Education policy discussions often assume that public school teachers are poorly paid. Typically absent in these discussions about teacher pay, however, is any reference to systematic data on how much public school teachers are actually paid, especially relative to other occupations. Because discussions about teacher pay rarely reference these data, the policy debate on education reform has proceeded without a clear understanding of these issues.
This report compiles information on the hourly pay of public school teachers nationally and in 66 metropolitan areas, as collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in its annual National Compensation Survey. We also compare the reported hourly income of public school teachers with that of workers in similar professions, as defined by the BLS. This report goes on to use the BLS data to analyze whether there is a relationship between higher relative pay for public school teachers and higher student achievement as measured by high school graduation rates.
Among the key findings of this report:
- According to the BLS, the average public school teacher in the United States earned $34.06 per hour in 2005.
- The average public school teacher was paid 36% more per hour than the average non-sales white-collar worker and 11% more than the average professional specialty and technical worker.
- Full-time public school teachers work on average 36.5 hours per week during weeks that they are working. By comparison, white-collar workers (excluding sales) work 39.4 hours, and professional specialty and technical workers work 39.0 hours per week. Private school teachers work 38.3 hours per week.
- Compared with public school teachers, editors and reporters earn 24% less; architects, 11% less; psychologists, 9% less; chemists, 5% less; mechanical engineers, 6% less; and economists, 1% less.
- Compared with public school teachers, airplane pilots earn 186% more; physicians, 80% more; lawyers, 49% more; nuclear engineers, 17% more; actuaries, 9% more; and physicists, 3% more.
- Public school teachers are paid 61% more per hour than private school teachers, on average nationwide.
- The Detroit metropolitan area has the highest average public school teacher pay among metropolitan areas for which data are available, at $47.28 per hour, followed by the San Francisco metropolitan area at $46.70 per hour, and the New York metropolitan area at $45.79 per hour.
- We find no evidence that average teacher pay relative to that of other white-collar or professional specialty workers is related to high school graduation rates in the metropolitan area.