Debunking 4 Myths About Teachers’ Pay

Most agree that teaching is an important job. Teachers have an enormous impact on the people they teach, and their former students go on to shape the world – for good or for ill. Given that, some feel that teachers should receive higher compensation for their work. Others, on the other hand, believe teachers already receive adequate and fair pay. There are a lot of myths out there about teachers’ pay. Let’s take a closer look at a few of them and see if we can’t replace some common misunderstandings with facts.


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MYTH 1: Teachers “make more than you think.”

FACT: Teachers’ pay is quite low when it’s compared to other professions that require similar training.

All teachers have heard this one in the midst of a discussion about teachers’ pay. “Teachers make more than you think. They actually make pretty good money!” This simply isn’t true. At least, not when their salaries are compared with other professions requiring similar levels of education.

The average earnings of workers with at least a four-year college degree are more than 50 percent higher than teachers’ average earnings. When comparing the salaries of teachers with graduate degrees to other professionals, the figures are even more alarming. When PayScale examined Graduate Degrees by Salary Potential, education jobs came in toward the bottom across the board. Educators with doctoral degrees began with an average pay of $61,300 (rank 155th) and those with master’s degrees started with an average salary of $43,900 (rank 199).

MYTH 2: Teachers don’t work that much.

FACT: Teachers work an average of 53 hours a week, and they don’t really get summers “off.”

Any teacher will tell you that it’s next to impossible to get work done while the students are in the classroom – and those hours make up the majority of the paid 40 hours a week teachers sign for in their contracts. The vast majority of the planning, grading, coordinating, tutoring, parent phone calls, etc., happen outside of those 40 hours, and teachers are not compensated for that overtime.

In terms of “summer vacation,” it’s important to keep in mind that teachers are not paid for those weeks. So, it’s not really vacation time at all. In fact, teaching schedules are very inflexible because of the nature of the school calendar, and the importance of the job. It’s very difficult for teachers to take the vacation days they are given, but it’s important to remember that summers are not included in their required days. Also, teachers generally work on their classrooms, curriculum, etc., over the summer, and many also get second, or even third, jobs to supplement their teaching salaries.

MYTH 3: Private school teachers make more money than public school teachers.

FACT: Private school teachers earn less, on average, than public school teachers.

It’s unclear where this misunderstanding originated, but it simply isn’t true. Private school teachers earn, on average, 11 percent less than their public school counterparts.

MYTH 4: Unions drive down teachers’ pay.

FACT: Unionized teachers almost always earn more than those that don’t belong to a union.

This is likely the reason that most private school teachers earn less than teachers working in public schools. The fact is, unionized workers earn more, on average, than non-unionized workers. It’s estimated that teachers who are not in a union, over the course of a lifetime, earn $475,000 less than their unionized counterparts. It’s a myth that unions hurt workers. Actually, their purpose is to do just the opposite.

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