Apr 26, 2013

How much does an Aussie teacher earn?

We hear much debate over the battle with the Australian Education Union and the state governments about teacher pay. But how much do teachers across Oz actually earn?

Amber Jamieson — Freelance journalist in New York

Amber Jamieson

Freelance journalist in New York

“I don’t want to have a system where, every three or four years, the minister, or the government, and the teachers’ union declare war on each other.”

So said former Western Australian Labor premier Alan Carpenter. He said it in 2004, as the then-state education minister engaged in a pay battle with WA teachers. Nearly a decade later, teacher pay continues to divide; just last week Victorian teachers and the state government reached a pay agreement after a vicious two-year battle that included numerous strikes, teachers refusing to write comments on report cards and government claims that teachers weren’t working the whole time they were on school camp.

But just how much does a teacher in Australia earn?

That mainly depends on two factors: first, in which state they work and second, whether they work for a public, Catholic or private school.

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Western Australia is currently the leader in teacher pay in the state system (WA is known for funding its education system well, as seen in its debate over the Gonski reforms). New graduate teachers earn $60,545 this year. Their pay increases in annual increments based on experience until level 2.9, which this year earns a salary of $91,567. Exemplary teachers can apply to become a level 3 classroom teacher — the top teaching position available, which involves community engagement and curriculum development — which earns $101,853.

The other top payers are the NSW and ACT private school systems. Independent schools traditionally follow state government agreements quite closely, and Catholic school teachers earn the same as the public school teacher counterparts. “Independent schools across country on average pay around that rate,” Chris Watt, federal secretary of the Independent Education Union, told Crikey. “There’s a small number that pay less, and in most states there’s a small number that pay more.”

But the Professional Excellence program at the NSW Institute of Teachers and the ACT’s Highly Proficient Teachers standards mean that ACT and NSW private school teachers can go through extensive professional development that results in earnings of up to $8000 more than government school teachers. All states have a teacher standards regime, however in most states, “it’s a pretty large hoop with no flames or no crocodiles on the other size,” said Watt. “In NSW [and ACT], hoops are smaller and there’s flames, plus maybe a lion, maybe a hungry crocodile.”

Graduate teachers earn more than many other professional graduates — assuming they’ve completed a four-year degree. The main issue in teacher pay is often that while graduate pay starts out well, there is often little room for advancement if you want to remain teaching and not move into administration. “Teachers are paid badly … It’s a poor career structure for teachers. I left because of it,” Dr Jill Blackman, a professor of education at Deakin University, told Crikey. “There are very limited levels of advancement. Increments are small.”

The Australian Education Union has a great document outlining what different state governments pay their teachers. Queensland’s 2013 public school graduate teachers started at $58,437, and its most experienced senior teachers will this year earn $85,557. In NSW, graduates are on $59,706, while top teachers earn $89,050. The Northern Territory offers $62,017 to graduates and $114,737 to specialist teachers (top standard classroom teachers earn a maximum of $88,941). The ACT pays $58,041 to its grads and $86,881 to its top teachers. South Australian teachers start on $59,629 and earn up to $85,999, although additional training can bump that up to $89,201. Down in Tasmania, graduates earn  $57,565, with the highest paid teachers on $84,184. In Victoria, graduates this year started on $60,220, and top “leading teachers” earn $94,408. The latest Victorian pay agreement will result in teachers earning an extra 16.1% to 20.5% over three years.

“You don’t even get paid well [as a graduate] because you’re on contract the first five years,” noted Blackman. Graduate teachers often struggle to secure a permanent role, and according to the Productivity Commission, last year, 20% of primary school teachers and 13% of secondary school teachers were on fixed-term contracts. This means they are not paid for summer school holidays, as the contracts run just for the school year.


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40 thoughts on “How much does an Aussie teacher earn?

  1. Brett Wright

    This article barely scratches the surface of the teacher pay issue, and it’s biased toward those who continue to maintain teachers are underpaid. Jill Blackman is hardly a disinterested observer – she’s paid good money to create them – so it’s no surprise she thinks teachers are badly paid. How well are graduate teachers paid compared with other graduates? What are the extra holidays and shorter hours worth? Do your bloody homework, Amber.

  2. Elizabeth

    Try being a journalist!

  3. burninglog

    Wow ! A “teacher hater” & “journo hater”.

  4. Achmed

    Brett – teachers get 4 weeks a year leave. The other school holiday periods are paid under a salary scarifice type scheme where the teachers annual salary is averaged over the year. Those so-called holidays are the time that teachers spend attending training etc to update their knowledge and qualifications.
    As an example – A public servant gets 4 weeks a year leave, they can take up to another 10 weeks that they “purchase” by having their salary reduced to “pay” for the extra time off. Same for teachers to “pay” for those extra “holidays”.

    What isn’t accounted for in so much of the debate about teacher hours is the unpaid time preparing classroom lessons, marking exam/test papers and assignments..done after hours at home of an evening or on weekends.

    I am not a teacher but did spend 20 years married to one

  5. davoid

    Could a teacher please comment here honestly about how much holiday they get?
    And other graduates about their pay straight out of their degrees?

  6. prembrowne

    davoid, i’m a teacher (in victoria) and we get 11 weeks per year paid leave IF WE ARE PERMANENT. as the article says, contracted teachers are not paid over summer, so they have 6 weeks per year paid leave.
    i’m not convinced about achmed’s analysis; teachers’ holidays are predermined and mandatory, unlike other public servants who, as he says, can choose to purchase extra leave. and sure, some teachers may do a little preparation over the holidays, but they hardly spend the whole 11 weeks attending training! most will spend it recovering and refreshing and enjoying the break.
    achmed was correct, however, about the time teachers spend on evenings and weekends at home, marking and preparing. while i would not class these ‘extra’ hours as ‘unpaid’, as achmed does, i do believe they should be considered when determining teacher salary. every teacher i know works significantly more than a 38 hour week, more like 50, i would guess.
    doing some rough maths (50 hrs x 41 weeks) this ends up being 2050 hrs per year. a little more than a public servant who works 38 hrs p/week for 48 weeks (1824 hrs). so, i’m not sure which ‘shorter hours’ brett is referring to above (remember also, that contracted teachers are not paid over summer, so get a worse deal financially, in addition to the lack of job security).

  7. Brett Wright

    Achmed – thank you for that. Yes you are right, full-time teachers get 4 weeks of PAID leave a year (plus the 17.5% leave loading). I am vaguely aware of the self-funded leave arrangements, but my point was that school holidays and shorter hours in the workplace must be worth something to the employee, but how much? And how teachers’ entitlements compare to those of other professionals is also what I would like to know more about. Burninglog – I am a journo, which is why I can identify slap-dash journalism when I see it.

  8. Licinia

    Brett, the shorter hours aren’t really shorter hours. 9-3 (or whatever it is, depending on the school) is the face to face classroom time, but teachers still need to spend significant amounts of time preparing their classroom work. There’s extra time in addition to the classroom hours spent on playground duty or in meetings. My father is a teacher, and he often stays at work until 6 or 7 pm and then has to take marking, lesson plans, or reports home with him. And he generally spends many days of each term break period and part of most weekends at work doing lesson planning, marking, and other preparations, or working on the school’s computer network, as he is its administrator and gets only a couple of hours a week to work on it.

    As a professional, I have 4 weeks of leave a year but am very rarely expected to take my work home with me or to work while I am on holidays!

  9. prembrowne

    Brett, I’m not sure what sort of a journo you are, but it must be in a field unrelated to this topic, as you seem to be commenting on something you know nothing about. Do you know any teachers?
    Teachers do not work ‘shorter hours’ than average – neither on a weekly basis or when added up over a year. as Licinia noted, teachers invariably take work home with them. They work on weekends and school holidays too. Contact hours (in class) make up about half their hours.
    I’m a teacher and it suits me to pack many hours work into 10 week blocks and then have a decent break. It’s part of the reason I chose to be a teacher, and i relish the holidays when they arrive, but please don’t suggest we work less hours than the ‘average’ worker, or that we don’t deserve to be paid for our time.

  10. Josi V

    I am a teacher in the Victorian public system, and I need to point out a few inaccuracies in your article. First, the recent pay offer is not as generous as the AEU would have you think. Most will get little more than what was being negotiated (the average rise turns out to be only 12.75 over three and a half years). Hardy worth the pain of the last two years.

    Second, I work more than the 7.6 hours I am paid on a daily rate. I arrive at 8 am every morning, and depending on compulsory meetings, phoning parents, following up on students or lesson preparation and so forth, sometimes I’m lucky enough to leave at 4.45 pm – but more often than not, it is on average around 5 pm. Then you have the extra work that you must take home (students don’t mark there own work; even with the use of IPads, they still have to email their work to you.

    The problem with the claim of having so many holidays has already been addressed, and needs no further points from me. However, on a personal level, my children were already grown when I changed careers to become a teacher, so the holidays have always been viewed as quiet and productive work time at home. Necessary to support the ‘full on’ face to face teaching time at school.

    I do wish people would make themselves a little more informed on the role/work of a teacher rather than simply regurgitating the urban legends spread by the ignorant.

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