elementary school teacher in front of classroom

What’s Making or Breaking Your Elementary School Teacher Salary?

Despite working longer-than-average hours (50+ per week), 70% of teachers feel their salaries are unfairly low. The cliché, of course, is that teachers choose their careers “for the kids, not the money,” but the reality is that they need financial security no matter how much they care about their students. Benefits packages and educator discounts are nice bonuses, but if you’re feeling the need for extra cash in your pocket, consider how these three key factors may be influencing your elementary teacher salary.


The School System

Your school’s source of funding may greatly impact what they can afford to pay you as a base rate, as well as the added incentives available for overseeing other activities such as coaching a sports team. Here’s a breakdown of how different sectors pay their elementary school teachers for particular work.


Public Schools—General

The average public elementary school teacher salary (base pay) is $54,820. Potential opportunities for extra income may include:

  • Merit pay: $1,310

~4.2% of public elementary school teachers receive merit pay.

  • State supplements: $1,720

~7.4% elementary educators in this sector collect state supplements.

  • Supplemental contract (during school year): $1,530

~30.9% of public elementary school teachers are paid extra with a supplemental contract for services such as coaching and overseeing extracurriculars.

  • Supplemental school system contract (during summer): $2,270

~16.6% of teachers in this group hold supplemental contracts with their school districts during summer vacation.

Of course, these are not your only options. The Center for American Progress found that more than 20% of teachers work a second job (not including summer jobs). But before you go out and pick up some shifts at the local restaurant, consider asking if your school has any other positions you could take.


Private Schools—General

The average base salary for private elementary school teachers is $36,260. Potential opportunities for extra income may include:

  • Supplemental contract (during school year): $2,130

~19.2% of private elementary school teachers hold supplemental contracts.

  • Supplemental school system contract (during summer):$2,770

~17.1% of elementary educators in this sector sign contracts with their school systems for employment over summer vacation.

Overall, the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) reports that the average private elementary school teacher’s annual income from school and non-school sources is about $39,310.


Charter Schools

Charter school teachers make an average yearly salary of $44,200. The starting rate for these educators is approximately $36,400 per year, with the potential to push that number into the high-salary range ($41,600–$62,400) once you have several years’ experience under your belt.


Parochial/Catholic Schools

It is extremely difficult to find salary data specific to elementary instructors in Catholic education, although the reported average annual salary for Catholic school teachers in general is $25,840–$38,760. The average starting salary range ranges from $21,280–$31,920, while those in the top earning bracket may make up to $45,600.


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The Location                    

Certain areas pay more than others, which can have a large impact on your salary over time. Before getting too excited to move and boost your bank account, however, make sure to research cost of living and/or potential commuting costs you would have to juggle working in a new locale. You may just find that the pay increase balances out in the end.

Average School-Related Yearly Earnings from Public and Private Elementary Teachers by School Locale

  • City: $52,689
  • Suburb: $56,286
  • Town: $47,422
  • Rural: $47,238


Your Highest Degree Earned

If you’re looking for a pay increase, you might want to investigate professional development options. Many public schools, and even some private schools, will cover all or part of the cost for teachers to further their education. Take a look at the average salaries for elementary teachers with the following degrees:

  • Associate’s degree or no college: $45,931
  • Bachelor’s degree: $45,460
  • Master’s degree: $57,210
  • Educational specialist or Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies: $58,850
  • Doctorate or professional degree: $55,683


There are a lot of factors involved in deciding where to work, and salary is just one piece of the puzzle. Because so many teachers are dissatisfied with their salaries, though, it is important to know your possible options for increasing your paycheck. Whether you opt to take advantage of opportunities as they arise or actively seek out a new dream job, this guide can help you choose the right path for your needs and aspirations.


By Erin Coursey, iHire | October 27, 2016
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