Teaching is an honorable career, but unfortunately is underpaid in many states. I started my career as a Kindergarten teacher and remember the days of the first paychecks barely covering all of my expenses. How can you ever get ahead? Here is my advice to all teachers on how to make a little more money and create a path that you can start to build wealth.
Before/After School Opportunities
Take advantage of any before school or after school opportunities your district may offer. This may include homework clubs, district committee work or coaching. These little chunks of time add up to big earnings throughout the year. They also can lead to more work in the future for a better wage.
Generally, if you show that you are taking initiative and volunteering to serve on committees, other paid leadership positions may become available in your district or school that could add to your teaching salary. These are great for career advancement as well. So, never turn down an opportunity to grow yourself as a teacher and earn a few dollars in the process.
The summer provides many opportunities to make extra money. The first and most obvious is by teaching in a summer school program with your district. Usually summer school is only partial days and has a more laid back atmosphere. Some of my best teaching was during summer school when I didn’t have to worry about standardized testings, or a highly paced and structured curriculum. I could just teach what the students needed and I got to use my creativity.
It is possible that you will need a break from kids during your summer and this is perfectly normal. Summer provides a great opportunity to take on seasonal work such as lawn maintenance at your local golf club, or perhaps waiting tables at the nearest tourist hotspot. It is great to have a mental break from teaching, yet still earn a little money.
If you have a great reputation as a teacher in your building, many parents will be seeking you out for tutoring services. You can then schedule these sessions for before and after school to optimize your time. You are able to set your own hours and pay, and it is not unreasonable to ask for $25-30 an hour or more for tutoring.
You also could get into teaching English online with programs such as VIPKids or Qkids. These tutoring services happen over the computer and can be done early in the morning, or on weekends. The rates on these range, but after you have more experience, the rates will definitely increase. I know of a few friends that do this as their part time job while they are a stay at home mom.
Many teacher contracts are based on steps and lanes depending on your years of experience and your education or credits you have earned beyond a degree. You want to optimize how much you make early on in your career or you will miss out on a lot of money. Look at this example of a teacher’s salary schedule and I will explain how much you could be missing out on.
If you start a Master’s program in your first year of teaching and do a 2 year program, by year three you would be making $6,304 more in the MA Lane. After 5 years you would be ahead by $18,914. After 10 years you would be ahead by $50,437. Now, if you invested that increase of $6,304 every year, in 20 years your account at 7% average growth would be $276,526.07 when you were 55. At age 65 it would be $637,164.45. And that is just the investment from your Master’s degree, not your yearly raise.
Why a Master’s Degree?
A Masters is the best way to go because most often, districts give you credit for courses that have been taken beyond your last degree. This means if you get credits that aren’t towards your Master’s degree they will not be counted after your Masters. It is best to get a degree and then add credits after that until you get to the end of your chart for your district.
After your Master’s degree, I encourage you to go for another certificate or license such as administration, reading, or special education. These are all high needs areas and would create opportunities for you to get higher pay in the future.
Consider Administration…are you crazy?
I chose to go into administration after my teaching career. At first I never thought that I would want to, but I have found that I enjoy it much more than teaching. It has also provided so many opportunities to increase my salary and earning power. I am still contributing to our state pension plan, the same as teachers, but because of my increased salary, my pension is growing at a much faster rate. This will be a bonus when I finally decide to retire.
There are many paths you can take in your education career, and although I still agree that with a higher education degree, we are undervalued in our salaries. I won’t say that at times I do wish I had taken a different career path, but it has served me and my family well, and with my high savings rate, I hope to retire early! You can too!