29 Comments

  1. Great post Penny-I love how you broke it down. Time certainly is the most important factor. I’ve written before about how I increased my salary, but of course it’s from a corporate perspective. Time and education were most certainly key.

  2. Wow, Penny, bravo. You clearly kept your eye on the prize and kept at things even when they going got rough. That tells me that you can achieve anything you set your mind to, so FI is an inevitability for you. And I thought one masters and half a PhD was a lot of schooling!
    To double my salary would be quite easy, I’d just have to jump from state employment to private industry. But I’d lose the safety net, the work life balance, the direct patient interaction, the workplace would be drastically different, and I’m willing to bet that new half salary the hours would be long, the expectations would be high, and I’d lose part of myself in the process. Not worth it to me. I’m with you, long slow slog to the top it is. Give me a happy and content decent salary over a fast paced stressful high salary any day.

  3. Great work on learning the rules of game then winning. I think we both work in jobs that have the rare pension benefit and the combination of salary and time creates the payout formula. Working my way up into the top 5% of pay in my company for my position will do great things for the payout and I bet you’ve done the same in your district.

  4. I’m a few cents per hour away from doubling my first full-time job after college. I bought my house on that salary, so it’s not “nothing” but today that rate would barely be minimum wage in some progressive cities. For me, it took specialization into a specific niche that is somewhat complicated and very boring to most people. But I became an expert on the topic and spent 3.5 years working for the state to help my peers in other local governments to better understand the program. Fortunately for me, most of my training and certification have been paid by my employers, and I get to attend multiple conferences and webinars throughout the year to stay up to date with the latest changes.

  5. Jo-Anne

    Congrats (with tiaras and hip thrusts!) on that huge milestone. At this point unless I choose to go into management I likely won’t/can’t double my income. But that being said once I get my designation my scale will take me to just over a 6 figure yearly income so I can’t really complain. And as the mean income in my Province is around 60k a year I will be making well over that. I also chose a very specialized field to ensure that I could make this kind of income.

    Regardless you have achieved a fantastic milestone for yourself and your family. I hope you are able to celebrate in some fashion all the hard work, time and effort you have put into your education. Its not always fun in the middle of it but it does tend to pay off in the end. So congrats!

    • If I could find a way to be a professional student, I would do it!

      I originally wanted to pursue my doctorate, but my district is really particular with programs. The one they approve costs $60k. Nope AND Nope. Especially because I couldn’t pick the field.

  6. Well done, Penny. Now do it again ;-). Just kidding (sort of). Your post reminds me that so much of our happiness in life is not about money. Most of our happiness is about satisfaction, and while that can be related to money, sometimes, it is mostly not.

    As I’ve said before, I’m a lawyer and have seen my wages rise through almost three decades of work to be many multiples of where it was when I started, and then decrease as I’ve slowed my practice down and devote less time to the law. My wife is a teacher who makes about 10% of what I make. Our friends are generally either lawyers or teachers and I can tell you that the happier group is the group of teachers, by a mile. Not even close.

    Money does not equal happiness. It just helps solve a problem or two that we all share, regardless of profession (but sometimes leads to other problems that excess money helps create – if we ever meet ask me about the acquaintance who won the lottery, and the misery that brought him and his family).

    I applaud your diligence in the pursuit of your earnings goal. I hope that it helps your travels toward the larger life goals that I know you are pursuing.

    • Definitely, Oldster! This is probably the most that I’ve ever focused on money when talking about my career. Because if I’m being honest, it isn’t about the money. But I have to keep reminding myself that it’s OK to figure out how to be well paid for what I bring to my classroom. That doesn’t make me selfish. It is standard practice is virtually every other field, so it’s OK for me to focus on that from time to time.

      I’m glad your wife and your teacher friends are happy. It is such a fulfilling job. It always hurts my heart when I hear teachers say they are leaving. That is one of societies biggest failings, IMHO. We need good teachers!

  7. Karen

    Penny! Congrats! I am 26 year veteran public school teacher and I remember what a great feeling it was when I finally moved to the highest salary lane possible without a PhD. (and like you, it wouldn’t be worthwhile to pursue.)

    I can relate about still feeling vulnerable because we are vulnerable but that’s why we stay frugal and focussed. I worry all the time about how to be the best, most productive teacher I can be. Yes, the salary feels good, but more important, being motivated to be the best teacher for your students is what makes it all worthwhile.

    So happy for you, your district and most especially–your students!

  8. I’ve doubled my salary since I started at my job. And there’s zero chance that I’d get what I’m paid now if I got any similar job. Assuming there are other answer-customer-emails-from-home jobs out there. But anyway, customer service doesn’t pay this well, so I’d be in trouble if I ever left. Which I have no plans to do for more reasons that just pay.

    Congrats on doubling your salary!

  9. I would need another 40k to double my initial salary. I think I’d have to be hired by a business school to get that. Now I’m depressed. DH doubled his initial salary by leaving academia and getting a private sector!

    Congratulations!

  10. I hadn’t thought about it until your post but I just did the math and…I have quadrupled my salary. O.o

    Which means, primarily, that I was grossly underpaid in my first job 14 years ago.

    What did it take?

    1. I have a masters degree that cost me about $22,000 out of pocket. It’s not necessary in my field, but it looks good, it gave me a lot of contacts in the industry and it kick-started my understanding of lots of things that I don’t deal with day to day, like the financial and operations sides of the business.

    2. I had to step in to management. I would rather be a sole performer, but I’m now in my second management role. It doesn’t come naturally and I feel much more stressed by helping other people achieve than hitting my own goals, but that’s where the money is.

    3. For me, personally, I had to become a parent. My daughter’s difficult start and the ways that impacted our family helped me get my priorities straight. There is a value to my time away from my kids and I expect to be paid more than I accepted before they were born. I know what it feels like to believe your child won’t survive the night, so I am able to keep calm during work “crises”. I basically have less time for bullshit, and apparently that shines through and gets paid for.

    4. I have had to change jobs a lot. Once upon a time, I got big raises just for doing a good job. Now I have to move to a new company to get equivalent increases.

  11. Way to go, Penny!

    I’m impressed with your perseverance and the investments you’ve made in your education. Would it be cliché to say you’re worth every penny?

    I went the route of front-loading my education and am now actively decreasing my salary and working less. I’m still learning — every day is a school day — but I prefer to learn about things unrelated to my career, which is now in its twilight.

    Cheers!
    -PoF

  12. You did it!! Congratulations!

    My first job out of college paid so little that it didn’t take all that long to double it when I was working like two and a half people. I’m incredibly lucky that I was in the right time and place for my hustling hours to matter in the way it did and paid off. I could easily have picked badly and ended up working those hours without any decent end result. But instead of money cost, the cost of doubling that early salary was my health, so it’s definitely not a thing I could repeat now if I were to start again at the beginning.

    In being overqualified or priced out, is it never done to leave off graduate credits when you change jobs or is that a total no no? Obviously it wouldn’t be GOOD to take a massive pay cut and start somewhere else but worse case scenario in losing your job in a bad climate, a lower paying job is better than no job no? Or do they just ignore senior / more credentialed teachers entirely?

  13. Good on you! You’ve put in a lot of work and you’re seeing the results. You are a legend!
    But tbh… wouldn’t it be much easier on everyone if teachers were just paid a set wage by the State or Federal government and you wouldn’t have to jump through these hoops?
    In Australia in my state, (Victoria), for the first few years of teaching your pay starts at $64,500 and goes up by 2 or 3 grand a year, after 11 years you hit the ceiling. I’m at that level now… only $500 from earning 100K. (Maybe next year, with my cost of living increase in pay, I’ll make it…)
    If you want to earn more you have to go for Leading Teacher positions or principal class positions. The ambitious people do that. There’s no advantage in doing a Masters unless you think you’ll want to go into admin, so I haven’t done it.
    Everyone earns the same. If people want to do further study they can, and the school will usually help foot the bill. They can see the advantages. We have to do at least 30 hours of professional development a year to keep our teaching positions, but the school builds this into our workload. In effect, we have it provided for us free of charge.
    The state government pays our wages, so there’s no difference between school districts. It’s not too bad…
    Next time we start whingeing in the staffroom about how tough we have it, I might pull up this article and show people what a star you are.

  14. Way a go Penny!! You stuck it through with your dedication and it’s paying off. Really like that you have an affection toward teaching and hopefully more teachers out there have the care and work ethic like you do. I think it’s important to know that having the dedication toward a career/interest will pay off eventually and know it will take time.
    Congrats!

  15. Patricia

    Nicely done! That was a lot of work. It’s interesting that in the district you wanted to work, they don’t look at people with graduate school hour. In Oregon, most teacher education programs are Masters programs, so you get your teaching license at the same time you get your masters degree.

    • Isn’t it bizarre how every state (and city and school district) is so different?! My heart goes out to people who have taught in multiple states and try to keep up with it all in terms of licensing and even just getting hired!

  16. Congratulations, Penny! As an educator, it’s so great to see a description of someone intentionally climbing the career ladder. Also, while the pricing out thing is a risk in some districts, the right ones will find a way to afford the best teachers. The drive and commitment you displayed makes you a great candidate regardless of cost.

    • Thank you! I used to be really embarrassed talking about wanting to max out the salary schedule or even just get a raise. But you know what? Now that I’ve done it, I get stopped so frequently from other teachers asking about how and when and why. The most heartbreaking thing I’ve run into now is the amount of teachers who have $25k+ in loans from undergrad and keep adding to them with post-grad work. We definitely need a better system!

  17. I think it took me about 10 years to double my initial salary. The biggest steps were getting over myself and learning to be more collaborative. I had started my actual career with a MS degree. Eventually, focusing on my soft skills in a field that lacks them (tech) led me toward management and lead type roles.

    I can’t count the number of business books I read. I went to conferences for years that were less about what I was doing every day and more about things I wanted to do. I started some side businesses and learned a lot.

    Congrats on sticking with it and achieving a really meaningful goal.

    • Thank you! I’m glad I stuck with it. There were definitely times in the middle of each program where I had that, “What am I doing?!” moment. I don’t know that I would ever recommend doing a National Board program while pregnant…but hey, we do what we can when we can! 🙂

  18. Penny,
    Wow, 99 credit hours (or 33 more college classes) is a big accomplishment. Doubling your salary is equally as impressive. I never get tired of reading about a teacher salary / income hack!

    Congrats on working your awesome plan and thanks for being a great example to fellow educators. I plan on linking this post whenever I need an example of “income maximization.”

    • That means so much to me, Gerry! Of course, now it’s a bit of a waiting game to make my money back once this last raise kicks in. But all in good time! Better to keep moving through the lanes now than waiting until later, I think.

  19. This was very interesting as I am a high school teacher in New Zealand and the salary works a lot differently. You get paid more every year and reach your max about seven years in. Essentially the only other way you can earn more money is to take on various management responsibilities. This means the best teachers in search of more money end up teaching less, which is a bit of a paradox.

    • That is a paradox. I also think it probably does work differently in some high schools here. For instance, the department chairs don’t teach full days because they do observations and professional development. That would bum me out. Being with kids is the best part of my day! Who needs more meetings? 😉

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