What is the Difference Between Teaching in Public vs. Private Schools?

teaching in public vs. private schools
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School choice is a hot topic concerning education especially when it comes to public vs. private schools. How parents choose to educate their children is highly debated, but teachers have options when it comes to choosing a job? As a teacher, landing your first job is not always easy. However, you must ensure that the school's mission and vision align with your personal philosophy. It is important to understand that teaching in public schools does differ from teaching in private schools. Both offer the opportunity to work with young people on a daily basis, but each has their advantages and disadvantages.

Teaching is a very competitive field, and at times it seems like there are more teachers than there are jobs available. Prospective teachers applying for a position in a private school should know the differences between public and private schools that will impact how they do their job. Understanding those differences is important if you have an either/or opportunity. Ultimately, you want to teach at a place where you are comfortable, that will support you as both a teacher and a person, and that will give you the best opportunity to make a difference in the lives of your students. Here we examine some major differences between public and private schools when it comes to teaching.


The budget of a private school typically comes from a combination of tuition and fundraising. This means that the overall budget of a school is dependent on how many students are enrolled and the overall wealth of the donors who support it. This can be challenging for newer private schools and an overall advantage for an established private school that have successful alumni willing to support the school.

The bulk of the budget of a public school is driven by local property taxes and state education aid. Schools also get some federal money to support federal programs. Some public schools are also fortunate to have local businesses or individuals who support them through donations, but this is not the norm. The budget for public schools is typically tied to their state’s economic status. When a state goes through an economic hardship schools, receive less money than they typically would. This often forces school administrators to make difficult cuts.


Public schools require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and a teaching certificate to be a certified teacher. These requirements are set by the state; whereas requirements for private schools are set by their individual governing boards. Most private schools typically follow the same requirements as public schools. However, there are a few private schools that do not require a teaching certificate and in some cases may hire teachers without a specific degree. There are also private schools that only look to hire teachers who hold an advanced degree.

Curriculum and Assessment

For public schools, the curriculum is mostly driven by state-mandated objectives and for most states will soon be driven by the Common Core State Standards. Individual districts may also have additional objectives based on their individual community needs. These state mandated objectives also drive the state standardized testing that all public schools are required to give.

State and federal governments have a much smaller influence on the private school curriculum. Private schools can essentially develop and implement their own curriculum and assessments. One of the major differences is that private schools may incorporate religious curriculum into their schools whereas public schools cannot. Most private schools are founded based on religious principles, so this allows them to indoctrinate their students with their beliefs. Other private schools may choose to focus more on a specific area such as math or science. In this case, their curriculum will focus more on those specific areas, whereas a public school is more balanced in their approach.


The old saying goes that kids will be kids. This is true for both public and private schools. There are going to be discipline issues in either case. Public schools typically have more major discipline issues such as violence and drugs than private schools do. Public school administrators spend the majority of their time handling student discipline issues.

Private schools tend to have more parental support which often leads to fewer discipline issues. They also have more flexibility than public schools when it comes to removing a student from a classroom or removing them from school altogether. Public schools are required to take every student who lives in their district. A private school can simply end their relationship with a student who continuously refuses to follow their expected policies and procedures.


A limiting factor for private schools is their lack of diversity. Public schools are much more diverse than private schools in many areas including ethnicity, socioeconomic status, student needs, and academic ranges. The truth is that attending a private school cost too much money for most Americans to send their children too. This factor alone tends to limit diversity within a private school. The reality is that the majority of the population in private schools is made up of students who are from upper-middle-class Caucasian families.


Public schools are required to take every student no matter their disability, academic level, religion, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, etc. This can also have an adverse effect on class size especially in years where budgets are thin. It is not uncommon for there to be 30-40 students in a single classroom in a public school.

Private schools control their enrollment. This allows them to keep class sizes in an ideal 15-18 student range. Controlling enrollment also is beneficial for teachers in that the overall range of where students are academically are much closer than a typical public school classroom. This is a very important benefit for both students and teachers in private schools.

Parental Support

In public schools, the amount of parental support for the school varies. It is typically dependent upon the community where the school is located. Unfortunately, there are communities that do not value education and only send their kids to school because it is a requirement or because they think of it as free babysitting. There are also many public school communities who value education and provide tremendous support. Those public schools with low support provide a different set of challenges than those with high parental support.

Private schools almost always have tremendous parental support. After all, they are paying for their child’s education, and when money is exchanged, there is an unspoken guarantee that they intend to be involved in their child’s education. Parental involvement is very important in the overall academic growth and development of a child. It also makes a teacher’s job easier in the long run.


A surprising fact is that public school teachers are typically paid more than private school teachers. However this does depend on the individual school itself, so it may not necessarily be the case. Some private schools may also offer benefits that public schools do not including tuition for higher education, housing, or meals.

One reason that public school teachers are typically paid more is because most private schools do not have a teacher’s union. Teaching unions fight hard for their members to be fairly compensated. Without these strong union ties, it is difficult for private school teachers to negotiate for better pay.


There are many pros and cons a teacher must weigh when it comes to choosing to teach in public vs. private school. It ultimately comes down to individual preference and comfort level. Some teachers would prefer the challenge of being a teacher in a struggling inner city school and others would prefer to teach in an affluent suburban school. The reality is that you can make an impact no matter where you teach.

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Your Citation
Meador, Derrick. "What is the Difference Between Teaching in Public vs. Private Schools?" ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, thoughtco.com/teaching-in-public-vs-private-schools-3194634. Meador, Derrick. (2021, February 16). What is the Difference Between Teaching in Public vs. Private Schools? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/teaching-in-public-vs-private-schools-3194634 Meador, Derrick. "What is the Difference Between Teaching in Public vs. Private Schools?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/teaching-in-public-vs-private-schools-3194634 (accessed August 4, 2021).

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