Educators are the most burned-out professionals in the U.S., Gallup poll finds

The burnout gap between K-12 educators and the rest of the American workforce is growing.

Nearly half of school workers reported feeling “always” or “very often” burned out at work. If that sounds like a high level of frustration, it is—and it’s the highest among professionals in all other industries in the U.S., a new Gallup poll shows.

Educators have consistently been among the most burned-out professionals in past surveys but, not surprisingly, the exhaustion worsened during the pandemic. And, the gap between the levels of burnout among K-12 workers and other professionals has widened, according to the Gallup poll of more than 12,000 full-time employees that included 1,200 educators. The new challenges of the pandemic—school openings and closures; parent and community-member frustrations with school pandemic responses; and students’ increasing social-emotional problems—are likely driving this disparity, the pollsters concluded.

The second-highest level of burnout was also reported in education—by college and university workers, at 35%. Within K-12, teachers are the most burned out, at a rate of 52%. And female teachers are even wearier, at a rate of 55% compared to 44% of their male colleagues. While this gender gap holds across the workforce, male educators are significantly more burned out than men in other industries, at a rate of 38% vs. 26%. It’s all adding up to a substantial number of educators leaving the profession, the poll says.

Back when the pandemic first began in 2020, 36% of K-12 workers reported feeling burned out, which was eight percentage points higher than all other workers. This latest poll, conducted in February, revealed a 14-point difference. “In addition to the well-known problems caused by COVID-19, a growing number of states are navigating complicated political environments related to K-12 curriculum,” the poll notes. “And educators are experiencing the impact of that in conversations and interactions with parents and families.”

Professional services, government or public policy, retail, health care, and law were the sectors with the next highest levels of burnout. Gallup’s past research has shown that burnout can be temporary and that leaders and supervisors can lessen the strain even as external environments remain challenging.