How Much Can You Earn as a Teacher?

Teachers don’t make a lot of money. According to the latest survey by the American Federation of Teachers, the average teacher salary for 2002-03 was $45,771 – and the average salary for a beginning teacher was $29,564.

Compared to the value they provide, teachers may be the most underpaid professionals in the country. (And from what I’ve seen, the same may be said for teachers in most other countries – except that in other countries they are joined by medical doctors, an even more astonishing fact.)

Why is that? Why aren’t teachers paid more?

Two possible answers:

1. Teaching is not considered to be a valuable profession because education isn’t considered to be a valuable thing.

There is ample evidence to support this view. Look at the people we hold in highest esteem: bombastic, self-promoting billionaires; high-school-dropout basketball players; and pabulum-brained movie stars. Look too at our highest salary makers. (Same as the group above.) In the U.S., like just about everywhere else, money goes to value. And in the U.S., one of the wealthiest countries in the world (despite its debt), that means entertainment.

2. Teachers don’t do a very good job of teaching.

The public school system is a joke. In many of the big cities, we are sending high school graduates to universities and into the workforce who read, write, and calculate at a grammar school level.

We have all read the statistics … seen the movies … read the stories in newspapers and magazines. American public schools are not creating intelligent, well-spoken, skillful people. The typical high school graduate today is inarticulate, nearly illiterate, abysmally mannered, and exhibits skill only in manipulating electronic entertainment systems. Although there are undoubtedly tens of thousands of well-meaning teachers in the public school system, their chances of transforming any but the best of their pupils is very small.

As taxpayers and as consumers, we recognize these two facts: that teachers are, for the most part, incapable of doing a very good job of teaching. And that even if they are, we are not really interested in having well-educated children.

That’s why Norman Mailer, to cite just one of dozens of literati who’ve made the same charge, says that, as a group, Americans are “addicted to stupidity.”

But we are not all that way. Many American parents value education. And focus a lot of attention on it in the home. There is, not surprisingly, a direct correlation between the amount attention that parents give to education and the education level their children achieve. So if you want your children to distinguish themselves from their peers by being able to think, speak, calculate, and write well, you’ve got to care more about (and spend more time and money on) these essential skills.

And if you want to be a well-educated person yourself, guess what you have to do?

That’s correct! You have to:

  • Spend more time than you do now on educating yourself, and
  • Spend more money on it too.

Now that you know the formula for having well-educated children – and being better-educated yourself – let me tell you how you can make a lot of money as a teacher (despite the fact that you live in a country where education isn’t generally valued).

Here’s my five-step program for making a high income as a teacher:

1. Start by becoming very knowledgeable about a certain field of study. It is always best to pick a subject that interests you – but if you are out for the bucks alone, I’d recommend becoming an expert in some aspect of wealth building.

2. Then develop your own method of effective teaching. Don’t worry about discipline or commanding your students’ attention. And don’t worry about slow students either. Just concentrate on how to best teach the easiest kinds of students – reasonably intelligent, motivated learners.

3. Treat education with respect. By that, I mean treat it like a business. Forget about the foolish narcissism that drives some teachers – the idiotic idea that you can convert hoodlums and morons into Einsteins. Concentrate instead on the people who deserve a good education – those who are willing to invest their time and money in it.

4. Sell your expertise to that audience using direct-marketing methods. Place ads offering free reports, and then convert responders to your ads by using e-mail, snail-mail, or phone calls.

5. After you’ve wowed your student with his first well-honed lesson, bump him up with a more expensive version of essentially the same thing – enhancing his educational objectives and your profits.

A good example of how this can be done was recently illustrated in a New York Times profile by Hope Reeves of a guy named Adam Fisher.

“A slender fellow with a goatee and a mass of curly hair,” Reeves wrote, “Mr. Fisher, 34 … discovered that he had a knack for explaining (math) concepts so that … kids could understand them.” He converted that skill into a teaching career, tutoring students seeking higher test scores for between $375 and $425 an hour.

I’ll do the math for you: $425 an hour times 40 hours a week times 50 weeks is $850,000 a year. Not bad for a teacher.

Mr. Fisher doesn’t work a full 40 hours every week, although he could. He’s happy to make a six-figure salary working part-time so he can spend time playing his cello and being with his wife and daughter.

“I earn enough to raise a family in Manhattan,” he told Reeves. “I’m a teacher who gets paid equitably. I don’t feel guilty about that.”

He shouldn’t. He should feel proud. “He … consistently raises SAT scores by more than 200 points and achieves similar results in graduate school exams.” Fisher is doing something that has measurable value – improving scores and helping students get entry into the colleges and professional schools they want.

The business he works for should be proud too. Advantage Testing is an Upper East Side (New York) test-preparation firm that employs about 100 tutors like Mr. Fisher. They pay their tutors well (from $165 to $685 for a 50-minute session, depending on seniority).

You’ll be happy to know that Fisher doesn’t teach tricks to temporarily or artificially boost test scores by 40 or 50 points. He teaches fundamentals. “My job is getting a student to make the knowledge theirs so it becomes part of them. I view standardized tests not as a number that gets you into college but as a tool that prepares you for the rest of your life. When – not if – my students learn 3,000 to 4,000 words for the SAT verbal section, those words become part of their life, something they can use forever.”

Fisher’s students agree. One of them interviewed by Reeves, Steve Feldman, originally scored in the 16th percentile in the law school admission test. With Fisher’s help, he raised his score to the 85th percentile. He was accepted to his first-choice school and credits much of his success to Fisher’s tutoring.

“He knows the LSAT inside and out,” Feldman said. “He would sit and watch me take a practice test and figure out, just by watching me, what I was having trouble with. Then we’d work on that until I had it down.”

Wouldn’t it be rewarding to be that kind of teacher? To have that kind of positive effect on your student? To provide that much of a practical benefit to his education and career?

Well, you can. And you can make a lot of money doing it. As well you should. If you are interested, follow the five-step program I outlined above.

If you are not sure which subject matter you want to master, you can choose from many of the ETR and AWAI programs. Master them and then hire yourself out as a tutor. Each of these programs is a proven winner. Each has sold thousands of copies to highly motivated people who want to improve their lives. By mastering a valuable skill and then developing your own unique way of teaching it, you can have the same experience Fisher has with his students – and make the same kind of compensation.

[Ed. Note.  Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]