From teaching first words, reading, and vocabulary at the elementary level to exploring classical literature, contemporary novels, American prose, and Greek mythology at the secondary level, an English teacher’s job is rich in creativity, exploration, and discovery.
Whether your class lessons involve Dr. Suess or Chaucer, working in K-12 English education demands a bachelor’s degree, at a minimum, within a state-approved teacher preparatory program that qualifies you for state licensure/certification.
Because most K-12 teacher salaries are pre-determined by a school or state-approved salary schedule, your earning potential as an English teacher will largely depend on the school district and/or state in which you teach.
But you can get a good idea of your earning potential by looking at current stats provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
As of May 2020, the BLS reported the following average salaries for middle and high school teachers who hold content area endorsements in English:
- Middle school: $64,990
- High school: $67,340
Teachers new to the profession earn salaries that typically fall in the 10th – 25th percentile:
- Middle school: $40,930 – $48,870
- High school: $41,330 – $49,990
On the opposite end of the pay scale, middle and high school teachers with considerable experience (and often master’s degrees in education) earn salaries that closely align with the 75th – 90th percentile:
- Middle school: $77,880 – $98,840
- High school: $81,410 – $102,130
Find English Teacher Salary Info by State
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
How a Master’s Degree Can Boost an English Teacher’s Salary
Unlike other professions where salary negotiations are standard, the vast majority of teachers in the K-12 public school system are paid using fixed salary schedules. While experience is the major indicator of what you’ll be paid as an English teacher, the degree you hold, along with any other secondary endorsements, can add a nice premium to your base salary.
A Master’s Degree is Well Worth the Investment for Most English Teachers
Most teacher salary schedules are based solely on experience, while others also take into account whether or not you hold a master’s degree and/or an advanced license.
While the minimum educational requirement to become a teacher is always a bachelor’s degree, some school districts and state education boards recognize educators who have achieved a higher level of education (master’s, educational specialist, doctorate) and reward them with a higher salary.
A 2019 National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) study of 124 large school districts found that 92% of all districts paid their teachers more for holding a master’s degree or higher, either as a salary increase or as an annual stipend or bonus.
Also, about one-third of all states have advanced licenses for educators who earn a graduate degree. Attaining an advanced teacher’s license in these states nearly always results in a bump in pay. As of 2021, just three states – Connecticut, Maryland, and New York – require a master’s degree to maintain a teaching license. In all other states, earning a master’s degree is not necessary but can result in a salary increase and/or more professional opportunities.
Salary Premiums are Possible in Teacher Shortage Areas
The subject in which you hold your teaching license does not usually influence your earning potential as a K-12 educator. In other words, an English teacher is paid on the same salary schedule as a math teacher, a physical education teacher, or any other type of K-12 educator.
The only exception to this rule occurs in school districts that suffer from a lack of qualified teachers in certain subjects. In many of these cases, states and school districts will provide incentives for educators who fill spots in subject areas identified and reported to the U.S. Department of Education as teacher shortage areas.
Because the vast majority of school districts follow strict salary schedules that are based only on experience and education, monetary incentives to educators filling teacher shortage areas are often paid in annual stipends or signing bonuses.
English Teacher Salaries in Top-Paying Districts
One of the biggest factors influencing your pay as a K-12 English teacher is undoubtedly where you teach. As of May 2020, the top-paying states for educators according to average salary included:
Middle School Teachers
- New York: $89,150
- Massachusetts: $82,610
- California: $81,940
- Connecticut: $81,140
- Alaska: $80,260
High School Teachers
- New York: $88,890
- California: $86,900
- Massachusetts: $84,130
- New Jersey: $78,900
- Connecticut: $78,510
The BLS also highlights the top-paying metropolitan areas for K-12 teachers according to average salary as of May 2020:
Middle School Teachers
- Bakersfield, CA: $101,970
- New York (also includes Newark and Jersey City, NJ), NY: $89,200
- Los Angeles (also includes Long Beach and Anaheim), CA: $88,220
- Bridgeport (also includes Stamford and Norwalk), CT: $88,110
- Riverside (also includes San Bernardino and Ontario), CA: $87,110
- Washington D.C. (also includes Arlington and Alexandria, VA): $86,910
- Kingston, NY: $86,450
- Worcester, MA-CT: $85,850
- Watertown-Fort Drum, NY: $85,320
- Barnstable Town, MA: $84,310
High School Teachers
- Napa, CA: $99,170
- Fresno, CA: $96,200
- Santa Cruz (also includes Watsonville), CA: $95,500
- Stockton (also includes Lodi), CA: $94,410
- San Jose (also includes Sunnyvale and Santa Clara), CA: $92,500
- San Francisco (also includes Oakland and Hayward), CA: $92,380
- Chico: $91,640
- New York (includes Newark and Jersey City, NJ), NY: $91,390
- Bakersfield, CA: $90,510
- Santa Rosa, CA: $88,730
Top salaries for English teachers tend to fall in line with states and metro areas with higher costs of living, so it comes as no surprise that many of the nation’s top-paying states and metro areas are located in California and New York – where the cost of living soars above the national average.
English Teacher Salaries by State
The following table shows what middle school English teachers are earning around the country:
This table provides a closer look at what high school English teachers are earning around the country as of May 2020.
May 2020 Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and job market trends for elementary school teachers, middle school teachers, secondary school teachers. Figures represent national data, not school specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed May 2021.