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Teacher trends

What are the current trends in the teaching profession?

A projected 3.7 million full-time-equivalent (FTE) elementary and secondary school teachers were engaged in classroom instruction in fall 2012. This number has risen 7 percent since 2002. The 2012 projected number of FTE teachers includes 3.3 million public school teachers and 0.4 million private school teachers.

Demographic Characteristics

  • In 2007–08, some 76 percent of public school teachers were female, 44 percent were under age 40, and 52 percent had a master’s or higher degree. Compared with public school teachers, a lower percentage of private school teachers were female (74 percent), were under age 40 (39 percent), and had a master’s or higher degree (38 percent).

Pupil/Teacher Ratio

  • During the 1970s and early 1980s, public school enrollment decreased, while the number of teachers generally increased. For public schools, the number of pupils per teacher—that is, the pupil/teacher ratio—declined from 22.3 in 1970 to 17.9 in 1985. After enrollment started increasing in 1985, the public school pupil/teacher ratio continued to decline, reaching 17.2 in 1989. After a period of relative stability during the late 1980s through the mid-1990s, the ratio declined from 17.3 in 1995 to 15.4 in 2009. The public school pupil/teacher ratio increased to 16.0 in 2010. By comparison, the pupil/teacher ratio for private schools was estimated at 12.2 in 2010. The average class size in 2007–08 was 20.0 pupils for public elementary schools and 23.4 pupils for public secondary schools.

  • The number of public school teachers has increased by a larger percentage than the number of public school students over the past 10 years, resulting in declines in the pupil/teacher ratio. In fall 2002, the number of public school pupils per teacher was 15.9, compared with a projected number of 15.2 public school pupils per teacher in fall 2012.


  • The average salary for public school teachers in 2011–12 was $56,643 in current dollars (i.e., dollars that are not adjusted for inflation). In constant (i.e., inflation-adjusted) dollars, the average salary was about 1 percent higher in 2011–12 than in 1990–91.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2013). Digest of Education Statistics, 2012 (NCES 2014-015), Introduction and Chapter 2 .


  • Of the 3,380,300 full-time and part-time public school teachers who were teaching during the 2007–08 school year, 84.5 percent remained at the same school (“stayers”), 7.6 percent moved to a different school (“movers”), and 8.0 percent left the profession (“leavers”) during the following year. Among the 487,300 private school teachers who were teaching during the 2007–08 school year, 79.2 percent were stayers, 4.9 percent were movers, and 15.9 percent were leavers.
  • About 26.2 percent of public school teacher movers changed schools in 2008–09 because of personal life factors, compared to 16.0 percent of private school teacher movers. About 5.3 percent of public school teacher leavers left teaching in 2008–09 because their contract was not renewed, compared to 13.0 percent of private school teacher leavers.
  • Among teachers who left teaching in 2008–09, about 8.9 percent of public school teachers, compared to 17.4 percent of private school teachers, were working in an occupation outside the field of education, including military service.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2010). Teacher Attrition and Mobility: Results from the 2008–09 Teacher Follow-up Survey (NCES 2010-353).

Related Tables and Figures:  (Listed by Release Date)

Other Resources:  (Listed by Release Date)

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National Center for Education Statistics -
U.S. Department of Education