We are a reader-supported education publication. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission to help us keep providing content.
Teachers are some of the hardest workers around. Their job might sound easy thanks to having summers off, but make no mistake — they put in some long hours. Between grading papers, giving lectures, and corralling unruly students, how many hours do teachers actually work?
Crunching the Numbers
A 2019 study concluded that 25% of teachers work greater than 60 hours per week. It also found that this number has remained relatively constant for 20 years, with teachers currently spending an average of 47 hours per week on the job. That’s the equivalent of having just one day off out of seven. Many teachers also work on the weekends or in the evenings.
The number of hours teachers actually work might vary depending on which grade they’re teaching and where, but there’s a growing consensus that teachers work too much overall. One study of Japanese middle school teachers found that almost 60% of them worked 11 hours or more every day.
Unsurprisingly, putting in very long hours was associated with higher stress levels compared to working just nine hours per day. A full 90% of teachers cited burnout as a somewhat or very serious issue.
Feeling the Heat
Teaching is a rewarding job, and there are people who would sacrifice every minute of their personal time to take care of their students if they had to. But that doesn’t mean they should. In fact, many teachers are quitting the job they love due to the unreasonably long work hours. Around 300,000 public school teachers and staff left their jobs between February 2020 and May 2022, causing an almost 3% drop in the educational workforce.
The pandemic brought new difficulties due to mask-wearing debates and the shift to remote learning. Teachers faced tense political controversy about what they could and couldn’t teach their students. Additionally, the rise in school shootings prompted many people to rethink their career choice, fearing for their and their students’ safety. Coupled with the number of hours teachers actually work — which is often more than they signed up for — it’s no wonder educators are leaving in droves.
To retain more teachers in the workforce, it’s crucial that they feel appreciated. That means things like higher pay, lighter workloads, and reasonable schedules are in order, and school administrators should only make educators teach within their realm of expertise.
Schools should give teachers paid parental leave, sick days, and vacation days in addition to paying overtime for extra hours worked. Parents and students alike should express their gratitude to teachers and make an effort to be on time and pay attention. All of these factors will help stressed, overworked teachers keep going despite working what is often a thankless job.
For the Love of Teaching
How many hours do teachers actually work? The answer seems to be: too many. If you’ve attended school any time within the past two decades, odds are your teachers were very tired. Looking back and remembering the field trips, class projects, stacks of homework, and recesses where they watched over their students, it just makes their efforts all the more meaningful. Be sure to tell them “thank you” if you get a chance.