Illinois Teacher Certification and Career Guide

All Illinois teachers must be licensed according to the requirements set by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). The main steps for the traditional path to teacher certification in Illinois are:

  1. Complete a state-approved bachelor’s degree with a teacher preparation component.
  2. Complete a student teaching placement.
  3. Pass the required teacher certification exams.
  4. Apply for a teaching certificate or license.

Continue reading to learn more about the traditional certification pathway in Illinois.

Table of Contents

Steps to Become a Teacher in Illinois
Teacher Certification Renewal
Adding Subjects or Grades to a Certificate
Teaching License Reciprocity
Related Licenses
Teacher Outlook, Salary, and Jobs
Illinois School District Requirements
Additional Resources
Frequently Asked Questions

How to Become a Teacher in Illinois

The steps below outline the traditional pathway to earn a Professional Educator License (PEL) in Illinois. If you are a bachelor’s degree holder who has yet to complete a teacher preparation program, check out our guide to alternative teacher certification in Illinois.

1. Earn a bachelor’s degree that includes an approved teacher preparation program.

All teachers in Illinois must have a bachelor’s degree from a nationally accredited college or university. The bachelor’s degree major you pursue will depend on the grade level and subject you wish to teach. As part of the degree, you will complete an ISBE-approved teacher preparation program. ISBE also offers the Illinois Educator Preparation Profiles (IEPPs), allowing prospective teachers to compare approved preparation programs based on metrics such as candidate selection and completion, knowledge and skills for teaching, performance as classroom teachers, and contribution to state needs.

You can compare key metrics for state-approved teacher preparation programs on our Illinois schools page. You can also read about two important accreditations to consider, institutional accreditation and programmatic accreditation, on our teaching schools guide.

2. Complete a student teaching placement.

As part of their teacher preparation program, prospective teachers must complete a student teaching placement in the grade range and specialization area of the endorsement sought. The student teaching placement is an opportunity for future educators to practice classroom management, lesson planning, and classroom instruction under the supervision of a licensed and experienced teacher with at least three years of teaching experience and who has received a proficient or above performance rating in their most recent evaluation. Student teachers may be compensated for their services.

3. Pass the required Illinois teacher exams.

Illinois State SealTeaching applicants must pass the Illinois Licensure Testing System (ILTS) content tests related to their subject area and grade level. ILTS study guides are available to help you prepare for these exams.

Previously, applicants were also required to complete the edTPA, a portfolio-based assessment of the candidate’s teaching skills and knowledge, but that requirement has been eliminated through August 31, 2025. Note some approved preparation programs may still require the edTPA as part of their program.

4. Apply for Illinois teacher certification.

Once these steps are complete, candidates can apply for their PEL. Applications are submitted online through the Educator Licensure Information System (ELIS). The following documents must be submitted as part of the online application:

  • Application fee
  • Offical transcripts
  • Proof of teacher preparation program
  • Passing ILTS exam scores
Guide to Other Teaching Pathways

Illinois Teacher Certification Renewal

All PELs in Illinois are valid for five years. To renew a PEL, teachers must complete 120 hours of professional development (PD). ISBE will email all applicants with a renewal reminder. Licenses expire June 30, and the renewal window opens on April 1 of the same year. Renewals must be submitted online through ELIS. A full list of renewal requirements and FAQs is available on the ISBT Renewal and Professional Development for Educators page.

Adding Subjects or Grades to a Certificate

Licensed teachers in Illinois can only teach in the subject and grade level they are certified in, though occasional, temporary exceptions are made. To add a new subject or grade level to a PEL, teachers must complete the required coursework and content test for that endorsement type. To apply, teachers will complete an endorsement application through ELIS and submit the necessary official transcripts. For additional details about adding an endorsement, including links to specific testing requirements, visit the Adding New Teaching Endorsements and Short-Term Approvals page.

Illinois Teaching License Reciprocity

Illinois allows teachers with valid out-of-state licenses from all other states and territories to transfer their license to Illinois and receive a PEL endorsed in a comparable area. To apply, you will set up an account with ELIS and submit the following:

More details about reciprocity and how to apply for a PEL with a valid out-of-state license can be found on the IBSE Educator Licensure page for educators trained in other states. You can learn more about transferring a teaching certificate or license between states on our guide to certification reciprocity.

In addition to the teaching endorsements, Illinois offers a variety of licenses and endorsements for support and administrative staff. Some of the support licenses available in Illinois include:

  • Paraprofessional Educator License: Paraprofessionals work with students under the direction of a licensed teacher. To earn a Paraprofessional Educator License, applicants must be at least 18 years old and have either an associate’s degree, 60 hours of coursework, or a high school diploma and qualifying test scores.
  • PEL Administrative Endorsement – Principal: To become a principal in a pre-K-12 setting in Illinois, applicants must obtain a PEL Administrative Endorsement. To qualify for the principal endorsement, applicants must have at least four years of teaching experience and complete an approved principal preparation program.
  • PEL School Support Personnel Endorsement – School Psychologist: To work as a school psychologist in Illinois, applicants must have a master’s degree in psychology or educational psychology with a specialization in school psychology and have completed at least 250 supervised experience hours in a school or child student center.

More information on PELs for support staff and administrators can be found on the IBSE Professional Educator License page.

Illinois Teacher Outlook, Salary, and Jobs

Projected Job Growth


Growth in Teaching Jobs in IL through 20302*

According to data from NCES about the 2017-2018 school year, Illinois’ 4,241 schools employed approximately 128,203 teachers who taught over two million students.3 The student-teacher ratio in Illinois is around 16:1.3

The job outlook in Illinois through 2030 is significantly lower than national averages across every field. Job growth for Illinois elementary teachers is projected to be 2.7% compared to 7.4% nationally; for middle school teachers, 2.8% compared to 13.1% nationally; and for high school teachers, 3.0% compared to 13.7% nationally.2 The table below provides a detailed comparison of job growth prospects and salary levels for Illinois teachers.

TypeNumber Employed in IL4Average Annual Openings in IL2IL Proj. Job Growth 2020-20302Average Annual Salary in IL425th Percentile Wages in IL575th Percentile Wages in IL5
Preschool Teachers18,8902,61016.4%$37,480$30,220$36,930
Preschool Teachers, Special Education730304.9%$66,510$48,220$81,020
Kindergarten Teachers4,2104204.1%$68,360$49,910$79,910
Elementary School Teachers59,9904,0502.7%$67,840$49,280$79,460
Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers, Special Education12,0608403.3%$72,270$57,600$81,820
Middle School Teachers23,1301,5602.8%$67,520$49,230$79,310
Middle School Teachers, Special Education3,3802402.6%$67,700$51,050$78,640
Middle School Teachers, Career/Technical Education130300%$82,870$66,390$96,910
Secondary School Teachers45,8502,8503%$72,480$50,840$82,260
Secondary School Teachers, Special Education9,2505702.8%$75,020$59,300$94,170
Secondary School Teachers, Career/Technical Education1,4701502.3%$71,550$50,720$80,690

*The estimated job growth average is based on projections for mainstream kindergarten, elementary, middle, and high school teachers. Projections for other categories, such as special education and career and technical education, may be higher or lower than the average.

Teacher Shortages in Illinois

Like many states, Illinois is facing a number of teacher shortages across its public schools. According to the US Department of Education Teacher Shortage Area report for 2023-2024, Illinois has designated the following deficits:

In addition to the above shortages, Illinois had over 2,100 unfilled teaching positions during the 2022-2023 school year.7 Data from the 2017-2018 school year (the most recent available) reports that nearly 2,000 teachers were underqualified for their position, which includes teachers assigned to classrooms outside their certification field on a temporary or emergency basis.7

Illinois School District Requirements

If you are interested in finding out more about becoming a teacher in Chicago, review our city page below. On this page, you will find a step-by-step description of how to become a teacher in Chicago public schools as well as information on private and charter schools in the area, becoming a substitute teacher, and contact information for the public school system.

Additional Resources

Illinois Teacher Interviews

Related Articles

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

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: How do you become a substitute teacher in Illinois?

Answer: Substitute teachers in Illinois must hold a Short Term Substitute License. To obtain a Short Term Substitute License, applicants must earn either an associate’s degree or have proof of completion of at least 60 hours of higher education coursework. Substitute teachers must also complete an IBSE-approved training, which is provided by the district employing the substitute teacher.

Question: How many private schools does Illinois have?

Answer: According to NCES, Illinois had 1,282 private schools operated during the 2019-2020 school year.8 Within these schools, there were 191,454 students and 17,905 full-time teachers.8 There are no state requirements for private school teachers to hold a valid teaching license. Individual schools have their own requirements, so be sure to check with them for more information.

1. Illinois Board of Education: https://www.isbe.net/Pages/Home.aspx
2. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: https://projectionscentral.org/Projections/LongTerm
3. National Center for Education Statistics, State Nonfiscal Public Elementary/Secondary Education Survey Data, 2017-2018: https://nces.ed.gov/ccd/stnfis.asp
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2023 Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Illinois: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_il.htm
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2023 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm
6. US Department of Education, Teacher Shortage Areas: https://tsa.ed.gov/#/reports
7. Teacher Shortages in the United States, Tuan D. Nguyen et al.: https://teachershortages.com/
8. National Center for Education Statistics, Private School Universe Survey, 2019-20: https://nces.ed.gov/surveys/pss/tables/TABLE15fl1920.asp