How to Become an Early Childhood Teacher in Illinois

An ECE Illinois Degree & Career Guide

Requirements for ECE Teacher Certification in Illinois

Those interested in a career in education and, specifically, if you want to work with young children, then you'll want to pursue a degree in childhood education. This area of education became recognized as highly beneficial because of research compiled by various governmental organizations and the Department of Education. The studies all demonstrated that the earliest years of a child can be the most critical to developing their learning ability.

Based on information put out by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), it is believed that early childhood education is going to be one of the fastest growing segments of the workforce over the next few years. In fact, some evidence suggests that it could have a growth rate of as much as 20%, which would make it one of the fastest growing segments of the workforce in the US. Teachers who want to follow this career path would want to get at least a bachelor's degree in an area of early childhood education.

Illinois Steps to Follow for Teachers

In order to lead an early childhood education classroom, it will be necessary to earn a teacher's license and meet other qualifications required by the state. For those who want to have the greatest chance of upward mobility, it might also be necessary to earn their master's degree. A postgraduate degree in early childhood education can allow the individual to specialize and these specializations will give you a choice of educator positions.

Step 1. Successfully Complete A State-Approved Preparation Program

Illinois requires that all preschool teachers successfully complete a preparation program approved by the state. This means that you must meet all the teaching requirements and complete the coursework within the program. At a minimum, you will need to earn a bachelor's degree. Depending on the program that you choose to complete it could also result in earning an M.Ed. or an M.A.T. degree. There's also an option that could result in a post-baccalaureate certificate that is not a degree, but this is only a possibility for those who already have a bachelor's degree but haven't completed a teacher preparation program.

At this time, there are over two dozen educator preparation programs offered in Illinois in the area of early childhood education. To be able to work with children from the ages of birth to grade 3, it will be necessary to successfully navigate one of these childhood teacher preparation programs to get your teaching license in the state. The state requires that you graduate from a program with a minimum grade average of C or better to be approved for your licensure.

Before starting any program in Early Education, make certain that it meets the Illinois Early Learning and Development Standards also known as (IELDS). These programs are made so that they can achieve reasonable expectations in the growth, development, and learning of preschool students. All of the state approved programs will meet these standards.

When you enter a program in early childhood education the state requires that it include these minimum components:

- Bachelor's Degree
  • The degree must be from a regionally accredited University or college.
  • The Degree must meet the required standards
  • The degree must have included a minimum of 30 semester hours specifically in the field of early childhood education.
- Gain Experience

A teacher has to gain experience; this is often accomplished by working as an aid in the field of education. There are several different options available to a person that is aspiring to become a preschool or early childhood educator to gain the required experience.

Some of these choices include:

  • Become a teacher’s assistant
  • Work at a day care
  • Be a coach
  • Tutoring
  • Be a substitute teacher
- Additional Requirements

To qualify an individual will need to complete three semester hours of cross-categorical methods of the exceptional child, 3 semester hours in English as a second language, and 6 semester hours for methods of teaching reading. It may also be necessary to take T.A.P., which further tests your knowledge of mathematics, language arts, writing, and reading comprehension. If you have taken the SAT, ACT, or GRE with satisfactory scores then you will usually not have to take TAP.

Step 2. Content Examination In ECD

Once you have completed all the steps and successfully finished the preparation program you will then need to pass the ‘Content Examination’ for early childhood education. This will be administered by the Illinois Licensure Testing System (ILTS). Test 107 is an examination in early childhood education and is computer-based.

This exam will have a total of 125 questions that are multiple choice. You are given a time limit of 3 hours 45 minutes to finish the examination. You will need to pay a fee of $135 that covers all the tests. In the state, there are 30 approved testing centers.

The ILTS offers preparation materials that can be used to study for the examination. It is advised that you use these materials and put in the necessary preparation time before taking the exam. If you were to fail, you would need to pay to retest and there may be some delay between when you took the exam the first time and when you can again.

Step 3. Get Your Professional Educator License

Once you have successfully completed the preparation program, the university or college you attended will let the Board of Education know through the Educator Licensure Information System (ELIS). They will inform them that you now qualify to receive your professional educator license. The name of this process is called ‘Entitlement’.

When the Board of Education receives this information, notifying them of the fact that you have indeed completed all the necessary coursework and other requirements that ‘Entitle’ you to an Illinois educator license, you will be able to apply for licensure through their website. You will find that there is a badge on your ELIS home screen and this is when you should put in your application. It will be necessary for you to click on that badge and subsequently submit the application along with its required fee in order to get your professional educator license.

Step 4. Officially Register Your License

Even if you get your license it still won't be valid until you register it. You'll need to do this at the Regional Superintendent of Schools in the area in which you work and live. There is a fee of $50 to complete the registration and the license will then be valid for 5 years. It isn't valid until the registration is completed.

You will want to log into your ELIS account to pay the fee and register it there. It will be necessary to give them evidence that you have completed the appropriate professional development and that proof needs to go to the Regional Office of Education. Your degree is the determining factor of the required professional development. Those who have a bachelor's degree need at least 120 hours. Those with a master's degree needed at least 80 hours. The advanced degrees require 40 hours as does the national board certification.

Popular Career Choices

  • Preschool Teacher
  • Kindergarten Teacher
  • Elementary School Teacher
  • Special Education Teacher

Accredited Illinois Programs

If you are attending a college in Illinois to prepare to be a teacher, you want to make sure the institution you attend is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). You might also want to keep your eyes open for any programs accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). If you can find a program that has both forms of accreditation, you are guaranteed to receive a quality education degree.

Here are some schools in Illinois that provide programs in Early Childhood Education:

  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

    Located in the cities or Urbana and Champaign, this University of Illinois campus holds the second largest university library in the US on its campus and is part of the University of Illinois System.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Early Childhood Education and Teaching; B.S. & M.S.
    • Education, General and Other; B.S., M.S., Dr., & Post-grad Certificate
    • Educational Leadership and Administration; M.S. & Dr.
    • Elementary Education and Teaching; B.S. & M.S.
    • Special Education and Teaching; B.S., M.S., & Dr.
    • Teaching English as a Second Language; M.S.

    Accreditation By: Regional Accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission

  • Illinois State University

    Founded in 1857, Illinois State University is recognized as one of the top ten largest producers of teachers in the US.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Administration of Special Education; Post-grad Certificate
    • Curriculum and Instruction; M.S. & Dr.
    • Early Childhood Education and Teaching; B.S.
    • Education and Teaching of Individuals with Hearing Impairments; Post-grad Certificate
    • Education and Teaching of Individuals with Vision Impairments; Post-grad Certificate
    • Educational Administration and Supervision; Post-grad Certificate
    • Educational Leadership and Administration; M.S., Dr., & Post-grad Certificate
    • Elementary Education and Teaching; B.S.
    • Reading Teacher Education; M.S.
    • Special Education and Teaching; B.S., M.S., Dr., & Post-grad Certificate
    • Teaching English as a Second Language; Post-grad Certificate

    Accreditation By: Regional Accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission & Education Program Accreditation by CAEP (through 2019, check for renewal)

  • Governors State University

    Governors State University has four colleges located on its campus, 30 miles south of Chicago.

    Degrees Offered:

    • School Counseling and Guidance Services; Dr.
    • Curriculum and Instruction; M.S.
    • Early Childhood Education and Teaching; B.S. & M.S.
    • Education/Teaching of Individuals with Multiple Disabilities; M.S.
    • Education/Teaching of Individuals with Traumatic Brain Injuries; Post-grad Certificate
    • Educational Leadership and Administration; M.S.
    • Elementary Education and Teaching; B.S.
    • Reading Teacher Education; M.S. & Post-grad Certificate

    Accreditation By: Regional Accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission & Education Program Accreditation by CAEP (through 2019, check for renewal)

  • Aurora University

    Also near Chicago, Aurora University is a liberal arts college offering 40 undergraduate majors, including many in Education.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Bilingual and Multilingual Education, M.S.
    • Curriculum and Instruction; M.S. & Dr.
    • Education/Teaching of Individuals in Early Childhood Special Education Programs; B.S.
    • Educational Leadership and Administration; M.S. & Dr.
    • Elementary Education and Teaching; B.S. & M.S.
    • Physical Education Teaching and Coaching; B.S.
    • Reading Teacher Education; M.S.
    • Special Education and Teaching; B.S. & M.S.

    Accreditation By: Regional Accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission & Education Program Accreditation by CAEP (through 2021, check for renewal)

Career Options and Salary Info for Teachers

According to the Illinois Department of Economic Security, as of 2018 preschool teachers were designated as an in-demand job. According to its projections, this career choice will be among the top four jobs with the most growth in the state over the next 10 years. In fact, some projections suggest that the growth rate will be close to 40%.

There are a significant number of preschool teachers currently in the system who are expected to retire over that 10-year period. That means that a majority of new Preschool teachers will be utilized to replace those that are retiring. The starting salaries in earning potential vary depending on factors such as location, experience, and time on the job.

On the low end, a preschool teacher can earn about $20,000 a year and on the top end, they can earn upwards of over $55,000 a year. The average median income of a preschool teacher in the state is about $35,000 a year. With the expected growth rate over the next 10 years, there is the possibility that increases in average salaries will take place to attract the necessary candidates.

This state currently has the fourth-highest employment levels for preschool teachers in the entire country. Chicago has the second highest in the field for any major metropolitan area. Almost 70% of the Preschool teachers in the state are in the Chicago City area.

Occupations/Salaries
OccupationEntry-LevelMid-CareerLate-Career
Preschool Teacher$27,000$39,000$50,000
Elementary School Teacher$41,400$49,100$62,000
Special Education Teacher$30,000$48,000$79,000
Elementary School Principle$74,000$105,000$143,000
Elementary School Administrator$51,700$74,300$82,600

Videos To Help You Find The Right Career Choices

  • Teach Special Education

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2XsaK3pWyII

  • A day in the life of a Special Education teacher

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qh1meBo_m1w

  • Co-Teaching Model for Special Education

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pIe6CZX6PM

  • What makes a good teacher great? | Azul Terronez | TEDxSantoDomingo

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vrU6YJle6Q4

  • Differentiated Instruction in the Classroom at Mesquite Elementary School

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t7kcFkRgiV4

  • Alternative (Differentiated) Teaching

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fr-S5CGDXBQ

Find Preschool Teacher and Early Childhood Education Jobs in Illinois

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