Teacher Salary Stories: An Australian 3rd Grade Teacher Earning $76,000 USD in 2024

In our new series Teacher Salary Stories, We Are Teachers readers share how they’re making it work—or not—on a teacher’s salary. The goal is to take an honest look at teacher pay in the United States and around the world—what’s working, what’s not, and what needs to change if we want to stem the flow of educators leaving the profession and recruit new teachers to the field.

In today’s Teacher Salary Story, an Australian 3rd grade teacher shares her journey from starting at $35,000 USD in California to earning $115,000 AUD, navigating the complexities of international relocation, salary progression, and the personal sacrifices for her career and financial stability.

Where do you live?

In a regional coastal city with a population of about 50,000 in Australia.

What is your job title?

I am a 3rd grade teacher.

What is your annual salary?

$115,000 Australian dollars ($76,000 U.S. dollars).

What is your level of education?

Master’s degree.

How did you pay for your education?

I financed my education through a combination of loans, support from family, and participating in a program in California that offers loan repayment assistance for working in low-income schools.

How long have you been teaching? Is this your first career?

Eighteen years, and yes, this is my first career.

What was your starting salary as a teacher?

$35,000 U.S. dollars.

Tell us about your income progression (e.g., have you received standard step increases, taken on extra duties, gotten an advanced degree, or switched roles?).

I taught full-time as a kindergarten classroom teacher in California for three years while I lived in the United States, receiving moderate step increases. In the middle of my third year of teaching, I met my (then) boyfriend, who is Australian. He suggested I come live with him in Australia and try out a one-year Working Holiday visa. It took about six months for me to get settled. I was working at tutoring centers, waitressing, and subbing.

After living in Australia for a year, I applied for a permanent resident partner visa. Then I got my first full-time classroom job at $65,000 Australian dollars. After teaching full-time for two years in Australia, I got a proficient teacher accreditation, which bumped my salary up to $90,000AUD. Now, after teaching full-time in a private school, I’m at $115,000. I could complete a Highly Accomplished teaching accreditation, but it’s about two years’ work on my own time, and I have been told it requires a similar amount of work to a master’s, but I could get bumped up to $150,000.

How much is one paycheck, after taxes, and how often are you paid?

$3,050, fortnightly (every two weeks).

What is your approximate net worth including savings, investments, retirement, and other assets?

My approximate net worth, including savings, investments, retirement accounts, and other assets such as my house and additional investments, is around $1.2 million.

How many people live in your household? Are you the only earner?

Three. No, my husband is a locksmith. His salary is about three-quarters of mine, but he can do overtime/on call, cash-in-hand jobs.

What are your approximate monthly expenses (e.g., rent/mortgage, car payment or other loans, childcare, food, entertainment, phone/Internet/utilities, other subscriptions)? 

Mortgage: $2,000/month

Daughter’s private school: $3,000/year

Phone/Internet/utilities, subscriptions: $500/month

Daughter’s dance classes: $200/month

Food: $1,000/month

Do you receive a school- or PTA-provided budget for classroom supplies? If so, how much?

No, there is no budget. I just submit orders for supplies and they appear in my classroom.

How much of your own money do you spend on your classroom every year?

$100 to $200, all claimed back on my taxes.

What kinds of things do you buy when you treat yourself?

When I treat myself, I enjoy spending on dining out, purchasing concert tickets, and traveling.

What expense would you take on if you suddenly got an extra $1,000 per paycheck?

Travel—my family lives in California, so I would try to visit them yearly.

How does your district handle retirement? Will you receive a pension?

In Australia, there is a government-funded retirement given to everyone at 65 (similar to social security), and I have my personal retirement fund that I’ve been building up that I receive at 63.

Do you have any secondary sources of income, like a side hustle or another job?


How satisfied are you with your teaching salary on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being very satisfied and 1 being not at all satisfied? Please explain.

8. The cost of living in Australia has skyrocketed since the pandemic, and salaries are trailing behind. My school gives us a small increase each year.

Has your current and/or future salary impacted your decision-making around other major life choices (e.g., where you live, whether you rent/own, whether or not to have kids, etc.)? Please explain.

Yes. Luckily we had the opportunity to move to a regional town (out of Sydney) where properties were much more affordable when we bought our house in 2017. Since the pandemic, the cost of houses/property has skyrocketed, which has worked well for us. We were able to put in a pool.

Do you plan to stay in education?

Yes. My plan is to stay teaching full-time for at least 15 more years, for when my daughter graduates from high school. Since she is also an automatic U.S. citizen, she will have the option to move to the United States if she wants. If she makes that choice, I will probably drop down to part-time work so I have more freedom to travel and visit her.

Do you have any other thoughts about teacher pay that you’d like to share?

Moving out of California was a good choice financially, but it’s been really hard to be so far from my friends and family. It’s heartbreaking to not easily attend weddings and meet new babies. But I can’t imagine what my life would be like in California. I certainly don’t think I’d be able to own a home, send my daughter to private school, or travel as much as I do.

Are you interested in participating in our Teacher Salary Stories project? Fill out the Google Form here. If we choose your story for publication, we will notify you and send you a $150 gift card. All responses will be published anonymously.

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