The 5 Worst States for Teachers

Whether you’re new to the profession, or a master veteran to the science/art, you probably know that teaching is a very difficult job. The curriculum, rules and regulations, and “best practices” are ever-changing so you can never get too comfortable. The money isn’t great – to say the least. Not to mention that, on any given day, the work itself is seemingly endless, very difficult, and largely underappreciated (and/or misunderstood) by society at large.


(Photo Credit: blondinrikard/Flickr)

Given the difficult nature of the work, it’s important to consider the landscape before making a decision about where to teach. One thing is for sure – all states need good teachers. But, some have provided a more hospitable environment for these folks to do their jobs than others.

Recently, WalletHub examined 50 states plus the District of Columbia to determine the best and worst teaching opportunities in the country. They ranked states using 18 metrics, such as average starting salary and teacher job openings per capita. Let’s take a look at the five worst states for teachers, according to these findings. (Note: stats are based on June 2015 numbers. Links will redirect to the most current data.)

1. North Carolina.
Opportunity and Competition Rank: 50 of 51;
Academic and Work Environment Rank: 46 of 51

With relatively minimal annual salaries and low public school spending per capita, North Carolina ranked dead last in this study, making it the single worst state for teachers. Litigation is even underway in the state regarding the failing schools and the lack of fundamental learning being provided to students. Teaching is a challenging job in the best of circumstances; teaching in North Carolina would likely compound the difficulties of the work, for even the most committed educator.

2. Mississippi.
Opportunity and Competition Rank: 47 of 51;
Academic and Work Environment Rank: 50 of 51

Mississippi was ranked fourth in lowest number of teachers per capita, suggesting trying teacher/student ratios as well as an environment that doesn’t make it easy for teachers to find jobs. Also, the state ranked fourth in what WalletHub called simply, “worst school system ranking”. Mississippi has had longstanding problems with public education, and while many folks are invested in solving the problem, it’s unlikely that we’ll see dramatic changes any time soon.

3. West Virginia.
Opportunity and Competition Rank: 49 of 51;
Academic and Work Environment Rank: 37 of 51

Rounding out the bottom three is West Virginia. Fierce debates over the content of curricula are raging right now, but there is yet to be a clear path toward improving the overall quality of the education being provided in the public schools. West Virginia needs good teachers though, so if you’re drawn to this area (or if it’s your home) it might be worth it to throw your hat in the ring and lend a hand.

4. South Dakota.
Opportunity and Competition Rank: 51 of 51;
Academic and Work Environment Rank: 19 of 51

South Dakota ranked last in opportunity and competition, indicating that there aren’t a lot of jobs for educators, and the positions that are available pay less than in other states. Like West Virginia, South Dakota is involved in some legislation involving the content of their curriculum right now, which only adds to the tension and the difficulties for teachers.

5. Hawaii.
Opportunity and Competition Rank: 45 of 51;
Academic and Work Environment Rank: 48 of 51

Teaching in Hawaii might sound appealing, but the reality might not measure up to the fantasy positioned around beautiful terrain and excellent weather. The fact is that teaching in Hawaii is very difficult. The low salaries are a huge problem (Hawaii pays their teachers less than any other state on average) and this leads to quick turn over of positions. This makes it difficult for schools and teachers to settle in with a predictable and reliable faculty and administrative team, further complicating the work.

Be sure to check out the full report for more information.

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