Illinois Teaching Certification

Online learning across all fields continues to rise in the U.S. In 2016, the Babson Survey Research Group found that distance-education enrollment had increased for a fourteenth straight year, with the most recent year-to-year increase at over 5%. Prior limitations, such as lab work or an internship, are no longer immovable factors.

In education, for example, future teachers can easily earn their bachelor’s degree from a distance, locally complete their fieldwork and student teaching experiences, and apply for certification at home when ready. Benefits of online learning include flexibility and convenience, especially with the option to take classes asynchronously. An online degree gives students more options than a traditional on-campus experience. For example, a teaching certificate in Chicago is available to students living 200 miles away in Springfield without requiring any on-campus commitment.

It’s prudent to check an online education program against certification requirements for each state. While a degree earned online will satisfy the bachelor’s degree requirement, there may be prerequisite coursework that students need to complete before applying for a teaching certificate in Illinois. All public school teachers must be licensed by the state, and every state’s certification requirements differ. Distance learners should also check for institutional accreditation. To ensure the state you wish to teach in will accept an online degree from another state, check that a school is regionally accredited.

Teaching licensure in one state does not automatically transfer to another state due to varying requirements. One state may require different proficiency tests or more fieldwork than another does. Interstate reciprocity facilitates the certification process to a degree; however, as one of the main licensure requirements, students need a four-year degree.

Illinois does not offer full reciprocity by statute for out-of-state teachers. No matter one’s experience, a teacher seeking certification in Illinois must meet all requirements unless they apply for a license with stipulations endorsed as a provisional educator. This license allows the holder to teach for one full fiscal year under the direction of a fully licensed teacher who acts as a mentor. Students can renew the temporary license for two additional years, during which time they must complete all of the professional educator license (PEL) requirements in order to continue teaching legally.

To obtain an Illinois teaching certificate, students must fulfill all coursework determined by an endorsement. For example, an ECE teacher will have different requirements than a secondary teacher. Though an online or out-of-state education degree will likely cover much of the same curriculum, students must resolve any missing coursework. The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) provides a list of pre-approved comparable courses, which recent graduates and out-of-state teachers may check to see what necessary coursework remains. Teacher applicants may also find that they meet additional requirements through previously taken exams.

How to Get an Illinois Teaching Certificate

To teach in the Prairie State, educators must obtain a teaching certificate for Illinois. The PEL is the license that graduates apply for after completing a traditional four-year degree with field and clinical hours. It is the most critical step to becoming an Illinois teacher. PEL endorsements for specific areas and grade level ranges determine what the license holder is certified to teach. A newly issued PEL license is valid for five fiscal years. Because Illinois does not offer full reciprocity for out-of-state licenses, teachers licensed in another state must apply for a PEL evaluation to gain a temporary teacher certificate in Illinois. Alternative certification exists for applicants who have not completed a traditional teacher preparation program but hold a bachelor’s degree in an area of certification (content area) and would like to pursue a teaching career. For more information on PEL, ELS (PEDU), or alternative and substitute certification, please see the Illinois Department of Education website.

  • Provide proof that you hold a bachelor’s degree

    Prospective teachers must hold at least a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution. While education degrees are the most common major, secondary teachers will major in a subject, such as history or math, and either pursue a double major or complete a teacher certification program. Some students will earn a bachelor’s degree in a subject, then complete a master’s in education degree.

  • Hold a 3.0 GPA

    Students must maintain a certain GPA to remain in teacher certificate Illinois programs or an online education program. For Illinois, the minimum GPA is 3.0 for the bachelor’s degree. Your college or university will determine what the minimum GPA is for the education (or subject) classes. This requirement could be higher than a 3.0 GPA.

  • Complete approved student-teaching hours

    In addition to 32 semester hours of content coursework, Illinois teaching certificate applicants must complete a student-teaching experience or clinical. Depending on the program, practicum or fieldwork prior to the student-teaching requirement will vary, but could, for example, consist of 100 hours of observation and/or classroom assistance. Student teaching makes up the capstone of teacher certificate Illinois programs or other state education programs during the student’s final semester or year. Practicum hours are part of a course, like methodology, but the clinical is an actual course. Student teaching is full-time work with the student spending 30 to 35 hours in a classroom per week.

  • Receive a passing grade on required exams (Praxis)

    For teaching certification in Illinois, students must take several required exams. To test basic skills, students must pass either the Test of Academic Proficiency, or TAP 400, with a score of at least 240 per subtest; the ACT with a composite score of 22 (plus a minimum score on the writing portion); or the SAT with a composite score of 1030 or 1110 (plus minimum writing score). Applicants must also achieve a passing score on applicable content-area test(s) and complete a teacher performance assessment or edTPA. In lieu of the assessment, applicants may submit proof of at least one year of full-time teaching experience for which they received a “proficient” rating or higher, complete the edTPA while teaching with a provisional license, or enroll in the student-teaching portion of a teacher preparation program with completion of the edTPA during this time. Illinois does not require the Praxis test (by ETS) which usually consists of tests on core skills and subject areas. States that require the Praxis test have set minimum scores.

  • Pass background clearance by Illinois

    Any person applying for employment at an Illinois school must authorize a fingerprint-based background check. Teacher-certification applicants must pass the check, which stipulates that no criminal and/or drug offenses within the last seven years can appear on the individual’s report. The Illinois School Code also states that no individual can obtain an Illinois teaching certificate if they are “not of good character” or at least 20 years of age.

  • Submit application for teaching certification

    Prior to submitting an application for a teaching certificate in Illinois, graduates should consult Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) for the educator requirements checklist. Applicants will choose an endorsement and grade level for evaluation. All documentation, including official transcripts and test scores (if using ACT/SAT in place of TAP 400) must be sent to ISBE either electronically or through the mail. Once the application is sent, evaluated, and approved, ISBE will issue a teaching license.

  • Payment of all fees

    The application fee for Illinois’ professional educator license, or the PEL, is $100 if the student completed the Illinois teaching certificate requirements in state; $150 if out of state. All fees are paid online. Approved licenses are not valid until the teacher registers in at least one region. Cost for registration is $10, and the license holder can add more regions at no additional cost. A newly-issued license is valid for five fiscal years.

Student Teaching in Illinois

As part of a state-approved education degree, student teaching is the culminating experience for students following the completion of all required coursework and field experience, which includes practicum hours spent observing, tutoring, and assisting groups and classes at an approved school or other agency.

Student teaching in Illinois is called a clinical, and this experience makes up part of the teaching certificate Illinois programs or any out-of-state education program. For aspiring teachers who complete a degree without student teaching, but whose degree aligns with one of Illinois’ areas of certification, an alternative certificate is available. Upon acceptance into this alternative certification pathway, achieved by passing the Illinois basic skills and content-area knowledge tests, students complete the student-teaching requirement by working full time for two years under the mentorship of a seasoned teacher.

Student teachers work alongside an experienced professional who yields the class to the student after an introductory period. The student teacher participates in all aspects of the teaching position, from preparing daily lesson plans to meeting with parents. At the start of the clinical, the student teacher may begin by teaching a lesson or two. Eventually the student teacher will take charge of the classroom, with the cooperating teacher providing feedback. In addition to fulfilling the duties of a teacher, students will also complete any associated assignments, such as essays or maintaining a portfolio.

A teaching certificate in Illinois requires a bachelor’s degree at minimum. The degree must be state-approved and the institution must be regionally accredited. For residents enrolled in an online program outside of Illinois, they must still complete the field and clinical hours but at a local level. To find a suitable school, students should first contact their college/university. Distance learners must get any clinical hours approved before beginning work.

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that teachers in Illinois make over 5% higher than the national average salary. Secondary teachers make nearly 23% more than the average U.S. teacher. According to the National Education Association, Illinois is 12th in the U.S. when it comes to pay. In fact, the numbers for the state have not dramatically changed over the years, which should be encouraging for new Illinois teachers. Salary potential rises from grades 7-12.

A report on education supply and demand by the Illinois State Board of Education found that over the past decade, workforce numbers for Illinois teachers have been consistent, with the greatest fluctuation of less than 5% occurring in 2012-2013 when employment cut back. Another positive outlook for Illinois schools and teachers is that retention rates for elementary and high school educators are better than 90% of the average, suggesting overall job/pay satisfaction.

Employment and Annual Wage for Teachers in Illinois by Teaching Level
Occupation Employment Annual Mean Wage
Preschool Teachers 19,230 $32,950
Kindergarten Teachers 4,030 $58,180
Elementary School Teachers 60,960 $60,760
Middle School Teachers 31,080 $69,700
Secondary Teachers 44,360 $70,130

Excludes Special Education Teachers, May 2016

According to the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, undergraduate students receive over $6,000 on average in total grant money each year, which includes scholarships and tuition waivers. For students in a particular field, like computer science or teaching, the financial aid options are even greater, as fewer students qualify. Improving education for K-12 students begins by growing the teacher workforce with qualified, enthusiastic instructors. Financial aid, such as scholarships created just for teachers, can help schools reach that goal.

Golden Apple Scholars

Who Can Apply: A nonprofit organization, Golden Apple offers tuition assistance and paid summer institutes to high school seniors and first- and second-year college students working toward a teaching degree and intending to work in high-need schools in Illinois. The program also provides scholars with invaluable networks that can help them throughout their careers.

Amount: Up to $23,000 (tuition support)

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Student IEA Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Student IEA, an Illinois pre-professional organization of university students preparing for careers in education, awards eight scholarships annually, which can be used for most any educational need. More than 40 campuses in Illinois have a local Student IEA program.

Amount: $1,000

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Minority Teachers of Illinois (MTI) Scholarship Program

Who Can Apply: This scholarship program benefits undergraduate students who are of minority descent, reside in Illinois, and are enrolled in a degree program that will lead to certification as a preschool, elementary, or secondary school teacher. Applicants must hold a cumulative GPA of 2.5. Recipients may receive the scholarship for up to four academic years (eight semesters or 12 quarters).

Amount: Up to $5,000

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Special Education Teacher Tuition Waiver (SETTW) Program

Who Can Apply: SETTW waives tuition for teachers and students pursuing a career in special education as a nonprofit public, private, or parochial preschool, elementary, or high school teacher in Illinois. The waiver is good for up to four academic years (eight semesters or 12 quarters).

Amount: Varies (tuition and mandatory fees)

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Illinois PTA Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The Illinois PTA awards annual achievement-based scholarships to graduating students enrolling in a college/university educator or education-related programs, which may include librarians, instruction media specialists, or school nurses. Applicants must hold a non-weighted 3.0 GPA.

Amount: $3,000 (first place) and $2,000 (second place)

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Amos and Edith Wallace Scholarship

Who Can Apply: This 1997-established annual scholarship in honor of Rev. Amos Wallace Sr. and Mrs. Edith Wallace is awarded to three graduating African American seniors from Kankakee High School. Applicants must hold at least a 2.8 GPA and plan to attend a four-year accredited university in the fall.

Amount: $500

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  • Illinois State Board of Education: The nine-member, governor-appointed state board administers public education for Illinois, from setting education policy to recommending legislation to the Illinois General Assembly and elected governor. The board issues the Illinois School Report Card, which measures school performance against statewide and local standards. For educators, ISBE provides the tools and support needed to help Illinois students grow. The resources available include assessments, data analyses for policy and planning, metrics on school climate and culture, and teacher licensure, including renewal and reinstatement.
  • Illinois College of Education: This resource hosts a wealth of information for teachers on topics such as literacy, bullying, and digital learning topics. The section on professional development benefits new teachers, walking them through induction and the first formative years of a teacher’s career. A new or seasoned teacher will enjoy the collective resource inspiration for lesson plans, student engagement, and goals.
  • Illinois Education Association: Founded in 1853, IEA serves the interest of public education for Illinois and today has more than 135,000 members. To help guide new teachers in their careers — all toward the betterment of Illinois schools, programs, and services — IEA provides this comprehensive resource guide that addresses licensure, school transformation, evaluation, and professional development. As an advocate for public education employees, IEA’s mission is to affect change in schools and see that excellence and equity are standard.
  • The Center: For more than 45 years, The Center has provided support to education professionals who serve at-risk students. The Center promotes better teaching and learning in the K-12 grades, as well as adult education. Teachers gain access to assessments, professional development programs, and services for teachers who work with linguistically and culturally diverse students. There are seven statewide annual conferences for Illinois teachers to attend, including the ESSA conference for elementary/secondary educators who seek PD in line with current federal and state education priorities.
  • Illinois Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages: ICTFL aims to further the study and teaching of a second language for all students in Illinois. To accomplish this mission, ICTFL invests in the professional development of educators who are learning a modern or classical language as their second language. Workshops, conferences, and in-service training assist in increasing professional competencies of language teachers and help with earning credit for license renewals. ICTFL also offers members scholarship opportunities and leads on teaching positions.

Networking Opportunities in Illinois

Networking can build relationships and contacts, which can result in an array of career opportunities. Conferences, meetups, LinkedIn, or workshops can all provide beneficial networking options within a field. For educators, building professional relationships can also provide a place to discuss lesson plans, classroom environments, education policies, and student engagement.


ICE Conference

This educational tech conference showcases the latest innovations and best practices for integrating tech in the classroom, school library, and alternative learning. The exhibit hall features more than 400 information sessions, workshops, and focused snapshots. Attendees choose from one-, two-, or three-day passes.

Student IEA Spring Conference

Statewide conference brings together college students and future teachers of Illinois for networking and professional development. The two-day event begins with a volunteer service project in Warrenville, while the training portion of the conference takes place in Lisle. Founded in 1853, IEA represents more than 135,000 members who work in K-12, higher education, and educational organizations. IEA also welcomes retired educators and postsecondary students.

Midwest Social-Emotional Learning in Schools Summit

Presented by the Illinois ASCD, the summit explores emotional intelligence and the implementation of SEL in the modern school setting. Breakout sessions and panels discuss the latest research, applications, and overreaching philosophies of SEL. Illinois ASCD members, full-time students, and retirees may attend at a discount.


Stay Informed

Educators Rising
As a free national membership organization for future teachers and their mentors, Educators Rising brings together peers and experts to discuss issues and challenges facing education today. The mission of Educators Rising is to inspire, promote, and support aspiring teachers. Stay updated on the latest projects, campaigns, interviews, profiles, and research in teaching through their Twitter page.
Vicki Davis
Also known as the Cool Cat Teacher, Vicki Davis, a Georgia teacher, uses Twitter to connect with fellow teachers around the world. The podcast “10 Minute Teacher” is a daily jolt of inspiration as Davis interviews teachers, authors, or researchers on the trends, topics, and tools impacting K-12 education.
The Curriculum Corner
The Curriculum Corner collects resources for busy teachers to use in their lesson planning for reading, mathematics, writing, science, and social studies for pre-K through grade 5 students. The Curriculum Corner 123 gathers all the latest classroom ideas into a searchable blog. Worksheets, classroom activities, and sub plans are also available.
The Tech Savvy Educator
Blogger Ben Rimes, a K-12 educational tech coordinator for the Mattawan Consolidated School District, provides a practical guide for the use of technology in the classroom. Teachers can search for ideas or browse entries on technology and art, science, music, social studies, mathematics, language arts, and assessment.
TNPR’s Education Team
From National Public Radio, the Education Team aims to help the public gain better understanding of events, ideas, and news impacting the education sector. Teachers who want to stay current with education policy, a constantly changing center of debate, can quickly read up on the latest with this timeline.