Education Requirements for Becoming an English Teacher in Illinois

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Becoming a language arts teacher in Illinois will prove to be a challenging and rewarding career. This job will allow you to help shape the minds and futures of students and give them skills that will remain with them over the course of their life.

You will have a hand in teaching written language skills that will help them function in their daily lives, both at work and at home. You will also have the opportunity to expose children to the beauty of language and teach them how to use it well. Imagine being the English teacher for someone such as orator William Jennings Bryan or broadcasting executive William S. Paley? You may have the opportunity knowing that one of your students became a success due in part to your influence. When you are ready to take the steps to become a teacher in Illinois, look over the following information for general guidance:

Choose a Degree and Teaching Program
Pass Illinois Exams
Apply for Illinois Licensure
Continue Your License with Education Credits



Step 1. Choose a Degree and Teaching Program

Beginning your educational planning to become a teacher in Illinois means there are some things to take into consideration before registering for school. The first decision to make is choosing a degree to complete in order to gain a teaching license. You will have to have at least a bachelor’s degree, but you can optimize your education by completing a master’s program at this point.

The next decision: what age of student do you prefer? If you plan to teach younger children, you will need a general educational degree that prepares you to teach in your specific grades. These are sometimes broken down by preK-third grade, grades K-6, and sometimes K-8, depending on the school.

If you prefer teaching older students, your degree will focus primarily on language arts. The entire process will take you approximately four years as a full-time student in a bachelor’s program and an additional year or two for the master’s.

The final decision will be selecting a school to attend. Illinois educational system has designated certain school programs for teaching. Look over the list and decide which one you are interested in. You will then meet with a counselor at that school who can answer any questions you have. It’s important to note that no matter which school you choose, you want to ensure that it is on the approved list otherwise your degree may not qualify for licensing.

If you have already gone to school and have a degree, there may be alternate options for you. Illinois has specific licensing programs that can meet your needs without you starting over.

These programs will change from time to time and may depend on how many teachers they need. The greater the need, the more flexible they are likely to be. If you already earned a degree, check with the Illinois Board of Education for possible programs available at this time.

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Step 2. Pass Illinois Exams

With your degree in place, you are ready for step two: testing.

The division that is responsible for teacher testing in Illinois is known as ILTS (Illinois Licensure Testing System). This organization has determined that there are certain tests that will show you are prepared to teach in your subject area. These tests will be both specific and basic in content. You will have tests that cover general educational information such as math and reading. You will also take a content exam that proves your proficient in language arts at your appropriate grade level.

Once you have determined which tests are right for you, you can register and take the proper exams. It is suggested that you meet with your school counselor prior to getting to this point so that you sign up for the right tests. Sometimes the requirements change and it is up to you to make sure you take the correct tests.

For any new teacher wishing to teach language arts, follow these steps for testing:

  • Look at the testing checklist for all the necessary information you may need prior to registration.
  • Look over the rules for testing.
  • Confirm with your counselor that you are selecting the right tests.
  • Register for the appropriate tests.



Step 3. Apply for Illinois Licensure

The process for completing your license is in the final stage. At this point, with your education and testing completed, now all that’s left is the licensing process. In order to complete this step, you will need to gather all your supporting documents you have gained throughout these last two steps. Make sure to have the following on hand:

  • A sealed official copy of your college transcripts.
  • A copy of your test scores showing that you met this requirement.
  • Your social security card and drivers license.

There are several possible licensing options in Illinois:

Provisional Educator License Checklist:

This is the initial license awarded to you if you have completed all the steps above including:

  • Hold a Bachelor’s Degree or a Master’s Degree.
  • Pass TAP test
  • Pass content-area testing
  • Compete 15 semester hours in Language Arts

Alternative Provisional Educator:

This licenses is given to students who chose an alternative licensing educational program and who have completed the following:

  • Hold a Bachelor’s Degree or a Master’s Degree.
  • Pass TAP test
  • Pass content-area testing
  • Complete the first portion for Alternative Educator License Program (for Teachers).

Resident Teacher:

This license allows you to teach while you are enrolled in a teacher prep program. You will not be on your own in a class, however. During this program you will have a veteran mentor teacher assigned to help you through the process (ISBE indicates that this program will not be valid after 6/30/17). The basic requirements are as follows:

  • Hold a Bachelor’s Degree or a Master’s Degree.
  • Pass TAP test
  • Pass content-area testing
  • Enrolled in the teacher prep program

If you are ready to complete the licensing step, you can begin your application for licensing in Illinois now. If you have questions regarding specific endorsements, processes, or other requirements needed for licensing, you can access the ISBE FAQ section and find detailed information that should be helpful.



Step 4. Continue Your License with Education Credits

During your first five years of teaching and each five years after, there will be a set number of educational units you need to earn in order to renew. In December of 2103 Illinois implemented Public Act 98-610 and new license renewal requirements went into effect.

All teachers seeking renewal must access the Educator Licensure Information System (ELIS) to record their units earned and apply for renewal. Units are now counted as one clock hour of work completed. This means for every professional development unit you complete, you will receive one hour of credit. You will have to earn 120 clock hours of credit each five years you renew your teaching license.

If you plan on earning credits at a local university or college, your credits will count as 15 clock hours per semester hour. This translates into a typical three-hour semester course awarding you forty-five hours of credits. To fulfill all the 120 hours, you would need to complete three typical college semester courses to fulfill the continuing education requirement.

It is advised that you check with ISBE prior to enrolling in any program. They will have a list of acceptable options for you to consider.



Chicago English Teacher Salaries

Chicago is the largest city in Illinois with more than 3 million people. When we think of Illinois we often think of Chicago not Glenview, Highland Park, Mokena, New Lenox, or Park Ridge. All of these smaller cities in Illinois are just some of the more rural places that are available to teachers who would rather skip the city life of Chicago and teach in the outlying towns that make up most of Illinois. If you are considering a career in teaching one thing to look at are the differing salary schedules of the school districts across Chicago schools. Teacher’s salaries in Illinois can change depending on which district you choose to serve.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the average teacher salary in Illinois for all teachers was $58,320 in 2013. This average will change when other things are factored in. For example, if you hold a higher degree you will likely earn a higher salary. If you stay with the same school district for your entire career you will probably earn the maximum salary available on a step scale.

The minimums and maximums of all salaries are dependent on time on the job; number of units taken past the initial bachelor’s degree, and whether of not a post graduate degree has been added. Below are examples of two school districts in Chicago for an English teacher salary that show the minimum that an English teacher would make at the start of their career and the most they could ever make if they maximize their earning potential:


  • Minimum entry level: $53,209
  • Maximum experienced level: $114,239


  • Minimum entry level: $37,945
  • Maximum experienced level: $92,683

To look at other county and city school district salaries across Illinois view the table below:

Area Name
Annual Median Salary
Chicago-Joliet-Naperville IL Metropolitan Division
Chicago-Joliet-Naperville IL-IN-WI
Davenport-Moline-Rock Island IA-IL
Lake County-Kenosha County IL-WI Metropolitan Division
Estimate Not Released
St. Louis MO-IL
Northwest Illinois nonmetropolitan area
West Central Illinois nonmetropolitan area
East Central Illinois nonmetropolitan area
South Illinois nonmetropolitan area

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