Teacher Pay

Arizona’s ranking compared to other states for median Arizona elementary teacher salary.


Included in this number

Median pay for district, charter, and private school elementary teachers, except for special education teachers. Median pay for public and private school secondary teachers, except for special education and career/technical education teachers. These numbers are adjusted to compensate for the regional cost of living. Included in these wage estimates are base salary, cost-of-living allowances, incentive pay, and several other items.

Not included in this number

Preschool, special education, career and technical teachers, teacher’s aides, or administrators. Overtime pay, stock bonuses, and year-end-bonuses are excluded from the calculation of wages. A complete description of the BLS definition of wages can be found at: https://www.bls.gov/oes/oes_ques.htm#def

In Brief

Median Elementary and secondary (high school) teacher pay is compared in Arizona, three neighboring Western states, and the nation as a whole. Approximately half of Arizona teachers earn more than this amount, and half earn less.

Median teacher pay is also compared to several other occupations that also require a bachelor’s degree and to median pay for the total workforce. This data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

To provide a more accurate comparison across states, the BLS figures are adjusted by the Regional Price Parities published by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. This adjustment compensates for higher or lower cost-of-living in some areas.

Detailed Methodology

Data on salaries for 800 occupations is collected by United States Bureau of Labor Statistics through the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program. Both national and state-level files were downloaded from https://www.bls.gov/oes/. The data released in May 2020 for this metric are an aggregate of six semi-annual surveys of 180,000-200,000 establishments from November 2016 through May 2019.

The occupations and their Standard Occupation Codes (SOC) selected for comparison are as follows:

• All Occupations00-0000
• Accountants and Auditors13-2011
• Civil Engineers17-2051
• Elementary School Teachers, except special education25-2021
• Secondary School Teachers, except special and career/technical ed25-2031
• Occupational Therapists29-1122
• Physician Assistants29-1071

Annual median wage was extracted for each of these occupations for the nation and all 50 states.

A note on the BLS website addresses some concerns about using this data for year-to-year comparisons:

“Although the OES survey methodology is designed to create detailed cross-sectional employment and wage estimates for the U.S., States, metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas, across industry and by industry, it is less useful for comparisons of two or more points in time. Challenges in using OES data as a time series include changes in the occupational, industrial, and geographical classification systems, changes in the way data are collected, changes in the survey reference period, and changes in mean wage estimation methodology, as well as permanent features of the methodology.”


With this in mind, these numbers are best used to compare teacher pay in Arizona relative to other occupations and to other states rather than looking at changes from one year to the next, which are likely not meaningful.

Unlike other measures of teacher pay, such as NCES or NEA, BLS data also captures salary information for charter school teachers in Arizona, which represent approximately 15 percent of the K-12 teaching workforce in Arizona.

To adjust for local cost-of-living, Regional Price Parities (RPP) were downloaded from https://www.bea.gov/newsreleases/regional/rpp/rpp_newsrelease.htm and applied to the median salaries reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These parities were applied to the state level median wages. Both the annual median wage and state rankings were reported for the seven occupations for Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and the United States.

Survey Data

Three of the chosen indicators are derived from survey data. Attainment and opportunity youth are products of the American Community Survey conducted by the Census Bureau. Median teacher pay is calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as part of their Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program. Since this data is drawn by sampling a small percentage of the overall population, there is a degree of uncertainty to the numbers.

Sampling Error

Rather than seeing these numbers as point descriptors of exactly the percent of adults with college degrees, for example, it is more accurate to visualize them as the center of a 90% confidence interval. Were it possible to interview everyone in Arizona, there is a 90% chance that the ‘true’ percentage would fall within this confidence interval.

This uncertainty is known as sampling error. It is an unavoidable consequence of the survey process. The size of the confidence interval is expressed by the standard error of the estimate, which is used to monitor the quality of the estimate.

Non-sampling Error

Inevitably, other errors creep into the data. Random errors, such as a respondent accidentally checking the wrong box on a survey form, do not bias the data in one direction or another, but do affect the precision of the estimate by increasing the standard error.

Systematic errors unintentionally push the data in a specific direction, perhaps through a poorly worded question, can be a serious concern. Both the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics conduct rigorous, high-quality surveys that reduce systematic errors to a minimum.