Here’s What You Won’t Hear About Those $50K/Year Teaching Jobs in Hawaii

teaching jobs in hawaii
Floyd Manzano under Creative Commons

When you hear the word “paradise,” what image comes to mind?

For many of us, white sand, surf and palm trees figure prominently… especially if it has to be a real place.

(Let’s be honest: I’d probably take Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory over a gorgeous beach any day.)

In fact, you may even have a specific word — perhaps even a specific state’s name — for your paradise.

That state is Hawaii.

Teaching Jobs in Hawaii: Your Ticket to Paradise?

You might be surprised to learn Hawaii is experiencing a severe teacher shortage.

After all, who doesn’t want to live there — especially with an academic calendar allowing for a whole summer of beach lounging?

But Hawaii’s Department of Education reports over 1,600 vacancies, which they’re working hard to fill — even traveling to the mainland to recruit in major cities like Los Angeles, Portland, Chicago and New York.

If you’re a teacher in need of a change of scenery, it might not be a bad gig to consider.

Elementary school teachers in Hawaii can expect to earn $50,000 on average — and $35,000 right out of college.

They’re in bad enough need to include extra financial incentives in some cases. For instance, Special Education teachers are eligible for a $3,000 bonus per year they work at “hard-to-staff” schools, or $10,000 over three years if they meet certain qualifications.

Not bad, right?

But even though the figure seems livable, don’t forget: There’s a reason for the shortage in the first place.

Living in Hawaii Isn’t Always a Luau

Despite the state’s beauty, it has “one of the highest teacher turnover rates in the nation,” says Hawaii State Teachers Association president Corey Rosenlee.

And it’s even more true when you take mainland recruits into account: 40% of new hires leave within five years, according to the DOE.

It might be because Hawaii’s a pretty long haul from the friends and family those teachers leave back on the mainland — but it probably also has something to do with Hawaii’s excessive cost of living.

Because the state is so remote, it’s got an inflated cost of day-to-day necessities — especially food. After all, there’s not a whole lot in the way of “local” when you live on a volcanic rock in the middle of the ocean.

Hawaiians can expect to pay $7 for two pounds of apples, or almost $5 for a dozen eggs, according to self-reported price data from Expatistan — about double the price they’d pay in the Midwest.

Plus, many of the positions aren’t based in the glamorous, “big” Hawaiian cities you’ve heard of — they’re in the state’s rural areas.

And even though those areas may be less appealing, they’re not immune to Hawaii’s high cost of living. Space is at a premium everywhere on an island.

Maybe paradise isn’t quite as fantastic as we thought.

Want to Move Far Away?

If you’re still looking to take a shot at moving to a far-off place, you might actually want to consider Europe.

We know of a few people who actually saved money (and paid off debt!) by moving their families abroad.

Want to stay in the States?

If you’re more of a snowbird than a beach bunny, there are plenty of incentives to live in Alaska. The state charges no income tax, and they’ll pay you just to live there.

You certainly won’t have to worry about looking good in a bathing suit or applying enough SPF. But how to fend off bears, on the other hand…

Your Turn: Would you take a teaching job in Hawaii? Or would you rather take your chances in Alaska’s frozen tundra?

Jamie Cattanach is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She also writes creative nonfiction and poetry, some of which has been featured in DMQ Review, Sweet: A Literary Confection and elsewhere. You can follow along at