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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.

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.

teacher

(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.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

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.

Tell Us What You Think

Which factors matter most when deciding where to teach? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.


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Geno
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Geno

The pay is not the main issue for me ( in NC) – although I am THOUSANDS of dollars below where I was promised I would be. The real things driving me away are RttT initiatives , hyper-testing, unfair Standard 6, micro-management, constant and senseless meetings and paperwork, ever-increasing duties, and decisions made on the assumption that I am a failure ( even though I have a 100% pass rate on state exams). Textbooks falling apart, broken technology, less and less tools to really teach….constant curriculum upheaval from top-heavy middle management. Just can’t take it anymore. I’ve been effective my… Read more »

Jeff
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Jeff

About ten years ago I had the option of teaching at Cary Academy, a highly respected private high school in the Raleigh/Durham area. However, they didn’t offer any extra money for having an advanced degree, and I was offered $15,000 more per year to work at an independent school in Upstate NY. The decision was quite simple for me, and I feel that teacher pay is reducing the incentive for qualified teachers to stay in teaching in NC. And don’t get me started on the underfunding of education programs in NC along with the proposed voucher system. Glad I am… Read more »

John Hoover
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John Hoover

Marry a Doctor and stop being so dramatic.

gs
Guest
gs

Want to fix things ?? GET RID OF THE REPUBLICANS

John Hoover
Guest
John Hoover

Kill the Democrats.

JAS
Guest
JAS

I lived in PA but jumped at the opportunity to teach in NC. I had heard only good things, so I thought it would be the perfect place for my first job. Upon arriving there, I found this not to be the case. My students lacked motivation. I tried every strategy in the book, and then some, to no avail. The students just were so unwilling to learn. Discipline was another issue. The students were disrespectful and unruly. The district did nothing to follow through on their disciplinary procedures so students just did what they wanted to. Teaching in NC… Read more »

Najee12
Guest
Najee12

In addition to the comments stated, it does not seem like North Carolina school districts are that interested in wanting to hire lateral-entry applicants. After 20 years of working in the private sector and with two master’s degrees, I went through the Regional Alternative Licensing Career plan and received approval for business education and marketing licensing (including passing both Praxis exams). Since August, I applied to more than 20 openings in my area (including eight in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools alone) and I interviewed for only one position that eventually closed. Even at the school where my wife teaches where I have… Read more »

ChinaCassy
Guest
ChinaCassy

Najee12, I was in the same boat four years ago. I applied for probably a hundred jobs in the spring and summer of 2012 in every county I felt comfortable teaching in. I had recently completed my B.A. in elementary education, had my preliminary certification in hand and was working on my masters in library science. I applied for everything, from elementary school teacher positions to assistant teacher positions to school media specialist positions. I went on about fifteen interviews and got no offers, not even as an assistant teacher at a school I had been subbing for. I was… Read more »

Former N.C. Teacher
Guest
Former N.C. Teacher

I am a U.S. Army Veteran and wasted my G.I. Bill getting a B.S. In Education! I taught in N.C. for four years and will most likely never teach again! I had 28 children in my class when the class ratio is “supposed” to be 18! The administration was a joke from the top down!

C. Schwartz
Guest
C. Schwartz

NC teachers, You get what you vote for – or don’t vote at all for. I am a teacher living in a large NC county. As an active NCAE member, I know exactly how hard it is to get teachers to be politically active. Then there are those educators who vote against the interests of education. They claim to vote for the “moral” party, which in my mind would be candidates who actually care about improving students’ education – yet that obviously is not the case. We are last because those who have been voted into power are so blinded… Read more »

Troy C.
Guest
Troy C.

Boy, do you have it wrong, Daphne! The Republicans are who have destroyed the public school system in North Carolina, which until about 7 years ago was one of the best in the United States. Yes, N.C. was contolled by the Democrats for years and that’s why their schools were envied by many for years and years. The Republicans have destroyed the education system, like the highway system, by giving corporate food stamps to millionaires and billionaires while screwing everyone else, especially the teachers. Isn’t it funny that teacher pay in North Carolina truly began to collapse after Republicans took… Read more »

NC Visitor
Guest
NC Visitor

“Graduate of NC Schools” and “to John” – Your ‘break a few eggs’ and ‘in 10-15 years you will see improvement’ belief will end up running the futures of a couple of generations of NC kids. You’re dead wrong: Yes, it ~can~ hurt! Hope is not a strategy, and it’s nothing if not hope to believe that the direction education in NC is taking – especially since 2010 – is positive. NC will be increasingly populated by young adults unequipped and unable to compete in a global economy. As a ‘pro teacher pre student’ person I’m surprised you don’t realize… Read more »

Ben Day
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Ben Day

One comment from above blamed the Democrats for North Carolinas plunge to last place for teacher benefits. I remind that commentator that two years ago ( when the Republicans assumed legislative and governor power, our state was among , if not, the best in the South regarding teacher benefits. In less than two years, we are now last in the nation!1131

New NC Teacher
Guest
New NC Teacher

Wow 80k a year I must have movied to the wrong county! I dont know a single teacher in NC that makes over 80k a year. I moved from NY to NC to teach because there aren’t any teaching position in NY. I teach in one of the higher paying counties. However i can hardly pay my bills expecially when I have to dish out $702 a month for the god awful family health insurance they have. I love teaching and i love living in NC but education is a joke in this state! I hope things change soon!

Poor NC Teacher
Guest
Poor NC Teacher

NC Teacher – I have worked in North Carolina as a teacher for 21 years. I have also achieved National Board Certification and my Master’s Degree. I live in a county which gives a fair supplement, but not the highest paid in the state. I do not know where you get your figure of 80k when you retire, but I am about 20,000 shy of that even with my credentials. If you remember, NBCT was paid for by the state years ago. When I have to rectify next year, I will be paying 1200.00 our of pocket, as this is… Read more »

skyc6
Guest
skyc6

It would be interesting to compare student success with teacher salaries.

Ranking 50th in student success is S. Dakato
27th is West Virginia
33 is S. Carolina
35 is N. Carolina
These 4 states rank in the 5 lowest in salaries and benefits

Is there a corrolation between states that value their teachers enough to pay better and states that have higher rates of student success?

NC Teacher
Guest
NC Teacher

Dear Donnie, Brian, and others with negativity and skepticism~ You are ABSOLUTELY RIGHT!! I don’t make 80K, in fact, this coming school year, I will make over 90K but I didn’t want to be seemingly boasting about my pay (for which I have worked hard for 28 years!) (Btw RMC, the pay scale you provided a link to is only state base salary and does not include county supplements) So, how do I make 90K+?? The salary in my county for state base and supplement is $72,437.50 for 28 years of experience. Since I am at a year round school… Read more »

Patrick Fleming
Guest
Patrick Fleming

Hello. Love teaching, am in my 44th year and the second time I have been rehired. That means that I get my pension and get paid the same per status (that’s over 17 years and Ph/d equivalent) on top. cool huh? I work in Washington state and we have been attacked by the anti education bunch but too late for me. I am 70 and would do it all again in a heart beat but to be honest do not really know what it is like to enter the business now. Naom Chomshy said it best that the first step… Read more »

Teacher
Guest
Teacher

I would love to compare apples to apples and add in cost of living. I have lived in several states and know that cost of living is much cheaper in NC than many areas in the northern states. Check out the cost of property taxes and homes as a start. Not saying NC isn’t in need of an overhaul to the Education system, but I want to compare across the board. Sure let’s bring back the Democrats because good ole Bev did such a great job and she was a former teacher. I say bring in people who know how… Read more »

Grammar Police
Guest
Grammar Police

To whom ever “New NC Teacher” is, Looking at your comment, you really shouldn’t be teaching our children anyway. That is without a doubt one of the most pathetic comments I have ever seen published by an educator. Not knowing the difference between “know” and “no” is pitiful. Moving forward, your lack of ability to create complete sentences is mind blowing. PLEASE find a new career. You are clearly already unhappy as an educator so, please get out of our children’s classroom!!! You cannot say that it was “autocorrect” or something of that nature. Your comment was simply uneducated and… Read more »

Kay Marie
Guest
Kay Marie

Having taught in another southern state I can tell you that public education is no longer a priority for legislators in NC. I taught 9-1/2 years in NC, then 3 years in Florida before returning to NC 7 years ago. I am so very sorry that I left Florida where I was making enough money to live on without taking on another job. In addition, I was not treated as a slave in Florida. North Carolina expects, no demands, that teachers devote every moment of every 24 hrs. to whatever they want the person to do. In Florida I was… Read more »

bioteacher
Guest
bioteacher

When it comes to fields like math and science, better pay DOES equal better teachers. I could have taken my biology and chemistry experience and sought a higher paying job, but I chose to follow my calling and teach. For the hours that I was able to actually teach my kids, it was a wonderful job. Dealing with the extra aspects of the job made it too much of a hassle for the very low pay. I regularly worked 12 hours a day, 6 days a week for an administration that was constantly making my job harder. I left. There… Read more »

Nadine
Guest
Nadine

I taught for 29 years and had to leave due disability. I was teaching in the county with the highest state supplement and was nowhere CLOSE to $80,000 in salary! Someone is lying!

Harold Jackson
Guest
Harold Jackson

I have to suspect an article that states West Virginia is a southern state. West Virginia broke off from Virginia during the civil war and joined the north. History lessons would be in the writers interest.

Chad
Guest
Chad

The highest performing states: Minnesota, New Hampshire, Massachussetts, Connecticut, Vermont are all union states. The bottom of the barrel are always RTW. The brightest and best teachers follow the money.

Cristi
Guest
Cristi

Brian…since you are being picky…WV is STILL located just below the Mason Dixon Line, thus we are still classified as a southern state.

per capita stats
Guest
per capita stats

This study is bought for and paid for by the teachers Unions. I believe it was Theodore Roosevelt who said …There are 3 kinds of lies a lie a Damn lie and statistics. Looks like the Unions are lieing again . how can i tell Their lips are moving.

Tammy teaches in NC
Guest
Tammy teaches in NC

So, NC teacher, you basically work at least 2 full time jobs for 12 months to make 90k. Before coming to NC, I made 80k working 1 job for 10 months. I took a $20,000 pay cut to move here and the cost of living is not much less. Also, I work in the second highest paid district in NC and have 22 years of experience. I live in a different school district but can’t afford to work there because I would lose about 8,000 if I did. So, all things are not equal in NC.

Winston
Guest
Winston

This is exactly why we homeschool our 3 kids! Government doesn’t give a crap about the teachers! This country is been in a downhill spiral!

DJA
Guest
DJA

And to drive the bus, the school wanted you to get a CDL and wanted you to PAY for it. Going out of state was another hoop you had to get and they wanted you to pay for that hoop also…smh

DJA
Guest
DJA

I taught in NC a number of years ago. The pay and benefits were a joke even then. I couldn’t afford to buy furniture for the apartment I lived in. Kids during a P.E. class has to clean the football bleachers the Mondays after home football games. If you were an extracurricular teacher that had to travel with the kids, the school wanted YOU to drive the bus.

Troy C.
Guest
Troy C.

Why the heck should I give my all when I’m not paid decent salary, is what folks are trying to say. Republicans believe in Right to Work laws, which limit the ability of teachers and others to organize and go on strike, which is part of what our American democracy is about. Right to work=Right to be enslaved. Those who believe in right to work laws believe in enslaving people and sweatshop working conditions. You are the so called “patriots” who supposedly love America. You say all that while your sending our jobs overseas to people in India and the… Read more »

K. Brandon
Guest
K. Brandon

True stupidity in action. Right to work means freedom from having the pay you do get siphoned off by a so-called union that does nothing for you, INCLUDING make sure you have benefits and job security. It lowers the insurance premiums and other costs for other workers and employers and puts more money back into the employees pocket. I sure as hell wouldn’t want you anywhere near my kids brainwashing them with more liberal idiot rhetoric. The people sending jobs to India are companies whove been forced to because of vapid mouth-breathers like yourself who have made it too expensive… Read more »

Tracy Tomlinson
Guest
Tracy Tomlinson

Jobs go to India because rich people who own everything are greedy, and since the organization of labor in the 1920s, the selfish, greedy wealthy have searched for new ways of bleeding the labor market. Your trickle down economics doesnt wirk mathematically. But as typical right wing sheeple, you keep believing in the lie of Reaganomics, when Republicans are doing the exact opposite. Traditional rightcwingers like myself voted for Obama to stop the party from diverting social funds to war making in the Middle East.

John Hoover
Guest
John Hoover

Cry me a river. Why give it your all any way?

NC Visitor
Guest
NC Visitor

Sorry.. meant “ruining”, not “running”

James Hannon
Guest
James Hannon

Teacher in NC. So, the light goes off when they see their potential. I hope your Principal reads your comments and sends you back to NY. You should not be teaching any NC students. I can see why you left NY, no school would hire you.. I am not surprised that your students cannot pass the state exam.

Teacher in Sc
Guest
Teacher in Sc

If you don’t like the pay or job, leave and see if you can get more elsewhere. Social workers. Military officers, and police all require a bachelor degree and start out at the same salary level for 12 months work (not 9). In addition to low pay and little vacation, in the private sector, you’ll have to deal with lots of competition for a job with no job security and a poor retirement plan. The grass always seems greener.

Teacher in Sc
Guest
Teacher in Sc

If you don’t like the pay or job, leave and see if you can get more elsewhere. Social workers. Military officers, and police all require a bachelor degree and start out at the same salary level for 12 months work (not 9). In addition to low pay and little vacation, in the private sector, you’ll have to deal with lots of competition for a job with no job security and a poor retirement plan. The grass always seems greener.

Mr. M
Guest
Mr. M

I teach PLTW and love it, my principal, the great deal I got from HUD on my house, coworkers, the weather, etc. The commute does suck!

Someone
Guest
Someone

Indian Reservations, especially in Montana. Don’t do it! Crazy! No place to grow, and students know there is no way out when they graduate. Completely sad and MT pays very very little except they have a union.

So Indian Reservations followed by Montana, South Dakota

New nc teacher
Guest
New nc teacher

It not just the oay in NC. My school doesnt have study hall or after school. This means there is know way to help the kids that need extra help. Then I am judged on how well these kids do on a state test that they are not prepared for. It people that think like graduate of NC that make it so hard has he ever stepped into a class of 34 students that can hardly read and teach them scientific concept. Then know they are going to fail the state test. After which everyone looks at the teacher its… Read more »

Teacher in NC
Guest
Teacher in NC

I absolutely love teaching. I love working with kids and seeing the light go off in their eyes when they realize their own potential. I teach because I want to change the world. I teach because I believe in kids. I teach because what I do has an impact that is infinite and immeasurable. I teach.

bioteacher
Guest
bioteacher

I made about $32,000
That was with two degrees (a B.S in biology and B.S in education)
Not worth the stress and long hours.

Danielle
Guest
Danielle

NC Teacher… You don’t make an extra two months pay for working at a year round school, they just stretch your pay out over 12 months…. Or let me know where you work because you guys still have as many breaks and I’d love to get paid for those. Our year round teachers don’t make any extra money!

to john
Guest
to john

John, If you would have read that better. you would have seen how I was specifically talking to the CT that came down to NC then couldn’t turn it into a Tax and spend state and got mad and left. and still felt the need from afar to down our great state of NC. I make no political statement regarding my party leanings so not sure where you get that from. It amazes me how you like to name call and throw mud when you cant answer the argument with fact. I never once mentioned liberals. so again not sure… Read more »

John
Guest
John

Wow, Graduate of NC Schools, you sure do hate a lot of people: teachers, northerners, liberals… wow. Here’s a suggestion: rather than ranting that teachers have benefits which other people in NC don’t, how about you figure out how to improve the lots in life of all workers in NC, rather than begrudging teachers their benefits? Teaching, particularly public school teaching, is a thankless profession with long hours (anyone who thinks their day ends when the kids go home doesn’t know any teachers). Everyone seems to think they know what the best curriculae are and how they should be taught.… Read more »

si67ouz
Guest
si67ouz

How can this study be the result of teachers’ union funding? It is comparing EVERY state. It isn’t saying there are no good states for teachers/education. NC is at the bottom because our legislature has chosen that course for the state. And as for the “Graduate of NC Schools”, your writing ability proves the point of NC being last better than any statistical analysis.

per capita stats
Guest
per capita stats

Larry, you prove my point without even knowing you do it. the complaint is that the current way isn’t working. and when someone comes in and changes it, you complain it (the current way which you hate so much and isn’t working) is being dismantled! You have to choose change it or quit complaining about the way things are.

Larry Vrooman
Guest
Larry Vrooman

I’ve lived in both SD and NC. I worked extensively with teachers in SD, and I can confirm that the salary in SD and opportunities for teachers in SD are abysmal. The study isn’t rigged in that regard. I’ve also had the displeasure of watching the NC legislature dismantle the education system in NC over the last several years. Once again, the study isn’t exaggerating the issues.

Graduate of NC Schools
Guest
Graduate of NC Schools

As for the CT teacher that came to NC and left … good riddance. We native North Carolinian’s don’t want you here anyhow, your northern tax my way out of a problem doesn’t work…look at Detroit. I have a perspective that you whining teachers aren’t looking at. and its ME the student. If you aren’t in a teacher position to teach GET THE HELL OUT. money is necessary i get that, but look at the benefits you have that most NC doesn’t Pension, health Insurance, 401k equivalent. SO the grass is greener shit I see here makes me sick to… Read more »

Graduate of NC Schools
Guest
Graduate of NC Schools

As for the CT teacher that came to NC and left … good riddance. We native North Carolinian’s don’t want you here anyhow, your northern tax my way out of a problem doesn’t work…look at Detroit. I have a perspective that you whining teachers aren’t looking at. and its ME the student. If you aren’t in a teacher position to teach GET THE HELL OUT. money is necessary i get that, but look at the benefits you have that most NC doesn’t Pension, health Insurance, 401k equivalent. SO the grass is greener shit I see here makes me sick to… Read more »

Ronald Austin
Guest
Ronald Austin

I noticed that EVERY comment dealt strictly with teacher pay. I wonder how more pay will improve teacher performance? Are teachers not performing at their max due to lower pay than other systems? Many folks operate under the principle that “more money means better teachers”. I don’t think so.

Glad we Left NC
Guest
Glad we Left NC

I am VERY thankful we made the decision to leave NC two years ago. While I do not blame the teachers I do blame the government for the fact that the difference between the NC school system and the Connecticut one is so drastically different. I am happy to pay the higher taxes that I do because it’s a third of what I would have had to pay for private school in NC. When we lived in NC every year something was being cut from our schools. Music and arts was taken away languages were not offered. Those are just… Read more »

Keeping it real in NC
Guest
Keeping it real in NC

For those in NC that want to see things improve in education. It starts with your vote. I moved here from another state in 2007 and feel like the politics in NC is what’s destroying our public education system. As a state we want progress in education and the economy but we continue to vote for ultra conservative politicians who are just focused on the exact opposite. Perhaps if more voters were concerned with real issues like the state budget, education spending and taxation policies instead of whom people can marry and what people are doing with their bodies we… Read more »

More Accurate
Guest
More Accurate

Brian, please get your facts straight.
“Although early estimates noted that Union soldiers from the region outnumbered Confederates by more than three to one, more recent and detailed studies have concluded that there were nearly equal numbers of Union and Confederate soldiers.” http://www.wvculture.org/history/civwaran.html

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