Careers >> Browse Articles >> Education Salaries


U.S. Flunks Teacher Pay

U.S. Flunks Teacher Pay

Jill Hare

We often hear how students in the U.S. lag behind students in other countries. This topic is rather different- it seems that teacher pay doesn’t come close to measuring up either. Are the two issues related?

With the struggling economy, making a steady salary has never been more important. The more attractive the salary, the more a career attracts job seekers. The starting salary for teachers varies from $23,000 to $37,000 across the U.S. How does this compare with other countries? Apparently not so well.

A study by McKinsey and Co. compared starting teaching salaries as percentage of per capita GDP (gross domestic product.) Out of the 30 countries from the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development) that were studied, the U.S. came in 10th. It found that U.S. teachers make 81% per capita of GDP. The others in the top ten are as follows:

1. South Korea 141%

2. Germany 141%

3. Netherlands 99%

4. Hong Kong 97%

5. England 95%

6. Australia 95%

7. Finland 95%

8. Singapore 95%

9. Belgium 92%

10. United States 81%

Source: McKinsey & Company

Why do people decide to become teachers in the U.S.? It most certainly isn’t the illusion of a high paying salary based on merit. But with teachers salaries not gaining ground against other professions, it leaves the teaching profession struggling to attract high-quality teachers.

In an earlier study done by the same company a correlation was drawn between school quality and spending. I don’t think that conclusion comes as a shock to any teacher- but those in the classroom are left to make the best of what they were dealt. The earlier study, titled “Worlds School Systems” made two obvious conclusions:

“The quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers.” “The only way to improve outcomes is to improve instruction.”

I would add two conclusions of my own.

The way to improve instruction is to attract high quality teachers. The best way to attract more high quality teachers is with a competitive salary.

Discuss now. Salary Satisfaction.

Related article. The Most Comprehensive Teacher Salary Guide

Teaching School Finder

Save time in your search for a degree program. Use Teaching's School Finder to locate schools online and in your area.

* In the event that we cannot find a program from one of our partner schools that matches your specific area of interest, we may show schools with similar or unrelated programs.