ChildForum Office of Pre-Primary EducationThe lead public advisor on early childcare and education

National organisation for the ECE sector

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Wages and teacher pay scales

How much does an early childhood teacher make?

In your first year of teaching after gaining your qualification and registering with the Teaching Council for a practising certificate you will likely earn an annual salary that is at least equivalent to a primary or secondary school teacher. After your first year of teaching the wages you are paid may fail to keep up with the pay increases received by teachers in primary and secondary schools. 

That is why we are working hard to achieve pay parity for all qualified and certificated teachers in ECE.  "Pay Parity means the same pay scale as school teachers, that reflects teaching qualification, the same teacher registration and the same professional certification requirements. A teacher is a teacher!"  Learn more:Pay Parity 


I am an employer, what are the current going rates for employing unqualified and qualified teaching staff at various levels of experience, and in different positions, in home-based ECE and in ECE centres? 

Our ECE Service Members can access the comprehensive 2020/2021 ECE Wages Guides here:  Wages Guide


What is the starting salary for an early childhood teacher?

The starting salary for teachers working in centres claiming funding from the government for employing certificated teachers is $49,862.00.   Teachers who do not hold a practising certificate may be paid less than this. 


What is the hourly rate of pay for an early childhood teacher?

The new minimum pay rate of $23.97 an hour does not apply to student teachers or to qualified teachers working in services other than teacher-led centres. 

There is no national pay scale covering teachers in all ECE that provides higher pay rates for teachers based on years of experience, advanced qualifications, and leadership and management responsibilities. 


The minimum adult wage for any worker in NZ is $18.90 hour in 2020. This is increasing to $20.00 in April 2021. A teacher with a three or four degree may therefore earn only $3.97 more than an unskilled worker with no qualifications. 


What can I earn if I'm employed by a Kindergarten Association that the Government funds for pay parity with school teachers?

The government currently only supports teachers employed by kindergarten associations to have pay parity with school teachers. Some kindergarten associations pay teachers at all of their centres on the kindergarten pay scale and others do not.  Therefore teachers applying for a position with a kindergarten association are advised to check that their potential employer is offering the kindergarten pay scale and nothing less.      

Below are the pay scales used by Free Kindergarten Associations for their:

  • teachers who hold a practising certificate,
  • head teachers (centre managers), and
  • senior teacher (professional leaders or group managers).

Teachers progress annually to the next salary step until they reach the top of the scale. See below for definitions of the various codes used in the scale.







P1E, P2E, P3E




































P1M, P2M, P3M




P3+M, P4M, P5M





From 12 July 2020

From 12 July 2021

Leader of one service relieving or acting position for less than 10 weeks



Leader of one service permanent position, or 10 weeks or longer



Leader of more than one service



Leader who is responsible also for employees in the senior management team



means Entry or starting level.

M means Qualification Maxima.  The maximum step on the salary scale that a teacher with that qualification level can reach.

P1, P2 and P3 for teachers who hold a current practising certificate but no subject or specialist qualification at level 7 or above on the NZQF.

P3+ for teachers who hold a current practising certificate and:

  • a subject or specialist level 7 qualification on the NZQF (i.e. not an initial teacher education qualification) which can be a Diploma (excluding a National Diploma), Graduate Diploma or Degree; or
  • an honours degree of teaching; or
  • equivalent overseas qualifications recognised by the NZQA or an overseas qualification where NZQA has determined that the qualification has level 7 (graduate) study in a subject or specialist area(s) i.e. any area of study that is not initial teacher education.

P4 for teachers who hold a current practising certificate and:

  • a subject or specialist level 8 qualification on the NZQF which can be an honours degree or a Post Graduate Diploma; or
  • two subject or specialist level 7 qualifications on the NZQF (as listed above); or
  • a masters degree of teaching; or
  • equivalent overseas qualifications recognised by the NZQA.

P5 for teachers who hold a current practising certificate and:

  • a subject or specialist level 9 qualification on the NZQF - masters or doctorate; or
  • equivalent overseas qualifications recognised by the NZQA. 


What can I earn working in home-based ECE?

Visiting teachers must be qualified and certified ECE teachers. Home-based ECE is a teacher-led service.

There is no minimum wage linked to funding that is set by the Ministry of Education for qualified and certificated teachers who work in Home-based ECE as visiting teachers - or as educators.

Nannies are often employed directly by families, while agencies provide support and supervision with the funding provided by the Ministry of Education.

Home-based educators on the other hand, are usually asked to work as independent contractors and therefore don't have employment protections, provision for sick leave, holiday pay, etc.

What an educator earns depends on what they can charge families and what families agree to pay, as well as how much of the subsidy collected by the agency is passed on to them. A home-based educator may find that the money is good (and quite possibly earn more than a teacher who works in an education and care centre), but out of the income received there can be significant costs if the care is taking place within the educator's own home (some of these costs are tax deductible).

A home-based educator caring for children in his/her own home can have up to a maximum of 4 children. Educator charges vary widely between $6. - $11 per hour, depending on what the educator wants to charge or what the home-based agency provider says should be the charge, the educator's qualification level, and if caring for fewer than 4 children. Agencies have been known to ask educators to sign contracts specifying rates as low as $4 an hour per child; fortunately this is not the norm.


Possible job perks

  • Free tea/coffee and/or lunch
  • Paid staff social outings. This is a perk if it is optional for you to participate and not expected by your employer
  • Car park. This is a perk if the employer covers the cost of renting or leasing the park. If it is on land owned by the service or available to staff or users of the service then it’s not technically a benefit that forms part of the pay package.
  • Gym membership or subsidised membership at a local gym
  • Flexibility in work hours. This is a big benefit for many working in early childhood education, who may have young children or school aged children or elderly parents and other family responsibilities.
  • Free or subsidised childcare. It is common for discount of around 50% to be given to staff by employers. Few services offer entirely free childcare except in hard-to-staff areas and not all will allow staff to enrol their child at their service.
  • Free doctor visits
  • Health insurance cover
  • Income protection insurance cover
  • Check out if your ECE employer offers more than the minimum legally required conditions under employment law for:
    • Kiwisaver
    • Annual leave
    • Sick leave  

What cannot be seen as or treated as perks of the job on top of wages? 

  • Non-contact time 
  • Professional development leave and course fees paid where directly related to the work of the teacher
  • Payment of cost of renewing teaching practising certificate, first aid refresher courses, etc.
  • Uniform or items of clothing with the service logo - unless wearing the uniform is optional this is not a perk of the job but a requirement of employment.


The Significance of a Happy Supportive Professional Working Atmosphere  

People who are attracted to working in early childhood education and care usually decide on this occupation for social reasons; they like people and they like children.

Social support, friendship and having colleagues you can rely on really do matter!

Working with children as part of a team is a reason why many people go for early childhood teaching over primary teaching. In primary teaching you can be in a classroom with a group of children alone whereas in early childhood you are part of a team.

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