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Deciding on becoming a teacher in Hawaii? One of the most important factors you’ll consider is your earning potential. Teachers’ salaries can vary greatly by state, so it’s key to understand how Hawaii teacher pay compares to the national average and what drives salaries up or down across Hawaii districts and schools.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The average teacher salary in Hawaii is $66,486, which is higher than the national average of $63,645. However, Hawaii’s high cost of living offsets higher pay to some degree.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll break down Hawaii teacher salaries in detail, including statewide averages, starting salaries, differences across districts and levels, factors impacting pay scales and raises, and comparisons to other states.

We’ll also provide tips to advance your teaching career in Hawaii and maximize earnings over time.

Average Teacher Salaries in Hawaii

Statewide Average Pay for Teachers

According to the National Education Association, the average teacher salary in Hawaii for the 2019-2020 school year was $66,624. This puts Hawaii above the national average of $65,293. However, when adjusted for cost of living, Hawaii teacher salaries rank near the bottom nationally.

The high cost of living, especially housing, eats up a large chunk of teachers’ paychecks in the Aloha State.

Starting Teacher Salaries in Hawaii

New teachers in Hawaii public schools start at $54,024 according to the most recent data from the NEA. While this starting salary looks quite livable for new teachers just out of college, the high rents and home prices in Hawaii make it tough for young teachers to make ends meet.

Many new teachers take on second jobs or roommates to afford housing costs.

Teacher Pay by District

There is some variation in average teacher salaries between school districts in Hawaii. According to data from the Hawaii State Teachers Association, the highest-paying district is Kauai, with an average teacher salary of $68,748. Maui and Hawaii Island districts have average salaries around $66,000.

Oahu and Honolulu fall slightly below the statewide average at around $64,000-$65,000 on average.

Teacher Salaries by Grade Level

In general, pay for Hawaii teachers increases with years of experience and education level. Here is a breakdown of average salaries by grade level:

  • Preschool teachers – $40,490
  • Elementary teachers – $62,030
  • Middle school teachers – $65,560
  • High school teachers – $66,750

As you can see, preschool and kindergarten teachers make significantly less than those teaching older grades. Pay peaks for high school teachers. Subjects that typically pay higher than average include math, science, special education, English as a Second Language (ESL), and Hawaiian language.

What Impacts Teacher Salaries in Hawaii

Teachers play a vital role in shaping the future of any society. However, their salaries often do not reflect the importance of their profession. In Hawaii specifically, several factors impact how much teachers make.

Cost of Living

Hawaii has an exceptionally high cost of living compared to other states, due to its remote island location. Everything from housing, food, transportation and utilities comes at a premium. This means teachers need higher salaries just to maintain a decent standard of living.

Unfortunately, salaries have not kept pace with the rising cost of living in recent years.

State Budget Issues

Like many other states, Hawaii periodically faces budget shortfalls that affect education funding. When budgets get tightened, teacher salaries are often one of the first areas impacted through pay freezes, benefit reductions, or lack of raises.

The state legislature plays a key role in determining budget allocations.

Teacher Shortages

Hawaii has long suffered from shortages of qualified teachers, especially in remote areas. Supply and demand impacts what school districts have to offer for compensation packages. With ongoing shortages leading to larger class sizes and more workloads for teachers, there have been efforts to increase pay to attract and retain educators.

However, significant shortages persist.

Variations By District

There can be major differences in teacher pay depending on which Hawaii school district they work for. For example, Honolulu district generally offers the highest salaries due to the high cost of living in Oahu. Meanwhile, rural districts on the outer islands often pay significantly less.

There are also variations depending on subject matter, with specialized areas like math, science, and special education providing pay premiums.

In the end, Hawaii teachers face a unique situation with relatively low pay considering the state’s exceptionally high cost of living. Addressing this pay inequity continues to be an important issue to ensure quality education and retention of talented educators across Hawaii.

Earning Potential and Salary Growth for Hawaii Teachers Over Time

Teachers in Hawaii have seen steady salary growth over the past decade. According to the National Education Association, the average teacher salary in Hawaii has increased from $46,431 in 2008 to $60,090 in 2018, an increase of nearly 30%.

This puts Hawaii teacher salaries above the national average of $59,660.

There are several factors that contribute to the earning potential for Hawaii teachers:

Cost of Living Adjustments

Hawaii has a very high cost of living compared to other states, largely due to the remote island location. To help offset this, Hawaii teacher contracts include annual cost of living adjustments (COLAs) to salaries based on inflation rates.

For example, in the 2019-2021 contract period, teachers received a COLA ranging from 1.8% to 2.1% each year.

Experience and Education

Hawaii teacher salaries are based on a standard statewide pay scale that increases with years of experience and education level. Teachers with a PhD and 25+ years of experience can earn up to $91,000 per year. The following table outlines the salary range:

Years of Experience BA Degree Salary MA Degree Salary PhD Degree Salary
0 $46,601 $48,601 $50,276
5 $54,955 $57,380 $59,129
10 $62,283 $65,052 $67,181
15 $69,611 $72,723 $75,232
25+ $82,194 $86,615 $91,036

Specialty Pay

Hawaii offers specialty pay for teachers in high-need subject areas like special education, math and science. For example, a $3,000 to $10,000 annual bonus is given to special education teachers. The state also offers loan forgiveness programs for teachers in designated shortage areas.

Job Availability

The remote location and high cost of living in Hawaii also contributes to consistent teacher demand across the islands. This results in excellent job availability for credentialed teachers. According to the Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA), Hawaii has averaged between 500-600 annual teacher vacancies over the past five years.

With the combination of regular pay increases, opportunities for advancement, and high job availability – Hawaii offers fantastic earning potential and career growth for qualified teachers.

How Hawaii Teacher Salaries Compare to Other States

When it comes to teacher pay, Hawaii falls somewhere in the middle compared to other states. According to the National Education Association, the average teacher salary in Hawaii for the 2019-2020 school year was $66,486. This ranked #16 out of the 50 states and Washington D.C.

By comparison, the highest average teacher salary that year was in New York at $87,513. The lowest average salary was in Mississippi at $45,105. So while Hawaii teacher pay is better than some states, it still lags behind high paying states like New York, California, and Massachusetts.

Cost of Living Differences

It’s important to note that averages don’t always tell the full story. The cost of living in Hawaii is much higher than many other parts of the country. When you factor in expenses like housing, utilities, transportation and food, $66,486 doesn’t necessarily go as far as a similar salary would in other states.

For example, according to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, Hawaii’s overall cost of living is nearly double that of Mississippi. So even though Hawaii’s average teacher salary is over $20,000 more, teachers may not necessarily be better off financially.

Starting Salaries vs. Average Salaries

Another thing to look at is starting teacher salaries compared to the overall average. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the average starting teacher salary in Hawaii in 2019 was $46,601. That ranked #28 nationally. However, the state’s overall average salary was much higher at #16.

This suggests that teacher salaries rise faster over time in Hawaii than some other places. The longer you stay in the profession here, the better you’ll likely do financially compared to colleagues in other states.

Breakdown by School District

There is also variation in teacher pay depending on which Hawaii school district you work in. Data from the Hawaii State Teachers Association shows that the highest average teacher salaries during the 2018-2019 school year were:

  • Kailua-Kona area of Hawaii Island: $69,575
  • Honolulu District on Oahu: $68,987
  • Central Maui area: $65,269

On the lower end of the scale were:

  • Ka’u-Keaau-Pahoa area of Hawaii Island: $58,575
  • Molokai: $59,113
  • Lanai: $59,698

So there can be nearly a $11,000 difference in average pay, depending on which part of Hawaii you teach in. Generally, salaries tend to be higher in metro areas and more rural districts pay less.


Teaching can be a personally and professionally rewarding career in Hawaii. While starting salaries may seem modest, pay does increase steadily with experience and education level attained. And earning potential over decades in the field can ultimately be quite strong.

Understanding statewide averages as well as district-by-district and school-by-school variations can help you make an informed decision on where you hope to teach in Hawaii and what salaries you can expect.

Factoring in cost of living considerations is also key, since Hawaii does have exceptionally high living expenses that offset higher pay to some degree.

Armed with the insights above on Hawaii teacher pay scales, growth potential, and comparisons, you can determine if a teaching career in Hawaii aligns with your earning goals and budgets. And by strategically selecting districts and schools with higher pay, pursuing continuing education, and considering supplemental school roles, you can maximize your teaching income over the long run.

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