Private school teacher salaries have historically been lower than in the public sector. Years ago, teachers would accept a position in a private school for less money simply because they felt that the teaching environment was friendlier and more preferential. Many educators also came to the private sector because they considered it a mission or calling.
Regardless, private schools have had to compete for a smaller pool of well-qualified teachers. Public school teachers' pay has risen markedly, and their benefits continue to be excellent, including strong pension packages. The same is true of some private teachers' pay, but not all. While some elite private schools now pay very close to what public schools pay, or even more, not all are able to compete at that level.
Average Private School Teacher Salaries
According to Payscale.com, as of October 2018, the average elementary religious school teacher makes $35,829 and the average high school teacher makes $44,150. Private school teachers at nonreligious institutions earn quite a bit more, according to Payscale: The average elementary nonreligious school teacher makes $45,415 and the average high school teacher earns $51,693 annually.
Private School Pay Environment
As you might expect, there are disparities in private school teacher salaries. On the low end of the compensation, the spectrum is parochial and boarding schools. At the other end of the scale are some of the nation's top independent schools.
Parochial schools often have teachers who are following a calling, more than they are following the money. Boarding schools offer significant benefits, such as housing, thus teachers tend to make significantly less on paper. Top private schools in the country have often been in business for many decades, and many have large endowments and a loyal alumni base from which to draw support.
At most private schools, the cost of tuition does not cover the full cost of educating a student; schools rely on charitable giving to make up the difference. Those schools with the most active alumni and parent bases will typically offer higher salaries for teachers, while schools with lower endowments and annual funds may have lower salaries. A common misconception is that all private schools carry high tuition and have multimillion dollar endowments, and therefore, must offer high salaries.
However, the overhead that these private schools carry, including sprawling campuses that span hundreds of acres with multiple buildings, state-of-the-art athletics and arts facilities, dormitories, and dining commons that offer three meals a day, shows that the costs may be warranted. The difference from school to school can be great.
Boarding School Salaries
An interesting trend involves boarding school salaries, which have typically been lower than their day school counterparts. Boarding schools typically require faculty to live on campus in free school-provided housing. Since housing is generally about 25 to 30 percent of an individual's living expenses, this often is a substantial perk.
This benefit is especially valuable with the high cost of housing in parts of the country, such as the Northeast or Southwest. However, this benefit also comes with additional responsibilities, as boarding school teachers are usually asked to work more hours, taking on dorm parent, coaching, and even evening and weekend supervisory roles.