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Public School vs. Private School Teacher Salaries

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The education industry is a reliable one, and the idea of sharing their knowledge with others is one that appeals to many college students. Because of the variety of available subjects, most teachers can teach something in which they have expertise and a real interest. Many factors go into deciding where and what to teach and salary is one of the most important. Educators need to consider the difference in salary between public and private schools.

Public School

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By far the majority of education jobs in the United States are in public schools. These base salaries are determined by the state and paid mostly through tax revenues.

Qualifications for these positions vary by state and school district but typically require at least a bachelor's degree in some form of education, preferably in your area of specialty, and a state teaching certificate.

The average salary for a U.S. public school teacher in a school district is $42,153, according to in December 2010.

Private School

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It has been a popular belief that private schools pay higher teacher salaries than public schools because most private industry jobs pay higher than public positions. However, the average salary for a private school teacher in $35,342, according to in December 2010, more than 20 percent less than public school teachers. This may be partly because many private schools do not require state certification from their educators, although it is recommended and would likely bring a higher salary.

Many teachers prefer to work at private schools despite the often lower salary, though, due to smaller classroom size, religious affiliation or other reasons.

Type of Teaching Position

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The area of expertise may have a big influence on a teacher's salary at both public and private schools. Teachers frequently teach their core subject but also serve as a coach, counselor or other extracurricular instructor, which usually justifies larger salaries or stipends.

Grade level can also affect salary. The average salary of an elementary teacher averages $40,471 in the United States versus a high school teacher who will average $43,393 a year, according to in December 2010.

Having a unique or rare expertise also may garner an exceptionally high salary.

Other Salary Influences

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As with all industries, location can influence salaries for public and private school teachers. Due to cost of living or level of community wealth, a teacher in California earns an average of $50,438, while one in Florida earns a lower average of $39,187, according to PayScale, December 2010.

At private schools, the tuition fees may also dictate teacher pay. More prestigious schools tailoring to higher-income families will likely pay much more than most private schools.


Kara Page has been a freelance writer and editor since 2007. She maintains several blogs on travel, music, food and more. She is also a contributing writer for Suite101 and has articles published on eHow and Answerbag. Page holds a Bachelor of Music Education degree from the University of North Texas.

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