How to Become a Teacher in Chicago

If you are interested in working in an urban school environment, Chicago is a great place to look for teaching opportunities. Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is the third-largest school district in the country and includes over 500 public elementary and secondary schools and over 100 charter schools.1 You will need at least a bachelor’s degree and an educator license to apply for public school teaching jobs in Chicago. Preparing a professional application package will be an important step towards securing a teaching job in the Chicago area. You might also consider working in private and charter schools in Chicago, which have different requirements. Read on for more information.

Chicago Teacher Certification Requirements

To become a teacher in Chicago through the traditional route, you will need to earn a bachelor’s degree, complete a teacher preparation program, and pass several tests demonstrating your literacy skills, subject area knowledge, and teaching proficiency. The educator preparation program will include hands-on experience through a student teaching placement. You must complete all the program requirements with a ‘C’ grade or higher to apply for licensure. Further detailed information can be found on our Illinois certification page.

It is also possible to earn your license through an approved alternative program. This option is available if you have a bachelor’s degree in a content area but did not complete teacher preparation. There are many different alternative programs that typically require you to complete coursework and pass content assessments before beginning a student teaching placement. Refer to our Illinois alternative certification page for more information.

Teacher Certification Programs in Chicago

To help you find state-approved teacher preparation programs, we have compiled the following list of approved programs in Chicago. These programs can prepare you for first-time certification or for additional endorsements. You can also read more about teaching programs statewide on our Illinois schools page.

  • Chicago State University
  • City Colleges of Chicago Harry S. Truman College
  • Concordia University-Chicago
  • DePaul University
  • Loyola University Chicago
  • National Louis University
  • North Park University Chicago
  • Northeastern Illinois University
  • Northwestern University
  • Roosevelt University
  • Saint Xavier University
  • The Chicago School of Professional Psychology
  • School of the Art Institute of Chicago
  • University of Chicago
  • University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Vandercook College of Music

Chicago School District Steps for Becoming a Teacher

All Chicago teachers must have a bachelor’s degree and a teaching certificate issued by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). Teacher hiring for all public and many charter and magnet schools in Chicago is centralized through CPS. The CPS Teach Chicago initiative provides a wealth of further resources for applicants, including recruiters to help candidates through the process.

Step 1: Apply to the Teacher Quality Pool.

Before you can apply for Chicago teaching jobs, you need to be accepted by the school board into the Teacher Quality Pool (TQP) on the Chicago Public Schools Careers website. This is a pre-screening measure and does not guarantee that you will receive a job offer. The TQP application includes a 10- to 15-minute interview offered in person, via telephone, or via webcam depending on individual circumstances. Applicants must provide two letters of reference.

Step 2: Complete your teacher profile.

Once you are accepted into the Teacher Quality Pool, you can complete your online profile and search for open jobs. Schools hire teachers directly in Chicago, therefore you will need to apply to each job individually.

Step 3: Attend an interview with a school leader or panel.

A school may contact you for an interview if your application is a good match for the open position for which you applied. Interviews for teaching positions typically focus on your teaching experience, subject area knowledge, and preferred teaching methods to see if you are a good fit for the institution. Many schools will require delivery of a sample lesson and lesson plan as part of the interview process so that they can get a sense of your teaching style.

Step 4: Complete the hiring process.

If you are offered a position, it will likely be contingent on passing a background check. Then, you will connect with the human resources department to complete tax paperwork, set up an official school email address and payroll deposit, and complete any other necessary administrative requirements before your first day. Note that CPS teachers must establish residency within the City of Chicago within six months of hire.

Contact Information

Chicago Public Schools
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chicagopublicschools
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ChiPubSchools

42 W Madison St
Chicago, IL 60602
(773) 553-1000

How to Become a Substitute Teacher with Chicago Public Schools

To work as a substitute teacher in Chicago, you will need an Illinois Substitute Teacher License. To be eligible for this license, you must have a bachelor’s degree. You can apply online through the Educator Licensure Information System by completing the application form online, mailing your official transcript, and paying the $100 fee. The license is valid for five years, at which point you will be allowed to renew the license.

CPS hires two types of substitutes: day-to-day subs, who fill in on an as-needed/as-available basis, and full-time subs, known as CPS Core Cadres. CPS Core Cadres substitute teachers are typically full-time (at least three days per week) in the same school, and may receive long-term monthly assignments. You can read more about these opportunities on the CPS website.

Private and Charter School Teacher Requirements in Chicago

Private and charter schools in Chicago set their own hiring requirements and qualifications; however, many schools prefer to hire teachers with state licensure to ensure they are knowledgeable and well-prepared for classroom leadership. A bachelor’s degree in a content-specific area is likely the minimum requirement for these jobs. Contact private and charter schools directly to learn about job opportunities and hiring procedures. Private schools and charter schools often require families to apply for spaces and may have additional admission requirements based on the school specialty or reputation. Here are some well-known schools in the Chicago area.

The Largest K-12 Schools in Chicago

The following table is designed to help you compare public, private, and charter schools in the city of Chicago that may be hiring teachers.

SchoolTypeGrade Level# StudentsStudent-Teacher
Sawyer Elementary SchoolPublicK-81,55223:1
Richard Edwards IB Fine and Performing Arts Dual Language SchoolPublicPK-81,55021:1
Hanson Park Elementary SchoolPublicPK-81,48318:1
Robert Healy Elementary SchoolPublicPK-81,42019:1
G. Armstrong International Studies Elementary SchoolPublicPK-81,41919:1
Mary Lyon SchoolPublicK-81,41120:1
Curie Metropolitan High SchoolPublic9-122,91819:1
Kenwood Academy High SchoolPublic7-121,75619:1
Schurz High SchoolPublic9-121,75117:1
Chicago International Charter SchoolCharterK-128,55650:1
Youth Connection Charter SchoolCharter9-123,95926:1
University of Chicago Charter SchoolsCharterK-121,81728:1
University of Chicago Laboratory SchoolsPrivatePK-122,0518:1
Marist High SchoolPrivate9-121,75016:1
St. Ignatius College PrepPrivate9-121,40416:1

See Table Notes and References at bottom of page.

Chicago Teacher Salary and Jobs Outlook

Of the 50 largest school districts in the US, Chicago Public Schools has the highest pay level for teachers with a bachelor’s degree and five years of experience.2 Excluding special education, in the Chicago-Naperville-Elgin metropolitan area the average salary for elementary teachers is $65,670, for middle school teachers $66,010, and for secondary school teachers $77,760.3 These salaries are slightly above the national and statewide average salaries for teachers.4,5

The Illinois Department of Employment Security projects that teaching positions in Chicago will have stable to moderate growth through 2026.6 Elementary, middle, and secondary school teacher positions are expected to remain stable, with most openings coming from replacements.6 Growth of 8% is projected for preschool teachers, and growth of 2% is projected for kindergarten teachers.6

Chicago Teacher Shortage Areas

The US Department of Education bases some student loan forgiveness programs on teacher shortage areas, meaning that your chances of qualifying for loan forgiveness may be stronger if you are teaching a subject that has been formally identified as a shortage area. You may also qualify for other funding opportunities or a more competitive salary based on your endorsement(s). Note that shortage areas may change from year to year, so you should be sure to check with state education agencies, your selected education program, and your student loan providers about funding options. For the 2017-2018 school year, the following subject areas were recognized as shortage areas in Illinois (statewide):7

  • At-Risk (Pre-K)
  • Art
  • Bilingual Education
  • Career and Technical Educator
  • Computer Literacy/Technology
  • Computer Programming
  • Driver Education
  • Elementary
  • English (Language Arts, Reading)
  • English as a Second Language
  • Foreign Language-Spanish
  • Gifted Education
  • Health Education
  • Mathematics (Algebra, General, Geometry)
  • Music (K-8, Instrumental, Vocal)
  • Physical Education
  • Reading Specialist
  • Science (General, Biology, Chemistry, Physics)
  • Social Science
  • Special Education (Bilingual, Hearing Impairment, Learning Behavior Specialist, Speech and Language Impaired)
  • Vocational-Technical (Agriculture, Family and Consumer Sciences, Business, Marketing,
  • Management, Health Occupations, Industrial Occupations)

Chicago Teaching Jobs Boards

You can browse teaching jobs in both public and private schools in Chicago on various online job banks before you obtain teaching certification. Take a look at these links to learn more, and see our jobs board to search for even more teaching jobs in Chicago.

Additional Resources for Teaching in Chicago

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: What is the starting Chicago teacher salary?

Answer: Public school teachers in Chicago are members of the Chicago Teachers Union, which publishes pay scales on a regular basis. For the 2019-2020 school year, first-year teachers with a bachelor’s degree will be paid $54,547 in salary, with $58,365 in total compensation (which includes pension contributions).7 This will rise each year under the current union contract through 2023-2024, when the first-year bachelor’s degree salary will be $61,990 with $66,330 in total compensation.7

Question: What are the requirements for substitute teachers in Chicago?

Answer: In order to substitute teach in Chicago public schools, you must have a valid Illinois Substitute License. Requirements for private schools may vary. For more information, you can visit the CPS substitute employment portal.

Question: How do I get hired as a charter school teacher in Chicago?

Answer: Many, though not all, charter schools in Chicago are part of Chicago Public Schools (CPS), which differs from many other areas where charter schools are a separate school district. The hiring process and requirements will therefore vary. Check with the charter school(s) where you are interested in employment for further details.

1. Chicago Public Schools: Stats and Facts: https://www.cps.edu/about/stats-facts/
2. Illinois Policy, “Chicago Teachers Highest Paid Among Nation’s 50 Largest School Districts,” 5 Feb 2016: https://www.illinoispolicy.org/cps-pays-the-highest-salaries-of-any-of-the-50-largest-school-districts/
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics May 2018 Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_16980.htm
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2018 Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, United States: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm#25-0000
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2018 Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Illinois: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_il.htm#25-0000
6. State of Illinois Occupational Employment Projections (Long-term): https://ides.illinois.gov/resources/labor-market-information/employment-projections.html
7. US Department of Education Nationwide Teacher Shortage Areas: https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ope/pol/bteachershortageareasreport201718.pdf
8. Chicago Teachers’ Union Salary Schedule for Full-Time Appointed Teachers: https://contract.ctulocal1.org/cps/a