Median annual earnings of kindergarten, elementary, middle, and secondary school teachers ranged from $41,400 to $45,920 in May 2004; the lowest 10 percent earned $26,730 to $31,180; the top 10 percent earned $66,240 to $71,370. Median earnings for preschool teachers were $20,980.
According to the American Federation of Teachers, beginning teachers with a bachelor’s degree earned an average of $31,704 in the 2003–04 school year. The estimated average salary of all public elementary and secondary school teachers in the 2003–04 school year was $46,597. Private school teachers generally earn less than public school teachers, but may be given other benefits, such as free or subsidized housing.
In 2004, more than half of all elementary, middle, and secondary school teachers belonged to unionsmainly the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Associationthat bargain with school systems over wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment. Fewer preschool and kindergarten teachers were union membersabout 17 percent in 2004.
Teachers can boost their salary in a number of ways. In some schools, teachers receive extra pay for coaching sports and working with students in extracurricular activities. Getting a master’s degree or national certification often results in a raise in pay, as does acting as a mentor. Some teachers earn extra income during the summer by teaching summer school or performing other jobs in the school system.