Yeah, we know—money is the root of all evil. Blah blah blah.
But WE WANT IT ALL OF IT OMG RIGHT NOW.
While salary scales, steps, and contract provisions will vary from state to state, and even from district to district (and in some cases, from town to town), there are a few things you can typically do to make sure you're hitting the top pay range for your skill set and educational level.
To that end, here are 7 tips to help you increase your salary. Ready, set, open your bank account.
Tip #1: C-E-U! C-E-U!
It doesn't quite have the same ring as the U-S-A! U-S-A!, but it could net you quite a gain.
We're talking Continuing Education Units here, and many contracts provide for increased pay steps after a certain number of CEUs have been completed. What's more, many districts will even reimburse teachers for earning a certain number of CEUs per semester or year, provided a particular minimum grade has been achieved. As if boosting your education weren't an end in itself, there's money in it.
Be sure to check your contract and plan accordingly so you can make sure you're earning those credits and qualifying for the associated pay raise. Also be sure that you know what documentation you need to provide to your superintendent's office in order to get your raise.
There's nothing worse than doing the work and not getting the credit. Or maybe that's called integrity? But whatevs—we want the Benjamins right now.
Tip #2: Get an advanced degree.
We know, it's not like you can just drop by the CVS down the street and pick one up along with your paper towels and orange Tic Tacs (you know you still love 'em). But if you've got the time and the money and the motivation, think it through.
And guess what: if you're up for it, you can plan out your CEUs as part of that advanced degree. Why's it a good idea? Because teachers with Master's degrees (and beyond) earn more than teachers with only Bachelor's degrees.
Again, there are some logistics to take care of. (Aren't there always?) When you begin taking CEUs, make sure that each course you take is part of a path to your next level of education. The equivalent of another Bachelors won't necessarily net you an increase, even if the first 18 credits toward that Bachelors do. So make every CEU count by ensuring that each and every course gets you closer to that advanced degree.
Tip #3: Pursue advanced certification specific to your state (or district).
Oh yes, yet another way to make yourself sound (er, be) advanced. In some states or districts, educators can pursue leadership certificates or complete other state- or district-specific programs that entitle them to pay increases. Like in the other cases, your contract should spell out just what these various pay levels are so that you'll know if you're working in a system that provides such opportunities.
You can find more programs in this publication from the National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY). If you don't find one that applies to you, don't despair: chances are you can do some lobbying for your district or state to create a program based on one of these initiatives.
Tip #4: CLEP your way to college credits.
In some states (New York, for example), teachers can earn college credits by passing College Level Examination Program (CLEP) tests. If you consider yourself an autodidact, or if you're just the DIY type, this could be a more attractive route than some of the more time-consuming alternatives. Instead of registering for a semester course and putting in all that seat time, get yourself a CLEP study guide and see if you can earn your CEUs that way.
Tip #5: Apply for awards and grants.
Sure, the applications can be time-consuming. And so can the review process, the waiting, and the finding out. But the rewards—if you get them—can be substantial.
The NEA Foundation lists grants for teachers and offers an online application system for many, and the United Federation of Teachers publishes a monthly list of grants, awards, and freebies that includes everything from monetary awards for teachers to funding for projects, activities, and supplies in the classroom or out of it.
Tip #6: Become a coach or advisor.
Many schools offer stipends to teachers who take on extra responsibilities such as coaching a team or advising a club or class. If you're not swamped by your teaching responsibilities and can make a little extra time in your day to fulfill such a role, you could see a significant pay bump for your trouble. Not to mention the fun of getting to know some students through chess or fencing on top of long division.
If you're on the fence about getting involved in this kind of role, dive on deeper into the pros and cons of taking on an advisor role and how to handle both teaching and coaching.
Tip #7: Change schools.
We know, this is a drastic one. Maybe it's just shifting your commute, but it might mean uprooting yourself, your partner, your family—even your pet, who's gotten really used to that fantastic dog park just down the street. However, if you're up for a change and down for a move, you might want to check out the average salaries and the average cost of living in other communities you could see yourself moving to.
And hey—sometimes there's a big discrepancy in teacher pay from one town or county to the next, so it's possible you could get a pay increase by changing schools without having to move house at all. If you're having trouble making ends meet, it could be worth checking the pay scales at surrounding school districts and keeping your eyes open for available positions.
But before you jump ship, be sure to consider all of the factors involved in changing schools. You could find yourself teaching new courses that require a bigger time commitment, or the culture of the school with higher pay could be a bad fit for you. Plus, it would be a shame to leave behind dear and trusted colleagues or a school where you feel respected valued, only to find yourself feeling isolated in a hostile work environment.
Tip #8: Do your own thing.
Your school doesn't have to be the one paying you the big bucks. Plenty of teachers make bank as educational consultants: you can set up your own business or tack yourself on to someone else's. If you're good at what you do, people will want to pay you dolla dolla bills to pick your brain.
If there was a number 9, it would definitely be "Adopt Shmoop into your Curriculum"... just kidding (or are we...)!