Top 5 Best and Worst States for Teachers

What’s the best state for a teacher to work in? Or the worst?

We’re sure there’s many a day when teachers have asked whether or not their school, district, or state is right for them.

Education jobs are among the lowest-paying occupations requiring a bachelor’s degree, and teacher salaries consistently fail to keep up with inflation.  In some states, teachers are more fairly paid but that is not the case in many states.

WalletHub, a site for helping people efficiently attain top WalletFitness™, conducted a study of all 50 States and the District of Columbia to see which states are best for teachers. WalletHub compared 24 key indicators of teacher-friendliness including teacher salaries, potential for income growth, pupil-teacher ratio, and access to resources.

ThinkFives looked at this data and would agree that according to these criteria, these states could very well be the best and worst. However, just because a salary is high and you have access to resources doesn’t mean it’s a good place to work. 

To really get a comprehensive view, you would need to survey teachers in these states to ascertain their thoughts on working conditions. You also would want to overlay student achievement based on growth with particular attention to achievement by students in the free and reduced lunch population.

In other words, it’s very complicated. But if you want to know where economic conditions are best for teachers, this list is probably a good place to start.

Here are their top and bottom five.

Top 5

New Jersey

The state of New Jersey is on the list because it scores well in most areas, and it has the second lowest pupil to teacher ratio. New Jersey is also fourth highest in public school spending per student and third highest on the “best school systems” list.

In this case, the Garden State may very well be the garden spot for teachers.

Average Salary: $76,376


Pennsylvania comes in 4th on the list because it does well in high annual salary (#3) and job openings and opportunities for teachers. While academic work and achievement are outside the top 10, Pennsylvania does not score low in any of the 24 criteria, giving it a high average across the boards.

Average Salary: $70,258


Washington, the state and not the District of Columbia (which you may see shortly), scored #3 on the list. Washington showed the fifth highest paying salaries in the country and high performance across the board in the survey.

This included opportunities in job openings, starting salaries, tenured salaries, and income growth potential.

Average Salary: $72,965


Coming in second on Wallethub’s list of best places to work for teachers is Utah. The Beehive State took the top spot for opportunity and competition, which includes high starting salaries, growth potential, teacher pensions, teacher protections, and availability of jobs. 

Utah also scored strongly in academic work and environment, landing just outside of the top ten. Looking across all criteria, Utah scored in the upper quartile in almost all areas.

Average Salary: $52,819

New York

According to WalletHub, the Empire State took the top spot as the best place for teachers to work.  Its total score was 6% better than Utah and they landed as number three overall in both opportunity and competition, and in academic and work environment.

New York was #1 in the highest annual salaries and #4 in the lowest projected teacher turnover.  They also landed in the #1 spot for the highest public school spending per student.

Average Salary: $87,543

Worst 5


Coming in at #47 on the infamous list, the state of Montana scored exceptionally low in opportunity and competition and below average in academic and work environment.  While Montana did not take the bottom honor in any particular subcategory, its failure to land in the top two quartiles in salaries, turnover, pensions, or low pupil to teacher ratios put it near the bottom of the list.

Average Salary: $52,135


Also securing a low spot on this list, the Grand Canyon State landed at #49 on the worst school system list and only one better at #48 on public school spending per student.  Arizona also took the dubious prize for having the highest pupil to teacher ratio of any state. When you combine low school spending and high pupil to teacher ratio, it’s not surprising that Arizona also scored #46 with some of the worst teacher turnover of any state.

Average Salary: $50,381


While it certainly can be appetizing to have access to lobster rolls every day for lunch, teachers in Maine probably never get the chance to enjoy lobster as Maine landed at 51st with the lowest annual salaries of any state.

Maine did have the 4th best score in pupil to teacher ratio, but its low salaries and mediocre scores in other academic areas plummeted it to nearly the bottom of the list.

Average Salary: $54,967

District of Columbia

The District of Columbia has had a difficult reputation with teachers for many years. While there may have been some improvements, it’s still on the lowest end in most academic categories.   

The District of Columbia earned several dubious honors including being dead last with the highest projected teacher turnover and tied for last with the highest projection of competition for jobs in a district. In short, the District of Columbia has high turnover, poor growth opportunities, and a difficult work environment. Such a nice combination.

Average Salary: $79,350

New Hampshire

Securing the bottom spot on this long list of 51 state and district school systems is New Hampshire. We will admit this was surprising to us at ThinkFives, as the District of Columbia and Arizona have long been known for weak school systems. New Hampshire even scored in the top five with a very low pupil to teacher ratio.

What substantially hurt New Hampshire were the opportunities and salaries for teachers. It came in #48 for the lowest annual salaries and scored low on starting salary pensions, job opportunities, and enrollment growth for the state.

The Granite State may be the first state to hold its presidential primary each year and may also be a great place to sip apple cider and watch the fall kaleidoscope of foliage come to life, but it’s probably not a place where teachers want to flock to for job opportunities.

Average Salary: $60,003

 See the full list https://wallethub.com/edu/best-and-worst-states-for-teachers/7159



How do you think your state does compared to what you hear about other state school systems?


  1. I agree with these results. I was born in New Hampshire and lived there most of my life. When my oldest child was in kindergarten he had a lot of difficulties. The school/teachers kept labeling him as a ‘behavioral problem.’ I argued with two different schools and tried to have them help with testing my son so they could better help him. They refused. When I had the opportunity, we moved to UTAH! Within the first week at our new school my son’s teacher called me in for a conference. She explained that my son seems to act a lot like other students she has had with Asperger’s! I agreed with her and knew we were in the right place! I took him to a Dr. the school worked with me to fill out the paperwork and my son was finally seen in a different light. He was tested by a team of specialists and scored in the top .2 % in the nation! He was classified as a GENIUS and the head of the department wanted to personally thank me for the opportunity to meet and work with such a brilliant child. He tested at a post graduate level in 6th grade. The High School was a completely different situation though.

    1. Thank you for sharing that Kimberly. It is amazing how well students can succeed when we know their learning styles and interests and put them in the right program with the right teachers. We wish all schools were as diligent about individualizing instruction and programs for their students.

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