Teaching in a public school typically requires at least a bachelor's degree in either education or the content area you'll be teaching. However, some teachers have master's degrees. In general, teachers who have master's degrees tend to make more than those who hold bachelor's degrees, though pay differences vary by state and by school district.
Teachers with a Bachelor's Degree
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, full-time teachers who held a bachelor's degree earned an average salary of $46,340 across the U.S. during the 2011 to 2012 academic year. The average starting salary for a teacher with a bachelor's degree is $38,490. The average salary increases to $40,600 after five years, to $51,290 with between 15 and 19 years of experience and to $59,560 for those who have 35 or more years of experience.
Teachers with a Master's Degree
The NCES reports that full-time teachers with a master's degree earned an average of $57,830 per year. That's an average of $11,490 more per year than teachers whose highest degree is a bachelor's. Teachers with a master's degree reported an average starting salary of $45,240 in 2012. This increases to an average of $47,420 after five years of experience, $62,460 with between 15 and 19 years of experience, and $66,120 with 35 or more years of experience.
Pay Differences by Geography
According to the NCES, teachers with bachelor's degrees earned the highest average salaries in California ($62,010), New Jersey ($61,120) and New York ($60,460). The lowest average pay among teachers with bachelor's degrees, $36,030, was reported in Mississippi. Among teachers who held master's degrees, the highest-paying states were New York ($73,180), New Jersey ($68,910), California ($67,830) and Connecticut ($67,040), while Oklahoma paid the lowest average salary ($39,490). Wages for teachers tend to be highest in the Northeast and West and lowest in the South and Midwest.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that kindergarten, elementary and preschool teacher jobs will increase by 17 percent between 2010 and 2020 -- slightly above the 14 percent average for all other occupations. Jobs for high school teachers, who are expected to experience job growth of 7 percent, will be less plentiful. Aspiring teachers will experience better job prospects in the West and Southeast, where student enrollment is increasing. Teaching jobs will be harder to come by in regions where student enrollment is holding steady or decreasing, such as the Northeast.