Job Outlook

Job Outlook For K-12 Teachers

Employment is projected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations. Job prospects are best for teachers in high-demand fields, such as mathematics, science, and bilingual education, and in more economically disadvantaged urban or rural school districts.

Employment change.
Employment of kindergarten, elementary, middle, and secondary school teachers is expected to grow by 13 percent between 2008 and 2018, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Through 2018, overall student enrollments in elementary, middle, and secondary schools—a key factor in the demand for teachers—are expected to rise more slowly than in the past as children of the baby-boom generation leave the school system. Projected enrollments will vary by region. Rapidly growing states in the South and West will experience the largest enrollment increases. Enrollments in the Midwest are expected to hold relatively steady, while those in the Northeast are expected to decline. Teachers who are geographically mobile and who obtain licensure in more than one subject are likely to have a distinct advantage in finding a job.

The number of teachers employed is dependent on state and local expenditures for education and on the enactment of legislation to increase the quality and scope of public education. At the Federal level, there has been a large increase in funding for education, particularly for the hiring of qualified teachers in lower income areas.

Job prospects.
Job opportunities for teachers will vary with the locality, grade level, and subject taught. Most job openings will result from the need to replace the large number of teachers who are expected to retire over the ten years. Also, as many beginning teachers—especially those employed in poor, urban schools—decide to leave teaching for other careers, additional job openings for teachers will become available. Recent pressures placed on school administrators as regards teacher assessment may also result in new opportunities for teachers. But again, job prospects should be better in inner cities and rural areas than in suburban districts. Many inner cities—often characterized by overcrowded, ill-equipped schools and higher-than-average poverty rates—as well as rural areas, which are characterized by their remote location and relatively low salaries—have difficulty attracting and retaining teachers. In addition, many school districts have difficulty hiring qualified teachers in some subject areas—most often mathematics, science (especially chemistry and physics), bilingual education, and foreign languages. And increasing enrollments of minorities, coupled with a shortage of minority teachers, should cause efforts to recruit minority teachers to intensify. In the same way, the number of non-English-speaking students will continue to grow, creating demand for bilingual teachers and for those who teach English as a second language. Specialties that have an adequate number of qualified teachers include general elementary education, physical education, and social studies. And certain areas such as art and music have seen a drastic decline in funding.

The supply of teachers is expected to increase in response to reports of improved job prospects, better pay, more teacher involvement in school policy, and greater public interest in education. In addition, more teachers may be drawn from a reserve pool of career changers, substitute teachers, and teachers completing alternative certification programs. In recent years, the total number of bachelor's and master's degrees granted in education has been increasing slowly. But many states have implemented policies that encourage people to become teachers because of a shortages in certain locations and in anticipation of the loss of a number of teachers to retirement.


Projections data from the National Employment Matrix
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2008 Projected
Employment, 2018
Detailed Statistics
Number Percent
Teachers-kindergarten, elementary, middle, and secondary 3,476,200 3,944,900 468,600 13 - -
Kindergarten teachers, except special education 25-2012 179,500 206,500 27,000 15 [PDF] [XLS]
Elementary school teachers, except special education 25-2021 1,549,500 1,793,700 244,200 16 [PDF] [XLS]
Middle school teachers, except special and vocational education 25-2022 659,500 760,600 101,200 15 [PDF] [XLS]
Secondary school teachers, except special and vocational education 25-2031 1,087,700 1,184,100 96,300 9 [PDF] [XLS]
NOTE: Data in this table are rounded. See the discussion of the employment projections table in the Handbook introductory chapter on Occupational Information Included in the Handbook


Median annual wages of kindergarten, elementary, middle, and secondary school teachers ranged from $47,100 to $51,180 in May 2008; the lowest 10 percent earned $30,970 to $34,280; the top 10 percent earned $75,190 to $80,970.

According to the American Federation of Teachers, beginning teachers with a bachelor's degree earned an average of approximately $35,000 in the past school year. Also note that the majority of all elementary, middle, and secondary school teachers belonged to unions—mainly the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association—that bargain with school systems over salaries, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment.

Teachers can boost their earnings in a number of ways. In some schools, teachers receive extra pay for coaching sports and working with students in extracurricular activities. Getting a master's degree or national certification often results in a raise in pay, as does acting as a mentor. Some teachers earn extra income during the summer by teaching summer school or performing other jobs in the school system. Although private school teachers generally earn less than public school teachers, they may be given other benefits, such as free or subsidized housing.

For the latest wage information:
The above wage data are from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey program, unless otherwise noted. For the latest National, State, and local earnings data, visit the following pages: