The $111,650 Teacher Mistake I Made During the First 7 Years of Teaching

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Jennifer Cooper

The $111,650 Teacher Mistake I Made During the First 7 Years of Teaching
After receiving my degree to become a High School Social Studies teacher, I was so excited when I landed my first job.  However, my salary barely covered my apartment and car payment. My student loans also needed to be paid, so I picked up a job at a restaurant on Friday and Saturday nights. Although I knew I could move up the pay scale by getting a masters degree and taking professional development classes, I was overwhelmed by the idea of starting a master’s program while I was still paying for my undergraduate loans.  I never took the time to look at the financial implications of NOT investing in my continuing education.

I hit a wall in my 7th year of teaching. Although I absolutely loved what I was doing, I almost left the profession. I had two small children and my entire check was going to their daycare.  A friend of mine is a financial advisor. She sat down with me and said, “why aren’t you moving up on the pay scale? Teaching is one career that shows you exactly how much more you’ll make when you get more education.”

I finally did the math. If I had maxed out right away, I would have made an extra $111,650 in my first 7 years of teaching!  Once I saw the difference, I was determined to move over lanes as quickly as possible.  I created a plan to get my masters degree in a field I’m passionate about in 18 months and to move over to plus 80 in a year. I don’t dwell on what I missed out on anymore because since then, I have made an extra $244,595!  The total cost of my degree and the classes cost $36,000 so once I deduct that, by the end of my career, I will make over $400,000 MORE than I would have if I didn’t move over. I don’t have to work summers or at restaurants on the weekends, it’s for doing the exact same job I love.

A colleague of mine said that she is going to retire in 3 years.  She wanted to know if it was worth it to move over to the +80 lane.  She could complete her PD courses in less than a year and it will cost her about $8,000.  However, she will make an additional $7,528 per year ($15,056 in 2 years).  That means she’ll double her money by investing in herself, even this late in her career. There’s no guaranteed investment she could make that would double her money in 2 years. She’ll also make more in retirement for the rest of her life.

Happy Teacher Professional Development is educating teachers about the benefits of moving up the pay scale with workshops, articles, and on social media. Teachers can use a calculator on their website to determine the impact of their specific situation. “We believe a well-balanced teacher is a happy teacher and that happy teachers stay in their schools.”  The other big reason teachers don’t 

move up the pay scale is that they are worried it will take too much time.  Happy Teacher Professional Development offers online advancement courses that are hands-on, relevant, and efficient.


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