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Only A Teacher
Closeup: America's Teachers
Courtesy of the Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics

Teachers must have a thorough grounding in the subjects they teach so they can guide their students effectively through the material and respond knowledgeably to questions and comments. The basis of their knowledge comes from their prior education, as signified by the degrees and certifications they earn. In 1998, 38 percent of full-time public school teachers held academic degrees at the bachelor's or graduate level. Teachers with three or fewer years of teaching experience were more likely than more experienced teachers to hold academic degrees. In 1998, virtually 100 percent of public school teachers had earned a bachelor's degree; 45 percent had earned a master's degree; and at least 90 percent had earned regular or standard state certificates or advanced professional certificates. Many teachers also participate in professional development to increase their skills and knowledge. In 1998, the percentage of full-time public school teachers who participated in various development activities in the past 12 months ranged from 81 to 31 percent, depending on the type of activity.

While there is some evidence that the nation's teachers are educated and strive to increase their skills and learn new techniques through professional development activities, there is evidence that their salaries are not competitive with those of workers in other professions. Elementary and secondary teachers earned less in 1998 than workers in other professions with bachelor's degrees.

Teacher Salary Statistics

Attracting and retaining quality teachers are growing concerns among education officials and the public. This is especially true for beginning teachers as school districts compete with each other and other industries for additional teaching personnel to cope with growing enrollments and an aging work force of experienced teachers who are nearing retirement. Increased salaries potentially provide a means of attracting and retaining the increased numbers of quality young teachers who will be needed in the years ahead.

As a wave of younger teachers hired in the mid- 1970s has aged, a demographic shift in the age of teachers has occurred. For example, in 1975, 53 percent of all full-time teachers were younger than age 35; in 1993, the percentage of younger teachers fell to about 23 percent. Meanwhile, the percentage of full-time teachers 45 years old or older increased from about 26 percent in 1975 to 43 percent in 1993. The annual median salaries (in constant 1998 dollars) of full-time teachers decreased between 1971 and 1981 by about $500-700 annually in each age group. Between 1981 and 1989, the salaries of teachers rose. For the oldest group of teachers, salaries rose by about $1,100 per year, on average, while for the middle and youngest age groups, salaries increase by smaller amounts.

Since 1989, the salaries of the oldest and youngest groups of teachers have remained about the same, while the salaries of the middle age group (between ages 35 and 44) have declined by about $400 per year, on average (in constant 1998 dollars).

The difference between the annual median salaries of bachelor's degree recipients and all teachers declined from about $5,000 in 1981 to $2,300 in 1998. This decline in the salary gap has been due mainly to increases in the relative size of the older teaching work force and in the salaries of teachers ages 45 or older.

Percentage distribution and annual median salaries (in constant 1998 dollars) of full-time elementary and secondary school teachers, by age: 1971-98


All Elementary and Secondary School Teachers by Age Annual Median Salaries in Constant 1998 Dollars (by Age)
Year Under 35 35-44 45 or older Total
($)
Under 35
($)
35-44
($)
Under 45
($)
Bachelor Degree Recip'nts
($)
1971 46.4 18.1 35.5 34,113 31,042 37,522 37,369 39,736
1973 47.7 20.6 31.7 34,138 31,102 38,690 37,758 39,740
1975 53.1 21.2 25.7 31,581 28,361 37,070 35,106 35,541
1977 49.9 24.4 25.8 32,003 28,781 36,113 37,135 37,030
1979 48.0 25.2 26.8 30,061 26,899 32,508 35,204 35,283
1981 39.7 30.4 30.0 28,576 24,681 31,169 31,099 33,584
1983 36.8 32.0 31.2 31,122 25,589 33,716 35,867 34,464
1985 29.7 37.3 33.0 33,188 26,453 34,660 38,026 35,954
1987 28.1 40.8 31.2 34,893 29,327 37,039 38,842 37,714
1989 25.8 39.5 34.6 34,668 27,543 35,860 40,341 36,923
1991 25.1 38.2 36.6 34,322 28,477 34,562 39,738 36,924
1993 22.7 34.3 43.0 34,947 29,249 33,716 41,103 36,585
1995 24.2 30.7 45.1 35,134 28,709 33,978 39,759 37,817
1997 27.3 25.8 46.9 32,295 27,121 31,273 38,406 36,740
1998 26.7 25.5 47.8 35,099 29,199 33,105 41,661 37,399

Includes full-time employed bachelor's degree recipients only.
NOTE: Median salaries refer to the previous calendar year; for example, salaries reported in 1971 refer to salaries earned in 1970. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) was used to calculate constant dollars. Includes full-time public and private school teachers who taught grades 1-12. Details may not add to 100.0 due to rounding.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, March Current Population Surveys




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