Requirements for Early Childhood Education Jobs in Illinois

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 entities. 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.

As of 2012, the Preschool for All Program funded 461 entities and served nearly 79,000 students.

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.

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.)

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.



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

Preschool teaching was designated as an in-demand job in a recent report published by the Illinois Department of Economic Security. It projected preschool teaching to add the fourth highest number of jobs to Illinois’s economy of any single occupation in the ten-year period leading up to 2018. This department projected a job growth rate of 38% over this period.

A large number of preschool teachers are expected to leave the workforce and need to be replaced during the ten-year period leading up to 2022. Thus, 88.5% of the new preschool teacher jobs will come from this replacement.

The 2013 median preschool teacher salary in Illinois was $25,638. Preschool teachers entering the workforce averaged $20,373 a year, while those with experience earned $34,020 on average.

Illinois preschool teacher salaries varied a great deal throughout the state. The median salary was highest in Kankakee while experienced teachers earned the most in Lake Kenosha:

Illinois Salary
Lake Kenosha

Illinois had the fourth highest preschool teacher employment level in the country in 2013 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The Chicago area had the second highest employment level in this field of any metropolitan area in the country that year. 68.3% of Illinois’ preschool teachers were located in the Chicago area.

The BLS provides a detailed analysis of 2013 Pre-K teacher salaries throughout Illinois:

Area name
Annual mean wage
Bloomington-Normal IL
Cape Girardeau-Jackson MO-IL
Champaign-Urbana IL
Chicago-Joliet-Naperville IL Metropolitan Division
Chicago-Joliet-Naperville IL-IN-WI
Danville IL
Davenport-Moline-Rock Island IA-IL
Decatur IL
Kankakee-Bradley IL
Lake County-Kenosha County IL-WI Metropolitan Division
Peoria IL
Rockford IL
St. Louis MO-IL
Springfield IL
Northwest Illinois nonmetropolitan area
West Central Illinois nonmetropolitan area
East Central Illinois nonmetropolitan area
South Illinois nonmetropolitan area

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