Teacher’s Salary with a Master’s Degree


Two common questions relating to teacher’s salaries are, how much does a teacher with a masters degree make, and do teachers with master’s degrees get paid more than teachers who lack an advanced degree? While teachers salaries across the U.S. vary by district, almost universally teachers with a master’s degree will earn more. Elementary, middle school, and high school teachers are all likely to receive a higher master degree salary. Teaching with a master’s degree can also provide better learning outcomes for students and teachers alike.

What’s the Average Salary of a Teacher with a Master’s Degree?

Most school districts offering additional pay for teachers with master’s degrees use “step and lane” salary scales. Teachers advance through salary scale steps which correlates to the number of years they spend teaching for a district. A lane refers to the teacher’s educational qualifications and certificate. In a district that offers a higher master degree salary, teachers with master’s degrees are in their own lane, in which remuneration starts at a higher point than non-master’s starting teachers. 

While not every area of the country or school district offers more pay for a master’s degree, among those that do, the pay difference can be substantial. For example, in New York City a starting teacher salary with masters and no prior teaching experience is $63,751.

The National Education Association (NEA) maintains statistics on starting teacher salaries. In 2017-2018, starting salaries for teachers with or without master’s degrees ranged from $33,323 in Arkansas and $31,418 in Montana, up to $46,992 in California and $45,589 in New York. 

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES), teachers with master’s degrees in Arkansas started at an average salary of $47,100, and starting teachers with master’s degrees in Montana averaged $42,210. The average starting California teacher salary with a master’s degree in 2017 was $61,100 according to the NCES.

Teacher Types and Master’s Salaries

According to Payscale’s salary surveys, the national average elementary school teacher salary with a master’s degree is $50,868. Payscale reports that the average elementary school teacher salary without a master’s degree make $44,547 a year, a drop of over 12 percent.

The National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) reports that 34 percent of public school teachers and 35.8 percent of private school teachers had a master’s degree in 2015-2016. Teachers in private schools earn less than those in public school districts. The mean annual wage for all elementary and secondary school teachers was $58,390, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Private elementary and secondary teachers earned 22 percent less than public school teachers with a mean annual wage of $43,300 according to the BLS.

Most school districts offer higher pay to teachers who have master’s degrees. However, both teachers with master’s degrees and those with bachelor’s degrees have opportunities to advance in pay, in-line with their seniority along step scales. You can learn exactly how much you could make as a starting salary with a master’s degree by visiting the website of a school district where you would like to teach. 

A master’s degree in education also provides teachers with more than just extra earning potential. Master’s programs in education offer hands-on training, skill building, and education theory and practice that can help to improve student learning outcomes, classroom management skills, and teaching reward and enjoyment.