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Learning To Maximize Your Pay

In choosing teaching, you most likely took a paycut compared to what you would be doing otherwise. Finding meaning in your work cannot be understated, but just because you took a paycut, does not mean that you shouldn’t take advantage of all of the income opportunities at your disposal.

The area of the triangle between the red and blue lines is the difference in pay. In this example, it comes out to almost $100,000.
If you maximize your pay early (the red line), you make more total money throughout your career.

Look at these two graphs. In both cases, your ending salaries are the same. Which graph would you want to summarize your income? Yes, most certainly  the red line. For you calculus fans, the integral (or area under the curve) represents your total income. Notice that the area is much greater for red than blue. Also not only do you make more with red, but you can contribute to retirement earlier, which increases the beautiful effects of compound interest.

Read more about compound interest here. 

So how do you get to the red graph? Many employers have a salary schedule similar to the one below from Oakland Unified. Moving yourself to red graph means increasing the number of credits you earned. Each employer has a different maximum number of credits. No matter what the maximum is, aim for the max as soon as possible. This is a great use of your summers.


Each STEP is another year of service.
Maximize your units to maximize your pay.


Unfortunately, each unit you earn typically costs money. Fortunately, you earn those funds back in a small number of years. Beware of programs that charge exorbitant costs per unit. Are you unsure how to earn units? I have a small list below. It is in no way exhaustive. Beware that some districts require you to pre-approve the course with them before you take it.

1) Ask your human resources representative

2) Ask a veteran coworker

3) If you haven’t already, earn a master’s degree in education. California State University’s (CSUs) offer reasonably priced programs for part-time students. If you enjoy debt and being a full-time student, Stanford’s program is one of the best in the country.

4) If you are still in grad school and can take extra grad level courses without having to pay more in tuition, do it. Try to leave grad school with as many grad units as possible.

5) Some districts offer a discounted tuition for a masters in education leadership (administration). Master’s degrees offer dozens of units, and learning a little more about administration would be quite useful. Many CSUs offer reasonably priced programs if your employer does not recommend any.

6) Courses associated with a university — University of San DiegoDominican University

7) Online courses — PBS TeacherLine, LearnersEdge, Professional Development Institue,

8) Exploratorium if you are a new science teacher. I can’t begin to describe how fun and informative this program was.

Any other ideas how to earn credits? Share them below.