7 states with the worst teacher shortages in the US

photo of empty classroom - states with teacher shortages in the us.

Studies from 2018 show there is a shortage of around 112,000 teachers across the U.S.

While the reasons for teacher shortages are complicated, the effects are easier to see.

A lack of teachers significantly reduces the quality of education each student receives. And classroom sizes keep growing. 

This is worrying for students. We can all agree that they deserve access to a good education. 

Right now, nearly all the states in the country are facing a shortage. Some more serious than others. 

So how did we get here and how bad is the teacher shortage? Let’s take a deeper look at the following topics to get a better idea:

  • Why is there a teacher shortage?
  • How big is the national teacher shortage
  • Which states have the worst teacher shortages?
  • What are the work conditions for a teacher?
  • How can I become a teacher?

teacher at desk - states with teacher shortages in the us.

Why is there a teacher shortage?

There are complex reasons for the teacher shortage in the U.S.

But one primary reason is that there is an imbalance of supply and demand for teachers

Studies predict that schools in the U.S. will see an increase of around three million students in the next decade. 

More students obviously mean there is a need for more teachers. 

And, interestingly, more teachers with bachelor’s degrees are stepping into the classroom than ever before. 

However, many of these teachers are entering the classroom without proper training. Some states are now so deeply in need of teachers they are hiring according to the Warm Body law. This law means anybody with “relevant experience” can enter the classroom.

But teachers without proper training tend to leave the profession much quicker than those who have. 

This isn’t surprising – teaching is a multifaceted job that requires a lot of different professional skills. Teachers themselves need to be adequately prepared and supported for the rigors of the job they do. 

How big is the national teacher shortage?

The U.S. teacher shortage is visible in data from state and school district officials and state-by-state subject area vacancies. 

The only caveat is that not all U.S. states contribute to this data, so it’s hard to say exactly how significant the national teacher shortage is. 

Either way, the general picture shows that teachers severely lack throughout the nation. 

Many states need more teachers across a wide range of subjects and age groups.

A 2016 report from the Learning Policy Institute stated that many U.S. schools “had serious difficulty finding qualified teachers for their positions.” 

Not having enough well-qualified, long-term teachers seriously affect students’ ability to learn. It makes it hard for schools to control class sizes and offer a full curriculum for their students. And student learning can be disrupted by frequently changing school staff.

Data also shows that there is declining enrollment in teacher preparation programs in the U.S. 

This means the teacher shortage is expected to continue for some years to come. 

Map of the united states - states with teacher shortages in the us.

Which states have the worst teacher shortages?

It’s hard to say which states have the worst teacher shortages because the data is different for different subjects and criteria. There are many U.S. states with teacher shortages

However, some states have more severe teacher shortages than others. These include:

  1. California
  2. Nevada
  3. Washington
  4. Washington D.C.
  5. Indiana
  6. Arizona
  7. Hawai’i

Let’s take a closer look at each state now.

1. California

Around 80% of California school districts are short on teachers, especially in special education

The state has invested millions in trying to combat its teacher shortage. This includes raising teachers’ salaries to an average of $77,500 per year, making California teachers the third-highest paid in the U.S. 

2. Nevada

In Nevada rural areas and Las Vegas, both need teachers. 

Educators are working to find solutions to address the teacher shortage, with some school districts offering signing bonuses to entice applicants.

3. Washington

Washington has specific shortages in math, science and special ed. 

As well as making an effort to diversify its teaching, the state has introduced pay hikes for teachers

4. Washington D.C.

Although starting salaries can be over $50,000, Washington D.C. is short on teachers and substitute teachers. 

As well as pay raises, school districts focus on building support systems for teaching staff and “lifting the role of teachers.”

5. Indiana

There have been some signs of improvement in recent years, but Indiana is still short on teachers in all subject areas, especially science and math

The state is working on solutions such as increasing teacher pay, offering relief on student loans to improve teacher retention. 

6. Arizona

Arizona faces one of the most severe teacher shortages in the country, with rural schools lacking staff. The state’s schools are getting creative to find solutions, with programs like teacher mentoring. 

For aspiring teachers, it’s also possible to fast-track your teacher certification in Arizona through online study. 

7. Hawai’i

Beautiful Hawaii’s isolated location and high cost of living make it hard to retain teachers. Shortages are particularly high in math, science and English. 

However, the state has recently revealed a bold 5-year plan to tackle the teacher shortage, including pay raises for educators.

If you’re interested in teaching in Hawai’i take a look at our online Teacher Certification Program to learn more. 

What are the work conditions for a teacher?

If you follow the news, you’ll have noticed that teachers across the country have been protesting about their work conditions. It’s true that teaching conditions can vary greatly. 

Some states offer worse conditions for teachers than others. 

On the other side of the coin, some states offer relatively good conditions for teachers.

And many states which have substantial teacher shortages are even offering some exciting benefits to entice teachers to relocate

There are two benefits of becoming a teacher that holds true whichever state you decide to work in.

  1. You will make a difference.

If you’ve ever worked a job that feels a bit purposeless, you’ll know how important it is to feel like you matter. 

As a teacher, you will wake up in the morning with a clear purpose and a clear role in your community. The work you’ll do will matter and will help make your students feel like they matter too. 

  1. You will always have a job and a salary.

In pre-pandemic times this might not have been such a big concern. But right now, job stability is a huge bonus of getting into teaching.

Throughout the pandemic, teachers have kept working to support their students and families. Whatever the future holds, teachers know their jobs aren’t going anywhere. 

How can I become a teacher?

If you want to teach, now would be a great time to do it. It all comes down to supply and demand. As you can see, there is plenty of demand. 

But it’s in your (and your future students’) best interest to do some teacher training before you step into the classroom. 

Traditionally the pathway to becoming a certified teacher involves doing a bachelor’s degree in education followed by a teacher’s preparation program. 

But if you already hold a bachelor’s degree( in any other subject) and want to become a teacher, don’t worry, it isn’t too late. You can become a teacher without going back to university, all thanks to alternative teacher certification programs.

Alternative certification provides a pathway for people with bachelor’s degrees to become certified teachers at a fraction of the cost and time it normally takes. 

It takes around nine months to complete, making them a quick route into becoming a qualified teacher without sacrificing the quality of preparation.

Be part of the solution!

The truth is, the teacher shortage in the U.S. isn't going anywhere anytime soon. But you can be part of the solution.

If you feel inspired to get into the classroom and embark on a meaningful new career, now is a perfect time.

Teaching can be the best job in the world if you have the right support system in place. Getting the proper training before you start teaching is essential.

If you can’t go back to school and study for a degree in Education, look into online teacher certification programs. They provide a solid foundation in pedagogy, school systems, and the workings of the classroom. Plus, they offer flexible, online coursework. And they accept applicants year-round.

Most importantly, completing one will give you the confidence and knowledge you need to make your time in the classroom a success.

And that it’s easier than ever to become a teacher through online teacher certification programs