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What Factors Impact Teacher Job Satisfaction?

By Gregory Hanson
Updated May 16, 2024
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Many factors influence teacher job satisfaction. Some, such as compensation and the ability to act independently, are widespread throughout the profession. Other factors are linked to the subject taught and the grade level. A final group of factors impacting satisfaction derive primarily from personal attitude and inclination.

Compensation contributes directly and nearly universally to teacher job satisfaction, although it is more of a concern for teachers working in poorer districts. Teachers who receive more generous packages of salaries and benefits reported, all else being equal, a greater degree of happiness with their work. Low salaries remain a concern for many educators and most feel that additional bonuses or other compensation could both improve morale and results.

Other working conditions have a nearly universal impact on teacher job satisfaction as well. Teachers with more control over their curriculum and classroom choices reported higher levels of job satisfaction. Those who felt tightly constrained or perceived themselves to be micromanaged were less satisfied.

Relationships between teachers and administrators also have a major impact on teacher job satisfaction across the board. Teachers prefer collegial leadership and cooperative decision-making processes. More managerial or critical styles of leadership have a negative impact on job satisfaction among teachers, whereas less intrusive and more supportive styles increase satisfaction.

Relations between students and teachers and between parents and teachers are also important in determining satisfaction. Teachers are most satisfied in those schools where relations with students are amicable and where discipline problems are rare. Supportive parents also bolster teacher satisfaction. Teachers in private schools and suburban schools are usually happier, perhaps because these factors tend to be more positive in those areas.

The level of job satisfaction varies across grade levels and disciplines. Teachers of younger children are typically more satisfied than secondary school teachers. Similarly, teachers in the hard sciences are happier with their lot than are teachers who work in the fields of English or the humanities.

Personal teacher characteristics impact job satisfaction as well. A connection exists between a personal motivation to teach and an interest in pedagogy and job satisfaction. Teachers generally also report being happier when they are actually able to teach. This factor may relate to the increased teacher job satisfaction among educators who have more autonomy and must make fewer or less detailed reports to school administrators. Teachers who are themselves administrators are also more satisfied, however, suggesting that control rather than the act of administration is key.

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Discussion Comments
By anon330691 — On Apr 18, 2013

Are these factors the same at the teachers in universities?

By truman12 — On Aug 09, 2011

I used to be a teacher and frankly I left because I wanted to make more money. It was great teaching the kids, growing young minds, all that feel good stuff, but for what they paid me it wasn't enough.

And God the job can be miserable at times. There were times when I wanted to throw the kids out of the window. On those days I would look at my bank account balance and wonder why I was doing this with my life. Eventually I ran out of answers and went into real estate. Best decision I ever made. I admire the people that can stick with teaching but I sure wasn't one of them.

By chivebasil — On Aug 08, 2011

I was so disappointed to see it mentioned that private and suburban teachers are often more satisfied than their colleagues in urban public schools. In no area more than education is the disparity between rich and poor, white and black more pronounced than in education.

What is so frustrating though is that the kids who are disadvantaged and struggling need the best most motivated and innovative teachers. basically they need exactly the teachers they are not getting. As aresult the cycle perpetuates itself and bad districts continue to get back teachers and pump out bad students.

If we were a more just and empathetic society we would have put a stop to this decades ago. It is the responsibility of a civilized society to provide a quality and comprehensive education to all. We cannot claim to do this in America and it is a national disgrace.

By jonrss — On Aug 08, 2011

I work as a teacher and I think this article does a nice job of summarizing the various factors that effect my satisfaction with my job. But the biggest factor for me is the quality of the kids.

If I have well behaved kids with lots of parental support that are eager to learn my job is a million times easier. All other factors are secondary to this for me.

The reason is that I've had classes where this was not the case and it doesn't matter how much they paid me or how much time they gave me off, it wouldn't be worth it. Dealing with a problem class can ruin your whole year. Good kids lead to happy teachers.

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