The teaching profession offers diverse career paths, including positions teaching children and adolescents in a variety of subjects. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual salary for Illinois teachers is slightly above the national average. Salaries vary based on position, the teacher's education level, and geographic location. For example, teaching in Chicago pays more than teaching in rural Illinois.
Each state sets specific requirements for teaching licensure. Teaching candidates in Illinois must hold at least a bachelor’s degree. Candidates with regionally-accredited online teaching degrees from any institution qualify for an IL teaching license. Earning a teaching degree online provides flexibility and is ideal for working teachers seeking career and salary advancement. An online bachelor’s or master’s program in teaching must include a student-teaching component and core teaching coursework to meet Illinois licensure requirements.
Earning a teaching degree online provides flexibility and is ideal for working teachers seeking career and salary advancement.
Illinois residents can earn a teaching degree online from an institution in another state. Although teaching licenses do not automatically transfer between states, many out-of-state teaching programs meet the Illinois requirements. Prospective Illinois teachers can contact the Illinois State Board of Education for a transcript review to learn whether their degree meets state licensing requirements.
How to Become a Teacher in Illinois
Each state sets different requirements for teaching licensure, and licenses do not automatically transfer between states. The Illinois State Board of Education grants teaching licenses in the state and manages the renewal process. Illinois teaching licenses are valid for five years, and teachers must complete 120 hours of professional development every five years. To become a teacher in Illinois, candidates must meet the educational requirements, pass several tests, and register their license.
Illinois does not offer full reciprocity, which would allow teachers licensed in other states to transfer their license to Illinois with no further educational requirements. However, Illinois is a member of the NASDTEC Interstate Agreement, a compact of states committed to easing the process of transferring valid teaching licenses between states. Out-of-state teachers must complete additional requirements to earn an Illinois teaching credential, and Illinois teachers considering jobs in other states should research that state’s license transfer requirements.
Illinois teachers must hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally-accredited institution. The Illinois State Board of Education manages the licensing process, including setting educational requirements. Candidates for a professional educator license must have completed specific teacher preparation courses, including coursework in teaching special education and bilingual students, along with content area preparation. The best teaching schools in Illinois incorporate state requirements into their curricula, so attending education programs in Illinois prepares graduates to earn a state teaching license.
Full-time students typically earn a bachelor’s degree in teaching in four years. Teaching programs cover fundamental skills, such as assessment, curriculum planning, reading methods, and specializations such as special education or English language learners. Teachers can increase their earning potential by completing a master’s degree in education, which requires two additional years of coursework. Most undergraduate and graduate teaching programs incorporate student teaching, which is required to earn an Illinois teaching license.
Teachers can increase their earning potential by completing a master’s degree in education, which requires two additional years of coursework.
Illinois also provides an alternative route to earning a teaching license for candidates with a bachelor’s degree in a non-teaching field. The alternative-licensure process requires a minimum 3.0 GPA, and applicants must pass a basic skills test and all applicable content area tests. In addition, candidates must complete a summer session covering teacher preparation skills and undertake a two-year residency.
Although licensed teachers must hold a bachelor’s degree, graduates with an associate degree in teaching, which typically takes two years to earn, can teach preschool or work in a daycare or childcare center. Associate-degree holders may also work as teacher’s assistants at the K–12 level.
Common Courses for Teaching Degrees in Illinois
Associate Degree in Teaching
|Teaching Foundations||Students often begin associate degree coursework with an introductory class, which provides an overview of the teaching profession and may include field observation.|
|Teaching Reading||Teachers at all levels instruct students in reading. This course covers types of reading, reading assessment, and approaches to teaching reading.|
|Early Childhood Education||Associate degree holders are qualified to teach preschool and daycare. This course covers best practices for working with children aged five and younger.|
Bachelor's Degree in Teaching
|Special Education||This course explores methods for teaching students with special education needs. Learners examine effective instructional techniques and the educator’s role in serving gifted students and those with disabilities.|
|English Language Learners||Required to earn an Illinois teaching certificate, this course focuses on theories and principles behind teaching a second language, including methods to teach reading and writing.|
|Student Teaching||This experience is required to obtain teaching licensure in Illinois. Student teachers often design instructional units, create assessment plans, and teach students.|
Master's Degree in Teaching
|Curriculum Design||This class examines best practices and policies for creating curricula. The course covers organization and assessment, and students often design their own curriculum.|
|Educational Practices||Common in master’s programs, this course covers current research in education, trends and issues in the field, and research on best practices.|
|Pedagogy||This course in learning theories focuses on research-based instructional strategies and how to apply pedagogical theories in classroom instruction and assessment.|
Certification & Licensing Needed to Become a Teacher in Illinois
Each state sets requirements to earn a teaching certification or license. The Illinois State Board of Education manages the licensing process in the state. All teachers in public or recognized non-public schools must hold an Illinois Professional Educator License endorsed in an area such as elementary education, secondary education, special education, or early childhood education.
Candidates for an Illinois teaching license must hold at least a bachelor’s degree from a regionally-accredited institution, must have completed state-required coursework and 32 semester hours in a content area or major, and must have student-teaching experience.
Illinois also requires candidates to take a licensure test specific to their endorsement and content area. The Illinois Licensure Testing System administers these tests, each of which costs about $100. The licensing board reviews teaching-degree transcripts to ensure applicants meet all requirements.
Illinois does not offer full-license reciprocity with other states. Teachers who attend school in another state must meet additional licensure requirements, including holding a valid out-of-state teaching license, meeting degree and student-teaching requirements, and completing required tests. The Illinois State Board of Education may accept test results from another state or country. Prospective Illinois teachers must have completed coursework in methods of teaching reading, reading in the content area, methods of teaching special education, and methods of teaching bilingual students.
Teachers must register their newly obtained license in each county in which they plan to teach. Registration costs $10 per year, and one registration fee covers multiple regions. Licensed teachers must complete a renewal cycle every five years, which requires 120 hours of professional development and re-registering their license.
Choosing a Degree Program in Illinois
When evaluating teaching programs, prospective students should consider factors including cost, location, degree completion time, program requirements, and available specializations. Thoroughly researching degree programs ensures future teachers find the school that best fits their academic needs and interests.
Choosing to pursue a teaching degree online allows students to consider schools outside their geographic area, and currently employed teachers benefit from the flexibility of an online program. However, in-state programs often provide benefits, such as tuition discounts for state residents. In addition, Illinois certifies in-state teaching programs that meet the state’s licensing requirements, which simplifies the licensing process for graduates.
Most full-time students complete their bachelor's degree in four years, and those with transfer credit can graduate more quickly.
Students should research scholarships, grants, and loans to help set their budget. Most full-time students complete their bachelor's degree in four years, and those with transfer credit can graduate more quickly. Master’s degrees typically require an additional two years of full-time study.
Prospective students should also consider program requirements, including student-teaching components and available specializations. Students who plan to work in early childhood education, special education, or another field should ensure their program offers the appropriate specialization.
Can You Earn a Teaching Degree Online in Illinois?
Students who earn a teaching degree online in Illinois are qualified to obtain an Illinois teaching certificate. Illinois teaching licensure requires a bachelor’s degree from a regionally-accredited institution of higher education.
Students considering an online teaching program outside Illinois should ensure the program meets the state’s licensure requirements. For example, prospective Illinois teachers must complete 32 semester hours in a major or content area, along with coursework on teaching exceptional children, reading methods, content area reading, and methods of teaching English learners.
Accreditation is the most important factor when choosing an online teaching program. Candidates for teaching licensure in Illinois must hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally-accredited institution. The Higher Learning Commission awards regional accreditation to Illinois institutions.
Directory of Teaching Schools in Illinois
Paying for Your Teaching Degree in Illinois
Education students have several options for financing their degree. Scholarships and grants may cover the entire cost of a bachelor’s degree in education. The state of Illinois provides several grants and tuition waiver programs for prospective teachers, including the Golden Apple Scholars Program. Some state programs require recipients to teach in specific areas after graduation.
Teaching students can apply for federal loans and grants by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Applicants may receive federal funding such as direct loans, Perkins loans, and Stafford loans. Income-eligible students may also receive work-study opportunities.
Some teachers may qualify for tuition reimbursement programs through the state or through their school district. Currently employed teachers seeking a graduate degree or specialized degree may receive tuition reimbursement from their employer, the state government, or their college or university.
Many colleges and universities also offer funding packages for prospective teachers, which may include scholarships, grants, and loans.
Loan Forgiveness for Illinois Teachers
Loan forgiveness programs eliminate student loans based on professional contributions. Teachers qualify for loan forgiveness programs in many states. Most of these programs require recipients to meet teaching obligations, such as teaching a certain number of years at a low-income school.
The federal Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program provides up to $17,500 of loan forgiveness on direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans and on subsidized or unsubsidized federal Stafford loans. Qualifying teachers must have worked five consecutive years in a low-income school or educational service agency. Learn more about the program through the Federal Student Aid Office.
Illinois provides a teacher-loan repayment program through the Illinois Student Assistance Commission. The state-funded Illinois Teachers Loan Repayment Program offers awards to qualifying teachers who work in low-income areas. Applicants must be Illinois residents with at least five years of teaching experience at a low-income elementary or secondary school in Illinois.
Scholarships for Illinois Teaching Students
In addition to national scholarships, Illinois teaching students can apply for state scholarships, some of which cover the entire cost of tuition for a bachelor’s degree. Several of these scholarship programs receive state funding, including the Minority Teachers of Illinois Scholarship Program and the Illinois Special Education Teacher Tuition Waiver Program.
Golden Apple Scholars $23,000
TEACH Grant Illinois $4,000
Minority Teachers of Illinois Scholarship Program $5,000
Illinois Special Education Teacher Tuition Waiver Program Full tuition
Job Outlook and Salary for Teachers in Illinois
|Location||Employment||Annual Mean Wage|
Teachers in Illinois earn salaries slightly above the national average. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, teachers in the U.S. earn an average of $54,520 per year, and Illinois teachers average $57,480 per year. Individual teacher salaries vary based on position, geographic location, and the teacher's level of education.
Those who teach higher grade levels tend to earn higher salaries. Preschool teachers in Illinois earn the least, an average of $32,950 per year, while high school teachers average $70,130 per year. While high school teachers earn more, they must also hold higher qualifications. Preschool teachers in Illinois do not need a teaching license, while elementary and secondary teachers must hold a bachelor’s degree and licensure. Typically, teachers with a graduate degree earn more than teachers with a bachelor’s degree. According to the Illinois State Board of Education, more than 60% of Illinois K–12 teachers hold a master’s degree or higher.
Teacher salaries also vary by geographic location. Rural teachers typically earn less than those who work in metropolitan areas, such as Chicago. Prospective teachers should research salary levels for specific school districts and positions.
|Elementary School Teachers||$60,760|
|Middle School Teachers||$69,700|
|Secondary School Teachers||$70,130|
Frequently Asked Questions About Teaching in Illinois
How do I get an Illinois teaching certificate?
How long do Illinois teaching certificates last?
Which states accept Illinois teaching license?
Can you teach in Illinois without a teaching certificate?
How long does it take to get a teaching certificate in Illinois?
Resources for Teachers in Illinois
- Illinois State Board of Education The Illinois State Board of Education provides resources including information on earning a state teaching license, reports about the state’s schools, webinars, and board meeting reports. The board's website also offers information about grants for Illinois teachers, best practices in the classroom, and professional development resources.
- Illinois Education Association The Illinois Education Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association, promotes the interests of students and professionals in Illinois public education. Founded in 1853, IEA has more than 135,000 members and provides resources about Illinois learning standards, the licensing process, and grants. Members have access to a job board.
- Illinois Federation of Teachers With more than 100,000 members, the Illinois Federation of Teachers is the largest teachers’ union in the state. The union advocates for teacher contracts and offers professional resources and protections for members. The organization is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers.
- National Education Association NEA advances national public education through policy advocacy, educational research, and support for teachers. With more than three million members, NEA is the country’s largest professional employee organization. The association provides grants and professional development tools and organizes events for teachers across the nation.
- American Federation of Teachers The American Federation of Teachers comprises 1.7 million members, including K–12 teachers, early childhood educators, school staff, paraprofessionals, and higher education faculty and staff. The union advocates for high-quality public education and fairness for teachers.