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A Comparison of Public and Private School Teaching

A Comparison of Public and Private School Teaching

Laura Owen,

The economy has taken a downward turn leaving job opportunities scarce for many; however, there will always be a need for teachers. In fact, that need is only increasing with the high attrition rates and number of senior teachers entering retirement and that being said, we as educators have choices. Because many of our days, and often our nights, are spent at our job it is important to find the best fit. Public and private institutions offer different experiences. Teachers in search of a job should consider factors that can help to make the right decision.

Teaching opportunities

Because there are many more public than private schools, there are a great number of teaching positions available in the public sector. When searching in the public school systems, applicants can first consider location and demographics in their search for a job. There is also a good chance of finding the desired grade level or subject area position. Teachers looking to move into administrative roles also will find more opportunity in the public schools systems. On the other hand, private schools can offer greater flexibility to teachers. Private institutions make their own budget and staffing decisions so working part time or sharing a position can be an option. Also, most private schools do not require that teachers hold state certification. Those entering teaching as a second career find it much easier to move into the profession. This also means that private school teachers do not need to satisfy professional development requirements for maintaining certification.

Class Size

Historically, private schools have offered smaller class sizes. This continues to be the case; however, many states have passed laws that require better student to teacher ratios in the public schools. Class size in elementary grades is the most comparable, while a greater difference between private and public schools is seen in the middle and high school classroom.


One of the greatest appeals of working in a public school is a higher salary. Public school teachers typically make more than their private school counterparts. However, public school salaries vary from state to state (and even system to system) so it is important to research pay scales and consider the cost of living in various areas. Generally, salaries in urban and suburban areas are higher than in rural areas. In recent years, private schools have increased salaries to compete with public schools in recruiting highly qualified applicants. Like with public schools, salaries of private schools vary based on such factors as endowments, alumni support, and tuition. Health insurance is also a reason that teachers choose public over private. Typically state systems offer good coverage for independents and families. Retirement plans for public school teachers are also a major draw. If an individual is planning to teach for a full career (or at least 20 years), the retirement plan is well worth the years of service. Again, retirement packages vary from state to state. Many states also offer public school teachers reciprocity so years of experience are not “lost” because of relocation. Learn more about teacher salaries.

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Personal Preference

One of the great benefits of teaching in the public schools is that you are helping to provide one of our nation’s great services: a free education. Many teachers feel called to work in a school where the doors are open to all and prefer the diversity of a public school setting. Conversely, teachers who prefer to work in a school with religious affiliation can gain that experience through the private sector. With the rising emphasis on end of grade test performance, many educators find the private schools to be a nice relief from the added pressures public educators are feeling.

Administrative Support

Because private schools are run onsite, instruction is not controlled by state and system level administrators, giving the teachers more involvement in the decision-making. Instructional decisions are based on school need and staff opinion. Teachers often get to select the materials that they use and find easier accessibility.

Determining whether public or private is the right situation is a personal decision. In the end, we are all educating today’s youth who are tomorrow’s promise.

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