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Factors that Determine an Elementary School Teacher’s Salary

Factors that Determine an Elementary School Teacher’s Salary

Salaries for elementary school teachers vary based on a number of factors. The location of the school is the most consistent gauge in determining elementary grade teacher salaries. Other relative factors include the teacher's credentials and length of tenure. Salaries between private schools and public schools also vary, with public school teaching positions usually paying more than comparable private school teaching posts.

Overall Elementary School Teacher Salaries

The median annual salary for elementary and secondary school teachers, $51,660 as of May 2010, is most often determined by the location of the school district with further variations determined by teacher experience and tenure within the administration. Ten percent of elementary school teachers earned $39,340 or less in annual salary while the upper ten percent earned a salary in excess of $80,140.


The location of the school will have great effect on the average salary for a primary school teacher. Commonly, the salaries for teachers are set in proportion to the cost of living of the school district. Areas with higher cost of living tend to pay public elementary school teachers the most. Other factors involving location includes the need to attract teachers to a certain area. The average annual salary for an elementary school teacher in Washington D.C. is $67,170 as of 2011. A teacher in a less costly area of the country, like St. Louis, MO, can earn on average $49,620 annually. California employs the most teachers and pays elementary teachers a median annual salary of $63,010. Alaska employs far fewer teachers than the national average and pays elementary teachers an average of $69,130; the highest average salary in the nation.

Teacher Education and Certification

Several school administrations throughout the country establish tiers for teachers based on their education at the time of their hire and throughout their tenure within the district. In New York City, a teacher who possesses a bachelor's degree starts at an annual salary of $45,530. The same district offers a starting annual salary of $51,425 for a teacher who has obtained a master's degree. Teachers who work in a district with a tiered salary rate can move to the higher bracket by continuing their education and obtaining the necessary degrees for the salary rate increase.

Teaching Experience

Teachers who join a school administration can secure a higher annual salary due to previous teaching experience from another district. New York City offers teachers with a master's degree and 8 years’ experience and starting annual salary of $74,796; over $23,000 more than a master's degree recipient with no previous experience. As the teacher amasses more experience, she or he can expect to parlay that tenure into higher salaries. The same New York City teacher, with a master's degree and over 8 years teaching experience, can earn a maximum salary of $100,049 annually (as of 2008).

Public versus Private School Teacher Salaries

As of school year 2009 to 2010, the average salary for elementary school teachers in public schools was $49,600. The same year, the average private school teacher earned just $36,300 annually. Teachers unions and the limited competition that likely results from a teacher's union negotiations have led to an increase in public school teacher salaries while private school salary increases have followed a more gradual ascension. Oftentimes private schools are less rigid in education requirements and continuing education mandates for private school teachers.

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