Early Childhood Teacher Certification in Illinois

Illinois Early Childhood Education

Illinois, known as the “Prairie State”, earns average rankings for its overall public education system but excellent rankings for early childhood education. It is ranked the 28th state in the nation for education, receiving an overall state grade of “C+” in Education Week’s 2013 annual rankings. The state earned its highest grade of “A-” in the Standards, Assessments, and Accountability category.

While many states are reducing funding for early childhood education, Illinois gives it top priority and continues to increase funding to make preschool accessible to more children. It is seen as a national leader for early childhood education, ranking second in the country in 2007 for the number of three-year-olds enrolled in preschool. Overall, there is a great variety of opportunities for individuals interested in pursuing a career in early childhood education in the state of Illinois.

Earning Teacher Certification/Licensure in Illinois

The Illinois State Board of Education includes extensive information about how to obtain certification/licensure. You will need to familiarize yourself with this site, as it contains many resources valuable to both aspiring teachers and current teachers.

Applicants can earn endorsements to teach early childhood education (birth through grade three) or elementary education (K through nine). The three main types of licenses are the Professional Educator License (PEL), Educator License with Stipulations (ELS), and Substitute License. View the requirements for obtaining these licenses here. Out-of-state applicants may receive licensure if they have met certification requirements similar to those required in Illinois. There are also a few alternative routes to licensure, including the Troops to Teachers program, which assists former members of the military as they transition into a new career as a public school teacher.


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To apply, create an Educator Licensure Information System (ELIS) account, and submit the appropriate documentation, such as transcripts, test scores, application fees and more. The application process takes six to eight weeks. Please see the Frequently Asked Questions page or contact the Regional Office of Education if you have any further questions about the certification/licensure process.

Illinois ECE Programs

There are about 40 early childhood education degree programs in Illinois.

is a public research university offering bachelor’s degrees in early childhood and elementary education, as well as master’s and doctoral options. The University of Illinois at Chicago offers similar programs, as well.

is the oldest public school in the state and has over 20,000 students. It offers bachelor’s degrees in early childhood and elementary education, as well as a few master’s and doctoral options.

is the largest Catholic school in the country and offers both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in early childhood and elementary education. The school has two primary campuses in Chicago and three suburban campuses.

is a private urban university offering both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in early childhood and elementary education. The school prides itself on its ideal of social justice and aims to be a catalyst for social change.

The Job Search for Teaching Positions in Illinois

There are several avenues you can take to pursue a career in this dynamic field.

Public schools employ the vast majority of career seekers in early childhood education. The Illinois Education Job Bank is a free service that allows users to create online resumes, search job postings by county, correspond with employers and more.

Other employers to become familiar with are private schools, Head Start and Montessori schools. Be sure to research the child-care centers in your local area, as many of these centers are in constant need of highly qualified teachers and assistant teachers. GreatSchools.org can also help you find top-rated preschools and elementary schools in your community.

Professional Organizations for Illinois Teachers

There are many professional organizations for teachers in the state of Illinois, all sharing similar visions.

The Illinois Education Association (IEA) was founded in 1853 and represents more than 133,000 public school teachers and educators across the state. It aims to improve both the profession and local public schools. It provides union benefits and is affiliated with the National Education Association (NEA), the nation’s largest professional employee organization, with three million members in over 14,000 communities across the country.


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The Illinois Association for the Education of Young Children (IAEYC) increases public awareness of the importance of early childhood education. The organization has been providing professional development for educators since 1969, and is the largest early childhood organization in the state, with over 3,200 members. The group’s main goal is to help children from birth through age eight, as well as their families. It is also an affiliate of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), an organization consisting of 80,000 members.

There is also a variety of organizations for teachers based on specific areas of interest, including the Illinois Council of Teachers of Mathematics (ICTM), Illinois Science Teachers Association (ISTA), Illinois Council for the Social Studies (ICSS), and Illinois Reading Council (IRC).

Interesting Illinois Teacher Bloggers

The Chicago-Sun Times education section covers hot topics, issues and events in Illinois schools. Many Illinois teachers also share insights and information through their personal blogs.

Kindergarten Hoppenings is the creation of a kindergarten teacher of over ten years who shares lesson plan ideas for early elementary classrooms.

A Tale of 2 First Grades is written by two first-grade teachers who love technology and creating unique experiences for students.

First Grade Friends is written by a first-grade teacher who tells about her experiences in the classroom while collaborating with other early childhood educators.

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