A career in teaching means having an impact on the next generation — providing young people with the tools to succeed as members of society and engaging students in learning every day. More than 3 million public school teachers serve this vital purpose in the United States.
Despite being so highly valued, teaching professions are among the lowest paying jobs for college graduates. And though most agree that educating children is of utmost importance, public school funding is a major problem in the United States — especially in low-income communities.
The recent and ongoing wave of teacher strikes that swept the nation last year and since in states like West Virginia, Arizona, and Oklahoma (each among the lowest paying states for teachers), demonstrates that in some states compensation structures and working conditions for teachers are a serious issue. The states with relatively low per-pupil funding frequently rank among the states with the worst schools.
Pay isn’t the only factor determining the quality and desirability of a teaching job. Class sizes, pensions, and more general working conditions are all important when gauging what it’s like to be a teacher.
To identify the states where it’s best (and worst) to be a teacher, 24/7 Tempo constructed an index of average annual teacher pay, student-teacher ratio, the percentage of new teachers who are expected to qualify for a pension, and the overall state quality grade given to each state by research and policy group the National Council for Teacher Quality’s in its 2017 annual report. We ranked the states based on our index.