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Annual Reports and Information Staff (Annual Reports)
Preprimary, Elementary, and Secondary Education

Characteristics of Public School Teachers

(Last Updated: May 2021)

The percentage of public school teachers who held a postbaccalaureate degree (i.e., a master’s, education specialist, or doctor’s degree) was higher in 2017–18 (58 percent) than in 1999–2000 (47 percent). In both school years, a lower percentage of elementary school teachers than secondary school teachers held a postbaccalaureate degree.

In the 2017–18 school year, there were 3.5 million full- and part-time public school teachers, including 1.8 million elementary school teachers and 1.8 million secondary school teachers.1 Overall, the number of public school teachers in 2017–18 was 18 percent higher than in 1999–2000 (3.0 million). These changes were accompanied by an 8 percent increase in public school enrollment in kindergarten through 12th grade, from 45.5 million students in fall 1999 to 49.1 million students in fall 2017. At the elementary school level, the number of teachers was 11 percent higher in 2017–18 than in 1999–2000 (1.6 million), while at the secondary school level the number of teachers was 26 percent higher in 2017–18 than in 1999–2000 (1.4 million).

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Figure 1. Percentage distribution of teachers in public elementary and secondary schools, by instructional level and sex: School years 1999–2000 and 2017–18
Figure 1. Percentage distribution of teachers in public elementary and secondary schools, by instructional level and sex: School years 1999–2000 and 2017–18

NOTE: Data are based on a head count of full-time and part-time teachers rather than on the number of full-time-equivalent teachers. Teachers were classified as elementary or secondary on the basis of the grades they taught, rather than on the level of the school in which they taught. In general, elementary teachers include those teaching prekindergarten through grade 6 and those teaching multiple grades, with a preponderance of grades taught being kindergarten through grade 6. In general, secondary teachers include those teaching any of grades 7 through 12 and those teaching multiple grades, with a preponderance of grades taught being grades 7 through 12 and usually with no grade taught being lower than grade 5.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS), “Public School Teacher Data File,” “Charter School Teacher Data File,” “Public School Data File,” and “Charter School Data File,” 1999–2000; and National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS), “Public School Teacher Data File,” 2017–18. See Digest of Education Statistics 2019table 209.22.

Figure 2. Percentage distribution of teachers in public elementary and secondary schools, by race/ethnicity: School years 1999–2000 and 2017–18
Figure 2. Percentage distribution of teachers in public elementary and secondary schools, by race/ethnicity: School years 1999–2000 and 2017–18

— Not available.

# Rounds to zero.

NOTE: Data are based on a head count of full-time and part-time teachers rather than on the number of full-time-equivalent teachers. Separate data on Asians, Pacific Islanders, and persons of Two or more races were not available in 1999–2000. In 1999–2000, data for teachers who were Asian included those who were Pacific Islander, and teachers of Two or more races were required to select a single category from among the offered race/ethnicity categories (White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, and American Indian/Alaska Native). Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data. Detail may not sum to totals due to rounding.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS), “Public School Teacher Data File,” “Charter School Teacher Data File,” “Public School Data File,” and “Charter School Data File,” 1999–2000; and National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS), “Public School Teacher Data File,” 2017–18. See Digest of Education Statistics 2019, table 209.22.

Figure 3. Percentage of public school teachers who held a postbaccalaureate degree and percentage who held a regular or standard state teaching certificate or advanced professional certificate, by instructional level: School years 1999–2000 and 2017–18
Figure 3. Percentage of public school teachers who held a postbaccalaureate degree and percentage who held a regular or standard state teaching certificate or advanced professional certificate, by instructional level: School years 1999–2000 and 2017–18

NOTE: Data are based on a head count of full-time and part-time teachers rather than on the number of full-time-equivalent teachers. Postbaccalaureate degree recipients include teachers who held a master’s, education specialist, or doctor’s degree. Education specialist degrees or certificates are generally awarded for 1 year’s work beyond the master’s level, including a certificate of advanced graduate studies. Doctor’s degrees include Ph.D., Ed.D., and comparable degrees at the doctoral level, as well as first-professional degrees, such as M.D., D.D.S., and J.D. degrees. Teachers were classified as elementary or secondary on the basis of the grades they taught, rather than on the level of the school in which they taught. In general, elementary teachers include those teaching prekindergarten through grade 6 and those teaching multiple grades, with a preponderance of grades taught being kindergarten through grade 6. In general, secondary teachers include those teaching any of grades 7 through 12 and those teaching multiple grades, with a preponderance of grades taught being grades 7 through 12 and usually with no grade taught being lower than grade 5. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS), “Public School Teacher Data File,” “Charter School Teacher Data File,” “Public School Data File,” and “Charter School Data File,” 1999–2000; and National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS), “Public School Teacher Data File,” 2017–18. See Digest of Education Statistics 2019table 209.22.

Figure 4. Percentage distribution of teachers in public elementary and secondary schools, by years of teaching experience: School years 1999–2000 and 2017–18
Figure 4. Percentage distribution of teachers in public elementary and secondary schools, by years of teaching experience: School years 1999–2000 and 2017–18

NOTE: Data are based on a head count of full-time and part-time teachers rather than on the number of full-time-equivalent teachers. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data. Detail may not sum to totals due to rounding.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS), “Public School Teacher Data File,” “Charter School Teacher Data File,” “Public School Data File,” and “Charter School Data File,” 1999–2000; and National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS), “Public School Teacher Data File,” 2017–18. See Digest of Education Statistics 2019table 209.22.

Figure 5. Average base salary for full-time teachers in public elementary and secondary schools, by years of full- and part-time teaching experience: 2017–18
Figure 5. Average base salary for full-time teachers in public elementary and secondary schools, by years of full- and part-time teaching experience: 2017–18

NOTE: Amounts presented in current 2017–18 dollars. Estimates are for regular full-time teachers only; they exclude other staff even when they have full-time teaching duties (regular part-time teachers, itinerant teachers, long-term substitutes, administrators, library media specialists, other professional staff, and support staff).

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS), “Public School Teacher Data File,” 2017–18. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020table 211.10.

Figure 6. Average base salary for full-time teachers in public elementary and secondary schools, by highest degree earned: 2017–18
Figure 6. Average base salary for full-time teachers in public elementary and secondary schools, by highest degree earned: 2017–18

Includes teachers with levels of education below the bachelor’s degree (not shown separately).

Education specialist degrees or certificates are generally awarded for 1 year’s work beyond the master’s level, including a certificate of advanced graduate studies.

Doctor’s degrees include Ph.D., Ed.D., and comparable degrees at the doctoral level, as well as first-professional degrees, such as M.D., D.D.S., and J.D. degrees.

NOTE: Amounts presented in current 2017–18 dollars. Estimates are for regular full-time teachers only; they exclude other staff even when they have full-time teaching duties (regular part-time teachers, itinerant teachers, long-term substitutes, administrators, library media specialists, other professional staff, and support staff).

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS), “Public School Teacher Data File,” 2017–18. See Digest of Education Statistics 2019table 211.10.


1 All data except those on school enrollment are based on a head count of full-time and part-time teachers rather than on the number of full-time equivalent teachers.

2 In 1999–2000, data for principals who were Asian included teachers who were Pacific Islander, and teachers of Two or more races were required to select a single category from among the offered race/ethnicity categories (White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, and American Indian/Alaska Native).

3 Education specialist degrees or certificates are generally awarded for 1 year’s work beyond the master’s level, including a certificate of advanced graduate studies. Doctor’s degrees include Ph.D., Ed.D., and comparable degrees at the doctoral level, as well as first-professional degrees, such as M.D., D.D.S., and J.D. degrees.

4 Salary data are presented for regular, full-time public school teachers only; the data exclude other staff even when they have full-time teaching duties (regular part-time teachers, itinerant teachers, long-term substitutes, administrators, library media specialists, other professional staff, and support staff).

5 Constant dollar estimates are based on the Consumer Price Index, prepared by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, adjusted to a school-year basis.

Supplemental Information

Table 211.10 (Digest 2020): Average total income, base salary, and other sources of school and nonschool income for full-time teachers in public and private elementary and secondary schools, by selected characteristics: 2017-18;
Table 203.40 (Digest 2019): Enrollment in public elementary and secondary schools, by level, grade, and state or jurisdiction: Fall 2017;
Table 209.22 (Digest 2019): Number and percentage distribution of teachers in public elementary and secondary schools, by instructional level and selected teacher and school characteristics: 1999-2000 and 2017-18;
Table 211.10 (Digest 2019): Average total income, base salary, and other sources of school and nonschool income for full-time teachers in public and private elementary and secondary schools, by selected characteristics: 2017-18;
Table 203.10 (Digest 2018): Enrollment in public elementary and secondary schools, by level and grade: Selected years, fall 1980 through fall 2028
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