, and grades student work. In some colleges or universities, a professor may also take on research and laboratory work that leads to new discoveries or updated details in an area of study. Professors may also publish their work in professional journals or books. A professor needs a minimum of a master’s degree to qualify for a teaching position; however, many schools may also require professors to obtain a doctorate before they qualify for a full-time position.
The average salary for a college or university professor is around $78,470 per year. Keep in mind that the average income depends on the state and the position. If you are not working as a full-time professor, then you may have a lower income level. You can also expect your income to change over time. The salary range for professors ranges from $39,700 to $175,000 per year. Professors focusing on law tend to make more than professors in other fields or industries.
Average Salary: $78,470
5. Instructional Coordinator
When you are looking into the best careers in education, you may consider an instructional coordinator. The position focuses on setting the standards for curriculum and teaching within a district. As an instructional coordinator, you work with principals and teachers to implement the curriculum and then you assess the effectiveness of the curriculum. You may adjust the details over time to improve student education. An instructional coordinator has a master’s degree or higher with at least five years of work experience in an administrative or education position. You may be required to obtain a license for your career in some states.
The income level for an instructional coordinator depends on your state and experience level. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median income for the role is around $64,450 per year. The salary range is between $36,300 and $102,200 per year, so you can expect your salary to change as you gain experience and improve in your career.
Average Salary: $64,450
6. High School Teachers
When you want to work in education, taking on the role of a high school teacher allows you to advance in your career and earn a reasonable income. A high school teacher prepares students for graduation by teaching a subject and specialized skills to their students. At the high school level, you may teach only one subject to your students. Furthermore, you are expected to grade students’ work and ensure that they are prepared for the next stage of their lives. High school teachers need a bachelor’s degree and certification or a license in their state. Standards related to licensure differ by state, so you will want to evaluate the standards of your state before you start working.
Salary expectations for a high school teacher differ based on your state and your work experience. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median income for a high school teacher is $60,320 per year. The salary range for high school teachers is between $39,700 and $97,500 per year. You can expect your salary to increase as you gain experience.
Average Salary: $60,320
7. Special Education Teachers
Working in special education as a teacher offers a rewarding career that allows you to help students with special needs gain the skills they need for their life. The position requires you to adapt educational material to fit the needs of your students and to help with their specific challenges. You may teach students with mild to moderate disabilities to help them keep up with other students in your district. You may also work with students who have severe disabilities to ensure they learn basic skills. Special education teachers need a bachelor’s degree and an appropriate certification or license in their state to work with their students.
A special education teacher takes on a challenging role. The median income for the career is around $59,780 per year. The salary range for a special education teacher is between $39,600 and $97,000 per year. You can expect your salary to change as you gain experience in your field.
Average Salary: $59,780
8. Middle School Teachers
Working as a middle school teacher means you are taking on specialized classes and preparing your students for the challenges they will face as they move into high school. The position builds on your student’s previous education at the elementary level and focuses on advancing skills to set a stronger foundation in specialized subjects like math and science. A middle school teacher needs a bachelor’s degree and a license in their state to start their career and work with students on a specific subject in the classroom.
The average salary of a middle school teacher is around $58,600 per year. You can expect to start with a lower salary and increase your salary as you gain experience in the classroom. The salary range for a middle school teacher is between $39,000 and $93,000 per year. Keep in mind that your location and state may impact your salary expectations.
Average Salary: $58,600
9. Primary School Teachers
The decision to work with young children as a primary school teacher, or an elementary school teacher, is rewarding and challenging. You set the foundation for your students that they will build on as they grow and learn. You will teach multiple subjects to your students, including math, reading, science, and history. Elementary school teachers need the patience to handle the needs of their students. Primary school teachers have a bachelor’s degree in elementary education or related subjects. You may also need a state-issued certification.
Salary expectations for a primary school teacher depend on your location. The median income for a primary school teacher is around $57,980 per year. The salary range for a primary school teacher is between $37,700 and $95,200 per year. Expect your salary to increase as you gain experience working with your students.
Average Salary: $57,980
10. School and Career Counselor
School counselors and career counselors help students decide on their path for long-term goals. As a school counselor, you may focus on helping students develop social skills and academic skills so that they are able to succeed. A career counselor focuses on helping students determine their long-term goals for a career and their future. A school counselor needs a master’s degree in school counseling and must have a state-issued license to work with students.
The median salary for a school or career counselor is around $56,310 per year. The salary range for the position is between $33,600 and $94,600 per year. You can expect your salary to increase as you gain experience, though you may state with a salary that is lower than the average.
Average Salary: $56,310
Why Are Some Types of Teachers Paid More?
The compensation a teacher receives as a professional is based upon several important factors. The list of jobs in education field is wide, including many grade levels and specializations, and salary for the varying types of jobs in education depends on many components (early childhood education and elementary education, for instance, are more different than you would expect). A teacher’s salary is determined by the following factors:
- One’s Level of Education: The education requirements for a teacher include a minimum of a baccalaureate degree before they can even apply for their teaching license. However, most school districts encourage teachers to pursue their masters or doctorate degree for numerous reasons. First, it benefits the school district as their employed educators received advanced education, and two, a teacher’s compensation increases when an advanced degree is earned. Essentially, this becomes a great return on investment for all involved.
- Years in Service: Like most occupations, seniority plays a key role in determining one’s level of compensation. Many of the highest paying careers in education include teacher’s who have been teaching for many years.
- State or District: State budgets vary and this is very much reflected in the state’s educator’s salaries. Additionally, because school funding is usually tied to tax revenue, each school district within a state will have public school teacher salaries that vary as well.
States with the Highest Average Yearly Salary
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the list of jobs in education field with the highest annual compensation packages for teachers (May 2020), include:
- New York — $85,300
- California — $80,510
- Massachusetts — $80,020
- Alaska — $77,920
- Connecticut — $76,980
If they take on additional responsibilities as an Educational Administrator, teachers with advanced degrees have the education that opens up many types of jobs in education that are not available without an advanced degree.
Educational Administrators Average Yearly Salaries
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), some of the highest paying careers in education are education administrators. In fact, elementary, middle and high school principals earn an average yearly salary of $95,310. The average annual wage for secondary teachers is $62,860. If you do the math, a school administrator earns nearly 52% more than the average public school educator.
Do Higher Salaries Bring More Job Satisfaction for Teachers?
Organization behaviorists and psychologists have long debated the correlation between job satisfaction and an increased salary. Their theories and conclusions impact many industries, including the measurement of job satisfaction for teachers.
The concept of job satisfaction is what is known as a social construct — a notion that was crafted (and accepted) by those who occupy society. What makes job satisfaction even more complex is that one’s level of job satisfaction is highly personal.
The reality is that for some teachers, higher salaries would seem to bring a higher level of satisfaction; it’s one of the non-monetary benefits of education. However, much of that satisfaction is likely to be cloaked in the security that the higher salary brings.
Some key factors that lead to job satisfaction for teachers actually have little to do with the amount of money they earn each year. Consider the following factors that create satisfied workers across the board:
- Level of Engagement — those who find meaning in their work become easily engaged.
- Respect & Appreciation — many studies have shown that an underappreciated or disrespected employee is more likely to become disgruntled and dissatisfied.
- Reasonable & Just Compensation — loyal workers expect to be fairly paid for their skill level, their commitment to the school system’s objectives, and their meeting of student education level expectations.
- Overall Life Satisfaction — studies have also shown that people, who are generally more predisposed to be happy in life, tend to find more satisfaction in their work. This was confirmed in a meta-analysis released by the British Psychology Society in 2010.
Measuring job satisfaction in the educator population is a bit like nailing Jell-O. To discover how to maximize your job satisfaction, one must decipher the factors that create satisfying jobs and lives.