Requirements for Early Childhood Education Jobs in Illinois

A focus on preschool education in Illinois goes back more than 30 years. In 1985, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) adopted a policy on early childhood education and was authorized to extend grants to school districts that operate pre-kindergarten programs for children ages 3 to 5.

As of 2004, these grants were extended to other eligible early learning centers, including private preschools. Known as the Preschool for All Program, the ISBE established the program in 2007 as a way to serve children who are at risk of academic failure because of their home and community environment, or children whose family income is less than four times the federal poverty level.

By 2012, the Preschool for All Program was funding 461 schools and learning centers and served nearly 79,000 students. It has firmly entrenched the idea of early childhood education in the minds of parents around Illinois.

That makes the state a great place to work for someone with the dedication and commitment to take on a career in early childhood education. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Illinois is the state with the fifth highest employment level for preschool teachers and administrators in the nation, and also has the fourth highest concentration of teachers nationwide. When you have the heart for the job and have demonstrated the devotion to improving your skills and education in service of the next generation, it’s nice to know that the state has your back.

Any preschool teacher in the State of Illinois working in a public school system or working under the Preschool for All Program must have a current Illinois professional educator license with an early childhood education endorsement, which requires the successful completion of the following:

Complete a State-Approved Preparation Program
Take the Content Examination in Early Childhood Education
Apply for a Professional Educator License
Register your Teaching License



Step 1. Complete a State-Approved Preparation Program

To work as a preschool teacher in Illinois, you must complete a state-approved preparation program, which requires meeting all coursework and student teaching requirements within the program.

All preparation programs in Illinois must result in a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. There are a number of programs that culminate in a master’s degree (usually an M.Ed. or M.A.T. degree) or in a post-baccalaureate (non-degree) certificate for candidates who already possess a bachelor’s degree but have not completed a teacher preparation program.

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There are currently 28 educator preparation programs in Illinois in early childhood education. You must complete an early childhood teacher preparation program to earn an early childhood (birth to grade 3) teaching license in Illinois. You must also graduate with a C-average or better to qualify for licensure.

All programs in early childhood education must meet the Illinois Early Learning and Development Standards (IELDS), which are designed to provide reasonable expectations for growth, development, and learning in the preschool years.

All teacher preparation programs in Illinois in early childhood education must include the following components, at a minimum (also required for educators seeking a professional educator license who were trained out of the state or country):

  • A bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university
  • At least 32 semester hours in the early childhood education content area
  • A student teaching (or equivalent) teaching experience
  • At least 3 semester hours in Cross-Categorical Methods of the Exceptional Child
  • At least 6 semester hours in Methods of Teaching Reading and reading in the content area
  • At least 3 semester hours in ESL/bilingual methods

Note: You may have to take and pass the Test of Academic Proficiency (TAP), a set of four, independently scored subtests in reading comprehension, language arts, mathematics, and writing before being admitted to a teacher preparation program if you have not already taken an acceptable examination (e.g., SAT, ACT, GRE, etc.). You can learn more about the TAP here.



Step 2. Take the Content Examination in Early Childhood Education

Upon completing your teacher preparation program, you must take and pass the Early Childhood Education content examination administered by the Illinois Licensure Testing System (ILTS).

The Early Childhood Education (test 107) examination is a computer-based test that consists of 125 multiple-choice questions. You will have 3 hours and 45 minutes to complete this examination. The cost of this examination is $135, and all tests are administered by Pearson Vue. There are 30 Pearson Vue testing centers in Illinois where you can take the exam.

You can prepare for this examination by reviewing the ILTS Early Childhood Education Preparation Materials.

Note: You should consult with your college advisor about the recommended time for taking the examination if you are in an Illinois-approved educator preparation program.



Step 3. Apply for a Professional Educator License

Upon completion of your educator preparation program, the college or university will notify the Board of Education via the Educator Licensure Information System (ELIS) that you qualify for a professional educator license. (This process is referred to as entitlement.)

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By entering the notification, the institution is confirming that you have completed all coursework and testing requirements to achieve an Illinois educator license. After the university enters the notification, you will see a badge on your ELIS home screen that alerts you to apply for your entitlement notification. You must click on the badge to submit your application and fee for your professional educator license.

Ready to get started? Check out our comprehensive list of ECE degrees by State at various levels to determine what program is right for you.


Step 4. Register your Teaching License

For your Illinois teaching license to be valid, you must register it with the Regional Superintendent of Schools where you work or live. The registration fee is $50 for a five-year professional educator license. Your license is NOT valid until you register it.

You must log onto your ELIS account to complete the license registration procedure and pay the appropriate fee online. You must submit evidence of the completion of the appropriate professional development to your Regional Office of Education.

The required professional development will depend on your current degree:

  • Bachelor’s degree: At least 120 hours
  • Master’s degree: At least 80 hours
  • Two+ advanced degrees: At least 40 hours
  • National Board Certification: At least 40 hours

You may also satisfy your professional development requirements if you complete at least ONE uniquely qualifying activity. A uniquely qualifying activity may include: earning an advanced degree; completing the National Board Certification program; earning a new IL endorsement; or becoming highly qualified in a new area.

Additional information on professional development activities and requirements can be found here.

Illinois Preschool Teacher Salaries

Illinois preschool teachers and administrators tend to earn salaries that are right in line with the national median in their respective professions, according to 2018 BLS data (presented for the median, top 25, and top 10 percent):

Preschool Administrators: $48,980 – $61,890 – $113,900

Preschool Teacher: $29,090 – $36,050 – $44,730

Preschool Special Educator: $56,600 – $67,510 – $79,660

At the high end, however, Illinois preschool administrators come out far ahead of their national counterparts, making salaries over $100,000 versus the national average of $83,730 for the top ten percent.

Job growth for teachers is also in line with the national rate according to the state Department of Employment Security, hovering at around 10 percent for the decade spanning 2016-2026. Administrators will see 9.3 percent job growth during that same period, while special education teachers will only have a 3.3 percent increase.

Altogether, however, the market for early childhood educators in the state is expected to have more than 2,500 openings each year, from both existing teachers transitioning to retirement and new job creation.


Chicago has the second highest employment level of any metro area in the country for preschool teachers, and comes in at number three for both preschool administrators and special educators. They also enjoy some of the highest pay levels in the state, working at schools like:

  • Chicago Public Schools
  • Urban Child Academy
  • The Gardner School of Chicago
  • GEMS Chicago Early Years
  • Chicago Preschool Academy
  • The Goddard School
  • Lincoln Park Preschool and Kindergarten
  • Chicago Waldorf School
  • Sinai Preschool
  • Beverly Montessori

At schools and Head Start programs in the greater Chicago area, preschool teachers, early childhood special educators, and administrators can expect to earn salaries within these ranges:

Preschool Administrators

  • Median – $51,840
  • 75th Percentile – $64,450
  • 90th Percentile – $120,400

Preschool Teachers

  • Median – $29,390
  • 75th Percentile – $36,090
  • 90th Percentile – $43,570

Special Education Preschool Teachers

  • Median – $56,030
  • 75th Percentile – $67,320
  • 90th Percentile – $79,730


Rockford teachers and administrators come pretty close to matching the high Chicagoland salary numbers, while the Forest City offers a far different working environment than the heavily urbanized region in the south.

  • Rockford Public Schools
  • Montessori Private Academy
  • Spectrum Progressive School
  • Alpine Academy of Rockford
  • Christian Life Schools
  • Beyer Early Childhood Center
  • Westminster Presbyterian Church Preschool
  • KinderCare

At public and private preschools in Rockford, teachers and administrators can expect to earn salaries within these ranges

Preschool Administrators

  • Median – $50,110
  • 75th Percentile – $70,470
  • 90th Percentile – $91,070

Preschool Teachers

  • Median – $28,090
  • 75th Percentile – $40,070
  • 90th Percentile – $56,700


In addition to major chains like KinderCare, Peoria has a good assortment of smaller local and religious preschools seeking teachers and administrators:

  • Peoria Public School District
  • Montessori School of Peoria
  • First Federated Preschool
  • Peoria Academy
  • Redeemer Early Learning Center
  • A+ Children’s Academy
  • Salem Lutheran Preschool
  • KinderCare

At preschools and learning centers in Peoria, teachers and administrators can expect to earn salaries that fall within this range:

Preschool Teachers

  • Median – $29,180
  • 75th Percentile – $37,760
  • 90th Percentile – $48,970


Preschool teachers and administrators in Springfield can find positions in some of the following public or private preschools:

  • Springfield Public Schools
  • John’s Luther Preschools
  • Westminster Cooperative Preschool
  • Building Blocks Preschool
  • Silverleaf Children’s Academy
  • The Goddard School

At preschools and learning centers in Peoria, teachers and administrators can expect to earn salaries that fall within these ranges:

Preschool Administrators

  • Median – $48,050
  • 75th Percentile – $56,440
  • 90th Percentile – $62,670

Preschool Teachers

  • Median – $27,040
  • 75th Percentile – $31,270
  • 90th Percentile – $39,600
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Salary and employment data compiled by the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics in May of 2018 for preschool teachers, preschool special education teachers and preschool administrators – The BLS salary data shown here represents median – 90th percentile salary ranges for the state and its MSAs (Metropolitan Statistical Areas) and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries.

 Job growth projections sourced from the Illinois Department of Employment Security and published in the U.S. Department of Labor-funded Long Term Occupational Projections (2016-2026) database – Employment conditions in your area may vary.

All salary and job growth data accessed in September 2019.

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