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A Rant About Salaries

I am beginning to wonder if we will ever successfully address the issues around improving computer science education as long as we fail to grapple with the issue of teacher salaries.

In every conversation I have had with people from business and industry and government, there is a genuine concern with ensuring that we have knowledgeable and well-trained professional teachers in the computer science classroom. Teacher pay, however, is the 800 pound gorilla everyone seems determined to ignore.

In most states, high school teachers now require an undergraduate degree in some area of specialization as well as a teaching certification that takes an additional one to two years to achieve. In many states, provinces, and countries, licensed teachers are also required to write (and pass) praxis exams in their academic area and to maintain a level of on-going professional development. And none of this even takes into consideration what they actually face in the classroom (for example critical shortages of resources, lack of professional respect, large class sizes, students of widely varying abilities to name just a few).

And what do they get for their troubles? Not much. Here is a chart of salaries for high school teachers.

And here is a similar chart for computer programmers/analysts (often considered the bottom rung of the conputer science jobs ladder).

My guess is that until we bring these two more into line (start paying computing teachers what they are worth) great teachers with computing skills are going to continue to find it very difficult to justify their choice to teach.

Chris Stephenson
Executive Director


As a teacher living in the northern sector of the technology corridor of Texas, I am not going to suggest that I would not appreciate more reward for my efforts on behalf of the future of our state, but I would like to raise two concerns that are inseparable from this question.

Most teachers leave our profession not because of the pay but because of stress related to disciplinary and administrative issues. As I demonstrate to my students on an annual basis - given the hours, holidays, summer vacations, etc., we are actually compensated, if not well, at least adequately for the minimal requirements of our job. I realize that most teachers do much more than the minimum. Ironically, these are the teachers that are least likely to be concerned with salaries and the most likely to experience undue pressure from school situations beyond their control. Though many words have been expressed and some interesting laws legislated, very little effective action has been developed to effectively address this problem. Until this is done, dedicated teachers will continue to leave. Their replacements will not be the ideologues of yesteryear but those for whom education is a second (if not third, fourth, or last) choice of careers.

Which brings us to the second concern; we can not reasonably expect higher pay unless we are first willing to subject ourselves to higher standards. This means certification and accountability. How many have complained regarding the unreasonable constraints of the few states that do require certification to teach computer science? How many wish to base their salary on the number of students who actually make 3 or above on the AP Computer Science Exam (especially if your student population is predominantly African American or Latino, College Board Summary Reports, http://www.collegeboard.com/student/testing/ap/exgrd_sum/2005.html)?

I do not cite the above because I am against raising teacher pay. I support increased compensation. But we must be aware of all that is entailed with this argument before we wade into these muddy waters.

I am a NY certified math teacher, who has been teaching computer science for the past 9 years. It isn't something that I ever thought that I would ever teach. My undergraduate degree is in Mathematics with a minor in education. Because my degree is in Mathematics, I was required to take 2 computer science classes in college. As a result, I was one of the only candidates with any experience or expertise to teach computer science to high school students. NY state does not have a certification for teaching computer science. Most of what I have learned to teach this class, has been through my own study of different computer science textbooks. Needless to say, this hasn't been as easy as it would've been for me to just be a math teacher, which is what my formal training is in. But, I'm not a teacher because it is easy. I know that I can, like my husband, go into the business world, and make twice my salary in a heart beat, but I have chosen to be a teacher. Why?

I think those teachers who stay with the teaching profession do so because they love to teach. They love sparking interest in young minds, and having a positive impact on our youth. They don't do it because they think it is easy. They don't follow the "those who can do, and those who can't teach." The people who say this, have never been in the classroom, facing the challenges teachers face everyday. It isn't about the salary, it is about our kids.

The one huge perk that I think is overlooked by your graph, not that I wouldn't bawk at extra pay, is that we are afforded a huge amount of vacation time. My husband has 2 weeks vacation. He works nights and weekends when projects are coming due. And while I've picked up my kids and enjoyed 3 hours of time with them before bed, my husband is coming home at 6, spending an hour with our 2 year old, before he goes to bed at 7pm. I definately get the better end of the deal when it comes to my own time. The time with my children is a huge compensation for lower wages.

Its also difficult when dealing with teacher's salaries because many school districts pay their teachers on a salary scale that is negotiated by a teacher's union.

In order to get pay increases for CS teachers one of a couple of things would need to happen. Pay would either have to increase for all teachers, or a special clause would need to be inserted into the contract that gave special pay to CS teachers on top of the salary schedule. As the only CS teacher in my district that makes me a very small portion of the barganing unit that constructs the contract. I dont see the teacher's union recognizing the special skills that a CS teacher has over any other teacher and therefore negotiating that pay increase.

The other possibility is that CS teachers should start out on a higher step (salary incrment) than their years of experience, but again that would require some barganing.

Dealing with teacher salaries is tricky because its very difficult to isolate individual subjects for increased compensation.

I am currently a Junior in a Georgia high school and came across this blog as a result of a search for careers in computer science within a school system.

I am sure that classes vary from place to place, but at my high school, our "Computer Science" class is far from sophisticated. If the teachers were to ask for a pay raise, their main "selling point", if you will, would involve the amount of disciplinary problems they have to deal with. We do have an advanced class: Web Design, and Computer Programming. I haven't been in either of those classes, but as far as I know they involve using Frontpage to make excruciatingly simple Web pages.

I am, however, enrolled in a "Computer Science" class. So far this semester I have learned to type. I also learned how to type into a Word document and how to copy and paste between two Word documents. We are now starting Unit Two, Excel. Anyway, my point is that not all high school computer science classes are created equally, and I have to wonder if your statistics reflect that. Again, I am leaving this comment somewhat blindly. A computer science teacher that teachers higher level subjects may indeed deserve a higher pay than another teacher next door, but there are others that are not teaching anything that would grant a pay raise.

Another thought which may be completely incorrect: it seems to me that a career in teaching computer science is easier to secure than a successful career as a Senior Programmer Analyst or Database Programmer. From what I've heard, it's pretty difficult to make it in the software development area. Teaching jobs seem much more attainable and easier to keep. Of course, that's not to say that teaching is "easy" -- I'm fully aware that it takes a very special kind of person to be able to become a teacher.

Pound for pound, no one does more work than teachers, in just showing up every day to teach.

The fact that they are the lowest paid profession, and that still requires a master's degree is a disgrace.

The punitive atmosphere with which teacher incomes are measured and agonized over leaves them captives in a system where they are used as pawns rather than professionals.

Unlike other unions, the welfare of all public school students depends upon how well teachers perform, and how well teachers are appreciated for the jobs they do.

It is a community need to have teachers who love their jobs, and be proud to be teachers in a system of employment that respects their attentiveness to these duties. No one wins when communties must fight with their teachers.

Unions that negotiate for teachers as they do for other unions are inadequate by the nature of the relationship where the vulnerability of innocent children depends upon that negotiation. No other union has this interdependency-issue that affects negotiations.

And no other union experiences the issue where management is mostly male, and union members are mostly female, adding a genderized discriminatory feature to contract negotiations that has long been recognized by students of gender policy.

It is the fact that children's welfare depends upon teachers, and that teachers are mostly female that offers the avenue of teacher unions being unfair to teachers in society, as it would in other industries where women make up the bulk of the employee-member public.

Taking advantage of teachers by giving them low pay for their years of service is no one's idea of legitimate authority provided by school commissions or unions.

Teachers need a union that protects their interests, that are sensitive to their needs, not to be simply another branch of the unionization model where their job content and their community interaction is ignored.

Schools are not factories, nor are they construction work sites - except for the fact that students spend 12-13 years in the "system" before they age out to become voting citizens. That model makes teacher unions different from every other form of union that works for their membership, and deserves special consideration for the working environment, the pay, and the kinds of rules/development/protocol that is applied to the teaching profession.

Dir Sir/Madam
I've Completed B.C.A. From
M.C.R.P. University, Bhopal(M.P.) India
and I 'm Currently in Computer School Teaching Job
I'm Interested to work in Other Country.

Something that seems omitted here is that CS is a different element in the professional world re: education. It comes down to the rate of the topic's evolution.

Rare is the industry that requires someone to focus repeatedly on updating their linguistic or mathematical skills to compete professionally. One can read leadership/management books and become a better manager, but the language in which they choose to read doesn't change annually. One uses basic math on a daily basis, and the rules of basic math don't change annually.

(As an aside, I thank God for that.) ;)

Now, CS, along with other sciences, leads to new discoveries almost daily. New inventions require constant retooling and upgrading of one's skills...and for this purpose continuing education is benefiting tremendously.

Entry level programmers/analysts will need more than a basic HS CS education to continue in their profession. The comparison above is flawed by this omission.

I submit that this is why CS salaries have not increased with the computing industry, and recommend that teachers of the sciences who are required to frequently keep their own skills up to date should be required to (a) meet a different, regularly updated standard than those teaching basic linguistic and math skills, and that (b) there be a difference in pay among the disciplines.

I recommend www.salaryexplorer.com for salary comparison, their data is based on real people submission. regards

We worry about school teacher salaries all the time and try to help them out but finding the info is next to impossible with so many different districts.

I think teaching should be seen as a service and not as a business. It's not that i am disagreeing to you. There are many computer professionals who wants to dedicate themselves to teaching. And also the number of graduates per year doesn't match the openings. So the rest unemployed prefer such teaching line.

Ashwell prince

I think teaching should be seen as a service and not as a business. It's not that i am disagreeing to you. There are many computer professionals who wants to dedicate themselves to teaching. And also the number of graduates per year doesn't match the openings. So the rest unemployed prefer such teaching line.

Ashwell Prince

Thank you for keeping the salary data up to date on this site. I am using it as supporting information in a nasty argument I'm having on Facebook. :-) I am an application programmer in the business world. I would have been a teacher, but the salaries are so much lower. That is an abomination, in my opinion. The best and brightest should be teaching the next generation instead of cranking out code for businesses. Just sayin.

Merci pour ces interessantes informations sur les USA.
lejustesalaire.com propose le meme type d'information sur les salaires en France.

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