Highest Starting Salary for Elementary Teachers Nationwide

by Candice Mancini

In 2012, elementary teachers working in the top-paying states earned mean salaries between $67,070 and $74,310, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. To become a public school elementary teacher, you must graduate from an accredited teacher education program and earn a teacher license in the state in which you plan to teach. As of 2012, eight states required a master's degree for teachers to earn a full professional license.

New York

New York offers some of the highest-paying elementary teaching jobs in the nation. As of 2012, the highest mean salaries were found in the Nassau-Suffolk area, at $95,420; Kingston, at $79,810; and Ithaca, at $77,600. Statewide, the annual mean elementary teaching salary was $71,270, according to the BLS. The starting salary for all teachers in New York ranged between $29,100 and $62,752 with a bachelor's and $32,168 and $87,500 with a master's.

Rhode Island

As of 2012, Rhode Island paid elementary teachers the highest mean salary in the nation, $74,310, according to the BLS. In 2012, Rhode Island's Westerly school district made news when teachers were awarded an 11.2 percent annual pay increase for nine years, effectively doubling the base salary from $40,351 to $81,094. Before the raise, Westerly already paid the highest top-step salaries in the state, at $79,300 in 2012. However, more than 90 percent of the state's districts paid top-step salaries exceeding $70,000.


The 2012 annual mean salary for California elementary teachers was $69,690, reports the BLS. Metropolitan areas that paid the highest mean salaries included Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, at $72,230, and Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, at $74,060. Statewide salaries for all beginning teachers ranged between $38,719 and $41,451, with the highest salaries falling between $70,797 and $85,989.


Alaska's 2012 annual mean wage for elementary teachers was $67,110, states the BLS. As of the 2013-14 school year, in Alaska's largest school district, Anchorage, salaries for beginner teachers were $47,449 with a bachelor's and $52,748 with a master's, and topped out at $87,336. As the University of Alaska warned on its website, however, "There was a time when school districts in Alaska paid teachers significantly more than other parts of the country, and offered many recruitment incentives. Those days are gone. Salaries are somewhere in the middle of the pack when adjusted for cost of living ..."


Connecticut offers elementary teachers among the highest pay in the nation, with a 2012 annual mean salary of $67,070. The state has drawn attention for its top-tiered teaching pay. In 2011, Maggie Gordon of the "Stamford Advocate" reported that hundreds of the state's teachers earned six-figure salaries, including 202 in Greenwich. As of the 2013-14 school year, Greenwich's beginner teachers earned $52,337 with a bachelor's degree and $57,917 with a master's, and salaries topped at $116,267.

About the Author

Candice Mancini has always loved matching people with career paths. After earning her master's degree in education from the University at Albany, she spent a decade teaching and writing before becoming a full-time writer. Mancini has published articles and books on education, careers, social issues, the environment and more.

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