Top 20 Ways to Increase Your Income As a Teacher

In the majority of U.S. school districts, the money that a teacher makes is designated through legislation by the state department of education or arranged through collective bargaining and teacher union agreements. With years of experience, a teacher often experiences incremental salary increases, and in some cases, enjoy performance-based bonuses. In some but not all U.S. states, teachers struggle to make enough money to meet their basic cost of living (to find out where teachers are best off, see Where to Earn More Money as a Teacher). Fortunately, for most, the unique flexibility of having summers off also increases the options for educators wishing to increase their income. Below are the top 20 ways to increase your income as a teacher.

Take Advantage of District and Statewide Incentives

  1. Professional Development Programs

Professional development opportunities are becoming increasingly prevalent in many school districts across the U.S., which can have a positive effect on a teacher’s salary. For example, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) accommodates teachers working in the five boroughs of New York City, and encourages member educators to participate in the College Level Examination Program (CLEP). This program allows teachers to earn college credits by taking CLEP tests, which can be applied towards an increase in salary.

  1. Teacher Incentive Programs

A growing number of school districts are embracing the concept of creating unique compensation packages that provide performance-based incentives for teachers. The U.S. Department of Education mentions the following school district programs as examples:

  • The Effectiveness and Results Plan (Colorado’s Harrison School District Two): Teachers earn pay raises that correspond with data related to student achievement and their individual performance as an educator.
  • ProComp (Denver Public Schools): Teachers can increase their salary by reaching specific incentive goals as an educator, such as receiving a glowing teacher evaluation or making a difference in a hard-to-fill position.
  • IMPACTplus (District of Columbia Public Schools): Teachers receive annual bonuses based upon an implemented teacher evaluation system.
  1. Relocate to a Higher-Paying State

When taking into account the cost of living of a particular city, geographic region and/or district, teachers may relocate to a state that pays a higher overall teaching salary to increase their income. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) cites the following states as offering the highest median wages for teaching at a high school in 2014: New York ($76,680), New Jersey ($72,790), California ($72, 670), Alaska ($72,120), and Massachusetts ($71,000), while the median salary reported for all states was $55,050.

  1. Student Loan Forgiveness Programs

Teachers may increase their income by reducing their expenses and debt, and for many, student loan payments are a common burden for many educators. While not all states offer loan forgiveness, there are many federal programs put into place that help teachers to better manage, pay off, or completely eliminate their school debt. This ranks student loan forgiveness among the top 20 ways to increase your income as a teacher. 

Pursue Further Education

As a rule of thumb, the more education a teacher completes, the higher their salary potential. While some accumulate continuing education credits to keep current with their licenses and certifications (which can lead to a higher income), others go back to school to earn additional degrees or to specialize in various fields or subjects. Some school districts even offer complete or partial payment opportunities for teachers with an interest in earning an advanced degree. The extra education often adds thousands of dollars to the base salary of a teacher.

  1. Earn a Master’s Degree

U.S. News & World Report’s Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Teacher states that teachers with a master’s degree earn a salary that is an average of $20,000 higher than an educator with a bachelor’s degree. In addition to increasing the potential income of a teacher, a master’s degree also qualifies an educator for a wider range of employment options and opportunities. Pursue the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) to continue providing a hands-on education to students. A Master’s in Education (M.Ed) prepares a teacher to shift from working in a classroom to the education system as an administrator, guidance counsellor, or expert on educational theory.

  1. Teach a Higher Grade Level

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook (2014-15 Edition) reveals overall increases in income for teachers who go on to educate students in higher grade levels. In 2014, the median salaries for various teaching positions in the U.S. include: preschool teachers ($27,130), elementary school and kindergarten teachers ($53,090), middle school teachers ($53,430), and high school teachers ($55,050).

  1. Become a Postsecondary Teacher

Instructing students beyond the high school level in a vast array of academic and vocational subjects is among the top 20 ways to increase your income as a teacher. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that postsecondary teachers held 1.3 million positions in 2012 – with the greatest percentage (75 percent) employed in a college-, university- or professional school environment. About 21 percent of postsecondary teachers were hired at junior colleges, where the remaining teaching professionals worked in technical/trade schools, training facilities, and other industry-related schools. In nearly all states, postsecondary teachers also report higher incomes than their counterparts at the K-12 level.

Educational requirements for becoming a postsecondary teacher vary according to the subject being taught, and the type of institution; there are two primary educational tracks to consider:

  • Teach at a community college: A teacher with a master’s degree may qualify to teach certain subjects at various community colleges. When applying for a position at a technical or trade school, work experience in a specific field plays an important role in the hiring process.
  • Teach at a college or university: A teacher must obtain a doctorate degree or Ph.D. to qualify for a teaching position at an undergraduate or graduate school.

Postsecondary teachers were paid a median salary of $68,970 in 2012, where the top 10 percent of professionals reportedly earned more than $142,270 annually. The subject that a teacher taught also contributed to the increase in income that a teacher may experience. According to the BLS, the top three subjects translating into the highest median incomes for postsecondary teachers are law ($99,950), engineering ($92,670), and economics ($87,950).

Pursuing a Position in Administration

An advanced degree and years of related experience are required for a teacher to qualify for some of the higher-paying job positions found in educational administration. Typically, the following types of jobs are offered on a contract basis, where professionals agree to remain in the position for a pre-determined number of years.

  1. Become a Principal or Vice-Principal

A master’s degree in education administration or leadership is generally required of a teacher applying for a job as a principal. A teacher must also have worked in a school as an educator to qualify for most positions as a principal of a school. The BLS states that principals who run elementary-, middle- and high schools earn a median salary of $87,760.  Unlike teachers, principals do not take the summers off, and work all year-round – even when school is not in session. Principals use the summertime to prepare for a new school year, such as ordering supplies, hiring staff and teachers, and arranging building maintenance.

Similar positions that pay a higher salary than teachers are vice-principals and assistant vice-principals – titles typically viewed as “second in charge” at a school. With nearly the same educational requirements as a principal, the position involves some of the same duties but with a $10,000 difference in salary.

  1. Become a Superintendent

The superintendent is in charge of schools within a certain district, and is responsible for working with teachers and unions; organizing budgets and securing funds for schools; writing proposals; overseeing district policies; and ensuring the safety of their schools. The average salary of a superintendent is $111,337 per year.

The minimum qualifications to become a superintendent of a school district include a graduate degree, state certification, as well as the completion of education management coursework and related work experience. A doctoral degree is not mandatory, but preferred in many cases. A board of education typically seeks a principal or assistant principal to fill an open position. A teaching background of about five years of experience is oftentimes a requirement.

  1. Pursue an Instructional Coordinator Position

Teachers with a vision to make changes in policy may become an instructional coordinator, who is in charge of overseeing school curricula and a district’s standards of teaching. This position is available on all levels of education – from elementary schools to colleges to professional learning institutions. The entry-level requirement for this position is to obtain a master’s degree, and possess work-related experience, such as teaching at a high school for five years. Median pay for this position is roughly $60,050 per year.

Add to Your Qualifications or Duties

Schools are constantly seeking educators to fill in-demand positions that require a mastery of specific skills, unique training, special knowledge, or a background in a particular subject. Oftentimes, teachers augment their base salary by assuming a supervisory role for extracurricular student-related activities, as demonstrated below.

  1. Coach a Team

On the secondary school level, teachers who qualify to coach a specific sport can increase their income by taking on the extra duty. High school athletic coaches can make a handsome overall salary, and increases vary according to location, school, sport, and team performance.

For example, the San Antonio Express-News analyzed the salary records for more than 600 head coaches in the San Antonio, Texas area, and learned they earned more than $39 million during the 2013-2014 school year. Football coaches made up more than 50 percent of the top 50 highest-paid area coaches, with a girls basketball coach earning the highest income. A cross country and girls track coach was cited as the highest-paid female coach within the city (and 30th highest paid overall); she earned $85,703 a year.

  1. Advise a Student Club

From prom committee to organizing the yearbook to art club, middle- and high school students often join school clubs and after-school activities. Teachers serve as guides, supervisors and advisors, typically getting paid a few thousand dollars extra per year for their involvement.

  1. Provide Tutoring Services

Teachers are needed to assist in maintaining after-school tutoring programs. Oftentimes, teachers volunteer their services before assuming an ongoing position that offers extra pay. To earn additional income, some educators provide one-on-one student attention as a private tutor, offering their services after school, during the weekends, or in the summertime. The supplementary income varies, and can become quite lucrative.

  1. Summer Employment

Most educators have a couple months off in the summertime where they are not obligated to teach – creating an ideal time to earn extra money. While some teach summer school classes, others offer tutoring services through a private agency. Summer camps often hire teachers to serve as staff and run educational activities. In the summertime, some teachers have also earned a stipend ranging from $500 and $3,000 for assisting school administration with writing or updating curriculum, business documents, and other school-related projects.

  1. Become Proficient in a Language

Those who already speak a language can use this skill to their advantage (and earn more money as a teacher) when applying for certain positions, such as teaching in an English as a Second Language (ESL) classroom. Since the number of non-English speaking students is projected to increase in the future, job prospects for bilingual and multilingual teachers will continue to grow. On the average, the qualification can lead bilingual teachers to earning $2,000 to $5,000 more per year than their non-bilingual counterparts.

When seeking to make more money utilizing language skills (especially for Spanish speakers), some U.S. states are in greater need than others. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the highest percentages of English language learners (ELL) are found in the West. In 2012-13, 10 percent or more of public school students in Colorado, Nevada, Texas, and New Mexico were ELL students, while 22.8 percent of public school enrolment in California was comprised of students in need of an ESL teacher.

  1. Teach a Virtual Class

In some states, virtual high schools are in need of teachers to offer courses throughout the year and during the summertime. For example, North Carolina reportedly pays educators around $200 per student to teach at the North Carolina Virtual Public School, which also offers various courses for those not in the public school system – such as private school students, home schooled children, and out-of-state students.

Use Your Experience to Make Supplemental Income

A teacher’s experiences, knowledge and insight can provide valuable information to parents, students, administration, and other educators. The following options are just some of the ways supplemental income can boost a teacher’s salary:

  1. Write a Book

From penning a series of children’s books to helping to fight literacy to self-publishing teaching materials and workbooks, teachers with a knack for writing can use their summers productively to create and market their publications.

  1. Hold Seminars or Workshops

Professional development seminars, training sessions, and workshops for teachers are held on the district-wide, national- and international level. Teachers may host or participate in evening, weekend and summer events to earn extra money. From enlightening undergraduates pursuing a degree in education to demonstrating learning tools and new technology to seasoned educators, there are plenty of opportunities for teachers to enhance their income by training their peers.

  1. Speak at Conferences

Teachers can earn a supplemental income outside of the classroom by sharing their knowledge with others – sometimes earning up to thousands of dollars per engagement (depending on their level of expertise). According to Velvet Chainsaw Consulting, teachers who take their conference appearances to a professional level can earn between $1,000 and $4,000 per day as an expert in the field. Industry insiders with average presentation skills may receive $250 to $1,000 per day, while others are offered a stipend to offset travel and lodging expenses to a conference.

Conference facilitators, presenters and trainers can make up to $4,000 to $10,000 a day, and usually represent the best in the field. Teachers who pen several books (especially those with successful publications under his or her belt) are often requested to speak at conferences, and can also earn thousands of dollars for their appearances

  1. Win an Award or Grant

There are many statewide, nationwide and organization-related accolades that recognize performance-related success, which includes monetary rewards. Teachers who demonstrate excellence within the classroom have enjoyed increased compensation through such awards. For instance, the Milken Educator Awards honors remarkable K-12 educators with unrestricted cash awards of $25,000.

Grants, fellowships and scholarships also provide additional income for a teacher which increases his or her ability to enrich their classroom or develop as a professional. Available through private companies, the federal government, charities and other sources, the money can be used to purchase much-needed school supplies, organize field trips, attend teacher conferences and workshops, or allow an educator to return to school for an advanced degree. For this reason, this strategy also ranks among the top 20 ways to increase your income as a teacher.

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