Teaching in Independent Schools

In the 2022-2023 academic year, there were about 66,000 teachers in the independent schools belonging to the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), with schools reporting a median of 47 teachers per school. Independent private schools are nonprofit schools serving students in elementary through high school. They are supported primarily by tuitions, charitable giving, and endowment income, rather than by tax or church funds. Each NAIS member school is fully accredited, is independently governed by a board of trustees, and practices nondiscriminatory policies.

A Snapshot of Independent School Teachers

NAIS teachers boast a range of backgrounds and experience. Of the teachers employed by NAIS member schools in 2022-2023:

  • 18% have one to five years of teaching experience
  • 19% have six to 10 years of experience
  • 18% have 11 to 15 years of experience
  • 16% have 16 to 20 years of experience
  • 29% have 21 or more years of experience

This broad range of experience allows NAIS classrooms to cultivate a healthy balance of fresh perspectives and well-practiced teaching techniques. NAIS member schools likewise hire teachers with a variety of academic backgrounds. In 2022-2023, 39% of NAIS teachers had bachelor’s degrees only, 50% had master’s degrees, and 10% of NAIS teachers held doctorate degrees.

In 2022-2023, almost seven in 10 NAIS teachers (69%) were women. Thirty-one percent were men and less than one percent were nonbinary. Thirty-two percent of NAIS teachers were people of color.

Teacher Salaries

Independent school teachers’ salaries vary greatly, depending on the teacher’s experience, the type of school at which they teach (day/boarding, boy/girl/coed, small/large), and the region in which they teach. When setting salaries, independent schools typically consider factors such as the teacher’s education, their teaching load, certifications, and time employed at the current school.

Nationally, the median salary for NAIS teachers in the 2022-2023 school year was $67,201. The median starting salary for new independent school teachers was $48,207, and the median highest salary was $93,381.

Why Teachers Choose Independent Schools

NAIS research found that one of the main draws of independent schools for teachers is that they enable teachers to use their knowledge and skills to have a meaningful impact on children’s lives. Independent schools also offer teachers more curricular freedom and flexibility than other types of schools. The administration often works collaboratively with teachers to help them make the most of their expertise, resulting in creative lessons that cater to students’ needs. Teachers report that independent schools provide better work-life balance than other types of schools, lowering their day-to-day stress and allowing them to have a greater impact while maintaining their own well-being.[1]

Independent schools likewise allow teachers to work with a smaller number of students. NAIS member schools vary from under 100 students to several thousand students. The median classroom size across all grade levels is about 15 students. These small classes allow teachers to establish meaningful connections with each of their students. In addition to classes, teachers sometimes work as advisers, club directors, or coaches. At boarding schools, teachers often live on campus, occasionally serving as dorm parents.

Teacher Candidates

Overall, independent schools look for candidates with the knowledge and skills required to prepare their students at every grade level. In preschools and grade schools, administrators seek candidates who are familiar with childhood development at the relevant ages. In secondary schools, administrators more often look for candidates with higher education and expertise in specific subjects, such as social studies or biology. Independent schools also appreciate the specific experiences of those turning to teaching as a second career.[2]

Independent schools often begin the hiring process earlier than their public school counterparts. They begin interviewing and hiring between February and May, in order to prepare for the following school year.

Unlike public schools, independent schools do not always require state certification of their teachers. The schools themselves are accredited institutions. They receive this accreditation from a peer evaluation conducted by an independent entity, which ensures the school is meeting specific standards of education quality, fiscal operation, and staff competence. NAIS requires that member schools be accredited by an approved state or regional association.

More Information

See also the following articles for more on working at independent schools: