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Most Teachers Will Not Earn a Full Pension

In order to collect full benefits from a traditional pension system, teachers must meet the eligibility requirements, which are usually based on age and years of service. In most states, fewer than 50 percent will reach this threshold.

Average Teacher Retention Patterns Look Like This

Source: Bellwether

After all, life happens. Some people become teachers after college and only want to teach a few years. Others find out the job is not for them. Whatever their reasons, many leave within five years of beginning teaching. And that is before the vesting period that most states have established.

Other teachers move across state lines for family reasons, such as a partner’s career. They might have a child and decide to stay home for a few years or indefinitely. They could shift from a public school to a non-public education setting, or simply decide to change careers after a few years or 20 years in the classroom. Even among the teachers who stay more than five years, half will leave the profession without working a full career in the same state.

This means that on average, for every 10 teachers that enter the public school system next year, only two to three of them will teach in the same state until they retire and qualify for their full pension.

Analysts and policymakers disagree over whether this is a good or bad thing for our education system overall. There is lots of work being done about how to best recruit and retain high-quality teachers for America’s children. But is it good for teachers’ retirement security? Pensions may work for the 20% to 30% of teachers who work a full career in the same state, but they unquestionably don’t work for everyone.

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