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How Much Could a Master's Degree Increase Your Teaching Salary?

Teacher standing in front of chalkboard

The amount a master's degree can increase a teacher's salary can vary greatly depending on several factors, including the subject being taught, the amount of teaching experience the person has, the location of the school, and the school district's policies. In some cases, a graduate degree can lead to a significant increase in salary.

On average, teachers with master's degrees can expect an average increase in earnings of about 10-15%. However, the actual increase can range from as little as a few thousand dollars per year up to $20,000 per year.

It's also important to note that some school districts have specific policies in place regarding salary increases for advanced degrees, so it's best to check with the school district you work for or are considering working for to get a more accurate idea of the potential impact a master's degree might have on your salary.

Average Salary For Teachers By State in the 2020-2021 School Year (With and Without a Master's Degree)

State Starting Salary Top Bachelor's Starting Master's Top Master's Top Salary
Alabama 41,028 52,609 47,146 60,245 69,292
Alaska 48,469 83,395 54,077 86,861 87,159
Arizona 39,057 48,114 41,521 56,943 63,549
Arkansas 35,201 48,090 39,313 47,765 53,780
California 49,303 54,810 61,740 91,090 98,616
Colorado 35,292 45,028 38,793 56,639 64,963
Connecticut 46,905 - 50,824 88,655 94,294
Delaware 43,092 61,121 48,951 76,655 87,117
Dist. of Columbia 56,313 89,214 60,057 110,179 116,408
Florida 38,724 60,401 42,437 61,273 61,873
Georgia 38,509 56,566 43,711 64,507 79,930
Hawaii 48,428 68,988 52,302 74,508 88,839
Idaho 38,015 52,408 39,994 56,456 58,177
Illinois 40,484 59,855 44,619 74,801 82,875
Indiana 37,573 - - - 69,516
Iowa 37,908 - - - 71,382
Kansas 38,314 - - - 59,840
Kentucky 37,238 53,054 41,055 57,917 62,706
Louisiana 41,747 54,310 42,382 55,508 57,620
Maine 36,380 60,759 39,065 64,513 66,709
Maryland 47,959 64,158 51,058 86,365 -
Massachusetts 47,396 75,774 51,380 83,828 -
Michigan 37,549 68,753 43,115 69,330 82,628
Minnesota 40,310 54,902 45,432 66,712 72,114
Mississippi 36,543 55,245 38,967 63,131 -
Missouri 32,970 41,998 35,876 51,718 56,275
Montana 32,871 43,618 37,092 60,782 65,272
Nebraska 35,820 44,152 42,511 60,817 68,395
Nevada 40,732 53,917 47,015 69,051 77,699
New Hampshire 38,990 58,166 42,594 65,721 69,716
New Jersey 53,177 84,318 56,943 89,096 93,035
New Mexico 41,214 55,300 41,838 65,103 67,519
New York 47,181 76,861 51,754 88,407 94,541
North Carolina 37,049 55,044 40,754 60,549 63,227
North Dakota 40,106 57,590 43,960 - 61,316
Ohio 37,569 65,098 41,600 75,941 80,616
Oklahoma 37,992 52,577 39,427 54,656 57,013
Oregon 38,280 54,401 42,569 67,039 72,261
Pennsylvania 46,232 72,049 49,863 79,193 79,193
Rhode Island 43,569 82,397 46,512 85,477 87,637
South Carolina 37,550 55,437 55,437 62,748 76,452
South Dakota 39,636 52,856 43,904 54,633 -
Tennessee 38,809 52,271 41,991 56,497 64,681
Texas 44,582 62,441 47,491 64,924 63,784
Utah 43,026 65,021 46,927 75,251 79,524
Vermont 40,241 54,771 45,025 69,475 75,804
Virginia 42,069 66,791 44,792 70,260 72,486
Washington 49,113 59,120 57,938 85,352 95,006
West Virginia 37,978 59,064 40,804 61,927 65,769
Wisconsin 38,678 - - - 72,457
Wyoming 46,558 55,156 50,984 66,597 73,451
U.S. Averages 41,163 60,293 45,029 69,798 75,913

  Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Teacher working with students in classroom

Factors That Affect Teacher Salary

There are a number of factors that can lead to potential increases in teacher salary.

  • Level of Education Achieved: The level of education that a teacher has is one of the biggest factors that affect salary. A teacher with an advanced education degree, such as a Master of Education or a doctoral degree, will make more than those with an undergraduate degree.
  • Levels of Education Being Taught: Higher grade levels typically pay higher salaries. For example, middle school teachers and secondary school teachers can expect to make a higher salary than elementary school teachers or preschool teachers. Additionally, those who teach specialized fields like English as a Second Language (ESL) or special education may earn a higher salary
  • Teaching Experience: The average teacher salary will increase as teachers gain more years of experience in the classroom. Schools may also offer additional incentives for teaching experience, such as increased bonuses for longevity. Additionally, schools with unions often have pay scales based on tenure and advanced qualifications; this means that teachers with more years in the system may be compensated with higher salaries than those with less teaching experience.
  • School Location: Teacher salaries may vary from school to school or district to district. In general, teachers in suburban and urban areas tend to receive higher salaries than those in a rural district. Charter and public school teachers typically make more than those who teach in a private school. Different states also pay different wages, depending on cost of living and demand for teachers. For example, teachers in California make about $20,000 more per year than the national average.
  • District Policy/Salary Schedule: A school district's salary schedule affects a teacher's salary by determining the base or minimum wages received. It also determines whether they will receive bonuses based on experience or graduate level degrees they may have obtained.

Teacher writing on a chalkboard

Master of Arts in Teaching Degree

A Master of Arts in Teaching degree is a great way to specialize and enhance your current teaching skills. This type of degree provides educational professionals with the knowledge and expertise needed to deepen their understanding of and engagement in the teaching profession. With MAT, you will be well-equipped to create engaging learning experiences for students, understand and use cutting-edge educational strategies, and maintain high professional standards.

With this degree, you will also gain an increased ability to advocate for students, collaborate with your peers and other stakeholders, develop critical thinking abilities among learners, empower others through mentoring opportunities, and much more.

What You'll Learn in a MAT Program

A Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) degree program includes coursework in the following areas:

  1. Education theory: Students in an MAT program will study the history of education, theories of learning, and the philosophical foundations of education.
  2. Instructional methods: Students will learn how to plan and deliver effective lessons, use technology in the classroom, and assess student learning.
  3. Subject-specific content: Depending on the subject they want to teach, students will complete coursework in areas such as mathematics, science, language arts, social studies, or the arts.
  4. Pedagogy: Students will study teaching methods and strategies that are effective for diverse populations, including English language learners and students with special needs.
  5. Classroom management: Students will learn how to create a positive classroom environment and manage behavior to ensure that all students have a safe and supportive learning experience.
  6. Field experience: MAT programs typically include a field experience component, where students can observe and work with experienced teachers in real-world classroom settings.

Overall, an MAT degree program is designed to provide individuals with the knowledge and skills they need to become effective, knowledgeable, and well-rounded teachers who are prepared to make a positive impact in their students' lives.

Benefits of Getting a Master's in Teaching

There are several benefits for teachers who pursue a master's degree, including financial incentives:

  1. Increased earning potential: An advanced degree in education can often lead to a higher salary for teachers, which can be especially important for those who have dedicated their careers to the field of education.
  2. Professional development: A master's degree program provides teachers with opportunities to further their knowledge and skills, and to stay current with the latest developments in their field. This can help them become more effective educators and better serve their students.
  3. Career advancement: A master's degree can open up new career opportunities for teachers, such as becoming an instructional coach, department chair, or educational administrator.
  4. Improved instruction and leadership skills: The coursework and research involved in a master's degree program can help teachers to better understand the educational process, improve their instructional methods, and develop the leadership skills necessary to lead educational initiatives and programs.
  5. Increased job security: A master's degree can make a teacher more competitive in the job market, and can provide them with a wider range of job options if they ever need to look for a new position.

Teacher lecturing students

What Can You Do With a Master of Arts in Teaching?

While the primary focus of a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) degree is to prepare individuals to become classroom teachers, there are a number of other possibilities for teachers with an MAT degree. Some of these include:

  1. Instructional coaching: Instructional coaches may work as mentor teachers to help less experienced teachers improve their instructional skills and better meet the needs of their students.
  2. Curriculum specialist or department chair: Department chairs are responsible for overseeing the curriculum and instruction in a specific subject area, such as mathematics, science, or English.
  3. Educational administrative roles: Individuals with an MAT degree can pursue careers as school administrators, such as a school principal or other district leadership positions.
  4. Higher education: MAT graduates may also choose to pursue careers in higher education, such as teaching at the college level or working in student services or academic advising.

The skills and knowledge gained through an MAT degree program can be applied to a wide range of careers in education and related fields, providing individuals with a broad range of opportunities to make a positive impact on students and communities.

Pursue a Master of Arts in Teaching at Pepperdine University

Pepperdine University offers an exceptional Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) degree program. The MAT is designed to provide students with the knowledge and training necessary to become successful PreK or K-12 teachers in just 11 months. 

With Pepperdine’s comprehensive curriculum and 200+ teaching sites, students will gain the skills needed to make a positive impact on students in the classroom setting. Click here to find out more or schedule an information session.