The Illinois Teaching and Certification Resource

Teaching in Illinois is a great option for anyone looking to work as an educator. The Illinois teacher certification process is overseen by the Illinois State Board of Education Division of Educator Licensure (ISBE). We have outlined the traditional path describing how to become a teacher in Illinois below. For more information on alternative pathways to licensure, see our guide to Illinois alternative teacher certification.

How to Become a Teacher in Illinois

Illinois requires all prospective teachers to hold a bachelor’s degree. For traditional-route educators, the bachelor’s degree curriculum will include a teacher preparation program. Additionally, anyone wanting to obtain Illinois teacher certification must first fulfill the requirements stipulated by the state’s Department of Education. In Illinois, the formal term for this process is “licensure by entitlement,” though this is often shortened simply to “licensure.”

Illinois issues three types of teacher licenses: Professional Educator License (PEL), Educator License with Stipulations (ELS), and Substitute License. For each of these licenses, candidates may earn endorsements appropriate to the subject area(s) and grade level(s) to be taught. There are two exams that prospective teachers must pass: the appropriate content area exam(s) and the edTPA. There are also alternative routes to licensure for those who already have a bachelor’s degree but have not completed a teacher preparation program.

Quick Guide

Finding Approved Teacher Education Programs in Illinois

Projected Job Growth


Growth in Teaching Jobs in IL through 20302

One of the first steps toward earning Illinois teacher certification is to complete a state-approved teacher preparation program at an accredited college or university that fulfills the Illinois standards for teacher education. Student teaching field experiences are required as part of the teacher preparation program.

It is imperative that applicants attend a teacher preparation program that has been approved by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). You can find a list of approved educator preparation programs on the ISBE website. You can also compare key metrics for these state-approved teacher preparation programs by using the sortable table on our Illinois schools page.

Applicants should also look to make sure that the schools considered are regionally accredited. Programs from out-of-state that hold regional accreditation from one of the six regional accreditation agencies may be acceptable for Illinois teacher licensure. Illinois schools are accredited by Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Additionally, accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) is highly regarded. This organization was created by the consolidation of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the Teacher Accreditation Council (TEAC). CAEP accreditation is considered a distinguished marker of rigorous standards in the teacher preparation curriculum and process.

Illinois Teacher Education Requirements

Traditional certification programs typically require that students complete at least 15 semester hours in an area of specialization or major in a teachable subject, such as math, English, history, or science. Candidates prepared in-state must also complete coursework in methods of teaching exceptional children and English language learners as well as reading. The program must include student teaching and pass a teacher performance assessment, known in the state as the edTPA.

Those who attend preparation programs out-of-state have two options. The first option is to seek licensure in the state where their preparation program was completed and then seek licensure by reciprocity in Illinois. The second option is to apply for the initial teaching license in Illinois, which will require proof of completion:

  • A bachelor’s degree
  • A state-approved teacher preparation program
  • Student teaching
  • Illinois’ required coursework for teachers
  • The required licensure tests

For those who pursue 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 administering the teacher preparation program attended determines whether further study in the content area the candidate intends to teach is necessary. Student teaching and pre-student teaching field experiences are also required as part of the teacher preparation program. Once all coursework requirements are met, the teacher preparation program will notify ISBE that the candidate is eligible for a license, allowing him or her to apply for licensure. Note that once issued, an Illinois teaching license must be registered online to be valid.

Illinois Teacher Testing Requirements

Illinois State SealTeaching candidates must pass several tests to be eligible for an Illinois teaching license. At the beginning of the process, before an individual can be admitted to a teacher preparation program, he or she must typically pass the Test of Academic Proficiency (TAP) or post acceptable scores on the ACT or SAT exams to waive the TAP requirement. The assessments required for licensure after completing a preparation program include applicable content-area tests through the Illinois Licensure Testing System (ILTS). Note that the formerly required edTPA, a portfolio-based assessment of the candidate’s teaching skills and knowledge, has been waived through August 2025. Passing scores on content-area tests are typically required prior to student teaching as part of the candidate’s teacher preparation program.

Additional Illinois Teacher Certification Requirements

As in all states, becoming a certified teacher in Illinois requires new teachers to submit to a state and federal background check. Fingerprint-based Criminal History Records Information (CHRI) background checks are 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 license applications. Candidates should expect to repeat the background check at the school district level during the hiring process for each new position they seek.

Illinois Teachers Licensing Application Process

The path to obtaining teaching certification in Illinois is a fairly straightforward process if you are attending an approved teacher preparation program. Once you have completed all the requirements as stipulated by the state’s Department of Education, you must apply for a teaching license. The Teacher Certification Office receives the majority of applications in June, July, and August and recommends that candidates submit supporting documents three to four months in advance of their estimated date of employment. The required documents to become a teacher in Illinois are as follows:

  • Official transcripts showing proof of bachelor’s degree
  • Official transcripts showing proof of completing an accredited teacher preparation program
  • Passing scores on the required exams
  • Payment of non-refundable processing fee
  • Completed application for teacher licensure

Candidates must begin their licensure application online through the Educator Licensure Information System (ELIS). Supporting documents should be emailed to ISBE. Visit the Illinois Department of Education for further details on teaching certification in Illinois.

Illinois Teacher Outlook, Salary, and Jobs

During the 2016-2017 school year, there were an estimated 4,173 public schools in Illinois with a K-12 student population of just over 2 million.3 With an estimated 128,893 public school teachers, this gives Illinois a student-to-teacher ratio of 15:1.3

Excluding special education, projections suggest that there will be 4,050 average annual job openings for elementary school teachers, 1,560 average annual job openings for middle school teachers, and 2,850 average annual job openings for secondary school teachers in Illinois through 2030.2 In the state, the average annual salary for elementary school teachers is $67,810, the average annual salary for middle school teachers is $67,170, and the average annual salary for secondary school teachers is $71,690.4 The Illinois Education Association (IEANEA) provides further information on the current job market and teacher licensing procedures.

TypeNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Preschool Teachers24,120$31,500
Preschool Teachers, Special Education960$57,280
Kindergarten Teachers4,630$55,660
Elementary School Teachers65,630$62,140
Special Education Teachers, Kindergarten and Elementary School9,670$63,740
Middle School Teachers22,230$63,860
Middle School Teachers, Special Education3,420$63,330
Secondary School Teachers43,720$72,370
Secondary School Teachers, Special Education8,440$69,840
Secondary School Teachers, Career/Technical Education1,970$66,840

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2018.4

Teacher Shortages in Illinois

According to the US Department of Education Teacher Shortage Area report for 2021-2022, Illinois broadly has the following shortages:5

  • Academic Intervention (At-Risk, Remedial Reading)
  • Academically Advanced (Gifted Education)
  • Art and Music Education
  • Career and Technical Education (Business Education, Computer Programming, Computer Technology, Family and Consumer Science, General, Industrial Arts)
  • Core Subjects (Elementary Education), K-8
  • Drivers Education (Driver and Traffic Safety Education)
  • English as a Second Language (Bilingual, English as a Second Language)
  • Health and Physical Fitness (Health Science, Physical Education), K-12
  • Language Arts (English, Reading, Reading Resource Specialist)
  • Mathematics (Basic and Advanced, Algebra)
  • Science (Biological Sciences, Chemistry, General Science, Physics)
  • Social Studies (Sociology)
  • Special Education (All Exceptionalities, Bilingual Special Education, Deaf/Hearing Impairment, Generic, Language and Speech)
  • Support Staff (Resource Teacher)
  • World Languages (Any World Language, Spanish)

According to a report from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), the year 2021 saw around 1,700 unfilled teaching positions in the state.6 Over 40% of these positions were in Cook County, which includes the Chicago metropolitan area.6 Including administration positions, support personnel, and paraprofessionals, the Board reported a shortage of over 4,000 positions, again–most of which were in the Chicago metro area.6 Still, compared to the total number of full-time teachers in the state, the number of total unfilled positions only represents about a 3% deficit.6,7

Illinois Teacher Interviews

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.

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 I become an elementary teacher in Illinois?

Answer: To become an elementary teacher (Grades 1-6) in Illinois, you must earn licensure (known in other states as 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.

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

Answer: To be a kindergarten teacher in public schools in Illinois, you need to get an early childhood education (Birth-Grade 2) license from the state. You must have a bachelor’s degree with a major in early childhood education and have completed a teacher preparation program. You also have to have completed a student teaching experience and pass the Illinois certification exams. Early childhood private schools might or might not require state licensure.

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, known in Illinois as licensure or licensure by endorsement. To qualify, you need to have a bachelor’s degree with adequate coursework in a teachable subject area and complete a teacher preparation program. You must also have student teaching experience and pass the state’s certification tests, including content-area exams in the subject(s) to be taught.

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

Answer: Illinois offers two different types of substitute teaching licenses – a Short-Term Substitute License, which requires an associate’s degree or 60 hours of college credit hours, and a regular Substitute License, which requires a bachelor’s degree. Short-Term Substitute Licenses have a limitation of five consecutive days and require license holders to complete a training program. You can read more about substitute teaching requirements on the Illinois State Board of Education’s website.

1. Illinois State Board of Education: https://www.isbe.net/
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, 2016-2017: https://nces.ed.gov/ccd/stnfis.asp
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2021 Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Illinois: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_il.htm
5. US Department of Education, Teacher Shortage Areas: https://tsa.ed.gov/#/reports
6. Illinois State Board of Education, Unfilled Positions 2021: https://www.isbe.net/unfilledpositions
7. Illinois Report Card, Total Teachers FTE: https://www.illinoisreportcard.com/state.aspx?source=teachers&source2=totalteacherfte&Stateid=IL