Getting Real About Teacher Pay

Alternative Title:  “Why does my husband (with high school diploma) make $20,000 more than me (with Masters degree) every year?”

The inconsistencies between my salary and my husband’s were bothering me for quite awhile, enough so, that one day I sat down and did the math.  And what I uncovered was shockingly depressing…

It all seems okay at first glance (sorta):
I officially work about 190 school days each year, with about 2 months off in the summer.  With my Masters degree and about 8 years teaching experience, I made about $44,000 before taxes.  My husband, with his high school diploma, works all year with only 2 weeks of paid leave, and earned $45,000.

44 VS 45.  Not terribly unfair YET.  But let’s take a closer look…


*There are 260 work week DAYS in one year. With my husband’s 2 weeks of paid vacation and minimal holidays off, he technically works about 240 days in a year.
*On those days, his hours are 7-3:30 with a half hour lunch break.

That means that he works 8 hours a day, 40 hours week, and about 1,920 hours each year.


*I work from about 7-4:30 each day (and that’s being VERY generous) plus I spend 3-5 hours every Saturday at work or home preparing for the week ahead.  (We won’t bother with all the extra time I spend in the evenings, grading papers, planning, or preparing materials.)

That means that I work 9 hours a day+, around 50 hours a week, and about 1,900 hours.


In one year, I work about 20 hours less than my husband.  So me, with my Masters degree, make about the same amount per hour as my husband with his high school diploma and the same number of years experience – approximately $23 an hour.


Pricey College Education
from top-rated university + Masters Degree
High School Diploma
about 8 years experience in my field
about 8 years experience in his field
works about 1,900 hours a year
works about 1,920 hours a year
base salary: $44,000
base salary: $45,000
overtime pay: $0
overtime pay: double pay
healthcare benefits:
charged $500 a month for family on lowest plan offered, pay everything out-of-pocket until $12,000 deductible is met
healthcare benefits:
FREE for entire family
 low deductible, low copays
*$3,000/year of out-of-pocket expenses REFUNDED!
retirement: taken out of pay
retirement: $7,000 employer contribution to 401K
bonus pay: $400
bonus pay: $1,300 Christmas bonus
+$75 gift certificate to fancy-pants restaurant

Is it just me or are things starting to look a little UNBALANCED? 

If I were on my district’s health insurance (and used my Christmas bonus to cancel out some of my retirement contributions) that would leave me with about $35,000 a year.  (We won’t bother adding in the hundreds of dollars of my own personal money I’ve spent on classroom supplies, resources, furniture, books, etc.)

My husband gained $3,000 for healthcare reimbursements, plus his $7,000 401K contribution, plus his “just-for-fun” bonuses and he ends up with about $56,200 a year.

What??  That Can’t Be Right!!

So my husband, with his high school diploma and mediocre job brings in about $56,000, while me with my Masters degree and incredibly challenging and important professional career manage to just barely pull $35,000 FOR THE SAME NUMBER OF WORKING HOURS!!!!  

I think this warrants repeating and lots of “screaming” capital letters.

Here is a summary table just to drive home my point…

Over-Priced College Education
& Masters Degree
*about 8 years experience in my field
High School Diploma
*about 8 years experience in his field
Hours Worked Each Year: about 1,900
Hours Worked Each Year: about 1,900
incredibly important job
teaching the youth of our nation
driving around parts to
various construction job sites

In case you missed it, that’s a $20,000 a year difference!!!  

Let’s conclude before my head explodes.

Are teachers underpaid?  Under appreciated, to say the least!

Why are the benefits and compensation so drastically out of proportion?  Is this because teachers are typically women?  If there were more male teachers, would the benefits and pay scale increase?

I’ve heard the argument that women are paid less because men are typically the breadwinners in a family, but we all know that traditional family dynamic went out the window with parachute pants and boom boxes.  These days, single mother and single income families are just as common.  I can think of half a dozen ladies I work with, just off the top of my head, who are supporting themselves and at least one child on their own.

Or maybe politicians and school districts have realized that teachers teach because they love kids and value education and will continue to do so even with pathetically lesser compensation and benefits.  I am a perfect example of that, I guess.  My job is hard, but I know that what I do it is important.  And even though I want to pull my hair out, cry, and or punch someone on a daily basis, I know that what I am doing matters and I will continue to do it.

Oddly, even my 3-year-old’s toys seem to reflect society’s take on teachers as you may have noticed in the first photo…

Quick Disclaimer:  No husbands were harmed in the writing of this blog post.  My sweet husband gets just as riled up as me over the sad state of teacher compensation.  

I’d love to hear your take on this.  Why are teachers paid so poorly?  What is the cause of this drastic discrepancy in salary?

teacher trap signature

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4 thoughts on “Getting Real About Teacher Pay

  1. ~HoJo~

    Scares me that the man I’ll be marrying is also a teacher. I’m not sure we will stay on the school’s health insurance simply because we can’t afford their minimal contribution. Thank you for a great post! Thankfully my entire undergrad and masters only cost me $30,000 but I also worked my butt off (40 hour work week AND 18+ credits a semester) and got more than my share of scholarships. However, I only make $36,000 a year before taxes as a 6th year teacher. It’s scary how teachers are treated. It’s time for an educational revolution!! 🙂

  2. meredith vogt

    Christmas bonus?! Never heard of such a thing for teachers! (Even anything over $20 total from students!)