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The Illinois Teaching and Certification Resource

Teaching in Illinois is a great option for anyone looking to work as an educator. Like all states, the Illinois teacher certification process has a number of steps that are required for new and experienced teachers. The state certification process is overseen by the Illinois State Board of Education. Although there are quite a few distinct pathways aspiring teachers may follow, we have outlined the traditional and non-traditional routes below.

How to Become a Teacher in Illinois

Like most states, Illinois requires new teachers to hold a bachelor’s degree. Additionally, anyone wanting to obtain an Illinois teacher certification must first fulfill the requirements stipulated by the state’s Department of Education. This process is called entitlement.

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The following Illinois educator certificates are issued: Early Childhood (to teach from birth to third grade), Elementary (for kindergarten through ninth grade), Secondary (for sixth through twelfth grade), Special (for kindergarten through twelfth grade for specific subjects), and Special Education Special Certificate (for pre-school through twenty-one years old).

For teachers with out-of-state teaching certificates, reciprocity is a possibility under specific circumstances. In this case, applicants would apply for the Professional Educator License (PEL), which is valid for five fiscal years. For more specific information about reciprocity in Illinois, contact the Illinois State Board of Education.

Quick Guide

Finding Approved Teacher Education Programs in Illinois

One of the first steps toward earning an Illinois teacher certification is to complete coursework through a state-approved teacher preparation program at an accredited college or university that fulfils the Illinois Standards for all teachers. Student teaching and pre-student teaching field experiences are also required as part of the teacher preparation program.

First and foremost, it is imperative that applicants attend an accredited Illinois teachers certification institution. When evaluating these schools, applicants should look to make sure the program is accredited by certain organizations.

There are six regional accreditation agencies that accredit US schools. These organizations are overseen by the US Department of Education, but work on a regional scale. Illinois schools are accredited by North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA).

Additionally, the Illinois Department of Education looks for an accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). This organization was recently created by consolidating two previous national accreditation organizations (NCATE and TEAC). This accreditation is recognized by the US Department of Education and is widely considered a very distinguished marker of rigorous standards being met in the teacher preparation curriculum and process.

Although there are quite a few ways to obtain an Illinois teacher certification depending on distinct circumstances, getting properly trained as a teacher is essential. Therefore, all aspiring teachers should confirm that their chosen Illinois educator certification is acquired in a school that is accredited by the organizations listed above. The same accreditation process also applies to online teaching certification programs meaning that all schools offering online programs should be accredited by the corresponding accreditation agency. Without proper accreditation, Illinois will not issue a teaching certificate.

Illinois Teacher Education Requirements

Traditional certification programs require that students complete at least thirty-two semester hours in an area of specialization or major in a specific field. The bachelor’s degree that is required varies by the college or university granting the degree. For those who pursue an alternative Illinois teacher certification, a bachelor’s degree in a content area that aligns with the certification area is required, and the college or university determines if further study in that area is necessary. Student teaching and pre-student teaching field experiences are also required as part of the teacher preparation program.

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Illinois Teacher Outlook as of 2012
The Occupational Supply & Demand System projects 12,099 annual job openings in education and library related fields in Illinois through 2018. Similarly, the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce projects a 12.8% increase in Education and Training jobs in Illinois from 2008 to 2018. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there were 135,704 public school and 20,750 private school teachers working in Illinois in fall 2008 and 2007 respectively. The National Education Association reports Illinois’ average beginning teacher salary at $35,464 and the average overall salary at $64,509, well above the national average of $55,623 and 7th highest in US states. The NEA reports teacher shortages across all subjects but especially in math, science and special education. Though education related jobs continue to open, especially in urban school districts, Illinois Education Association protests budget cuts continuing to keep wages down and limit job security. Contact teaching and education schools in Illinois for more information on the current job market and certification procedures.

Illinois Teacher Testing Requirements

Illinois State SealCandidates for becoming a teacher in Illinois must pass several tests through the Illinois Certification Testing System (ICTS) in order to obtain an Illinois teaching certificate. These assessments include applicable content-area tests, Test of Academic Proficiency (TAP) and the Assessment of Professional Teaching (APT) test. The Basic Skills test must be passed before an individual may be admitted to a teacher preparation program and consists of questions assessing reading comprehension, language arts, mathematics, and writing skills.

Content-area tests must be passed in order for an applicant to become certified, and some universities require them to be completed successfully before student teaching. The APT test ensures that teacher candidates are knowledgeable about the Illinois Professional Teaching Standards as well as language arts and technology standards that apply to all educators. There are four levels of APT tests depending on the certification desired: Birth to Grade 3, Grades K-9, Grades 6-12, and Grades K-12. As of January 12, 2010, each of the ICTS tests may only be attempted by an individual up to five times.

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Educators who are already certified in another state are not required to take the Basic Skills test in order to become certified in Illinois as long as they have not already taken and failed it. However, the content-area and APT tests are still required.

Additional Illinois Teacher Certification Requirements

Like all states, becoming a certified teacher in Illinois requires new teachers to submit to a state and federal background check. Fingerprint-based CHRI checks run through the Illinois State Police (ISP) and the FBI. All applicants must submit a fingerprint card to proceed with the background check before they turn in their teaching applications.

Illinois Teachers Licensing Application Process

Similar to many states, the path to obtaining a teaching certification in Illinois is a fairly straightforward process. Once you have completed all the requirements as stipulated by the state’s Department of Education, you must send in all of the information. The Teacher Certification Office gets a lot of applications in June, July and August, so it’s recommended to send in all information three to four months in advance of your estimated date of employment. The required steps to become a teacher in Illinois are as follows:

  1. Official transcripts showing proof of bachelor’s degree
  2. Official transcripts showing proof of accredited teacher preparation program
  3. Passing scores on the required Illinois Certification Testing System (ICTS)
  4. Payment of non-refundable processing fee
  5. Completed application for teacher certification

Directory of Regional Offices of Education
And Intermediate Service Centers
Illinois
State Board of Education
100 North First Street
Springfield, Illinois 62777 – 0001

Visit the Illinois Department of Education for further details on teaching certification in Illinois.

Teacher Quote “Don’t worry about being the perfect teacher – worry about your growth as a teacher. I have become the most successful when I have picked small things to change (group work, rubrics, assessments) and only focus on one thing at a time.” -Elizabeth Gates, Illinois Middle School Math Teacher

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Illinois Teacher Salary and Jobs

Type Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Preschool Teachers 16,870 $28,950
Kindergarten Teachers 6,150 $49,010
Elementary School Teachers 80,580 $59,270
Middle School Teachers 29,020 $60,170
Secondary School Teachers 53,500 $66,020

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2012.

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Illinois Teacher Interviews

Interview with Kristin Kennedy, Illinois Fourth Grade Teacher

Interview with Elissa Miller, Illinois High School Math Teacher

Interview with Elizabeth Gates, Illinois Middle School Math Teacher

Interview with Terie Engelbrecht, Illinois Science Teacher

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Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming an Teacher in Illinois

Question: How do I become an elementary teacher in Illinois?

Answer: To become an elementary teacher in Illinois you must earn certification through the state’s Board of Education. You need to complete an elementary teaching program as well as a student teaching assignment of 12 to 16 weeks. You must also pass the state’s teacher exams on basic skills and teaching standards.

Question: How do I become a kindergarten teacher in Illinois?

Answer: To be a kindergarten teacher in Illinois, you need to get an elementary certificate from the state. You must have a bachelor’s degree with a major in education or have completed a teacher preparation program. You also have to have completed a student teaching experience and pass the Illinois certification exams.

Question: What are the requirements to become a high school teacher in Illinois?

Answer: To become a high school teacher in Illinois, you must have secondary certification. To qualify, you need to have a bachelor’s degree with adequate coursework in education. You must also have student teaching experience and pass the state’s certification tests.

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References:
1. Illinois State Department of Education: http://www.isbe.net/
2. Illinois State Board of Education: http://www.isbe.state.il.us/
3. US Department of Education: http://www2.ed.gov/admins/finaid/accred/accreditation_pg6.html
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ak.htm#25-0000

Page edited by Charles Sipe.

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