TQB: Teacher Quality Bulletin

Best bang for your buck? Teachers’ salaries are higher inside the classroom than out of it

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The grass is not always greener on the other side. Case in point: while teachers do not typically go into the profession for the money, a new working paper from CALDER provides evidence that newly credentialed teachers earn higher salaries if they enter the classroom, rather than pursuing other job opportunities.

Using data from Washington state, CALDER researchers Dan Goldhaber and Roddy Theobald, alongside John Krieg (Western Washington University) and Stephanie Liddle (University of Washington), analyze how much a person with a teaching credential earns over time as a teacher, compared to how much they earn from "education services" jobs (for example, a substitute teacher or a teaching aide), and/or how much they earn if they enter jobs outside the education sector.

Key findings are two-fold. First, credentialed individuals received considerably higher earnings in public teaching positions than their peers who were hired into other "education services" jobs or jobs outside of public education. One year after student teaching (which typically coincides with credentialing), the average teacher salary was roughly double that of their non-teacher counterparts.

Second, credentialed individuals not immediately hired as classroom teachers who later transitioned into the role experienced substantial wage increases: an average of an additional $8-$12 per hour compared to what they made in their previous job. Conversely, those who moved out of a teaching position saw a decrease: those that left the classroom but stayed in education saw an average decrease of $5 per hour, while those that moved into jobs outside education saw an average decrease of $11 per hour. Among those who left, K-8 teachers experienced larger average losses compared to high school teachers. This study did not address how wage changes may be related to teachers' subject or certification areas.

Consistent with previous research by these authors, delayed entry into the profession is common: while only 41% of the sample immediately became classroom teachers, more than two-thirds (69%) entered the teacher labor market at least once within the first five years after student teaching. This indicates that some individuals entered the classroom in subsequent years after earning a credential, while others immediately became teachers, left, and then returned.

These cohorts of "delayed entry" teachers suggest the existence of a "longer bench" of available, credentialed teachers eager to transition into a classroom role where they can earn more money. As districts work to attract new teachers, finding ways to re-engage former teachers or credentialed teachers who never took a teaching job could manifest an additional pool of qualified, interested individuals.