Illinois Teaching Certification Guide


How to Become a Teacher in Illinois

The state of Illinois offers three teacher certifications: the Professional Educator License (PEL), the Substitute License, and the Educator License with Stipulations (ELS). The process of becoming a teacher in Illinois is also called entitlement. Generally, all three types of licensure require the individual to hold a bachelors degree or have a substantial amount of experience in the content area and adhere to all Illinois Department of Education teaching licensure requirements. However certain ELS paths require a degree from an accredited U.S. institution while another path requires candidates to earn a masters degree through residency. Entitlement requires individuals seeking an Illinois teaching license to pass multiple exams such as the Evidence-Based Assessment of Teacher Effectiveness (edTPA) and applicable content specific tests.

The PEL is the most traditional Illinois teaching license and is obtained after graduating with a four-year bachelor's of education degree that includes clinical and field hours. The PEL must be endorsed in teaching, administrative, school support personnel, or special education. In most cases, the ELS licensure path requires individuals to hold at least a bachelors degree and some ELS paths require a certain number of hours or other professional experience. For example, the Transitional Bilingual Educator ELS licensure offers three options for licensure and one that allows for candidates to hold any degree from an accredited U.S. institution. The ELS licensure path includes paraprofessionals, Chief School Business Officials, Transitional Bilingual Educators, and Career and Technical Educators (CTE).

The Substitute License requires individuals to hold at least a bachelors degree and is valid for up to five years. The newly created Short Term Substitute License requires candidates to hold at least an associates degree or 60 semester hours of coursework. It does not qualify for renewal and it is only valid until June 2023.

Short Term Substitute Licensure prohibits teaching for more than five days in a row.

Illinois Teacher Certification Programs

When seeking to obtain an Illinois teacher certification there are a variety of programs that meet the requirements set by the Illinois Department of Education. Many programs are offered online, in-person, or a hybrid of both. However, it is important that the license seeker ensures the chosen program meets the requirements of the state of Illinois. Teacher preparation programs from outside the state must be verified by the Illinois Department of Education. License seekers who hold degrees from colleges or universities outside of the United States will have their foreign education credentials analyzed and adjusted to adhere to Illinois guidelines.

Prospective educators looking to obtain an Illinois teaching certification within the state are in luck. Illinois is home to 93 colleges and universities that offer teacher preparation programs on varying education levels. Some of the best teacher preparation programs the state has to offer include:

The School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University

  • Ranked number eight best education school by U.S. News
  • Located outside Chicago
  • Offers small sized classes for advanced degree seekers, an option for accelerated program path and the opportunity for students to work within the community gaining real life-experience

The College of Education at University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign

  • Ranked number 36 by U.S. News
  • Located a few hours outside of Chicago
  • Offers graduate and undergraduate programs in early childhood education, elementary education, special education, and educational leadership and organization

The College of Education at Northern Illinois University

  • Founded in Dekalb in 1895 to increase the number of college-educated teachers in the state
  • Offers undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs
  • DePaul University
  • Largest Catholic university in the United States
  • Founded in Chicago in 1898 by the Vincentians
  • Offers undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs

Illinois Teacher Education Requirements

Illinois teaching certification often requires in-state license seekers to complete at least 15 semester hours in chosen content area or major. Out-of-state prospective teachers are required to complete at least 32 semester hours in chosen content area or major. License seekers who chose to obtain an Illinois teaching certification via alternative methods will be required to hold a bachelors degree in chosen content area and may be required to complete additional semester hours. For all Illinois teaching certifications, student teaching and fieldwork are mandatory components.

Within Illinois there are many approved Bachelors of Education (BEd)programs. However, a few of the most noteworthy programs include:

College of Education at Illinois State University

Bachelors in Education Content Areas:

  • Early Childhood Education
  • Elementary Education: Bilingual/Bicultural
  • Middle Level Education
  • K-12 and Secondary Education Programs
  • Special Education: Specialist in D/deaf and Hard of Hearing
  • Special Education: Specialist in Low Vision and Blindness
  • Special Education: Specialist in Learning and Behavior

Wheaton Teacher Education Program at Wheaton College

Bachelors of Education Content Areas:

  • Elementary Education
  • Secondary Education double major in Math, English, Sciences, History/Social Science
  • Modern Languages K-12 double major in French, Spanish or German
  • Music Education K-12

Educational Studies at Knox College

Bachelors of Education Content Areas:

  • Elementary Education
  • Secondary Education
  • Special Content Areas: Language, Music, Art for K-12

Illinois Teacher Testing Requirements

Aspiring educators in Illinois are required to take various tests in order to successfully obtain an Illinois teaching certification. As of August 8th, 2019 the Test of Academic Proficiency (TAP) is no longer required. Prospective educators are not required to submit any scores from their ACT/SAT nor from Praxis to be considered for Illinois Licensure. Changes were signed into law Governor J.B. Pritzker as part of Public Act 101-0220 as a way to remove financial and logistical barriers and quickly allow new teachers into the classroom. License seekers must now only pass the Evidence-Based Assessment of Teacher Effectiveness (edTPA), and any applicable content area exams. The edTPA requires prospective educators to provide samples of real classwork through the submission of real student works, short teaching videos, educator feedback and lesson plans. Prospective educators must obtain a passing score, which ranges depending on chosen academic subjects. However, if a candidate completed the edTPA in another state and passed, the score will be accepted in Illinois.

Illinois Licensure Testing System (ILTS)

Upon completion of a teacher prep program, license-seekers are required to pass chosen content exams within the Illinois Licensure Testing System (ILTS). The ILTS contains all of the available content area exams such as Agricultural Education, English Language Arts, Reading Specialist, and Visual Arts. ILTS exams were developed to measure prospective teachers' abilities and understanding of content areas. ILTS exams are scored on a scale of 100 to 300 points. Testers must score 240 or above to pass the exams. When registering for the chosen content exams, license seekers can indicate which teacher prep program should receive their scores. Score results are provided to the license seeker, the teacher prep program indicated, and the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE).

Additional Illinois Teacher Certification Requirements

Prior to student teaching, license seekers in Illinois are required to undergo background checks and fingerprinting. The background check includes State of Illinois convictions and FBI criminal background analysis. The Criminal History Records Information (CHRI) via fingerprinting and the Statewide Sex Offender Database and Statewide Child Murderer and Violent Offender Against Youth Database via the Illinois State Police and FBI. These are required for all license seekers.

Illinois Teacher Licensing Application Process

Aspiring educators in Illinois may submit teaching applications after successful completion of all Department of Education requirements. Applications may be submitted through the Educator Licensure Information System (ELIS) website. License-seekers may submit required documentation to Illinois State Department of Education via email. Mandatory documentation includes:

  • Official transcripts from bachelor's degree
  • Official transcripts from completed accredited teacher prep program
  • Successful completion of tests (including chosen content area)
  • Payment
  • Application for Illinois teacher certification

Teaching applications are accepted primarily during the summer months of June, July and August. Illinois license seekers are encouraged to submit required documentation early to ensure timely processing. The ISBE suggests Illinois license seekers submit teaching applications at least three months prior to the date they plan to begin teaching.

Alternative Paths to Certification for Illinois Teachers

Aspiring educators can follow an alternative path to entitlement within Illinois. License seekers who hold a bachelors degree but have not completed a teacher prep program are still able to obtain an Illinois teaching license. Alternative paths to teaching licensure are common among license seekers looking to change career paths but who have years of professional experience outside the classroom. Obtaining an alternative teaching license is often referred to as the non-traditional teaching licensure path.

Non-traditional license-seekers must hold an accredited bachelors degree or higher and pass courses that qualify for the Educator Licensure with Stipulations endorsed for Alternative Educator ELS(APE). Following completion of courses, non-traditional license-seekers must complete a two year residency under the supervision of a teacher mentor. These candidates must have all courses, their two-year residency, chosen content area exams, and the edTPA completed before they can swap the ELS(APE) for the more traditional Professional Educator License (PEL). During the two year ELS(APE) residency, prospective teachers are given a full time, paid teaching assignment under the direction of a teacher mentor.

Certification in Illinois for Out-of-State Educators

Out of state license-seekers may teach within Illinois after successful completion of chosen content area exams. Teachers from out-of-state are able to obtain a Provisional Educator License. Proof of valid out-of-state teaching license and proof of an accredited bachelors degree or higher are required for educators looking to obtain the Provisional Educator License via reciprocity. The Provisional Educator License may be provided to out-of-state educators with a teaching certification in another state through a process called reciprocity and is valid for a maximum of 2 years (with an approved extension). After a year (or two with an approved extension), the Provisional Educator License may be renewed for two more years if full time employment within an Illinois public or non-public school has not been obtained.

Illinois Teacher Employment Outlook & Salary

Illinois Public School Enrollment and Teacher Salary by Grade 2019-2020
Public School Grade Total Number of Teachers Employed Total Number of Students Enrolled Average Teacher Salary
Pre K 1,511 82,456 $31,500
Kindergarten 3,735 130,713 $55,660
Elementary Grades 1-8 63,981 1,349,530 $62,140
Secondary Grades 9-12     30,178 607,488 $72,370

Illinois Private School Enrollment and Teacher Salary by Grade 2019-2020
Public School Grade Total Number of Teachers Employed Total Number of Students Enrolled Average Teacher Salary
Pre K 1,975.8 27,202 $31,990
Kindergarten 1,218.3 14,448 $45,044
Elementary Grades 1-8 8,367.1 145,507 $51,270
Secondary Grades 9-12     4,042.5 48,067 $70,580

Illinois District Requirements

License-seekers looking to become licensed in Chicago school districts have over 600 public schools and over 350 private schools for employment. Within Chicago, there are both private and public schools available. License-seekers will need to obtain and successfully complete all of the requirements to become licensed to teach within the state of Illinois as required by the Illinois Department of Education.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long does it take to become a teacher in Illinois?

    It takes a minimum of four years to become a teacher following the traditional route. This can take longer due to the course load per semester. The non-traditional route usually takes 2 years under a teacher mentor. This is called an Educator Licensure with Stipulations endorsed for Alternative Educator - ELS(APE). After completion of a 2 year residency the ELS(APE) can be swapped for the traditional PEL.

  • What are the requirements to become a teacher in Illinois?

    Applicants must attend an educator preparation program, either within a Bachelor's of Education, or after they have obtained a bachelor's degree in another field. They must also complete required testing and assessments for licensure.

  • Can I be a teacher without a teaching degree?

    A candidate that has already earned a bachelor degree in a related area, may apply to a program which allows them to teach for 2 years under a mentorship. This is called the Educator Licensure with Stipulations endorsed for Alternative Educator - ELS(APE).

  • How do I get certified to teach in Illinois?

    Candidates must complete the required teaching programs and pass the required licensure testing for the program in which they would like to teach.

  • How long is an Illinois teaching license good for?

    Professional Education Licenses must be renewed every five years. At this time, candidates must also complete 120 hours of professional development before renewal of their license.

  • What is a PEL license in Illinois?

    PEL stands for Professional Educator License. This is the standard license for teaching in Illinois. Endorsements may be earned after receiving the original PEL.