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How Much Do Prison Teachers Make?

Teaching in a prison can be a challenging yet rewarding career path. Prison teachers play an important role in providing education and rehabilitation programs to incarcerated individuals. However, many people wonder about the salary and compensation for those who choose this unique teaching environment.

This article will explore how much prison teachers make, the duties and qualifications required, and the pros and cons of being an educator in the prison system.

Duties and Qualifications of a Prison Teacher

To become a teacher in a prison, there are some specific qualifications and credentials required. Here are some of the key duties and requirements:

Educational Background

  • Bachelor’s degree in teaching or a related field is typically required
  • Some states require a teaching certification or license for K-12 teachers
  • Subject-specific expertise, often in math, reading, ESL, and vocational skills

Day-to-Day Duties

  • Teaching academic subjects to students of various ages and skill levels
  • Preparing customized lesson plans and curricula
  • Maintaining classroom discipline and security protocols
  • Tracking student progress and participating in evaluations
  • Collaborating with prison administration and security
  • Facilitating vocational, ESL, continuing education, and GED programs

Other Requirements

  • Ability to pass background checks and adherence to strict prison conduct policies
  • Communication and conflict resolution skills to work with diverse inmate population
  • Physical stamina for prolonged standing and Institutional awareness
  • Flexibility to teach diverse subjects and adapt to evolving priorities

Overall, prison teachers need to be educated, adaptable, and comfortable working within a highly structured prison environment. It can be a challenging position, but also an impactful one for the right individual.

Salary and Compensation

So how much do teachers make when they work in prisons? Here is an overview of the typical salary ranges:

  • Average Annual Salary: $49,300 nationwide according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Salaries can range from $35,000 for entry-level to over $72,000 for experienced teachers.
  • State Prison Salaries: State prisons tend to pay teachers the highest median salaries. California pays up to $84,000 annually. New York pays between $48,000 to $80,000. Ohio pays around $58,000.
  • Federal Prison Salaries: Teachers in federal prisons have slightly lower average salaries in the range of $45,000 to $60,000. Per the Federal Bureau of Prisons requirements, the starting salary is $52,419 and raises are offered based on location.
  • Private Prison Salaries: Teachers working at privately-run prisons typically earn $30,000 to $50,000 based on experience. Entry-level salaries are often in the low $30k range.
  • Benefits: Most full-time prison teaching roles include benefits like health insurance, life insurance, paid time off, and retirement contributions or pensions. Benefits can add 10-30% value.
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Overall, prison teacher annual salaries are generally on par with the average public school teacher salary which is around $61,000 according to BLS data. The biggest factors impacting prison teacher pay are location, specific facility, level of experience, and credentials. Both public and private prisons offer salaries to attract qualified candidates to these unique teaching roles.

Pros and Cons of Working as a Prison Teacher

Before pursuing a career as a prison educator, it’s important to weigh the potential advantages and challenges. Here are some of the key pros and cons:


  • Make a meaningful impact on marginalized students
  • Smaller class sizes and more individualized teaching
  • Variety of subject matter and educational programs
  • Loan forgiveness eligibility for some federal/state programs
  • Can be an entry point to the teaching profession -typically stable/recession-proof government jobs


  • High stress working within the prison environment
  • Potentially unsafe interactions with inmates
  • Require extensive background checks to gain clearance
  • Low mobility and lack of traditional classroom resources
  • Less potential for career advancement or salary growth
  • Burnout due to challenging student population

For the right person, teaching in prisons can be a fulfilling career. But it also comes with substantial challenges and unique risks that should be carefully considered. The tradeoffs between lower pay but more meaningful work must be weighed as well. Overall job satisfaction will depend on your motivations and adaptability.

Job Outlook for Prison Teachers

As education and rehabilitation programs expand within the U.S. prison system, the job outlook for prison educators is fairly positive:

  • Prison populations are projected to grow over the next decade, driving demand for teachers.
  • Many states are hiring teachers specifically for prison education programs, such as Florida which plans to hire 370 teachers in 2023.
  • California recently budgeted $15.5 million to hire over 100 new teachers at 35 prisons over the next 3 years.
  • Demand is strongest for teachers skilled in vocational trades, ESL, special education, and literacy programs.
  • Positions with the Federal Bureau of Prisons have very high competition, with 700+ applications per job opening. Qualified candidates are in demand.
  • Private prisons also need teachers and often have the highest turnover rates, creating open positions.
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While challenging, prison teaching jobs are projected to grow substantially over the coming years. Teachers interested in this field should be strategic in gaining the right qualifications and applying for roles in states actively hiring. With the right skills and preparation, motivated teachers can find meaningful work improving prisoner education.

Types of Crimes and Associated Convictions of Prisoners

Prison teachers work with inmate populations convicted of diverse crimes. Here is an overview of common convictions and sentences faced by prisoners:

Violent Crimes

CrimePrison Sentence Range
Murder10+ years to life in prison
RapeUp to 20 years imprisonment
AssaultUp to 10 years imprisonment
KidnappingUp to 8 years imprisonment
ArsonUp to 20 years imprisonment

“I deeply regret committing this violent crime. I took someone’s life, and no amount of time served can change that fact.” – Quote from an anonymous prisoner convicted of murder

Property Crimes

CrimePrison Sentence Range
BurglaryUp to 10 years imprisonment
LarcenyUp to 5 years imprisonment
FraudUp to 5 years imprisonment
EmbezzlementUp to 3 years imprisonment
VandalismUp to 3 years imprisonment

“When I committed fraud, I convinced myself it was justified. But in the end, my actions harmed innocent people who trusted me. I’m ashamed I was so blinded by greed.” – Quote from an anonymous prisoner convicted of fraud

Drug Crimes

CrimePrison Sentence Range
Drug trafficking10+ years to life imprisonment
Drug possessionUp to 3 years imprisonment
Drug manufacturingUp to 15 years imprisonment

“Getting involved in dealing drugs was the worst decision of my life. The money wasn’t worth losing my freedom and hurting my community.” – Quote from an anonymous prisoner convicted of drug trafficking

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These examples demonstrate the diversity of crimes and sentences being served within America’s prison population. Prison teachers must be knowledgeable and sensitive regarding the criminal histories of their students. Understanding the convictions provides needed context that can improve educational approaches and rehabilitative outcomes.

Frequently Asked Questions about Prison Teaching Jobs

How dangerous is it to work as a teacher in a prison?

Teaching in a prison does involve risks from interactions with inmates. However, most facilities implement extensive security protocols and training to keep prison teachers safe. Guards are stationed in the classrooms and teachers never work alone with prisoners. It is an adjustment being in this environment, but ultimately a manageable risk with proper precautions.

What qualifications are needed to teach in prisons?

Most prisons require a bachelor’s degree and teaching certification similar to public/private schools. Some facilities provide on-the-job teacher training programs. Subject-matter expertise in vocational skills or literacy can also qualify candidates without teaching backgrounds. All applicants undergo background checks.

What is the work schedule like for prison teachers?

Full-time prison teachers generally work standard daytime hours from Monday to Friday. Class times mirror typical school schedules. Teachers have prep time for lesson planning and grading. Some facilities also have night, weekend or part-time roles depending on education program needs.

How do you apply to become a teacher at a prison?

Prisons post open teaching positions similar to any school. You can search job listings on state corrections department and Federal Bureau of Prisons websites. Private prisons also recruit teachers directly. Submit tailored resumes and highlight relevant experience teaching vulnerable populations.

What student resources are available in prison classrooms?

Prison classrooms are fairly sparse for security reasons. Teachers have blackboards and projectors, but no Internet access. Some facilities allow books and printed handouts approved by corrections officials. Creative teachers adapt by embracing group discussions and hands-on learning opportunities within restrictions.


Teaching in prisons provides a unique career opportunity for educators passionate about helping incarcerated students. While salaries are typically on par with public schools, ranging $35,000-$84,000, the job involves major adjustments and challenges.

However, teachers can gain immense personal and professional fulfillment guiding inmates to transform their lives through education. With strong qualifications and an adaptable mindset, teaching in the prison system can be an impactful calling.

Prison Inside Team

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Welcome to ‘Prison Inside,’ a blog dedicated to shedding light on the often hidden and misunderstood world within correctional facilities. Through firsthand accounts, personal narratives, and insightful reflections, we delve into the lives of those who find themselves behind bars, offering a unique perspective on the challenges, triumphs, and transformations that unfold within the confines of these walls.

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