Reading the title, one might believe they’re about to read a guest post about an unusual case where a teacher was able to double their income through side hustles, freelancing, or other similar means.
While this may sound like a rare feat and one difficult to relate to, the teacher in question is actually me, and I can assure you it’s not as impossible as you might think.
Tawnya here, and today I want to detail how I was able to double my income in 6 years and how other teachers can do it too.
I was salaried at $35,880 my first year as a teacher and I’m now at $72,153 in my 7th year.
And the best part is doubling my teaching income has had nothing to do with side hustling, freelancing, tutoring, or anything other than my primary teaching job.
Although I do side hustle, I’ve also been steadily working to increase my primary teaching salary since I started 6 years ago.
Some of what’s made this jump possible is under my control and some of it isn’t, but the main thing I wish to impart on fellow teachers is that paying attention to those things you can control can significantly impact your income.
So without further ado, let me teach you how to hack your teaching job to ensure you’re getting the most out of all the hard work you do.
Here’s how I doubled my teaching income in 6 years.
Know Your Salary Scale: The Key To Doubling Your Teaching Income
The first step in increasing your teaching income is to understand how your salary schedule works.
Salaries vary greatly from district to district and from state to state, but what almost all will have in common is a salary schedule table showing how much you will make based on your years of experience and education.
While your districts salary schedule will look different, it’s important for you to understand the criteria by which you’re paid and to pinpoint what you can do to increase your salary.
Next, I’ll detail the factors that will help you increase your teaching salary and explain how I used these factors to double my income in just 6 years.
Once you know what factors you can impact, you can make a plan to start working to increase your income. For most, the key to increasing your income will be increasing your level of education.
In Oregon you’re required to have at least a Bachelor’s degree to teach, however, your income will increase with your level of education.
The quickest way to jump up the scale in my district is to earn a Master’s degree, which will bump you up 4 steps and almost $10,000. If your district uses a similar scale to determine your pay, you’ll likely see a similar large jump between a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree.
As I already mentioned, I started out salaried at $35,880 my first year at the very bottom of the pay scale. Even though I’d completed a ton of Master’s coursework in the process of earning my teaching license, I was still considered Bachelors +0 because I hadn’t completed my Masters yet.
Thus, the first major step I took in increasing my income was to finish my Master’s degree within my first year as a teacher.
Many of my cohort and other teacher friends chose to put off finishing the Master’s for a couple years, but my choice to finish it as soon as possible meant I received almost a $10,000 bump in pay.
Not only did I jump up to Masters +0, I had gained a year of experience and so moved down one step on the scale as well.
Even if you don’t count the step increases for experience, my choice to finish the Master’s immediately meant that I was able to earn $10,000 more a year than those who waited until years later to finish their Master’s.
While completing a Master’s degree is the quickest way to jump up the pay scale, you can achieve the same effect by taking continuing education classes.
You can also take continuing education classes after completing a Master’s and thus move up the pay scale even further, as I did. In fact, continuing education is the main thing that doubled my teaching income in such a short time.
Not only will continuing education allow you to make more money faster, they’re typically something you’ll need to do anyway to renew your license.
Furthermore, most districts will offer some form of continuing education reimbursement as part of your benefits. In my case, my district will pay for up to 6 graduate credits a year.
While I sped up the process of completing continuing education courses by paying out of pocket for many of them, you could still finish the coursework necessary to reach Masters +45 in 7.5 years and get reimbursed for all of it in my district.
In my case, I reached Masters +45 at the end of my 5th year of teaching, which means I’ve been at the top of the education side of the pay scale almost two years.
Making a conscious effort to move up the education side of the pay scale as quickly as possible is the main factor that has allowed me to double my income, and it will likely be the same for you.
Once you know your districts salary schedule and determine how much more you can earn, check to see if your district will reimburse you for continuing education classes. If so, begin making plans to enroll in continuing education coursework. You’ll likely be able to partner with a local university and an agency for the classes and credit, as I did.
If you’re not sure, ask someone in your district for more information or your state teaching association. You can also ask your colleagues or your union for information and suggestions.
While your specific situation may be different than the process I described above, it’s worth it to understand what benefits are available to you and to look to increase your income through continuing education as much as you can.
After all, your efforts will mean you’ll be paid more for doing the same job.
The factors described above (earning a Master’s and continuing education) are those that you and I are able to control when it comes to our teaching salary, but it’s important to know that I was also aided by something outside my control.
You may have noticed a discrepancy in the starting salary on the salary schedule I included and what I said my starting salary was. In fact, there’s about a $7,000 difference between the two.
The reason for this discrepancy is that my district has gone through multiple contract negotiations since I began teaching and, as a result, pay increases.
These negotiated pay increases mean I’m making several thousand more now than someone with my years of experience/education level would have made 7 years ago when I started teaching.
While pay increases through contract settlements isn’t something you can control, working to put yourself as high on the pay scale as possible will mean you’re certainly getting the most out of the negotiated salary increases you do get.
How I Doubled My Teaching Income in 6 Years
To recap, here’s how I doubled my teaching income in 6 years.
First, I finished my Master’s degree within my first year as a teacher, which gave me almost a $10,000 raise going into my second year.
After that, I worked diligently to complete continuing education courses as fast as I could in order to move up the pay scale and ultimately max out on the education side at the end of my 5th year teaching. At the same time, I’ve been steadily gaining years of experience and thus earning yearly step raises.
Finally, while I worked to move up the pay scale, I was also the beneficiary of several salary increases negotiated by my union when settling new contracts.
Combined, these factors have allowed me to double my teaching income in the last 6 years. While not all were within my control, a significant amount of the salary increases were due to my dedication and ability to complete my Master’s degree and continuing education courses.
Although it’s impossible for me to calculate exactly how much more money my efforts have made me over the last 6 years (I don’t have access to all the previous salary schedules), I’d estimate it to be around $80,000.
That’s $80,000 more I’ve made for doing the same job, all because I’ve put in the extra time and effort to hack my teaching job.
Moral of the Story
Teachers aren’t paid enough for what they do, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t make a decent income as a teacher.
In fact, with a little effort, many teachers could be making significantly more money. Obviously, you can’t speed up time, but you can increase your education level.
Begin by understanding your district’s salary schedule, and your benefits (including reimbursement for continuing education), and then make a plan to begin working on the things you can control.
Contract negotiations and step raises for years of experience will help you increase your income somewhat, but the biggest increases will likely come from increasing your education level.