About Teacher Pay

This post is a result of a comment by one of my regular readers on a recent “Sunday This N’ That” post. I mentioned that colleges have a shortage of qualified computer-related professors. But in a reply to a comment by a different reader, I mentioned something about teacher pay. Here is my comment and the and the resulting reaction.

Before I start here, I want to make it absolutely clear that I am not attacking what JanBo said. In fact, I agree with the underlying message that teachers are underpaid according to their professions. But, what I am saying that if you look at it as a pay/hour thing that difference more than disappears. Here is what I have to back that up.

Let’s compare engineers to teachers. They both generally require a master’s degree. I know that engineers must take rigorous studies into their chosen profession but I really don’t know what the academics for being a teacher entail. Maybe someone reading this post can clue me in. I would imagine it is pretty heavily laced with the humanities. Especially teachers at the primary school area.

But, let’s get down to the pay difference noted in JanBo’s comments. According to statistics, the average teacher starting salary is $50,000/year while an engineer is $63,000. I realize that since most teachers salaries are controlled by the State where they live so regional variations exist. The above are national averages but looking at State levels the spread is about the same for both professions. Let’s look at the hours involved to try to get to a dollars/hour income.

Engineer’s Work Schedule

ActivityDays/YrHrs/DayTotal Hrs
Basic Work schedule250102500
Weekend Work20480
Weekday work at home 1502300
TOTAL Hours/Year2,880
(hrs based on my personal experience)

Teacher’s Work Schedule

ActivityDay/YrHrs/DayTotal Hrs
Basic work schedule
(allowing 7 class hrs & 1 prep hour)
Weekend Work25375
Weekday work at home1501150
TOTAL Hours/Year1665

Starting Engineers: $63,000 / 2,880 hrs = $22.00/working hour

Starting Teachers: $50,000/1665 hrs = $30.00/working hour.

I will let you draw your own conclusions about this.

Jan is certainly right when it comes to top 1% cases, teachers will never make what a successful entrepreneur will make no matter what his education level is. Bill Gate was an engineer who is now worth $91billion. You will never find a teacher who even comes remotely close to that! But, I don’t think there are very many teachers who go into that field to become financially rich? They do it for the good of humanity, so in the end yes, the teaching profession is the much nobler of the two and probably deserves a larger annual salary than they presently get. And they will get it once we do away with the archaic school schedules still in place that were dictated by our agricultural society of a century or more ago.


  1. “My work is more valuable” arguments. UGG.
    I would love to read your ideas of work in the future. Mind boggling to me.
    But stats are fun, aren’t they?
    For the sake of fun debate (yes, this will look like a post all by itself):
    I am unsure where you are getting the 10 hour work days for engineers- that is overtime by law at this point. I will go with straight seat hours.
    An average teacher contract is 189 days with 180 student contact days. The other nine days are for parent teacher conferences or classroom work/ professional development days. That has been for about the last 15 years. A few states still have 185/179 contracts. 1500 hours.
    “2016-17 National Average Starting Teacher Salary: $38,617” Source NEA. That makes it about $25 per 1500 seat hours. Teachers have holidays and vacation time off, but are not paid during those times. There is still a pension program vested at 10 years.
    “The national average salary for a Entry Level Engineer is $71,153 in United States. Salary estimates are based on 59,123 salaries submitted anonymously to Glassdoor by Entry Level Engineer employees.” $36per 2,000 seat hours+ paid vacations+signing bonus+401 match.
    For perspective:
    My bff ( a laid off ultrasound tech -$91,000yr) works part time at 7/11 for $15 an hour + a week paid vacation after a year. She works there for the group health care. Just something to think about. Oh- she does get a $2% match for her 401.

    Longevity? An average tenth year teacher is about $54,000. $36. an hour. She made it to pension (about $500 a month at 65).
    The average 5-10 yr mechanical engineer is about $92,000 according to Payscale is $46+ bonus + paid vacation+401 match. The average software engineer is about $130,000 (you should have stayed in).

    I contend that most “current” engineers no longer work at home (sensitive work) and most teachers continue to work many hours at home. A beginning engineer often works side by side with a senior engineer. Teachers are virtually on their own from day one responsible for 25- 35 students . The majority of engineer work (my limited perspective) is prep with the project presentation being the end result. The majority of teaching is presenting what is prepped on their own time. I know many teachers and engineers without Masters degrees. “Rigorous” is in the eye of the learner, isn’t it? Sitting through Child Development classes would drive my husband crazy.

    My son’s contemporaries (30 yr old engineers of all sorts) are easily bringing in $110,000+ a year+ 401 match at 5%+ two weeks of paid vacation+bonus on work productivity. Surprisingly they make about the same as current senior engineers (I think will change as THEY become the senior engineers.) Those current Perdue people—oh La LA!
    Teaching continues to be a female profession, because women in the US still tend to be the one to raise the family. Once those babies are in school, teachers are off to make some money. I have five members of my family who became teachers. Within three years of graduation, none of them teach. The most talented one is a “executive assistant” making $74,000 a year +vacation + bonus+401.

    My advice to my eleven year old grandson?
    Don’t worry about what you memorize, know where to learn information and who you are connecting to.
    Jobs? Salaries? Who knows where it goes from here.


    1. Hi Jan. Boy you are right this is much longer than my original post.

      My numbers were starting salaries and obtained from several different sources. What happens after that I did not investigate. As shown in the table for engineers, I based those numbers on my personal experiences. I typically got to work at 7:30 and left between 5:30 ad 6:00pm. We were salaried so there was no overtime but you were expected to get the job done no matter how long it took. Maybe that has changed but I kind of doubt it and don’t really have the desire or energy to work all that out. I’ve just never been much of a “bean-counter”.

      So, I will leave your stands in tact and not try to debate them. But I still stand that even with no extra hours, beginning teachers make more per hour than beginning engineers. But maybe that doesn’t last as long as I imagined. Part of that is probably because teachers are unionized and most engineers aren’t

      I do have some ideas about what work in the future will entail. That will make some interesting posts…


  2. Exempt Workers
    “Certain workers are exempt from the overtime pay rules of the FLSA. The U.S. Department of Labor says that administrative, executive, professional and outside sales employees and certain skilled computer professionals are not eligible for overtime under the act. These broad categories encapsulate most white collar jobs that are often paid on a salary basis; in other words, employers of salaried white collar professionals are generally not required to pay workers overtime for hours worked beyond 40 in a particular workweek.”


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