Top 5 States with the Highest Teacher Shortages 2021

Which States Have the Biggest Teacher Shortages?

For years, the public education system has dealt with sweeping teacher shortages. The staffing issues tend to affect some states more than others, but most jurisdictions have difficulty hiring and retaining employees.

These shortages have been magnified by the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic and the unique challenges of 2020. As a result, teacher shortages in 2021 are even more severe. While this shortage can have dire consequences if left unresolved, it also means plenty of career opportunities for aspiring teachers.

While you may have heard about the teacher shortages, you may not realize just how severely understaffed some states really are. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) projects there will be a demand for approximately 300,000 new teachers nationwide and a supply of just over 100,000 by 2024.1

Teacher shortages have ravaged a handful of states more drastically than others. Fortunately, many states are taking a proactive approach and offering additional incentives to attract new hires. There are many career opportunities for teachers, especially those willing to relocate.

Below, you will find vital information on the top five states with the highest teacher shortages. We address everything from certification requirements, median pay, and career outlook. Using this information, you can find an ideal environment to begin a rewarding career in education.

Top 5 States with the Highest Teacher Shortages in 2021

1.   California

Even before the pandemic, the state of California began experiencing mass teacher shortages. These issues were only worsened by the situation as statewide lockdowns and the transition to virtual classrooms affected hiring.

While it is tough to discern an exact number of openings for the state, they are estimated to be in the thousands. According to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, over 13,000 teachers are working with substandard credentialing.2 In addition, a large number of teachers are working on provisional staffing permits.According to the U.S. Department of Education, California reported shortages for the following subjects in the 2020-2021 school year for all grade levels, including Pre-K:

  • Language Arts
  • Special Education
  • Mathematics
  • Core Subjects
  • Science

As you can see, California has no shortage of job openings for teachers. In fact, some districts were offering a $7,000 moving bonuses to new hires. This wealth of opportunities and the natural beauty of California should offer plenty of incentive to relocate.

Teaching Salary in California

California provides an excellent teacher salary, with a median salary of $82,746 for the 2019-2020 year.3 This is more than $20,000 higher than the U.S. average. California is second only to New York in terms of average teacher salary and is the highest among states with teacher shortages.

Many districts are upping the ante by providing hefty signing bonuses. Current education level, additional college credits, and experience level will likely influence bonus amount and starting salary.

Teacher Job Outlook in California

The job outlook for California teacher positions is positive overall. Elementary teaching positions are projected to grow 6.9% by 2026.4 Middle and high school teaching positions also have similar growth projections.

Requirements to Become a Teacher in California

California provides several different avenues for obtaining licensure. If you intend to teach high school or middle school students, you will need a single subject teaching credential. Elementary teachers need a multi subject teaching credential. These credentials can be obtained in the following ways:

  • College or university
  • College internship program
  • School district internship program
  • Private school teaching experience

Having flexible certification options is another way that California is seeking to resolve the severe teacher shortages.

2.   Nevada

You may not be surprised to find Nevada on the list, as much of the state is extremely rural. However, even the bustling city of Las Vegas has difficulty hiring and retaining teachers.

It’s difficult to obtain exact vacancy numbers for Nevada. Many counties with lower population densities may resort to “flexible” hiring practices to fill classrooms. However, gaging the severity of Nevada’s teacher shortage simply requires a closer look at Clark County School District.

CCSD is home to Las Vegas and many of Nevada’s other large cities, like Reno. As of March 2021, CCSD reported that they were short over 400 teachers and that those shortages left nearly 12,000 students without a permanent teacher.5 This lack of consistency negatively impacts students’ education.

Nevada’s teacher shortage spans all grade levels and subjects. However, they reported the most shortages in specialty middle and high school subjects, such as science and technical education.6

Don’t let these stark numbers discourage you. Nevada has many great offerings, such as no state income tax and a low cost of living. There are plenty of unique cities and hospitable small towns if you want to avoid the hustle and bustle of Las Vegas.

Teaching Salary in Nevada

The median salary for Nevada teachers is significantly lower than California, but it is offset by the lack of state income taxes and reduced cost of living. You can expect to earn right around $60,000 as a school teacher in Nevada. The salaries range from $52,855 to $69,892, depending on education, certifications, and experience.20

Larger districts are even offering relocation bonuses. Specifically, CCSD is offering new hires several thousand dollars to cover moving expenses and the like.

Teacher Job Outlook in Nevada

The overall job growth outlook for Nevada educators is very good. Growth projections range from about 3.0% to 10.4%, depending on subject area.7

Requirements to Become a Teacher in Nevada

Unlike California, Nevada provides a singular clear path to become an educator.

  1. Obtain a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university
  2. Complete a preparation program and pass the appropriate exam(s). The type and number of exams will depend on the grade level and subject matter that you want to teach.

3. Washington

Our third state is also located in the western part of the country. Of all the states with teacher shortages, Washington’s is one of the most severe. While Washington’s total number of vacancies is not as high as states like California, it is important to keep in mind that the two have drastic differences in total population.

As of the 2019-2020 school year, Washington has a total of 1834 limited teaching certificate holders.8 These limited licenses are designed as a means of granting hopeful teachers the ability to work and gain experience while becoming fully certified. They are not intended to be a long-term solution.

However, the state has been forced to bend the rules to get people in classrooms. Every district in the state has at least one emergency-certified teacher operating a classroom. The Selkirk district has filled nearly one-fourth of positions with these limited certification holders.9

Washington has no shortage of teaching opportunities. In addition to the positive career outlook, Washington is home to several major cities like Seattle. It also has great year-round weather and plenty of smaller communities if you enjoy scenic views, sprawling landscapes, or outdoor activities.

Teaching Salary in Washington

You can expect to earn somewhere between $55,072 and $72,824 as a teacher in Washington.10 The median salary is $63,081, but it varies depending on your skillset, experience level, and certifications. Washington is one of only seven states with no income tax, allowing you to keep a larger portion of your earnings.

Teacher Job Outlook in Washington

Washington’s career growth projections are slightly lower than some other states. According to the Washington State Employment Security Department, the market for teachers is projected to increase by 2.13% by 2023.11 However, the hundreds of current vacancies already provide plenty of opportunity for employment.

Requirements to Become a Teacher in Washington

The certification requirements for Washington are very similar to that of Nevada and many other states. They require that you obtain your bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university, enroll in a certification program, and take the requisite state exam.

An alternative option is to enroll in a state-approved teacher preparation program. Upon completion of the program, you will obtain a state certification and your bachelor’s degree. You will still need to pass a state licensure exam and renew every few years.

4.   Arizona

The state of Arizona had plenty of issues hiring and retaining teachers before COVID-19, and the pandemic only exacerbated the staffing issues. Since the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year, nearly 800 teachers have resigned, and 326 of those teachers cited the pandemic as their primary reason for leaving the profession.12

As of January 2020, there were 1846 vacancies, and these figures were gathered prior to the mass exodus described above.13 The state got to work remedying these teacher shortages, but many positions remain vacant.

One year later, just over 25% of those vacancies remain unfilled. Another 47% were filled by teachers with limited or improper certifications.14

Based on information submitted to the U.S. DOE, many of these vacancies are in special education classes for grades K-12. Middle school and high school science programs are also suffering.

In addition to the abundance of teaching opportunities, Arizona has plenty to offer potential candidates. The state has plenty of sprawling cities and national landmarks, like the Grand Canyon. If you opt to move to the western part of the state, you are a day’s drive away from Las Vegas and California.

Teaching Salary in Arizona

While there may be many causes for the Arizona teacher shortage in 2021, salary is not one of them. The state is competitive with national averages with a median salary for Arizona teachers at $58,395.15 On the high end, you can expect to earn around $67,415.

There are additional incentives for other certifications and continuing education. You can also partake in one of many sports programs or tutoring sessions to boost your earnings.

Teacher Job Outlook in Arizona

The outlook for teaching positions in Arizona varies depending on the subject matter. You can expect a 3% to 8% growth for the majority of primary and secondary teaching positions over the next five years, according to the BLS. When combined with existing openings, you will have plenty of opportunity to find a rewarding teaching position in Arizona.

Requirements to Become a Teacher in Arizona

When it comes to earning your certification, Arizona keeps the process simple. You need to earn a bachelor’s degree and complete approved student-teaching hours. Once these hours are completed, you are eligible to sit for the state licensure exam.

5.   Hawaii

Have you ever wanted to work in a tropical paradise? If you have a desire to become a teacher, you may be able to with Hawaii’s teacher shortage. They have a total of 364 vacancies as of Spring 2021.16 This accounts for just under 3% of positions.

While their overall shortages are not as drastic as some other states, they have had extreme difficulties filling specialty teaching positions. Based on information provided to the U.S. Department of Education, most vacancies are for grades 6-12. Subjects range from Career and Technical Education to World Languages. To help fill the specialty positions, Hawaii began offering $10,000 annual incentive pay.

There are plenty of incentives to teaching in Hawaii, other than the incentive pay. Most notably is the fact that you get to enjoy life on a tropical island. Between that and the great teaching schedule, you will have plenty of time to soak up the sun.

Teaching Salary in Hawaii

The primary reason for the teacher shortage in Hawaii is the overall salary. While it is similar to the national average, Hawaii has a higher cost of living. The median salary is $61,971.17

However, Hawaii has a unique tier salary system. If you obtain your master’s degree and choose a specialty that is eligible for salary incentive, you can boost your annual earnings by roughly $20,000.

Teacher Job Outlook in Hawaii

Years of teacher shortages and projected changes to hiring practices bode well for the future job outlook. According to the BLS, some subjects have a projected growth of over 15%. Other subject areas, such as math, have a more meager projection of only 2.6%.18

Requirements to Become a Teacher in Hawaii

In order to become a Hawaii certified teacher, you must first obtain a bachelor’s degree and complete a state-approved prep program. Obtaining 30 additional credit hours or your master’s degree will move you to a higher salary tier. While obtaining initial certification is relatively straight forward, Hawaii’s tier system is somewhat complex.

Other Shortages for Education Careers

Our list isn’t limited to states with teacher shortages. Many of the states listed above are experiencing shortages in other education careers as well. This includes curriculum specialists, administrative members, support staff, and even principals.

Washington and Nevada are experiencing particularly notable shortages of administrators, which are documented by the U.S. DOE.

Another factor that has increased the number and scope of education careers is the recent focus on mental health services. School districts around the nation are seeking to offer their students easier access to mental health professionals. With that said, you will find that many districts have openings for school psychologists, nurses, and occupational therapists. These vacancies are also documented by the DOE.

Highest Paying States for Teachers

When discussing the top 5 states with teacher shortages, it is vital to also identify which states offer the best pay for educators. Doing so is essential if you want to better understand the issue as a whole. It will also help you determine which states present the best opportunities for employment. As of May 2020, the five highest paying states for teachers are as follows:19

New York

Not surprisingly, New York is the highest paying state overall. The average annual salary for a teacher (excluding special education) is $88,890. Technical education and special education teachers may have additional salary incentives that will boost earnings.


California comes in at a close second with a median wage of $86,900. They are the only one of the top 5 paying states that is also on our list for teacher shortages.


Massachusetts also has a reputation for paying teachers very well, with an average salary above $80,000. According to the BLS, the median pay for teachers is $84,130.

New Jersey

The fourth highest paid location for teachers is also located in the NE. New Jersey’s median educator salary is $78,900.


We round out the top five with Connecticut. If you opt to start your teaching career there, you can expect to earn a median pay of $78,510.

Teacher Shortages 2021: How You Can Optimize Earning Potential

Regardless of where you elect to start or continue your teaching career, you can expect to have plenty of opportunity for growth. However, if you want to maximize your earning potential and take advantage of relocation incentives, then you should give strong consideration to states with teacher shortages.