How to Become a Teacher in Illinois

Congratulations are in order! You have just made the decision to do a very meaningful job that pays for itself day after day in the moments when a child finally understands a new concept. Here are the steps you will need to take to become an educator in Illinois.

Choose What You Want to Teach

Whether you want to teach a specific subject in high school or a special education class in elementary, the decision is yours. Before you become a teacher in Illinois, it is important to decide which age group of students you prefer or which subject(s) you most want to teach. The Illinois State Board of Education offers guidelines and specific steps for the area you choose to teach.

Complete Your Education Requirements for Teaching in Illinois

As with all states, Illinois requires teachers to possess a minimum of a bachelor's degree that's part of a teacher education program from an accredited college or university. If you are just starting your degree program or have not yet started, you will most likely be able to complete a teacher education program along with your bachelor's degree.

Complete a Teacher Preparation Program

Public school teachers in Illinois are required to hold teacher certification, which is earned by completing a teacher preparation program that has been accredited through the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP).

Most programs are blended, meaning that you'll earn a bachelor's degree within an approved teacher preparation program.

However, you can also earn a license after you've completed a bachelor's degree program. Programs that are not blended are typically referred to as fifth-year or post-baccalaureate Teacher Preparation programs. These programs are designed to last only two to four semesters.

These programs most often consist of two main elements: curricula and fieldwork. Curricula often includes several developmental and pedagogy classes, educational technology classes, as well as teaching methods, and theory classes. The fieldwork area includes classroom observations, student teaching, and on occasion, internships or some combination of the three. A successful student teacher will create and implement age appropriate lesson plans, create a portfolio, and write reflections on the entire experience.

Alternative Teacher Certification in Illinois

Teacher Certification Program

There is another path to becoming a teacher in Illinois apart from the one described above. You may have the option to obtain your license through an alternative teacher certification program through a college or university. In Illinois, a college or university must have an approved teacher preparation program in the certification area and receive State Board approval prior to offering an alternative route program. Visit the Directory of Approved Programs for the Preparation of Educational Personnel in Illinois Higher Education for a detailed list of approved teacher education programs in Illinois.

Teacher Certification Reciprocity

If you are a certified teacher in another state, you may qualify to for Illinois teacher certification through reciprocity agreements. In order to qualify, the candidate must have completed an approved teacher education program in their state and/or currently hold a valid teaching license from another state. Contact the Illinois State Board of Education for information about your specific situation.

Pass the Required Tests for Illinois

The next step to gaining teacher licensure is passing the necessary tests.

The first test that all potential teachers will be required to pass is TAP, the Test of Academic Proficiency. Assuming the TAP test is passed with an approved score, further tests will be required. The TAP test can be replaced with the ACT Plus Writing or SAT Score. The tests required will depend on the grade level(s) and subject area(s) you want to teach.

All prospective teachers in Illinois must pass three tests: the Basic Skills test (TAP), the appropriate content area test, and the appropriate Assessment of Professional Teaching (APT) test. In addition to the tests described, the Special Education General Curriculum test is also required for those seeking endorsements as:

  • Learning Behavior Specialist 1
  • Teacher of Students Who are Blind or Visually Impaired
  • Teacher of Students Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing
  • Speech-Language Pathologist: Teaching

Candidates applying for initial licensure in Illinois are required to take and pass the edTPA. This is an evidence-based assessment of teacher effectiveness. During this process, teacher candidates will submit their student-teaching portfolios for assessment.

Sponsored Content

Apply for your Illinois Teacher Certification

Application Requirements

In order to apply for licensure in Illinois, you must first pass all the required tests, student teach, and earn a four year bachelor's degree. You may then fill out the application for licensure at ELIS online. Those who are trying to certify in administrative, school support, or as substitutes will require differing forms of licensure that can be found at the previous link. In addition, the license, once received, must be registered.

Contact Information

Illinois Board of Education
100 N. 1st Street
Springfield, IL 62777
Phone: (217)782-4321


Illinois Board of Education
100 W. Randolph, Suite 14-300
Chicago, IL 60601
Phone: (312)814-2220

Find a Teaching Job in Illinois

You have passed all of your tests, applied for licensure, and now you are ready to start your career as a teacher in Illinois!

Teaching in a Public School

The department of education in Illinois links to several third-party websites for teachers to use for applying to job postings. The following sites are not affiliated with the Department of Education but provide up to date databases for postings and applications. Careers at Chicago Public Schools (CPS), IASA Online: Illinois Education Job Bank, and K-12 JobSpot.

Once hired, teachers may join the Illinois Federation of Teachers which represents more than 80,000 teachers and paraprofessionals in the state, or the Illinois Education Association (IEANEA), both of which serve the needs of the state's students through supporting the state's teachers. Finally, when teachers retired, they are eligible to draw a pension through the Illinois Teachers Retirement System which has additional disability and other benefits.

Teaching in a Private School

Illinois has an extensive network of private schools. Some private schools may not require teachers to be certified. Currently, teachers may seek employment in any of the state's nearly 1,500 private schools that serve about 300,000 students. Teachers may benefit from different salary and advancement options in a private school environment.

Teacher Shortage in Illinois by Subjects or Discipline (2021-2022)

The following list of teacher shortage areas in Illinois has been obtained from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Postsecondary Education, Teacher Shortage Area (TSA) report for the 2021-2022 school year:

  • Generic Special Education
  • Elementary Education K-8
  • Physical Education K-12
  • World Languages, any world language
  • Biological Sciences
  • Career and Technical Education, Family and Consumer Science
  • Music K-12
  • Algebra
  • Business Education
  • Chemistry
  • Bilingual Education
  • Special Education, All Exceptionalities
  • General Science
  • English
  • Spanish
  • Basic and Advanced Mathematics
  • Art
  • ESOL
  • Sociology

Number of Public and Private School Teachers By Grade

The following Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) table highlights the number of teachers in Illinois in both private and public schools, by grade level, as of May 2021:

Grade Level Number of Teachers
Preschool Teachers, Except Special Education 19,610
Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education 55,330
Middle School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education 23,910
Secondary School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education 44,690
Special Education Teachers, Preschool 430
Special Education Teachers, Kindergarten and Elementary School 10,350
Special Education Teachers, Middle School 3,450
Special Education Teachers, Secondary School 7,530

Continue Your Education and Professional Development

Through collaborative learning and over a variety of platforms, teachers have more opportunities than ever to engage in relevant professional development. Professional development programs use multiple instructional methods to address the needs and preferences of today's educators.

Professional Development in Illinois

In the state of Illinois, educator licensure requires ongoing professional development to meet the requirements for license renewal for both educators and school service personnel. Workshops, seminars, conferences, symposia, as well as self-assessment coursework for National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) meet the state's professional development criteria. The state offers opportunities for independent providers to become approved facilitators for the above venues, as long as they follow relevant practices and procedures to ensure accountability. Teachers are encouraged to contact the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) in order to clearly understand the procedures for choosing professional development and having appropriate evidence of completion.

The Benefits of Earning a Master's Degree For Salary And License Renewal

As an Illinois teacher, you don't have to wait until you actually have your master's degree in hand to start getting the benefits… every 8 credits you earn along the way can advance you into a new column and a higher salary rate. And unlike some states, where the top earning tier is achievable with only a PhD, a master's degree and 48 additional credits will put you at the maximum pay rate.

Along the way, you can use those college credits to count toward the professional development hours required to renew your license. The coursework has to be related to your current certificate and address the professional standards outlined in the Professional Development Requirements.

The school you earn your advanced degree from must appear on the list of ISBE approved providers in order for your credits to count toward professional development requirements. You are allowed to use up to 15 semester credits from your master's per license renewal period.

And there are serious benefits when it comes to satisfying professional development requirements even after you've completed your master's. One unusual benefit to holding a master's degree as a professionally licensed Illinois educator is that it reduces the number of continuing education hours you will have to accumulate on each subsequent 5 year license renewal. While bachelor's degree holders have to show 120 clock hours of continuing education, a master's degree holder only has to have 80 clock hours (or around 5 semester credits). Move up to two advanced degrees, and the requirement drops to 40 hours.

Increase Your Salary Significantly with a Master's

Like many other states, in Illinois most teachers will find themselves in a step and lane salary schedule that offers financial incentives for earning a master's degree. The exact benefits vary from district to district, but as an example, in the Chicago Public School district, the minimum teacher's salary was $59,894 as of FY2022, but for master's degree teacher, the minimum salary was $64,042 - or about $5,000 more annually, a significant pay bump for a master's degree.

Sponsored Content

2021 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and employment figures for Teachers (Preschool, Elementary, Middle School, High School) and Special Education Teachers, (Preschool, Kindergarten and Elementary, Middle, High School) reflect national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed March 2023.