The Best States for Teachers

Do we all agree that teachers should make six digits, or at least come close to it? From the role they play in training young minds to the issues they face on a daily basis, this is arguably one of the most important – and often the most difficult – jobs in the market. Not to mention the months that so many teachers have spent capturing the attention of over 20 children through a computer screen …

If it were up to us, all teachers would earn enough money to live comfortably wherever they want. Alas, the reality is a little less true. So how much do teachers earn? Across the country, the median salary of primary school teachers in 2020 was $ 60,940. When it comes to providing housing for a teacher’s salary, some states fare better than others.


Do you notice anything on our map? Here are some takeaways from the trends we are seeing.

  • Most of the best states for teachers based on rental affordability are in the Midwest. The South comes in second with three of the top 10 places.
  • High school teachers tend to earn more than high school or elementary school teachers, but there are a few exceptions in our top 10. What’s up, Kansas and North Dakota?
  • Teacher salaries in our top 10 states range from $ 44,790 to $ 62,530. The average salary is lowest in South Dakota and highest in Nebraska.

The 10 best states for teachers

So how did we determine the best states for teachers when it comes to affordable rent? We looked at the percentage of a teacher’s annual income that would be needed to cover the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment. Keep in mind that the experts tell us that you shouldn’t be spending more than 30 percent of your salary on rent. Our top 10 states are all below this threshold.

10. Nebraska


This Midwestern state tends to bring up images of bucolic farmlands and endless plains. True. But did you know this is the birthplace of Kool-Aid? And the house of Warren Buffet (Omaha). There is much more to these areas than Rocky Mountain oysters and raisin pie.

Let’s start with some impressive statistics on education. The graduation rate in Nebraska is a solid 90 percent. It is just above the national average, which stands at 88 percent. With top-ranked schools like Elkhorn High and the highest average salary among our Top 10 ($ 62,387), Cornhusker State is a great place for teachers. So what are you waiting for? Find a teaching job in Nebraska.

9. Alabama


Are you planning your fall around college football? Do you dream of barbecue? Whether you’re riding the Crimson Tide or roaring with the Auburn Tigers, Alabama will welcome you with open arms. With a low cost of living and Southern hospitality sweeter than tea, it’s easy to fall in love with this Deep Southern state.

Find a job in a strong school district like Madison City, Homewood, or Mountain Brook City Schools and you can expect to make around $ 52,390 per year.

While rent for a two-bedroom apartment is just over 25% of your salary ($ 1,110), the below-average cost of living ensures that your teacher’s salary will go far. From sophisticated Birmingham to bustling Tuscaloosa, you’re sure to find the perfect place to call home.

8. Kentucky


The second affordable state in the South to make our top 10, the Bluegrass State serves everything from thoroughbred horses to fine bourbon and world famous baseball bats (ahem, Louisville Slugger). With all this free time in the summer, you can drive through Horse Country, sip your way through the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, or float down the Cumberland River.

Ready to join the 42,769 teachers working in public schools here? The good news, the state needs teachers. Expect to earn a salary of just under $ 55,000. With the low cost of living, you should have plenty left in your budget for the Derby hat you’ve been dreaming of.

7. South Dakota

South Dakota

How much do you know about South Dakota? If you’re like us, it’s probably time to take a deep dive into a state that has a lot to offer beyond Mount Rushmore.

How would you like to live in the third least stressed state in the United States? Same. You also won’t pay income tax, property tax, or inheritance tax … maybe there is a correlation with the stress reliever. Needless to say, your teaching salary will go a long way in South Dakota.

Your average salary here at SD will be around $ 45,393 and you’ll pay a low rent of $ 849 for a two bedroom. With great schools like Timber Lake and Brandon Valley, you’ll find plenty of places where you can make a lasting impact on the lives of your students.

6. Arkansas


Natural beauty is the star of Arkansas, but this southern state has other claims to fame. Beyond scenic lakes, rivers and hot springs, it is the birthplace of Bill Clinton and the former home of Bill and Hillary when they taught at the University of Arkansas Law School. (visit the Clinton House Museum to see for yourself).

Arkansas is also home to an active diamond mine, the Fouke Monster (aka the Beast of Boggy Creek) and the mystical (and unexplained) lights of Dover above the Ozark Mountains.

With two cities on our list of the cheapest cities for renters (looking at you, Russellville and Texarkana), your paycheck will go a long way in Arkansas. Expect to earn around $ 51,093 teaching at top schools like Haas Hall Academy and Bentonville High. In keeping with the state’s low cost of living, you’ll pay $ 899 to rent a two-bedroom apartment.

5. Oklahoma


Oklahoma is cooler than you might think, starting with Oklahoma City, where the Flaming Lips made their debut and a river runs through downtown. All over the state, you’ll find both cowboy culture and craft brewery, not to mention some of the friendliest people around. The Sooner State is the perfect place to settle down if you like a slower pace.

Like most of our top 10 states, the low cost of living is a big draw here. And did we mention strong school systems? In the Deer Creek School District, the graduation rate is a staggering 96%. On average, teachers earn $ 49,200 and pay one of the lowest rents in our top 10 ($ 833 per month for two bedrooms).

4. North Dakota

North Dakota

North Dakota has more prairies and fewer mountains than its friendly southern rival. He also has the reputation of being “richer”, thanks to its oil. The state is just behind Texas when it comes to oil production in the United States. And since we’re comparing North and South Dakotas, of course, we have to look at the average teacher salary.

Here in the North, teachers earn a salary of over $ 10,000 above its sister state South ($ 57,833 for South Dakota’s average of $ 45,393). Meanwhile, the rent is just under $ 80 more, hitting $ 928. Whether you teach in Minot or Grand Forks, you will be spending less than 20% of your salary to stay in our fourth best state for teachers.

3. Kansas


Chances are, you know all about the Amazing Kansas BBQ (or you should!). And maybe you are aware of the very real tornado factor. But did you know that this is where the ICEE (aka the Slurpee) was invented? Kansas City is also the birthplace of the White Castle. Sadly, there are no more White Castles in the state – you’ll have to travel to Missouri for these addicting burgers.

Ready to throw your hat in the ring for a teaching job in one of the the best schools in Kansas? You’ll do well in the Sunshine State, where the average salary is solid ($ 55,880), the cost of living is low, and you’ll only pay around $ 895 for a two-bedroom apartment. That’s less than 20% of your annual salary, which puts Kansas neck and neck with South Dakota’s No.4.

2. Wyoming


From the great outdoors to the snow-capped Tetons, Wyoming is an awe-inspiring state. Perhaps you visited Yellowstone National Park this year with the record number of visitors who flocked here to see Old Faithful (or just to soak up the decor of Kevin Costner Yellowstone). Whether you enjoy skiing, fishing, or swimming in mineral hot springs, you’ll find plenty of outdoor adventure in Wyoming – and not many people. Wyoming is the least populated state in the country, with approximately 580,000 residents.

Do you like the mountains more than people? Join one of 2,174 teachers from a top school like Sheridan or Laramie High. You’ll earn the second-highest average salary in our top 10 – around $ 60,933 if you take notes. Ah, your rent? Only $ 833 for a two-bedroom, tied with Oklahoma for the second-lowest rent in our top 10 states. However, you’ll earn a lot more here than in Oklahoma, which puts your salary-to-rent ratio at a comfortable 16.4%. Who needs people, right?

1. Iowa


Ashton Kutcher’s birthplace is also responsible for the salty / sweet / creamy / crunchy goodness of scotcheroo – a beloved snack made with peanut butter, Rice Krispies, butterscotch chips and chocolate. There’s also an annual bacon festival, but we’re getting away from it all. If you love endless cornfields, lots of snow, and the occasional tornado, Iowa may be for you.

Hawkeye State is of particular interest to teachers. From sophomore teachers at Hopewell Elementary to AP Calculus instructors at Pleasant Valley High, you can expect to make around $ 56,623 per year. This is good news, given that your rent will be $ 770 per month for a two-bedroom. This makes Iowa our best state for teachers when you look at how far your paycheck will go.

The complete list

OK, so obviously there are over 10 states that are great – and very affordable – for teachers. What about the West? And the Northwest? What the hell, the east coast? We have what you need. Find out how all of your favorite places stack up against the best cities for teachers.


Rent prices are based on a moving weighted average of Apartment Guide and’s multi-family rental property inventory as of July 2021. Our team uses a weighted average formula that more accurately represents the price availability for each type. unit and reduces the influence of seasonality on rent prices in specific markets.

States with insufficient stocks were excluded.

Teacher salary averages are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and are current as of May 2020, the most recent data available at the time of publication.

The rent information included in this article is used for illustration purposes only. The data contained in this document does not constitute financial advice or a price guarantee for an apartment.



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