Which teachers are most in demand? A look at shortages, job openings and pay by subject and state (September 2022)

Olga Knezevic
Olga Knezevic

Olga is an in-house editor and writer at Degreechoices.com. She has previous experience as a higher education instructional designer and a university librarian. Olga is passionate about well-crafted sentences, Wikipedia rabbit holes, and the Oxford comma.

Which teachers are most in demand? A look at shortages, job openings and pay by subject and state (September 2022)

    To help decide whether teaching is the right career for you, this article looks at:

    • which states most need teachers
    • which subjects are most in demand
    • how pay for teachers compares across America

    In 2016, the UNESCO Institute for Statistics estimated that by 2030, the world would need 69 million new teachers to provide quality universal primary and secondary education. Since then, the COVID19 pandemic has wiped out 20 years of educational gains. As of February 2022, the percentage of students at risk of not learning to read remains higher than in the 2019-2020 school year, with losses disproportionately concentrated in grades K-2.

    An additional 100 million children have fallen below minimum reading proficiency levels as a direct result of the pandemic. In the U.S., demand for teachers exceeded supply for grades K-12 in the country’s public schools by more than 100,000 for the first time ever in 2019. A 2022 American School District Panel survey found that 90% of school districts introduced operational changes at some point in the 2021-2022 school year in response to teacher shortages. Additionally, some 163,650 (about 5%) of educators nationally are currently teaching outside of their subject area or without adequate certification.

    Teacher demand in 2022

    There is demand for teachers at all levels of the education system.

    This includes:

    Is teaching the career for you?

    If you’re a kind, caring, and empathetic person who is passionate about a subject or helping children, then a career in teaching may suit you.

    The skills you require will depend on the role you take on. This is because the needs of a child in elementary education are not the same as those of seniors in high school. However, to excel as a teacher, you’ll generally need:

    • a bachelor’s degree
    • great communication skills
    • excellent organizational skills
    • a desire to bring out the best in people
    • a willingness to take on responsibility
    • passion, resilience, and energy
    • a willingness to adapt to new challenges and environments

    If you’d like to pursue a career in teaching, a number of degrees and programs are available to help you get the qualifications you require. Let’s take a detailed look at what teaching jobs are most in demand and the state of the job market across America.

    Teacher shortages by subject

    Although individual states have different levels of demand in each subject, several high-need fields appear on the nationwide list. They include:

    • mathematics
    • science
    • foreign languages
    • bilingual education
    • English language acquisition
    • special education

    Why are we currently experiencing a teacher shortage in these areas?


    In a 2019 assessment by the Programme for International Student Assessment, American students performed slightly above the international average in science, and slightly below average in mathematics. The test showed that students from 30 countries scored higher than U.S. students in math, and that the performance gap between top-performing and lower-performing students was widening. Due to the performance of students from the U.S., STEM departments across the country are desperately in need of passionate and well-trained staff who can help improve current ability levels and lessen the gap between high-performing and lower-performing students.

    Special education 

    When it comes to special education teaching, the demand for teachers stems from the fact that 7.2 million students across the U.S. now receive special educational services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This has risen from 6.5 million in 2009-10 and means that demand for special education teachers has never been greater.

    English language acquisition 

    The need for language specialists stems from the fact that around 22% of students in every public school classroom speak a language besides English at home. Plus, the number of U.S. residents who speak a language other than English at home has more than doubled since 1980.

    Although these are the most in-demand teaching subjects, the shortage of teachers affects every part of the profession, from prekindergarten to grade 12.

    Although these are the most in-demand teaching subjects, the shortage of teachers affects every part of the profession, from prekindergarten to grade 12. This is partially due to population growth. Between 2014 and 2026, total public school enrollment in prekindergarten through grade 12 is projected to increase by 3%. Another factor is the reinstatement of classes and programs that were cut or reduced during the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009, when nearly 300,000 teachers and other school employees lost their jobs.

    Additionally, a number of teachers are leaving the profession – either transferring to another sector or exiting the labor force entirely. Although many who have left teaching jobs in the past year cite the COVID19 pandemic as a reason for this, studies show that stress and insufficient pay were also factors.

    » Read: What is STEM?

    2022 Teacher shortages by state

    In 2016, the Learning Policy Institute warned of a “coming crisis in teaching” that would affect the entire country. However, the supply and demand within each state behaves differently due to local factors:

    • funding levels and allocations
    • salary levels
    • teaching conditions
    • demographics of the teaching force
    • concentration or sparsity of the population
    • concentration of academic institutions

    Demand for teachers by state fluctuates, and even when the labor market is balanced overall, individual states may be prone to shortages. For example, while Oklahoma’s teacher demand projections were only slightly higher than their annual supply in 2016, California’s teacher shortages in the same period saw demand for new teachers outstrip supply by more than 25%.

    teachers in demand by state

    While no national data precisely tracks the issue, media and district-level reports suggest the following are among the 10 states with the highest demand for teachers in 2022-2023:

    1. California

    According to the U.S. Department for Education, California reported shortages for the following subjects in the 2022-23 school year for all grade levels, including prekindergarten:

    • language arts
    • social studies
    • art and music education
    • science
    • computer science
    • physical education
    • world languages
    • career and technical information

    This problem may also be worse than it appears. Currently, it’s estimated that nearly 1 out of 5 teachers in the state are working with substandard credentialing.

    To help counter the teacher shortage as well as rising costs and pay rises, minimum funding (Prop. 98) levels for K-12 schools and community colleges saw a year-on-year increase of $37.2 billion in 2022-23, with $350 million allocated for the Teacher Residency Grant Program, aimed at addressing shortage areas.

    California has also incentivized teachers to relocate. While the average teacher salary nationwide is $65,293, California teachers earned a median wage of $85,856 in 2020-21, making teachers in California the third-highest paid in the country.

    2. Texas

    The Texas Education Agency states that there is no official definition of a teacher shortage, but points to the state’s high attrition rate of 12% (the percentage of teachers who leave the field in a given year) as a reliable indicator. Several smaller and rural school districts in Texas have switched to a 4-day week for the 2022-23 school year in an effort to attract and retain teachers.

    Additionally, a 2021 poll found 68% of teachers in the state were “seriously considering” leaving the profession, citing low pay and burnout as key reasons.

    Texas has reported shortages in the following subject areas for the current school year:

    • mathematics
    • science
    • language arts
    • computer science
    • special education
    • ESL
    • career and technical education

    3. Florida

    A Department of Education report for the current school year showed close to 9,000 teacher vacancies across the state. Shortages have been reported across all grade levels, concentrated in the following subject areas:

    • general science
    • physical science
    • English
    • exceptional student education (ESE)
    • reading

    The state governor Ron DeSantis has proposed 3 unorthodox bills for the 2023 legislative session to aid teacher recruitment. One proposed piece of legislation aims to encourage retired law enforcement officers and first responders with bachelor’s degrees to enter teaching positions. Incentives include $4,000 bonuses and fee waivers on teacher certification exams. The state already offers a Military Veterans Certification Pathway which enables veterans with at least 60 college credits to earn temporary 5-year teaching certification.

    4. Washington

    Washington has thousands of people working in classrooms who have not completed their teaching credentials. In 2019, it was estimated that the state had 9,000 emergency-certified teachers operating.

    In the 2022-23 school year, there are qualified teaching staff shortages from pre-K to grade 12 in the following subject areas:

    • core elementary education
    • special education
    • science
    • language arts
    • health and physical fitness
    • math
    • social studies
    • career and technical education
    • reading

    Additionally, the state is experiencing shortages in support staff, including counselors, classroom assistants, bus drivers, and custodians.

    To help recruit more teachers and solve the shortage of qualified teachers, the state has been working on diversifying the teaching workforce through its innovative Recruiting Washington Teachers (RWT) program. RWT offers a pathway from high school to teaching jobs, with a focus on students of Color and bilingual students.

    5. Arizona

    At the start of the 2020-21 school year in Arizona, 751 teachers resigned from their post, abandoned their jobs, or did not show up for work. Almost half of these cited the pandemic as their main reason for leaving the profession, but there are other, longer-standing issues. Arizona has a notoriously high student-to-teacher ratio. The average teacher salary in the 2021-22 school year was $52,157 per year, falling just below the minimum living wage, and ranking 44th nationally.

    For the 2022-23 school year, the state has reported shortages in the following subjects:

    • early childhood education
    • special education
    • English
    • math
    • science
    • ESL

    English, math, and science teacher shortages are concentrated at the middle school level, while special education teachers are needed across all grade levels and specializations.

    In efforts to address teacher shortages, Arizona has launched teacher mentoring programs and has created a fast-track certification program that can be completed in 9 months. In July 2022, Governor Doug Ducey signed into law a controversial bill permitting individuals enrolled in but not yet graduated from college to teach in public schools.

    6. Wisconsin

    At the start of August 2022, the Madison School District in Wisconsin had 141 teacher positions yet to fill. Other districts are struggling as well, and all cite a lack of qualified applicants as the main reason for the staffing issues. Substitute teachers have been called in to help cover massive shortages and the use of emergency teaching licenses has nearly tripled since the 2012-2013 school year. Emergency licenses in Wisconsin permit individuals with bachelor’s degrees but without teacher training programs to teach.

    For the 2022-23 school year, Wisconsin has reported shortages in these subject areas:

    • elementary core subject
    • math
    • science
    • ESL
    • early childhood special education

    7. Alabama

    In June 2022, a report by the Alabama Commission on the Evaluation of Services found that at least 25% of first-time teacher certification graduates in Alabama do not go on to tech in the public school system, creating a significant supply gap.

    While Alabama does not track school-level vacancies at state level, shortages have been reported in the following areas for the 2022-23 school year:

    • math
    • science
    • English
    • core subjects
    • social studies
    • special education

    Efforts to improve teacher recruitment and retention have included a record $8.3 billion education budget, approved in 2022, as well as a new law to permit for-profit teacher education programs in the state, and improvements to teacher retirements benefits.

    8. Nevada

    Nevada’s rural landscape and low population density make it difficult to determine vacancy numbers for the state. This is particularly true because many counties resort to “flexible” hiring practices.

    More than a third of schools in the Clark County School District reported vacancy rates of 10% or higher at the start of the 2022-23 school year. As of July 2022, 1,368 classroom positions were open out of a total of approximately 18,000. In an effort to tackle these serious shortages, the district has raised starting salaries by $7,000 and has introduced a $4,000 relocation bonus to out-of-state teachers or those willing to move more than 100 miles in-state.

    Nevada’s teacher shortage spans all grade levels and subjects, including:

    • math
    • science
    • core subjects
    • special education
    • ESL
    • computer science
    • art and music

    To combat shortages, the state is looking to improve pay and provide support systems to existing teachers via mentoring networks. Many further improvements are also considered at the state’s Annual Summit on Nevada Education, which is now in its eight year.

    9. Kansas

    The teacher shortage in Kansas is at an all-time high, with 4% of teaching jobs unfilled as of summer 2022 – which translates to roughly 1,400 open positions. The Blue Valley School District alone reported 250 resignations and retirements earlier this year. To attract teachers, the Kansas City District offers competitive starting teacher salaries – close to $45,000 per year, with up to a $5,000 bump for hard-to fill positions.

    In the 2022-23 school year, Kansas reported shortages primarily in special education teaching roles, including hearing and visual impairment specialists, as well as key support roles, including occupational therapists, psychologists, and interpreters.

    10. Hawaii

    Hawaii has the highest teacher turnover rate in the country, and nearly twice the national average of uncertified teachers. The state is struggling to fill specialist teaching positions across all age groups, with teachers of Hawaiian language immersion particularly in demand.

    To counter the issue, the Hawaii State Department of Education has begun to offer salary boosts of $3,000 to $10,000 per year for certain hard to fill teaching positions, including specialized and remote roles.

    For the 2022-23 school year, shortages were reported for the following subjects:

    • special education
    • math
    • science
    • English
    • Hawaiian immersion
    • ESL
    Note: All subject shortage area information above has been taken from the U.S. Department of Education

    How teacher pay compares across the country

    For 2020-21, the average starting salary for an educator was $41,770, according to the National Education Association. This represents a considerable rise from a decade earlier, when the average starting salary was only $34,629.

    However, when looking at average salaries for teachers across all experience levels, we see a different picture. For the 2020-21 school year, the average salary for a public school teacher was $65,293, a 4% decrease from the previous year when adjusted for inflation, and barely a 1% increase over the past decade.

    At state level, there are large discrepancies in teacher pay. The top 5 states for average teacher salaries in 2020-21 were:

    1. New York – $88,381
    2. Massachusetts – $84,659
    3. California – $84,531
    4. Connecticut – $78,427
    5. Washington – $76,743

    The 5 states with the lowest average teacher salaries were:

    1. Arkansas – $50,456
    2. West Virginia – $50,238
    3. Florida – $49,102
    4. South Dakota – $48,984
    5. Mississippi – $46,843
    teachers with the highest and lowest salaries across the country

    Future-proofing your career – predicted teacher shortages by 2030

    Looking to the future, the Biden-Harris administration has pledged $130 billion via the American Rescue Plan to address K-12 shortages and other pressing issues. The funds are intended to bolster teacher pipeline programs, increase salaries, and to hire more social workers, counselors, and school nurses across the country.

    Additionally, 3 leading talent industry companies have recently introduced initiatives to strengthen the teaching profession:

    • ZipRecruiter introduced a job portal exclusively for K-12 teachers, which will also offer hiring resources and will allow schools to post open roles free of charge.
    • Indeed will begin facilitating virtual hiring fairs focused on education professionals, and will also provide free hiring tools to school administrators.
    • Handshake will host a free nationwide event in October aimed at promoting pathways to teaching and other school roles. They will also publish a list of all schools offering jobs to students and college graduates to help aspiring teachers kickstart their careers.

    Final thoughts

    Although these are the states with the highest demand for teachers, the problem is a national one. The Economic Policy Institute projects there will be demand for approximately 300,000 new teachers nationwide and a supply of just over 100,000 trained teachers by 2024.

    The COVID19 pandemic has compounded teacher shortages, and studies show that the problem is set to worsen, with 2 in 5 teachers saying they plan to quit in the next 2 years according to a June 2022 survey. Teachers cite salaries not matching inflation rates and students’ behavioral issues worsening due to the pandemic as key reasons for leaving the profession.

    That said, incentives such as free certification programs, higher salaries, and improved support systems make this a great time to get into teaching. As well as providing the children of America with a solid education, you can also secure a future-proof career that will genuinely make a difference.

    Did you enjoy this post?