Teaching at Private versus Public Schools

A teacher in a classroom full of students

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Teaching jobs fall in both the public and private sectors. Deciding where to concentrate a job search raises questions for a lot of new teachers. Though similarities exist between public and private schools, several factors affect the overall teaching experience and deserve your consideration before you accept a position.

Student Base in a Private vs. Public School

The law requires public schools to admit all students, without discrimination. Taxes fund public schools, but different districts receive different levels of funding, affecting the available resources in a classroom, among other things. Private schools charge tuition and typically use a selective admissions process. The price of attendance often becomes a factor in determining the socio-economic makeup of the student body, although some private schools offer scholarships to students with demonstrated financial need. Because of limited funds and a lack of mandates, teachers encounter fewer special needs students in private schools than in public schools, so if you specialized in special education, you might not find many available positions in the private sector.

Government Oversight and Curriculum

The government wields less power over the day-to-day administration of private schools since they do not receive tax dollars. In public schools, state mandates largely determine the subjects offered; private schools maintain much greater leeway in the curriculum standards they use. Further, public schools must use state-mandated standardized tests to measure learning while private schools can choose to use these or their own tests.

Some private schools provide religious instruction along with academics and may be closely aligned with a church, synagogue, mosque or other religious institution. While public schools can teach students about religion in a civic or historical context, it's against the law for public school educators to teach the tenets of any one religion.

Teacher Education

Public schools require certain credentials for teachers including certification and specific degrees. Private schools have much greater leeway. Therefore, teachers in private schools may not have certifications or specific degrees to teach in their subject areas.

Class Size and Student Discipline

States try to keep class size down, but overcrowded schools and a lack of teachers and funding make it difficult in many districts. Private schools often promote their small class sizes as an advantage over public schools.

Further, because of a greater amount of parental involvement and more leeway when dealing with classroom discipline, private schools teachers find it easier to remove disruptive students from classes and the school itself. It takes a pretty serious offense to get a student permanently removed from the public school system.


A private school teacher can find many pros and cons, but pay may be the biggest negative.  Private school teachers generally earn less than their public school counterparts, with teachers at parochial schools at the lowest end of the salary range. Teacher salaries at private schools come out of student tuition. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, private school teachers on average earn $10,000 – $15,000 less than a comparable public school teacher.