Do Washington Teachers Make More with a Master’s Degree?

Experienced educators know there are a number of good reasons to advance their careers by pursuing a master’s degree in education.

  • Gain advanced knowledge and skills to enhance student learning
  • Learn and apply current research to improve instructional practices
  • Develop expertise with evolving and innovative educational technologies
  • Mentor others and work collaboratively to build learning communities
  • Specialize in a high-demand field of education
  • Move into educational leadership positions
  • Expand career options

It also seems logical to assume that earning a master’s degree will lead directly to earning more money. But when it comes to increased salaries for teachers in Washington State, do the facts back this up?

What Are the Differences in Base Salary?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, K-12 teachers in Washington state made an average annual salary of $79,529 for the 2020-2021 school year, compared to the national average of $65,090. Clearly, in terms of income, Washington is a good place to work as a teacher.

But salaries for Washington state teachers vary widely depending on where they work, their level of education and how many years they have been on the job. School districts are allocated a certain amount of money for teacher salaries from the state budget, but the per-teacher allotment is adjusted due to the cost of living in differing districts as well as locally bargained salary schedules.

School districts (and local teacher bargaining units) also have a good deal of leeway in terms of how the budget for teachers is doled out according to base salary, education, experience and additional incentives called time, responsibility and incentive (TRI) pay.

For instance, the 2022-2023 starting base salary for Seattle teachers (“certificated instructional staff”) with only a bachelor’s degree (and no additional semester hours of graduate study) is $57,097. Add into that pay for contractual days, tech days and TRI, and starting Seattle teachers with only a bachelor’s degree make $67,603 annually. The 2022-2023 starting base salary for first-year Seattle teachers with a 45-credit-hour master’s degree is $66,175. Master’s degree holding teachers in Seattle also qualify for higher TRI pay, raising their actual annual salary to $79,500, nearly $12,000 more than teachers with only a bachelors and an equivalent amount of experience.

Plus, the difference in salary becomes noticeably more marked with more years of service. Salaries for Seattle teachers with only a bachelor’s degree are capped at step 6 out of 15 in terms of pay increases for experience, equating to a total salary ceiling $71,856 for 2022-2023. Teachers with a master’s degree and sufficient experience can rise to step 12 on the salary schedule, resulting in a total salary ceiling of $98,049.

This is merely one example of how salaries differ according to educational level. Again, actual salaries and individual compensations are determined in local negotiations. But one thing is clear: In Washington State, as elsewhere, educators with advanced degrees can expect to earn more money, even in their first year on the job.

Pursuing a Master’s Degree Online with Eastern Washington University

Educators who want to earn a master’s degree while still working full time have an affordable and flexible option with the 100% online education degrees offered by Eastern Washington University (EWU). The online format and multiple start dates throughout the year make it easy to pursue your goal of achieving an advanced degree.

EWU offers 13 specialized Master of Education (M.Ed.) online programs. Each of these M.Ed. programs can be completed in as few as 12-16 months:

In addition, EWU offers an education-oriented online Master of Arts – History, an online Master of Music – Music Education, and a wide variety of online graduate certificate programs in education specializations. For those who already have a master’s degree, EWU offers a 32 credit-hour online program developed to prepare qualified candidates for principal certification.

Learn more about Eastern Washington University’s online Master of Education programs.

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