how much does a kindergarten teacher make (720)
How Much Does a Kindergarten Teacher Make?
Kindergarten teaching—how hard could that be? It’s just a bunch of adorable little tykes playing all day long, right?
That’s the common misconception about kindergarten, and, according to a teacher-blogger at The Kindergarten Connection, it couldn’t be further from the truth. If you’re interested in teaching kindergarten because you’re hoping to cash an easy paycheck, think again.
Kindergarten is when kids first need to get serious about learning. Yes, some of them have previously attended preschool, and some might even know how to read, add, and subtract. But kindergarten is the first time they’ll be expected to learn something, and for many, it will be their first experience with letters, numbers, and glue sticks. It’s also where students learn to interact with one another and how to behave in a group. These are huge learning objectives, and they do not come naturally. This isn’t leading-baby-turtles-to-water teaching. This is trying-to-get-baby-turtles-in-a-single-file-line-to-go-to-lunch teaching.
Early childhood learning lays a crucial foundation for lifetime learning. As a kindergarten teacher, you will be a steward of a critical phase in each of your students’ lives.
Well then, a job like that ought to pay a bundle, right? Sadly, no. But teacher pay isn’t quite as bad as you’ve perhaps been led to believe. To get a better sense of how much kindergarten teachers earn, read on. In this article, we’ll cover:
Kindergarten is a pre-number-grade school level for children ages five (and sometimes six) years old. Some, but not all, students in a kindergarten class will have attended some form of preschool before entering kindergarten. This means that some students enter kindergarten with classroom experience, and others do not.
According to Scholastic magazine, the purpose of kindergarten is to:
Kindergarten teachers lead kindergarten classes, which typically have 15 to 20 students in them (some states limit class size by law, others do not). Some kindergarten teachers—particularly those with larger classes—are assigned a teaching assistant to help them manage the class and handle the workload. During a typical day, a kindergarten teacher:
Graduate degrees for teachers fall into two categories: the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) and the Master of Education (MEd). Many resources indicate that the MAT is the best master’s degree for teachers, while MEd programs are primarily for aspiring educational administrators, policymakers, and other current education professionals who aspire to work outside the classroom. In reality, it’s not quite that simple.
Both MAT and MEd programs tend to be concentration-based, and while there are more part-time and full-time Master of Arts in Teaching programs focused on advanced pedagogic theories and skills, there are also plenty of Master of Education programs with grade-level, subject-area, and student-population concentrations.
In some areas of the US, a teacher with a master’s degree at the top of the salary schedule can earn close to $40,000 more than a teacher with a bachelor’s degree. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that going to graduate school will lead to a substantially bigger paycheck. The only way to know how much you’ll earn after graduating with a master’s in teaching or master’s in education is to look at the salary schedule in your district. You should be able to see at a glance how your education and experience will translate into dollars. ( )
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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, kindergarten teachers earned a median annual income of $60,900 in 2021. The job website Salary.com reports a median income of just over $60,000 for kindergarten teachers, with salaries ranging from below $41,000 to above $83,000. Glassdoor’s data paint a less encouraging picture; the site sets average salaries for kindergarten teachers at around $59,000. Public schools traditionally pay better than private schools or child day care centers. There were approximately 125,000 kindergarten teachers in the United States in 2021, a number projected to increase to just above 131,000.
Kindergarten teachers don’t have tons of homework to grade, but that does not mean their job starts with the first bell and ends with the final bell. Like other teachers, kindergarten teachers must prepare lessons, maintain paperwork, communicate with parents, and fulfill numerous other obligations that can keep them busy long after the last child has gone home. Most kindergarten teachers work a ten-month school year with two months off in the summer, allowing them to earn additional income through summertime jobs. Those who work in year-round schools (typically nine to ten weeks of schooling followed by a three-week break) may find it harder to supplement their income with second jobs.
Several factors can impact a kindergarten teacher’s salary. They include:
According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, approximately 89 percent of all full-time teachers teach in public schools; the remaining 11 percent teach in private schools. The difference in income between public and private school compensation is significant. On average, private school salaries are only 75 percent of public school salaries. A teacher’s experience level impacts that number; for teachers with two to four years of professional experience, private schools pay 83 percent of what public schools pay. The pay difference increases with accrued experience, as public schools typically offer more generous raises than do public schools.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a small number of kindergarten teachers work in places other elementary schools. Of the nation’s 131,160 kindergarten teachers:
The National Center for Educational Statistics provides the most robust data set on teacher salaries. It does not disaggregate salary data by grade level, but it does report salaries by years of experience. It shows, unsurprisingly, that salaries increase as teachers accrue classroom time. According to this data set, the average annual income for public-school teachers in 2021 (the last year for which data is available), by experience, was:
As a general rule, teachers with graduate degrees earn more than teachers whose terminal degree is a bachelor’s. At all grade levels, teachers with a master’s degree earn 26 percent more than their peers who hold only a bachelor’s.
Job-posting website Salary.com reports kindergarten teacher salaries by highest academic degree. It indicates a lower premium for earning a master’s degree. According to Salary.com data, kindergarten teachers with a bachelor’s earn between $56,000 and $62,000 per year; those with a master’s earn between $57,000 and $63,000 per year. That’s about a one percent increase in income for the graduate degree.
School districts tend to be transparent about their compensation systems (by necessity, since they are publicly funded), so you can quickly determine whether a state or school district offers additional pay to teachers who hold graduate degrees. Just visit the state board of education’s—or the local school district’s—website to learn whether they reward advanced degrees.
Most school systems are willing to pay more for teachers who have developed specializations. Consider becoming a literacy coach or a special education teacher. Note, however, that most specialists work across classrooms and grades; they are not tied to a single group of students or a grade level. If your ambition is to teach kindergarten, specializing may prevent you from working with this age group full-time.
Teacher pay is set by the states, with local governments sometimes making adjustments (so that teachers in one county may earn slightly more or less than teachers in neighboring counties). The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the states paying the highest wages to kindergarten teachers are:
States hiring the greatest number of kindergarten teachers are:
If you’re looking to make your fortune as a kindergarten teacher, try finding a job in Los Angeles, CA (average wage: $95,420, Kingston, NY ($92,160), or Salinas, CA ($90,490). Most of these municipalities, alas, hire relatively few kindergarten teachers, and—at these wages—presumably, all the jobs are filled. Note also that high salaries almost always correlate with a high cost of living locally.
To teach kindergarten in a public school, you will need to earn a bachelor’s degree. Most kindergarten teachers complete a bachelor’s in education with a focus on early childhood education or child development.
That said, your bachelor’s degree need not be in education. Earning a bachelor’s in education has two primary benefits:
So, if you get your bachelor’s in, say, history or biology, and then you decide you want to teach kindergarten, you will then have to complete a teacher preparation program before you can apply for your initial teaching license. A teacher preparation program can take between a few months and two years to complete, depending on what courses you completed in attaining your bachelor’s degree.
You do not need a master’s degree in teaching nor a master’s in education to teach kindergarten, but as discussed above, earning a master’s may trigger a pay raise. A Master of Education degree also prepares you to transition from the classroom to administrative roles (e.g., school principal, curriculum specialist) should you wish to later in your career.
Typically, kindergarten teachers earn a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education or child development, then find a job leading a kindergarten classroom. From there, many remain kindergarten teachers throughout their careers. It is their dream job, so where is there to move on to?
Others may eventually earn a master’s degree to seek opportunities at libraries, education publishers, school front offices, school boards, and local, state, and national governments. Do you dream of writing children’s books? There could hardly be a better training ground than a place where you read to and are surrounded by children all day long. You couldn’t ask for a better focus group. Your options for a new career, should you want one, will be limited only by your imagination, your skills, and your training.
On the “how much do you love children” continuum, are you more Mr. Rogers or WC Fields? As a kindergarten teacher, you will constantly be surrounded by children—often behaving badly and expectorating freely. If you don’t love them, you’re in the wrong business.
You also need to be satisfied with a less-than-extravagant income. You won’t starve as a kindergarten teacher, but you’ll need to keep a tight budget, particularly if you have student debts, car loans, and other obligations to meet. It can be done, but it might mean extending that ramen-based college diet for a few more years.
If none of that puts you off and you’re committed to the task of shaping tomorrow’s citizens, you will likely love this job. It’s not as easy as some people think. However, in the end, you’re still be working with (mostly) adorable kids at a fascinating juncture in their lives, when everything is interesting and scary and potentially a lot of fun. You’ll catch some of that if you’re at all cut out for this job, and that will help make the ramen go down a little easier.
(Last updated on January 23, 2024)
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