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How Much Teachers Make Around the World — and Where the US Ranks

Karen Doyle

Teachers perform one of the most important jobs in our society — educating future workers and leaders. Despite the critical nature of the job, there is a wide disparity in the average teacher salary in different countries.

GOBankingRates looked at average teacher salaries in 30 countries around the world. The data includes starting teachers’ pay, pay after 15 years of experience and pay at the top of the pay scale for elementary, middle and high school teachers. You may be surprised to see which country pays its teachers the most — and where the average teacher salary in the U.S. falls on the list.

30. Hungary

  • Overall average salary for teachers: $21,535

  • Highest average salary: $29,928 for high school teachers

When looking at the average teacher salary by country, Hungary is the lowest of all 30 countries on the list, and the average high school teacher’s salary at the top of the pay scale is the third-lowest. However, the cost of living in Hungary is far lower than in the U.S. Rent in Hungary, for example, is 64.26 percent lower than in the U.S.

29. Czech Republic

  • Overall average salary for teachers: $21,613

  • Highest average salary: $24,901 for middle school teachers

The average pay for teachers in the Czech Republic is very consistent based on grade level. The average varies by less than $1,000 for starting salary, those with 15 years of experience and the top of the scale.

28. Poland

  • Overall average salary for teachers: $22,596

  • Highest average salary: $26,636 for elementary, middle or high school teachers

In Poland, teacher salaries are very consistent. Elementary school teacher pay is the same as that for middle or high school. In Poland, the starting salary for a teacher is $15,600. A teacher with 15 or more years of experience will average $25,553.

27. Greece

  • Overall average salary for teachers: $27,690

  • Highest average salary: $37,699 at any grade level

Teacher salaries in Greece are consistent between grade levels, with no difference between elementary, middle or high school salaries. Among the countries that pay the smallest salaries, Greece has a large difference between the overall average and the average salary for those at the highest end of the pay scale.

26. Turkey

  • Overall average salary for teachers: $29,447

  • Highest average salary: $33,288 at any grade level

In Turkey, teachers’ average salaries do not vary much over the course of a career. A teacher who is just starting out in Turkey will earn an average of $26,219, and one who is earning at the top of the scale will earn $33,288, an increase of just 21 percent.

25. Costa Rica

  • Overall average salary for teachers: $31,154

  • Highest average salary: $38,266 for middle and high school teachers

In Costa Rica, starting salaries for elementary school teachers average just $23,888, about $1,000 less than those for middle or high school educators. For those with 15 years of experience, the average for elementary school is $30,304, for middle school and high school, it’s $31,580.

24. Chile

  • Overall average salary for teachers: $34,104

  • Highest average salary: $44,959 for high school teachers

While teacher salaries in Chile are low, the increase teachers see from the time they start teaching until they get 15 years in experience, is higher than many countries on the list. An elementary school teacher in Chile earns an average of $23,439, when they’re just starting out, but can expect to earn $34,231, after 15 years and $43,760, if they are at the top end of the scale. Teachers in cities often earn more, but the cost of living is higher too.

23. Israel

  • Overall average salary for teachers: $34,407

  • Highest average salary: $53,650 for middle school teachers

There is a lot of variation among average teacher salaries in Israel. The starting salary for an elementary school teacher averages $20,051, but the average middle school teacher salary at the top of the pay scale is more than two and a half times that amount.

 

 

22. Iceland

  • Overall average salary for teachers: $37,099

  • Highest average salary: $41,414 for high school teachers

Teachers in Iceland with more than 15 years of experience are all at the top of the pay scale at the elementary and middle school level. High school teachers have a wider variation in salaries, starting at $30,347 and topping out at $41,414.

21. Italy

  • Overall average salary for teachers: $37,401

  • Highest average salary: $48,121 for high school teachers

Starting salaries for an elementary school teacher in Italy average just $28,514, but the highest-paid high school teachers earn nearly $20,000 a year more.

20. Slovenia

  • Overall average salary for teachers: $38,447

  • Highest average salary: $48,166 for elementary, middle and high school teachers

Teachers in Slovenia earn the same amount regardless of the grade level they teach. Starting salaries average $26,823, and after 15 years, the average salary is $40,351. Those teachers at the top of the pay scale earn $48,116.

 

19. France

  • Overall average salary for teachers: $40,309

  • Highest average salary: $54,010 for middle and high school teachers

Teacher salaries in France start out low — an elementary school teacher earns just $29,516 on average. But at the top of the pay scale, secondary school teachers can earn over $54,000.

18. New Zealand

  • Overall average salary for teachers: $41,557

  • Highest average salary: $47,589 for high school teachers

In New Zealand, if you have 15 years of experience in teaching, your salary will be at the top of the pay scale, regardless of what grade you teach.

17. Finland

  • Overall average salary for teachers: $42,426

  • Highest average salary: $50,656 for high school teachers

Finland is widely recognized as having one of the best educational systems in the world, despite landing in the middle of the pack for teacher salaries. In 2016, Finland introduced a new national curriculum focused on teaching students “how to learn” rather than “what to learn.”

16. Mexico

  • Overall average salary for teachers: $42,747

  • Highest average salary: $65,843 for high school teachers

Mexico has a lot of variation in teacher salaries. The average teacher salary in Mexico ranks 16th on the list, but the average salary for a high school teacher with 15 years of experience comes in at the fourth-highest. The starting salary for a teacher in Mexico is the fifth-lowest.

15. Sweden

  • Overall average salary for teachers: $44,056

  • Highest average salary: $52,217 for high school teachers

There’s very little difference in starting teacher salaries in Sweden based on grade level, with the average at every grade being approximately $37,000. High school teachers at the top of the pay scale earn about $2,500 per year more than those who teach elementary school students.

14. Portugal

  • Overall average salary for teachers: $46,931

  • Highest average salary: $65,417 for teachers at any grade level

Teachers in Portugal earn the same average salary regardless of the grade level at which they teach. A teacher just starting out can expect to earn $32,887, and one with 15 years of experience averages $42,489.

13. Norway

  • Overall average salary for teachers: $48,232

  • Highest average salary: $57,740 for high school teachers

Norway lands just about in the middle of the pack in terms of teacher salaries. Pay is fairly consistent throughout a teacher’s career, with the difference between starting salary and salary after 15 years being just $8,102 for elementary and middle school teachers and $4,960 for high school teachers.

12. Japan

  • Overall average salary for teachers: $48,919

  • Highest average salary: $65,658 for high school teachers

Japan has a wide disparity between the average starting salary for teachers and what those at the high end of the pay scale earn. For elementary school teachers, the average starting salary is $30,631, the average salary for a teacher with 15 years of experience is $51,593, and those at the top of the pay scale average $63,969, more than double the starting salary.

 

11. Spain

  • Overall average salary for teachers: $50,019

  • Highest average salary: $61,543 for middle and high school teachers

Teachers in Spain have an average starting salary of $38,987, for those who teach elementary school, and $43,565, for those who teach middle or high school. By the time they have been teaching for 15 years, their salaries have only risen about $6,000 per year.

10. Denmark

  • Overall average salary for teachers: $50,180

  • Highest average salary: $55,675 for high school teachers

Denmark is in the top ten for teacher salaries, with a starting salary of $44,919, for elementary school teachers, $45,134, for middle school teachers and $42,841, for high school teachers. It’s the only country on the list where the average starting salary for high school teachers is lower than it is for middle school teachers.

9. Australia

  • Overall average salary for teachers: $53,645

  • Highest average salary: $59,568 for teachers at any grade level

In Australia, teachers’ salaries are the same across all grade levels. The average starting salary is $41,798, and after 15 years of experience, a teacher can expect to earn $59,568.

 

8. Ireland

  • Overall average salary for teachers: $54,308

  • Highest average salary: $69,306 for middle and high school teachers

In Ireland, teachers at the highest end of the pay scale earn nearly $10,000 per year more than their counterparts with 15 years of experience.

7. South Korea

  • Overall average salary for teachers: $56,015

  • Highest average salary: $84,842 for elementary school teachers

Teachers at the top of the pay scale earn significantly more in South Korea. In fact, the top of the scale average elementary school teacher salary is the second-highest of any country on the list. The average salary for a high school teacher with 15 years of experience is $52,747, while those at the top of the pay scale average $84,185.

6. Canada

  • Overall average salary for teachers: $56,723

  • Highest average salary: $65,474 for teachers at any grade level

In Canada, teachers with 15 years of experience are paid at the top of the pay scale, on average, and average pay is the same regardless of grade level. Canadian teachers start out earning an average of $39,222 and top out at an average of $65,474.

5. United States

  • Overall average salary for teachers: $56,960

  • Highest average salary: $70,900 for high school teachers

American teachers’ salaries are the fifth-highest of all the countries on the list. The difference between a starting teacher’s salary and that of someone who has been teaching for 15 years is among the highest. Experienced high school teachers earn $22,489, more than their counterparts who are just starting out.

 

4. Austria

  • Overall average salary for teachers: $57,456

  • Highest average salary: $83,660 for high school teachers

Teachers in Austria are paid slightly more than those in the U.S. on average, but the maximum salary is quite a bit higher. Austrian high school teachers at the top of the pay scale earn nearly $13,000 more per year than those at the top of the pay scale in the U.S.

3. The Netherlands

  • Overall average salary for teachers: $61,705

  • Highest average salary: $84,469 for middle and high school teachers

Teachers in the Netherlands would be wise to stick with their chosen career. Middle and high school teachers with 15 years of experience earn an average of $31,469 more than those who are just starting out.

2. Germany

  • Overall average salary for teachers: $73,732

  • Highest average salary: $92,386 for high school teachers

Germany ranks second for teacher pay around the world, with high school teacher pay for those at the top of the scale approaching $100,000 a year.

1. Luxembourg

  • Overall average salary for teachers: $105,762

  • Highest average salary: $138,279 for high school teachers

If you decide to go into teaching for the money, consider going to Luxembourg. This small European country pays the highest teacher salaries around the world, by a lot. The starting salary for a middle school teacher in Luxembourg is more than the top-of-scale salary for a primary school teacher in any other country except South Korea.

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Methodology: GOBankingRates analyzed salary data on average gross salaries and trends for teachers on an international level from 2005 to 2017, sourced from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD); average gross salaries in the study are from 2017, the latest data available. To be included in the study, countries had to have complete data across nine categories: (1) starting salary of primary school teacher, (2) salary of primary school (elementary) teacher with 15 years’ experience, (3) salary of primary school teacher at the top of pay scale; (4) starting salary of lower secondary school (middle school) teacher, (5) salary of lower secondary school teacher with 15 years’ experience, (6) salary of lower secondary school teacher at the top of pay scale; (7) starting salary of upper secondary school high school) teacher, (5) salary of upper secondary school teacher with 15 years’ experience, (6) salary of upper secondary school teacher at the top of pay scale. Salaries were averaged and countries ranked from highest to lowest paying for 32 countries.

This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: How Much Teachers Make Around the World — and Where the US Ranks