A LESSON IN ECONOMICS
The news is filled with reports of teachers striking against poor pay — and everyone who knows a teacher has heard horror stories of how they often have to buy their own supplies and do hours of work at home for free after they leave school. Even considering those facts, the truth is that American teachers are paid more on average than those in all but a handful of countries, according to data from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. Here's how their situations would change if they got a passport and took their talents overseas.
HOW COST OF LIVING IS CALCULATED
To better understand what the teachers in each of the following countries can afford with their respective salaries, we've also included the cost of living for each country. The global cost of living index, as calculated by data and research site Numbeo, is based on a percentage scale relative to the cost of living in New York City. If a country receives a score of 100, the cost of living there is identical to that in New York City. The cost of living would be 10 percent more in a country with a score of 110, or 25 percent less in a country with a score of 75.
THE UNITED STATES
Cost of living index: 68.95
American teachers earn an average starting salary of $44,000 and peak at $68,000 a year. That makes them the No. 7 best-paid teachers in the world. Now that you know what educators can expect to earn in the United States, here's a look at how their counterparts across the globe are compensated for shaping the minds of the world's youth.
Cost of living index:86.44
In tiny, wealthy Luxembourg, high school teachers start with an average annual salary of $79,000 — more than teachers in all but two other countries will ever earn in a single year during their entire careers. After a decade of service, they pull in almost $100,000 and peak at a whopping $137,000 a year.
Cost of living index: 119.98
The only other country where high school teachers can expect to eventually earn an average salary in six figures is Switzerland. There, educators peak at $107,000 a year. They start at around $70,000 — more than the best-paid American teachers earn at the height of their careers — and after 10 years, they make around $90,000.
Cost of living index:67.89
The best-paid German high school teachers earn an average annual salary of $89,000, which is a significant step up from the $60,000 annual starting salary that's common in the country. After 10 years of serving as educators, German teachers are paid about $75,000.
Cost of living index: 76.62
In Korea — one of just four non-European countries to make it into the top 10 — teachers at the top of the pay scale earn a handsome $77,000 annual salary. There's a huge gap, however, between that and the sub-$30,000 salary they're paid when they start. In between is the $40,000 salary Korean high school teachers make after 10 years of service.
Cost of living index: 72.31
Although high school teachers in Austria start their careers earning about $35,000 a year, that number jumps to $45,000 after a decade of work. By the time they're at their peak earning years, teachers in the European nation can expect to earn $76,000 a year.
Cost of living index: 75.93
The Netherlands is the final country where teachers earn more than their American counterparts. There, they start at just $32,000 ayear, but skyrocket to $60,000 after 10 years. By the end of their careers, high school teachers in the Netherlands earn $69,000 ayear.
Cost of living index: 64.54
The first country on this list whose teachers earn less than those in America is Canada, one of just four non-European countries in the top 10. There, high school teachers start at around $40,000, jump to $60,000 after 10 years and close out their careers earning $65,000.
Cost of living index: 79.87
The last of the highest-paying countries not located in Europe is Japan. There, the highest-paid high school teachers earn annual salaries of $64,000. They start, however, at just $28,000 a year. After 10 years on the job, their annual salaries meet in the middle at $42,000.
Cost of living index: 77.08
Rounding out the top 10 is Ireland, where the beginning and ending pay scale for high school teachers is nearly identical to that found in Japan. Teachers in Ireland top out at $64,000 and start in the high $20,000s. They make much more, however, in the middle of their careers — nearly $55,000 after 10 years.
Cost of living index: 52.93
On the other end of the spectrum is the list of the 10 lowest-paying countries, which starts with Slovenia. High school teachers there top out at an annual salary of just $46,000. They start at $25,000 a year and only creep up to $30,000 after 10 years of service.
Cost of living index: 72.41
Just as in Slovenia, high school teachers in New Zealand won't earn more than $46,000 in any given year. The good news for educators there is that they'll earn that career-high amount after their first 10 years on the job. They start their careers earning around $30,000.
Cost of living index: 74.86
In Israel, teachers are lucky to earn a starting salary of just $20,000 a year. Even after 10 years of service, they still don't even breach the $25,000 mark. The very best Israeli teachers can hope for are salaries of $42,000 at the end of their careers.
Cost of living index: 42.80
One of just seven countries where the salary of a high school teacher peaks at under $40,000, Chile pays educators a starting salary of less than $20,000 a year. That number improves to $25,000 after 10 years and peaks at $39,000 at the very top of the pay scale.
Cost of living index: 57.64
In Greece, the highest-earning high school teachers pull in just $35,000 a year. They start at around $20,000, and even after 10 years of service their salaries are still mired in the low $20,000s.
Cost of living index: 35.52
The salary of a high school teacher in Turkey doesn't change much, even over the course of an entire career. They start at around $27,000 — but that number only jumps about $1,000 over the course of an entire decade. The highest earners there take home just $31,000 a year.
Cost of living index: 41.34
Hungary is one of only four countries where a $30,000 a year salary is out of reach, even for the highest earners in the field. Teachers with 10 years on the job are lucky to earn $20,000, which is a step up from the starting salary of about $15,000. The best-paid educators take home a paltry $27,000 a year.
Cost of living index: 38.69
With a peak salary of $26,000 a year, high school teachers in Poland earn about the same as their Hungarian counterparts. Once they put in a decade of work, educators earn around $21,000. On their first day, however, teachers there start with a meager annual salary of roughly $15,000.
Cost of living index: 44.53
High school teachers at the very top of the pay scale earn just $22,000 a year in the Czech Republic. That's a raise of less than $5,000 over what teachers earn during their very first year, a salary that barely increases at all after a full decade of service.
Cost of living index: 45.41
Just one country offers high school teachers a peak salary of less than $20,000 — the Slovak Republic. The highest earners there max out at a miserable $19,000 a year. They start in the low teens and can expect to earn around $15,000 after a decade.