Special Report

The States Where It’s Best (and Worst) to Be a Teacher

The States Where It’s Best to be a Teacher

Source: Davel5957 / Getty Images

15. Michigan
> Average teacher pay: $69,524 (9th highest)
> Student-teacher ratio: 33 to 1 (8th highest)
> New teachers expected to qualify for a pension: 50.0% (19th highest)
> High school graduation rate: 80.2% (9th lowest)

Slightly over half of the just over 75,000 teachers employed in Michigan work in elementary schools, the sixth highest share in the United States. Nationwide, 45.9% of teachers work in elementary school. Many teachers prefer elementary to middle school, where they don’t have to deal with students entering puberty who can be moodier, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and therefore perhaps more difficult to discipline.

Overall, teachers in Michigan are well paid. The state’s average teacher salary, which was adjusted to the cost of living, is the ninth highest in the country.

See all stories featuring: Michigan

Source: f11photo / Getty Images

14. Pennsylvania
> Average teacher pay: $67,318 (10th highest)
> Student-teacher ratio: 26 to 1 (21st lowest)
> New teachers expected to qualify for a pension: 36.0% (17th lowest)
> High school graduation rate: 86.6% (22nd highest)

On average, Pennsylvania’s 127,300 teachers make between $3,000 and $5,000 more annually than the average teachers’ salary nationwide. In addition to the higher salaries, secondary school teachers and those in special education may choose to work in the Keystone State because it has stricter requirements for licencing teachers, which makes them better prepared for teaching. Most other states received lower grades for preparing their educators to teach in these two categories.

Pennsylvania’s teacher and principal evaluation grade was a C+, which is among the highest compared to all states. The evaluation measures student growth based on the effectiveness of the instructor, teachers’ professional development, as well as principal effectiveness.

See all stories featuring: Pennsylvania

Source: f11photo / Getty Images

13. Missouri
> Average teacher pay: $58,911 (22nd lowest)
> Student-teacher ratio: 24 to 1 (11th lowest)
> New teachers expected to qualify for a pension: 58.0% (9th highest)
> High school graduation rate: 88.3% (12th highest)

Even though teachers in Missouri make less than the U.S. average teacher’s salary of about $63,000 annually, the student-teacher ratio of 24 to 1 is one of the lowest of all states. Educators often prefer small class sizes because they can then pay more attention to individual students and spend less time dealing with disruptions in class.

Abou 58.0% of new teachers in Missouri are expected to remain in the profession long enough to qualify for retirement benefits, the ninth highest share among all states.

See all stories featuring: Missouri

Source: Sean Pavone / Getty Images

12. Arkansas
> Average teacher pay: $57,543 (16th lowest)
> Student-teacher ratio: 25 to 1 (14th lowest)
> New teachers expected to qualify for a pension: 57.0% (10th highest)
> High school graduation rate: 88.0% (14th highest)

Though teachers’ pay in Arkansas, adjusted for cost of living, is relatively low compared to the national average, the average class size is one of the best. Smaller class sizes have been shown to be beneficial not just to students’ learning environment, but also to teachers’ working environment. The state also ranks high in percentage of new teachers who may qualify for retirement benefits.

Arkansas is one of two states to receive the highest grade for education policies, including making sure secondary school teachers, especially those teaching science and social studies, are qualified to teach and actually know the appropriate grade material. Stricter requirements usually result in more qualified teachers.

See all stories featuring: Arkansas

Source: TraceRouda / Getty Images

11. Ohio
> Average teacher pay: $69,617 (7th highest)
> Student-teacher ratio: 30 to 1 (13th highest)
> New teachers expected to qualify for a pension: 34.0% (14th lowest)
> High school graduation rate: 84.2% (23rd lowest)

Money may be a good incentive to work in teaching in Ohio. The average pay, adjusted to the cost of living in the state, is almost $70,000, the seventh highest in the country and about $7,000 more than the average pay for teachers nationwide.

Another good motive for teachers in the state is their retirement. Though the length of teaching requirement for collecting unreduced benefits at any age will increase, the average benefit for newly retired teachers in Ohio is the highest in the country at more than $66,000 annually.

See all stories featuring: Ohio