Refer to our Membership FAQs for answers to many common questions.
1. If I teach full time, do I have to join NYSTRS?
You must join NYSTRS if you are employed under all of the following conditions:
- As a teacher, teaching assistant, guidance counselor or educational administrator; AND,
- By a New York State (excluding New York City) public school district or BOCES, or by an eligible charter school which has opted to participate as an employer in NYSTRS; AND,
- Full-time every work day for the full day, as defined in the appropriate contract or job description, through the end of the school year.
You may join NYSTRS if you are employed by a New York State Community College or SUNY in a teaching position (excluding graduate assistants or teaching assistants), where you may elect membership in NYSTRS or the Optional Retirement Program.
Alternatively, if you are hired on or after July 1, 2013 with estimated annual wages of $75,000 or more and you are not a member of a NYSUT bargaining unit, you may join the Optional Retirement Program instead of NYSTRS.
Download and print a NYSTRS Membership Application (NET-2).
2. If I teach part time or substitute, am I eligible to join NYSTRS?
Yes. You may join if you are employed less than full time by any of the NYSTRS-participating employers.
3. What are membership tiers and how do I know which one I am in?
Membership tiers refer to groups of members whose benefits are determined by different sections of the law and regulations. Your tier is determined by your date of membership; both are listed in your annual Benefit Profile. There are six membership tiers:
- Tier 1: For membership dates before 7/1/73;
- Tier 2: For membership dates between 7/1/73 and 7/26/76;
- Tier 3: For membership dates between 7/27/76 and 8/31/83;
- Tier 4: For membership dates between 9/1/83 and 12/31/09;
- Tier 5: For membership dates between 1/1/2010 and 3/31/12; and,
- Tier 6: For membership dates on or after 4/1/12.
4. What does it mean to be vested?
Vested is the status that members attain with a certain amount of New York State service credit, which makes them eligible for a retirement benefit at age 55. Tier 5 and 6 members vest with 10 years of state service credit. For all other tiers, five years of credit is necessary to vest.
5. What happens if I leave teaching before I vest?
If you leave teaching before you vest (as defined in question 4) and do not intend to return to service, you should withdraw your member contributions and interest earned and cancel your membership. You will not receive your employer's contributions. Should you return to teaching at a later date, you may reinstate your former membership under your former tier.
If you don't withdraw your contributions and interest earned, you can keep your NYSTRS membership active by working the equivalent of 20 full-time days in a school year for a participating NYSTRS employer(s) every seven years.
6. Where can I access my personal NYSTRS account and benefit information?
All information regarding your membership can be found in your personal NYSTRS Benefit Profile, sent to you annually. It gives you a summary of your membership status and a projection of your benefits, along with comprehensive explanations. You can also view your personal information online, including your Benefit Profile, with a MyNYSTRS account.
7. What should I do if I become disabled and can't continue to work?
There are many things to consider under such circumstances. Our publication If You Are No Longer Able to Work provides a comprehensive look at disability retirement, including eligibility, the filing process, benefits, and what to do if you become critically ill.
8. I belong to two New York State public retirement systems. Can I transfer from one to the other?
Yes, but it may not be necessary. You can have membership in more than one New York State public retirement system and receive benefits from more than one system. However, if you are no longer working in employment reportable to one of the systems, you should contact both systems to discuss the pros and cons of transferring membership.
9. I originally joined NYSTRS, but when I began working at SUNY I switched to TIAA/CREF, the optional retirement program. I’m now considered a "Discontinued Member" by NYSTRS. Am I or will I be eligible for any benefits from NYSTRS?
It’s possible, but it would be based on NYSTRS service only. When you stop working in New York State public employment, call us at (800) 348-7298, Ext. 6020 to discuss your eligibility for benefits.