Curtis Shelton | October 1, 2018

Median income vs. teacher pay

Curtis Shelton

OCPA has shown how retirement benefits vary among public employees, including teachers, and the private sector. Just as retirement benefits are often ignored when discussing teacher compensation, rarely is teacher pay compared to the median income for all Oklahomans.

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for secondary teachers in Oklahoma was $40,090 in 2017. This is $6,460 more than the median personal income for all Oklahomans in 2017.

However, education attainment must also be taken into consideration as the difference in pay between those with a high school diploma and a bachelor’s degree is significant. Nearly every teacher in Oklahoma holds at least a bachelor’s degree with roughly 30% holding either a master’s degree or a doctorate degree., a website that gathers data from the U.S. Census Bureau, shows that Oklahomans with at least a bachelor’s degree had a median income of $43,200 in 2017. This means that Oklahoma teachers made around $3,110 less than other Oklahomans with a similar level of education in 2017. It is important to note that these data do not include the pay raise that averaged $6,100 per teacher and went into effect for the 2018 school year.

Oklahoma Teachers2017 Median Pay
Elementary Teacher$38,420
Middle Teacher$40,080
Secondary Teacher$40,090
Oklahoma Pay by Education Level2017 Median Pay
Less than H.S. Diploma $21,600
H.S. Diploma$27,500
Bachelor's Degree$43,200
Graduate Degree$55,000
Median Oklahoma Pay

Texas, the regional leader in teacher pay, paid teachers more than other Texans with a bachelor’s degree in 2017. In 2017, Texas had a median pay of $57,340 for secondary teachers compared to $52,100 for those holding at least a bachelor’s degree.

Texas Teachers2017 Median Pay
Elementary Teacher$56,050 
Middle Teacher$56,120 
Secondary Teacher$57,340 
Texas Pay by Education Level2017 Median Pay
Less than H.S. Diploma$20,700
H.S. Diploma$27,500
Bachelor's Degree$52,100
Graduate Degree$68,200
Median Texas Pay$36,170

The national trend was much closer to the Texas picture than Oklahoma in 2017. Nationwide, secondary teachers had a median pay of $59,170 compared to $51,100 for those with a similar level of education in 2017. None of these data, however, consider cost of living differences. Oklahoma is fortunate to have a very low cost of living relative to other states.

U.S. Teachers2017 Median Pay
Elementary Teacher$57,160
Middle Teacher$57,720
Secondary Teacher$59,170
U.S. Pay by Education Level2017 Median Pay
Less than H.S. Diploma$20,900
H.S. Diploma$28,700
Bachelor's Degree$51,100
Graduate Degree$67,800
Median U.S. Pay$37,690

Curtis Shelton Policy Research Fellow

Curtis Shelton

Policy Research Fellow

Curtis Shelton currently serves as a policy research fellow for OCPA with a focus on fiscal policy. Curtis graduated Oklahoma State University in 2016 with a Bachelors of Arts in Finance. Previously, he served as a summer intern at OCPA and spent time as a staff accountant for Sutherland Global Services.

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