How to Become a Teacher in Illinois

Illinois teachers must meet licensure requirements. Learn more about becoming a teacher in Illinois and the career outlook for Illinois teachers.

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by Genevieve Carlton, Ph.D.

Published on March 18, 2022 · Updated on April 26, 2022

Reviewed by Dr. Samantha Fecich

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How to Become a Teacher in Illinois

Illinois teachers educate children in every subject, from early literacy to advanced mathematics. In addition to helping children's education and development, Illinois appeals to educators as the state offers teachers above-average salaries.

Like other states, Illinois requires a teaching license to work at public schools. Candidates must apply for a license through the Illinois State Board of Education. The process requires a bachelor's degree, specific coursework, student teaching experience, and passing scores on licensure exams. Teachers must then meet continuing education requirements to renew their credential.

So, how can you earn a teaching certification in Illinois? The state offers many pathways to launch a teaching career. People can return to school for a teaching degree or enroll at an online college in Illinois. The following guide walks through how to become a teacher in Illinois.

How Do I Become a Teacher in Illinois?

Illinois teachers at public schools must hold a teaching license. The Illinois State Board of Education awards licenses to qualified educators. Candidates who meet the requirements and pass exams earn their professional educator license.

The process of how to become a teacher in Illinois varies depending on where learners receive their training. Illinois approves licensure coursework offered at in-state schools. For example, students complete special education methods, reading methods, and bilingual methods courses.

Illinois also offers full reciprocity to teachers licensed in other states. These educators must submit a copy of their out-of-state license and proof of a bachelor's degree or higher to receive a professional educator license.

Meet Minimum Education Requirements

Illinois teachers must hold a bachelor's degree to qualify for a teaching license. The state accepts bachelor's degrees in any major, though teachers often earn their bachelor's in education.

In addition to a bachelor's degree, licensure candidates must complete an educator preparation program. These programs must include coursework on methods of teaching exceptional children, reading methods, reading specific content areas, and methods of teaching English learners.

In Illinois, the minimum education requirements include:

Many educators add teaching endorsements to their professional educator license. These endorsements involve additional training. Most require at least 18 credits of college-level courses, plus passing scores on specialized exams. Illinois offers reciprocity for endorsements on out-of-state teaching licenses.

Gain Student Teaching Experience

Like many states, Illinois requires student teaching experience for a teaching license. Educators in Illinois must meet the state's student teaching requirements, as determined by the state's administrative code. Rather than a minimum hour requirement, the state defines readiness with qualifying experience.

Candidates must complete student teaching in their final year of an educator preparation program. They can meet the requirement at a public school or a recognized nonpublic school. The state requires supervised student teaching in the grade range and area of the candidate's professional educator license endorsement. A licensed teacher must also actively supervise the student teaching.

Pass Required Certification Tests

Teachers must pass all required certification tests to earn their teaching certification in Illinois. All candidates must take a teacher performance assessment. Many complete the exam as part of their teacher preparation program. Illinois also accepts evidence of one year of teaching experience instead of the exam. Candidates then pass content area tests in their subject area or endorsement field.

The Illinois Board of Education requires the following certification examinations:

Teaching licensure candidates take the content tests through Pearson. The exams use computer-based assessments.

Apply for Certification

In Illinois, qualified educators apply for certification in many ways. Those attending an Illinois educator preparation program complete the process through their institution. The state's Board of Education works closely with approved Illinois programs to award educator licenses to qualifying graduates.

People who complete an out-of-state educator preparation program must submit materials to the Illinois Board of Education to earn their license. This process requires submitting proof of completion of a program and student teaching. Illinois also requires coursework that covers key areas. The state accepts licensure test scores with no expiration date.

Finally, teachers licensed in other states qualify for a reciprocal license. These educators submit a copy of their valid out-of-state license and proof of a bachelor's degree or higher from an accredited institution.

How Do I Maintain Teaching Certification in Illinois?

After earning a teaching certification, Illinois educators must maintain their credential. The Professional Educator License remains valid for five years in Illinois. At the end of five years, educators must complete 120 hours of professional development to renew their license. This requirement applies to all licensed teachers, including those with a master's degree. However, educators with national board certification only need to complete 60 professional development hours.

Teachers can meet the professional development requirement in many ways. They can complete college coursework at an accredited institution or take workshops or online professional development courses. Illinois awards one hour of professional development for each hour of attendance or learning. A one-credit college class provides 15 hours.

Career Outlook for Teachers in Illinois

More than 132,000 teachers work in the state of Illinois as of 2021, and Illinois offers many education careers. The state's average teacher salary rose above $70,000 in 2021. Nearly 60% of Illinois teachers hold a master's degree. Attending graduate school can yield higher salaries.

Students considering teaching careers can benefit from the state's scholarship support. The Golden Apple Scholarship program helps prospective educators launch their teaching careers. The program provides up to $23,000 in financial assistance, plus classroom teaching experience and job placement assistance.

The Illinois State Board of Education lists unfilled positions by subject area. As of 2020, the state considered several specializations, including special education, bilingual education, elementary education, math, and science, as high-need roles.

In-Demand Teaching Careers in Illinois

Special Education Teacher

Special education teachers instruct children with disabilities. They modify lesson plans based on each student's needs and keep records of every student's progress. They work closely with parents and administrators. In Illinois, special education teachers are one of the most in-demand positions.

Median Annual Salary: $61,500


Elementary School Teacher

Elementary school teachers educate young learners in core areas like reading, math, and science. They create lesson plans, assess student learning, and modify teaching strategies to meet student needs. Illinois places elementary school teachers on its list of in-demand teaching jobs by subject area.

Median Annual Salary: $60,660


Bilingual Teacher

Bilingual teachers instruct learners who speak a primary language other than English. Also known as English language learning or English as a second language, bilingual instruction requires strong English literacy skills. These instructors teach at the elementary and secondary levels. As with many other states, Illinois considers bilingual teachers a high-needs area.

Average Annual Salary: $46,310


Math Teacher

Math teachers instruct learners in algebra, geometry, precalculus, statistics, and calculus. Illinois math teachers typically work at middle and high schools. They instruct students in foundational and advanced mathematical concepts. Illinois placed math teachers on their list of the most in-demand unfilled positions for 2020.

Average Annual Salary: $51,390


Science Teacher

Science teachers specialize in subjects like earth sciences, biology, chemistry, and physics. Most Illinois science teachers work at the secondary level, where they may cover many science subjects or grade levels. Illinois ranks science teachers among the top-ten unfilled positions by subject area.

Average Annual Salary: $48,760


Frequently Asked Questions About Teaching Certification in Illinois

true How do I get teaching certification in Illinois?

Prospective teachers in Illinois must apply for a professional educator license through the Illinois State Board of Education. Like many other states, Illinois requires a bachelor's degree for a teaching license.

Candidates must also complete an educator preparation program that includes student teaching experience. Educators with prior classroom experience may be able to waive this requirement.

Finally, Illinois requires passing scores on a teacher performance assessment and content area tests. Educators can add endorsements to their license by completing more training and passing exams.

true Can I teach in Illinois without certification?

Yes, educators can teach in Illinois without certification. While Illinois public schools require a teaching license issued by the state, most private schools do not require certification. Illinois also offers alternative paths to certification for those who do not complete an educator preparation program as part of their bachelor's degree.

This option appeals to professionals considering a career change into education. Prospective teachers complete teaching methods and pedagogy courses during the alternative program process. They also complete supervised teaching with a mentor teacher. This path also requires performance assessments.

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

Illinois teachers spend several years completing the requirements for a teaching license. Teaching in Illinois requires a bachelor's degree, which generally takes four years. Most teachers complete an educator preparation program as part of their bachelor's degree.

After earning a bachelor's in education, graduates must meet additional licensure requirements. Illinois requires a general teaching examination plus content area exams. While many educators begin their teaching career with a bachelor's degree, almost 60% of Illinois teachers hold a master's degree. Earning a master's in teaching generally takes 1-2 years.

What can I do with teaching certification in Illinois?

A teaching certification meets the requirement for public school jobs in Illinois. Like many other states, Illinois teachers at the elementary or secondary level must hold a teaching license. The state issues professional educator licenses for K-12 teachers.

Educators add endorsements to their license to pursue specialized roles. For example, the state offers teaching endorsements in elementary education, social science, mathematics, and special education. A teaching license also helps educators enhance their careers. In Illinois, school principals must complete a minimum of four years of classroom experience to earn an administrator license.

How do I become a substitute teacher in Illinois?

Illinois offers two routes to becoming a substitute teacher. The state offers substitute licenses, which remain valid for five years. Educators must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution to qualify for a substitute license. Licensed substitutes renew the credential every five years by paying a $50 registration fee.

Illinois also offers short-term substitute licenses. These licenses remain valid for a shorter period, typically through the following school year. Short-term substitutes can only teach up to five consecutive days in the same classroom. They must also complete a district training program.

Learn about scholarships and financial aid available for students pursuing a degree in education. Not everyone wants to teach for decades. If you're ready to move out of the classroom, these jobs for former teachers can help you find the right path. Professional certifications help workers advance their careers and boost their earning potential. Read more about role-specific certifications in this guide.

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