Best Cities for Teachers in the Midwest

Teachers occupy a cherished spot in our memories and an integral role in the development of a nation's future. They educate, shape, and inspire generations of leaders and citizens to come. With educational curricula and standards becoming more complex and stringent, the need for teachers has grown. The job outlook for elementary school teachers is projected to be 17% from 2010 - 2020, a few percentage points above the national job growth for all occupations. 

ValuePenguin has studied and analyzed data on the best midwestern cities for elementary school teachers to work and live in. Based on a ranking system of three primary factors: median salaries, employment concentration of the profession, and cost of living, we've developed a list of the Top Best Cities for Teachers. The methodology and sources are located after the table.  

Before we begin diving into the top cities for primary school teachers, here are some salary and employment facts for this career. The median salary for teachers, which ValuePenguin uses as the primary basis for the study, is $51,400 in the Midwestern region as of May 2012 (for more information: Teacher Salary). A teacher's salary in this region can differ widely from city to city, and by as much as 81%. Within the midwest, the median primary schoolteacher's salary can be as low as $36,810 in Jefferson City, MO to $66,610 in the metropolitan area of Milwaukee / Waukesha / West Allis. There are a reported 198,630 elementary school teachers working in the Midwest as of May 2012. 

Select Best Cities for Teachers in the Midwest

Bay City, MI

Topping our list with a score of 94 is Bay City in Michigan. Located on the banks of Saginaw River, Bay City has a high median salary of $64,220 for elementary school teachers in our survey of cities in the Midwest, and the second lowest cost of living index of 78. After the Bay Regional Medical Center, the Bay City Public School system is the second largest employer in the city. The city has a riverfront with historic architecture, and a history steeped in maritime development.

More information: Michigan Car Insurance Facts

Battle Creek, MI

#3 on our list is a city known as “Cereal City”: Battle Creek, MI. Battle Creek is home to cereal giants such as Kellogg’s and Post Cereals, as well as 680 elementary school teachers. Primary teachers in this city earn a median salary of $62,140 at a low cost of living index of 81. With acres of natural parks and forests, Battle Creek has a lot of scenery and recreation to offer the outdoorsy teacher. 

Rockford, IL

Rockford, IL is the fifth best city in the Midwest for elementary school teachers to work. Rockford scored well across all three metrics, and had the fourth highest location quotient of 1.43 in the list of 78 midwestern cities. Elementary school teachers here have a median salary of $56,200 and a lower than national average cost of living of 84. With the Rockford Public School District as the largest employer in the city, elementary school teachers will be in good company here.

Anderson, IN

This city of 56,000 residents in Indiana ranks #12 on our list of best cities for teachers in the Midwest: Anderson. Primary teachers here earn a median salary of $54,110 and enjoy a low cost of living index of 81. From car racing season beginning in March to the state Hot Air Balloon Championship and Winterfest in December, there are a number of attractions and events that Anderson can offer teachers. Elementary schools in Anderson include Valley Grove, 10th Street, Erskine, Anderson Elementary, and the Anderson Preparatory Academy charter school.

Milwaukee, Waukesha, and West Allis, WI

The metropolitan area of Milwaukee, Waukesha, and West Allis ranks #14 in our Best Cities for Teachers to work in the Midwest list. These three cities have the highest median salary in the Midwest, but the second highest cost of living index in our top twenty list. Teachers can hike and ski through Kettle Moraine State Forest, boat and swim in the rivers and lakes from the region’s glacier history, or relive the charm of the area’s pioneer days on weekends or winter breaks.

Additional statistics and data for Waukesha, WI

Top Best Cities for Teachers in the Midwest

RankCitiesSalaryLocation QuotientJobsCost of LivingScore
1Bay City, MI$64,2201.254407894%
2Jackson, MI56,0501.477908091
3Battle Creek, MI62,1401.246808190
4Flint, MI60,5301.041,3907687
5Rockford, IL56,2001.432,0908486
6Monroe, MI64,1001.214708879
7Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI65,1000.873,5108479
8Decatur, IL49,9201.809308178
9Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, IA-IL52,3201.162,1608475
10Lansing-East Lansing, MI65,1901.092,2109174
11Detroit-Livonia-Dearborn, MI66,2300.825,9508474
12Anderson, IN54,1100.893608174
13Racine, WI56,9501.078209168
14Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI66,6101.048,7709566
15Lake County-Kenosha County, IL-WI55,0601.234,7609465
16Danville, IL42,4101.624508563
17Gary, IN50,8501.022,8108662
18Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, IL60,7501.3952,74011162
19South Bend-Mishawaka, IN-MI52,5200.841,0908662
20Niles-Benton Harbor, MI52,6900.764608361


Methodology & Sources

We ranked U.S. cities based on three key questions:

1. How much money do teachers earn in the city?  

We ranked the best cities for teachers based on the median annual pay as a factor in the decision process for people looking for work. Of course, a high salary for a teacher in an expensive city may not outweigh a lower salary in an affordable town. Our next metric accounts for affordability. 

2. How expensive is it to live there?  

In conjunction with the median salary for teachers in a city, cost of living helps determine how far your dollar will go. For this particular variable, Midwestern cities with a lower cost of living ranked highly in our study.

3. What is the location quotient for teachers in the city?  

A town with a high average salary and low cost of living may seem perfect, but job opportunities may be limited. Our study factors in cities with high teacher location quotient. Location quotient measures the concentration of teachers in the city as a proportion of all occupations relative to the national average. We infer a higher location quotient to mean a relatively higher demand for an elementary school teacher's services.


1. Median Salary: Midwestern cities with the highest median annual salary for elementary school teachers, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Data as of May 2012

2. Cost of Living: cities in the Midwest with the lowest cost of living, with data sourced from Sperling's Best Places COL Calculator. Data as of July 2013

3. Employment: Midwestern cities with the highest location quotient metrics, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Data as of May 2012

Photo Courtesy: Flickr / audiolucistore

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