CHAPTER D – Indicator D3: How much are teachers school heads paid?


CHAPTER D – Teachers, the learning environment, and the organisation of schools


Indicator D3: How much are teachers school heads paid?


The following text will examine teachers’ and other school staff’s salaries at pre-primary, primary, and general secondary levels of education on average across OECD countries and economies.


The teachers’ actual salaries are 81-96% of the earnings of tertiary workers on average across OECD countries, and the salaries of male versus female teachers tends to be similar, the discrepancy among them accounts for under 2% of the actual salaries. Despite this, male lower secondary teachers’ actual salaries are around 20% lower than the earnings of tertiary-educated male workers, whereas female lower secondary teachers earn 3% more than their peers. This shows that the teaching profession may be more attractive to women than to men, compared to other professions, but it also reflects the persistent gender gap in earnings in the labour market. On average across OECD countries and economies, primary and secondary school heads’ actual salaries are at least 28% higher than the earnings of tertiary-educated workers. The salaries of school staff, and in particular teachers and school heads, represent the largest single cost in formal education. Teachers’ salaries have also a direct impact on the attractiveness of the teaching profession. Finally, there are large divergences regarding taxation and social benefits across OECD countries.


Teachers tend to receive additional compensation for working extra hours or picking up responsibilities falling outside of their contractual scope. However, school heads are less likely than teachers to receive additional compensation for performing responsibilities over and above their regular tasks.


Salaries of teachers


Teachers’ statutory salaries can vary according to several factors, including the level of education taught, their qualification level, and their level of experience or the stage of their career. In most countries and economies with available information, teachers’ salaries increase with the level of education they teach. Salary structures usually define the salaries paid to teachers at different positions in their careers. Deferred compensation, which rewards employees for staying in organisations or professions and for meeting established performance criteria, is also used in teachers’ salary structures. OECD data on teachers’ salaries are limited to information on statutory salaries at four points of the salary scale: starting salaries, salaries after 10 years of experience, salaries after 15 years of experience and salaries at the top of the scale.

Top scale refers to the amount reached after an average of 25 years, and, when reached, salaries are 67% higher than the average starting salaries. The range of salaries within countries also increases as different qualification levels of teachers can be associated to different salary scales.

The salary premium for teachers with the maximum qualifications at the top of the pay scales, and those with the most prevalent qualifications and 15 years of experience, also varies across countries.


Actual salaries of teachers


In addition to statutory salaries, teachers’ actual salaries include work-related payments, such as annual bonuses, results-related bonuses, extra pay for holidays, sick-leave pay, and other additional payments. Actual average salaries are influenced by the prevalence of bonuses and allowances in the compensation system. Differences between statutory and actual average salaries are also linked to the distribution of teachers by years of experience and qualifications, as these two factors have an impact on their salary levels. Across OECD countries and economies, in 2020, the average actual salaries of teachers aged 25-64 were USD 40,707 at pre-primary level, USD 45,687 at primary level, USD 47,988 at lower secondary level and USD 51,749 at upper secondary level.


The report establishes that education systems compete with other sectors of the economy to attract high-quality graduates as teachers, and proceeds to analyse the differences between full time and part-time work. Part-time work might be more common in education than in the rest of the labour market, not least because women make up a large proportion of teachers in most OECD countries and they are likely to work part time.


The data from teachers’ salary often comes from regulations, collective agreements, administrative sources, or sample surveys. There are differences in pension systems between teachers and other workers, whereby, in many countries, teachers in public institutions have substantial pension contributions paid by their employer, but a relatively low salary compared to the private sector. In contrast, private sector employees may have higher salaries, but they may also have to make their own pension arrangements.


Salaries of school heads


The responsibilities of school heads may vary between countries and also within countries, depending on the schools they lead. The educational activities undertaken by school heads include teaching tasks as well as the general functioning of the institution in areas such as the timetable, implementation of the curriculum, decisions about what is taught, and the materials and methods used. In addition to these, school heads may have other administrative, staff management, and financial responsibilities. With regards to their statutory salaries, school heads may be paid according to a specific salary range and may or may not receive a school-head allowance on top of their statutory salaries. The amounts payable to school heads (through statutory salaries and/or school-head allowances) may vary according to criteria related to the school(s) where the school head is based (for example the size of the school based on the number of students enrolled, or the number of teachers supervised).


About half of OECD countries and economies have similar pay ranges for primary and lower secondary school heads, while upper secondary school heads benefit from higher statutory salaries on average. The actual salaries of school heads are higher than those of teachers, and the premium increases with levels of education.


Trends in statutory salaries


According to the report, teachers’ statutory salaries increased overall in real terms in most of the countries for which data are available between 2000 and 2020. On average across OECD countries and economies with available data for the reference years of 2005 and 2020, statutory salaries increased by about 3% at primary level, 4% at lower secondary level, and 2% at upper secondary level.


Formation of base salary and additional payments: Incentives and allowances


Throughout OECD countries and economies, it is common to award additional payments, either annual or occasional, when teachers teach more classes or hours than required by their full-time contract, have responsibility as a class or form teacher, or perform special tasks, such as training student teachers. The extent to which teachers receive additional compensation for taking on extra responsibilities and the activities for which teachers are compensated vary across these countries.

Teachers and school heads are also likely to receive additional payments for working in disadvantaged, remote, or high-cost areas in half of the countries and economies with available data, with the exception of Australia, where such incentives are only provided to teachers. In most countries, the criteria to determine he most prevalent qualifications of teachers are based on a principle of relative majority (ie. the level of qualifications of the largest proportion of teachers).



Source: OECD (2021), Table D3.2 (



Original text written by OECD

Summarised by Olga Ruiz Pilato