Teacher sparks debate with video showing how little a master’s degree will increase her salary: ‘It’s soul-crushing’

In many professions, a master’s degree can be a major salary boost.

And while that’s sometimes true for teachers, it’s not always the case.

Ms. Zak (@ms.zak) is a middle school teacher with a TikTok page where she often posts about her job. In one recent video, she shared a claim that left viewers outraged.

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The clip, posted in late July, revealed that Ms. Zak had recently got her master’s degree. The only problem, she said, was how little the accomplishment would affect her salary.

“I got my master’s degree in education,” she captioned the video. “My salary will only increase from about $53,000 to $56,000.”

Ms. Zak then compared those numbers with the salary of her friend, who she said earns $30,000 more despite holding only a bachelor’s degree.

In fields like biology, business and nursing, a master’s degree can increase a person’s average starting salary by nearly $30,000. But in teaching, that difference can vary widely.

According to data from 2018, a master’s degree increases a teacher’s starting salary by $2,760. As teachers gain experience, that value increases to an average of over $7,000.

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As Ms. Zak points out, though, even that increase isn’t enough for some teachers. Her video received several comments from teachers discussing similar issues.

“Mine will go from 46,000 to 50,000 with my Masters after 7 YEARS in the profession,” one commenter wrote.

“Teachers are so underappreciated,” another user agreed.

“Teachers and social workers,” another added. “it’s soul-crushing to be treated as a lesser professional when ppl have no idea the level of knowledge needed.”

Some, meanwhile, questioned why Ms. Zak was “complaining” when she was aware of her salary going into the job. She responded with a follow-up addressing those claims.

“Yeah, teaching was my choice,” she says in the clip. “So what? Does that mean I’m not allowed to advocate for better working conditions and better wages?”

According to U.S. News & World Report, the median teacher salary in 2020 was $62,870. On average, high school teachers earn slightly more than middle school teachers.

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