Teachers switching school districts for better salaries isn’t unusual, and some decide to move across states in search of more opportunities. It’s easy to see why teachers look for better pay elsewhere. A 2022 report by the Economic Policy Institute revealed the average weekly wage (adjusted for inflation) for public school teachers rose by only $29 between 1996-2021. In contrast, the increase for other college graduates during the same period was $445.
If salary is a teacher’s primary driver for relocating to another state, they should consider their preferred option’s laws relating to teacher salaries, as there are wide variations across the country. This article discusses the best-paying states for teachers in 2023. It also covers other important factors, such as the average cost of living and additional qualifications teachers may need in their new location.
Some obvious decisions that must be made when moving include finding a place to live and choosing new health care providers. These are major costs that can make or break a decision to move, but it’s often accumulated small expenses that make a place affordable or not.
The teacher should compare the average cost of living in their city with those on their short list, as the new location’s costs may wipe out the rise in salary. However, these are averages, so it’s reasonable to include margins for error. Some other costs the teacher should consider include:
Teachers must check if their credentials and license are valid in the new city. One of their first tasks should be to look into teaching license reciprocity to determine if they can practice in the state based on their existing certification from another.
Some teachers certified for many years may have to go back to college to regain certification since the introduction of No Child Left Behind legislation. Fortunately, the NASDTEC Interstate Agreement has clarified the requirements for teachers moving states and streamlined the process to allow them to get an initial license while they study for accreditation.
The following list uses the average annual salary figures for 2023 published by World Population Review. The average cost of living index figures come from Sperling’s BestPlaces and are based on a national average of 100. Annual public K-12 spending per student published by EducationData.org in 2022 is also included. These figures indicate access to teaching resources, which will likely be a factor for teachers. Finally, the list includes the states ranking in a 2022 study of the most favorable states for teachers (not just those paying the highest salaries) conducted by WalletHub.
New York is among the best-paying states for teachers. Reasons include an average annual salary of $92,222 that, although below the state’s average income of $107,000, is still more than the salaries paid in other states.
America’s most-educated state is also the runner-up for teacher-friendliness. The average salary for teachers is $88,903, which doesn’t compare as favorably with the average cost of living as New York’s does. Still, livability ultimately comes down to the salaries typically paid in individual school districts.
The average cost of living in California is in the country’s top five, but so is the annual average salary for teachers at $87,275. When compared to the other 10 best-paying states for teachers, California’s spending per student is significantly lower than in any of the other states.
Teachers typically earn $82,523 in Washington, D.C., but the average cost of living is very high, which might dissuade some from considering the nation’s capital. However, Spending per student exceeds every other part of the country except New York at approximately $22,832.
Washington is one of only three states on the list (the others being Alaska and California) that aren’t in the country’s northeast. Teachers’ average annual salary is $81,586, but the average cost of living is lower than every state previously mentioned except New York. This means teachers may find their hard-earned money goes a little further in the Pacific Northwest.
In addition to having one of the highest annual salaries in the country at $81,185, Connecticut has one of the highest concentrations of jobs in the education sector at 73.88 per thousand jobs. Consequently, teachers moving here may find employment more easily.
New Jersey ranks sixth on WalletHub’s study of the best states for teachers and its spending per student is one of the highest, at $21,334. Those factors and the country’s seventh-highest average salary of $79,045 may appeal to many teachers. The cost of living index is marginally on the lower end of the spectrum for this list, which makes the state slightly more affordable than average.
Rhode Island’s average annual salary of $76,852 is lower than most of this list, but so is its cost of living index. It’s reasonable to assume that teacher salaries can go further here.
Although Maryland is second-to-last on the list of best-paying states for teachers, its average yearly income of $75,766 is still better than the salaries in the vast majority of the country. It’s also worth noting that Maryland (with Connecticut) has the lowest average cost of living index on the list. This means teacher salaries may go further here.
Teachers are in demand in Alaska, which may account for the above-average salary of $73,722. The cost of living index is below average for this list, but the spending per student is near the midpoint.
If you’re a teacher looking to improve your financial situation, you might want to consider making the move to one of these 10 states. That doesn’t mean states outside this list won’t catch up, but for the time being, these states are strong candidates.