The Best States to Be a Teacher in 2019 and Why

The Best States to Be a Teacher in 2019 and Why cover image

Congratulations, you have decided to become a teacher! Once you take that first initial step to cross the educational threshold, you’ve already resigned yourself to certain truths: you’re never going to feel like you’re paid what you deserve. You’re going to be physically and emotionally drained every day. And you’re never going to catch up on your sleep. There are other truths as well: you’ll make a difference in the lives of children. Those children will always look up to you. And you’ll be proud of the work you do.

That being said, if you’re going to be a teacher some states are better to teach in than others. Of course, it all depends on what’s most important to you, so let’s look at what states have to offer across several different categories.

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1. Salary


“I didn’t get into teaching for the money”.

-Every Teacher Ever

That’s a phrase teachers repeat over and over again (often to themselves as they struggle to pay their bills every month). Low pay for teachers is an epidemic in this country that everyone seems to be aware of, but no one seems willing to actually want to fix. According to the NEA New York, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Washington D.C. have the highest average teacher salaries in the nation at well over $70,000 a year, but how far does that money actually stretch? When you adjust for cost of living, none of those states end up in the top 5. In fact, if you’re looking for the most bang for the salary dollar you’d be better off teaching in Michigan, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Wyoming or Ohio.

2. Student-To-Teacher Ratios

Empty large classroom_best states teacher

When looking for the ideal job, money isn’t everything, of course. There are other factors to consider, like how many students you’ll be expected to handle at one time. Classrooms that are full to overflowing are harder to control and make it nearly impossible to work with individual students. If you’re looking for small class sizes, head north to Vermont or Maine where they average less than 12 students per class. Alabama, North Dakota, and New Jersey are close behind with less than 13 students per class.

3. Government Funding

Even the world’s best teachers can’t do their job properly without supplies and curriculum. When it comes to financially supporting classrooms, some states definitely do a better job than others. New York and Alaska both spend over $20,000 per student, followed by Washington D.C, Connecticut and New Jersey. The fact that New York spends the most per student is doubly impressive when you consider they have over 2.6 million students in their public schools, more than 46 other states.

States Leading Per Student Spending

[Source: U.S. Census Bureau]

4. Teacher Turnover

Sometimes the best way to judge how well a state treats its teachers, is by looking at how many of them stick around long term. Plus, a school that keeps its staff together year after year tends to run more smoothly and efficiently. Every year approximately 7% of all teachers in America leave the profession for various reasons, however Kentucky manages to lose only 3.5% of their teachers. Montana, Missouri, New York and Alabama round out the top 5 states for teacher retention.

5. Best Performing School Systems

Another factor to consider when you’re deciding which state is right for you, is how well the schools perform. High performing schools tend to be run effectively and efficiently. A comprehensive study measured data across 25 different categories to determine which state has the highest performing schools, and when they were done Massachusetts came out on top. Massachusetts was rated not only the top performing state, but also the safest for its students. In fact when it came to overall quality of the school systems, the Northeast was the way to go as New Jersey, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont also ended up in the top 5.

Source: WalletHub

As you can see the question of which state is the best for teachers, isn’t easy to answer. Every teacher has certain factors that are more important to them than others. The trick is to find a place that works for you, and make the most out of the time you get to be in your classroom.

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David Rode

Dave is a middle school math teacher. He's also a musician, a community theater, dad to two amazing children, and he doesn't get a lot of sleep.

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