The long wait: how the traditional salary schedule harms teaching

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Why become a teacher and wait 30 years to earn a decent salary when you can become a lawyer and do it in a third of the time? That's the gist of a new article in the current edition of Education Next by Duke University economist Jacob Vigdor. Vigdor compares the structure of teacher pay with that of other professions and finds that it takes teachers much longer than other professions to reach maximum earnings. "Doctors and lawyers reap the full rewards of competence in their profession within 10 years of entrance. Teachers must wait three times that long, even though evidence suggests that they become fully competent in their profession just as quickly."

We looked in NCTQ?s own database, Tr3, where we track the salaries of 100 districts to see just how long it actually takes teachers to reach maximum earnings. In North Carolina, where Vigdor focuses his research, it takes teachers more than 30 years to reach their max pay. The national picture is quite varied as this table shows. Some teachers in Seattle reach their maximum pay in five years, while it takes teachers in Cypress- Fairbanks (outside of Houston) 40 years.