Teacher Pay Around the World
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What Teachers Are Paid Around the World

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Teacher Pay Around the World
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A Lesson in Economics

COVID-19 has put teachers in the spotlight. The pandemic has forced America's educators to master virtual learning on the fly while still juggling traditional, in-class teaching — all while risking their health and well-being for a salary that forces many of them to barely cling to a spot in the middle class. Even so, only a handful of countries pay teachers more than the United States. Using data from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, Cheapism profiled the 10 highest-paying countries and the 10 lowest-paying countries to find out how American educators would fare if they got a passport and took their talents overseas. For the sake of consistency, the ranking is based on the top end of each country's pay scale for public high school teachers (primary and middle school teachers might make more or less).

Related: The Best and Worst States for Teacher Pay

How Cost of Living Is Calculated
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A Note About Cost of Living

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 gets a score of 100, the cost of living there is identical to the cost of living in New York. The cost of living would be 10% more in a country with a score of 110, for example, or 25% less in a country with a score of 75.

Related: 50 Facts You Learned in School That Are Actually Lies

Luxembourg
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Highest: Luxembourg

Peak salary: $139,336
Cost of living index: 84.38
In tiny, wealthy Luxembourg, high school teachers start with an average annual salary of $79,667. That's more than teachers in most countries, including the United States, will ever earn in a single year during the peak of their careers. After a decade of service, they pull in more than $100,000 and peak at a whopping $139,336 a year. No country on Earth pays its teachers more.

Related: Who Is the Highest-Paid Public Employee in Your State?

Switzerland
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2nd Highest: Switzerland

Peak salary: $115,977
Cost of living index: 125.69
Aside from Luxembourg, there are only two other countries where high school teachers can expect to eventually earn a six-figure salary. One of them is Switzerland, where educators peak at an average of $115,977 a year. They start at $75,494 — more than the best-paid American teachers earn at the height of their careers — and after 10 years, Swiss teachers make $97,160. Those high salaries are tempered by the fact that Switzerland is a painfully expensive place to live.

Germany
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3rd Highest: Germany

Peak salary: $103,715
Cost of living index: 66.34
The best-paid German high school teachers earn an average annual salary of $103,715, which makes it the third and final country where the best and most experienced teachers can eventually expect to make six figures. That's a significant step up from the $74,021 they earn starting out. After 10 years of serving as educators, German teachers are paid an average of $84,659.

The Netherlands
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Austria
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5th Highest: Austria

Peak salary: $90,109
Cost of living index: 71.78
Although high school teachers in Austria start their careers earning about $43,726 a year, that number jumps to $55,070 after a decade of work. By the time they're at their peak earning years, teachers in this European nation can expect to earn $90,109 a year.

Korea
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6th Highest: South Korea

Peak salary: $89,356
Cost of living index: 76.93
In South 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 $89,356 annual salary. There's a huge gap, however, between that and the $31,444 they earn when they're just starting out. In between is the $47,772 salary South Korean high school teachers make after 10 years of service.

The United States
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7th Highest: United States

Peak salary: $73,200
Cost of living index: 72.47
American teachers earn an average starting salary of $41,806, which jumps to $57,107 after 10 years before peaking at $73,200 annually. That makes them the No. 7 best-paid teachers in the world. 

Related: 15 Ways Classrooms Have Changed Over the Past 50 Years

Ireland
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8th Highest: Ireland

Peak salary: $72,297
Cost of living index: 78.07
Next up is Ireland, the first country on the list whose best-paid teachers earn less than those in the United States. Teachers in Ireland top out at $72,297 and start at $36,966. After 10 years in the classroom, they earn an average of $58,345.

Canada
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9th Highest: Canada

Peak salary: $70,698
Cost of living index: 66.18
Canada is another of the four non-European countries to grace the top 10. There, high school teachers start at $40,504, then they leap all the way to $68,414 after 10 years. They close out their careers earning an average of $70,698.

Japan
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10th Highest: Japan

Peak salary: $62,388
Cost of living index: 86.22
The last of the 10 highest-paying countries is Japan. There, the highest-paid high school teachers earn annual salaries of $62,388. They start, however, at just $29,440 a year. After 10 years on the job, their annual salaries meet in the middle at $41,861.

Chile
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10th Lowest: Chile

Peak salary: $44,785
Cost of living index: 45.43
On the other end of the spectrum is the list of the 10 lowest-paying countries, which starts with Chile, where teacher salaries peak at $44,785. They earn just $24,052 to start and still less than $30,000 — $29,773, to be exact — after 10 years, although the cost of living is also low.

Related: 13 Simple Ways to Help Teachers and Students Get the Supplies They Need

Colombia
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9th Lowest: Colombia

Peak salary: $44,547
Cost of living index: 29.02
In Colombia, which has one of the lowest costs of living on the planet, teachers start at just $21,240, but that jumps all the way to $38,736 after a decade on the job. On the highest end of the scale, educators there take home an average annual salary of $44,547.

Greece
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8th Lowest: Greece

Peak salary: $40,302
Cost of living index: 57.50
New teachers in Greece can expect to earn just $20,457 when they're first starting out. After 10 years, that jumps to only $24,848. At the highest, teachers top out at $40,302, which is less than the average starting salary in the United States.

Costa Rica
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7th Lowest: Costa Rica

Peak salary: $39,682
Cost of living index: 54.20
The first country on the list where the highest average salary for high school teachers is below $40,000 is Costa Rica, where the pay ceiling stops at $39,682. The average starting salary is $25,922.

Related: What a Teacher Wants You to Know About Homeschooling

Slovenia
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6th Lowest: Lithuania

Peak salary: $37,220
Cost of living index: 44.85
The Baltic state of Lithuania pays its teachers only $37,220 at the tippy top of the pay scale. New teachers can expect to earn $28,431. After a full decade, that salary increases, but by less than a thousand dollars to $29,214.

Turkey
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5th Lowest: Turkey

Peak salary: $33,011
Cost of living index: 32.44
In Turkey, salaries don't change that much over the course of an entire career. Teachers there start at $29,407. By the time they reach their peak earning years, their salaries have grown by less than $4,000 to just $33,011.

Hungary
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4th Lowest: Hungary

Peak salary: $32,815
Cost of living index: 40.09
The most the average teacher can ever expect to earn in Hungary is $32,815. That, however, is more than twice what they make when they first enter the field. The starting salary for high school teachers in Hungary is just $16,007.

Czech Republic
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3rd Lowest: Czech Republic

Peak salary: $31,245
Cost of living index: 45.05
New teachers in the Czech Republic begin their careers with an average salary of $23,757. They get nominal raises after 10 and 15 years before topping out with an average annual salary of $31,245.

Related: 11 Careers Where Women Are Paid More Than Men

Poland
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2nd Lowest: Poland

Peak salary: $29,063
Cost of living index: 39.46
Poland holds the unenviable distinction of being the first country on the list to pay their highest-earning teachers less than $30,000 a year — the top annual salary there is just $29,063. Starting out, teachers in Poland have to get by on a meager $16,531 per year.

Slovak Republic
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Lowest: Slovak Republic

Peak salary: $23,189
Cost of living index: 46.80
Only one country on the list pays its highest-paid teachers less than $25,000: the Slovak Republic, where $23,189 is the best that high school educators can ever expect to earn. The Central European nation pays its teachers just $14,969 at the beginning of their careers.

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