It is often said that public school teachers are poorly paid. At an average salary of about $60,000 a year, public school teachers in New Jersey take home substantially less pay than do many other college educated professionals. But teachers tend to work fewer hours in a year than do other professionals. Does the widespread assertion that New Jersey's teachers are poorly paid relative to other professionals hold true after accounting for differences in hours worked? This policy brief uses data from government sponsored labor market surveys to shed light on that question. When adjusted to equivalent working hours, we find that New Jersey's public school teachers earn wages that are competitive with those of private-sector professionals, whose salaries have stagnated or been cut as a result of the recent economic downturn.
Our primary data source is the 2008 Occupational Employment Statistics and Wage Survey made publicly available by the State of New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development. The OES reports estimated mean and by-quartile annual salaries for more than 4,000 job classifications within the state. Importantly, the survey only reports take-home salaries and thus does not reflect the value of benefits such as health care and retirement, which are much higher for public school teachers than for most professionals in New Jersey's private sector. Thus, the comparisons shown in this paper likely undercount (perhaps dramatically) overall teacher compensation relative to other workers.
According to the OES, the average salary for a New Jersey elementary school teacher is $60,090. Teachers at the bottom quartile earn $47,170, those at the median earn $55,480, and teachers at the seventy-fifth percentile within the state earn $73,260.