State certification is required to teach in any Illinois public school and many private schools. Through the Master of Science in Education Program, students earn both the state certificate and a master's degree. Elementary teachers earn a Professional Educator License (PEL) with an elementary teaching endorsement, which allows them to teach grades K-9.

In order to earn your certificate, you must do the following:
  • Take and pass the appropriate Illinois certification tests.
  • Complete all content-related coursework for the subject you wish to teach.
  • Complete all required pedagogy-related course work.
  • Successfully complete the licensure portfolio.

1. Certification Tests

There are three tests required to become certified, all offered through the Illinois Certification Testing Service:
  • Test of Academic Proficiency (TAP); this has replaced the Basic Skills test
  • Content Area (General Elementary)
  • Assessment of Professional Teaching (APT)
Only one of these tests, the TAP, should be taken before applying to the Master of Science in Eduation Program. Take test 400 and be sure to sign up for all four subtests. You can find test dates and register for the test on the ICTS website. You are responsible for your own test registration fees.

If you live out of state and are unable to take the TAP prior to the application deadline, we will review your file and make a provisional decision without the test. However, we will require that you take and pass the TAP as soon as possible upon relocation to Illinois. You must have a passing score on the TAP by the end of your first quarter in the Master of Science in Education Program.

Your adviser and Northwestern's certification manager will have more information about the Content Area and APT tests, and will help you decide when to take them.

Please note that we cannot accept certification tests from other states. To receive a PEL with an elementary teaching endorsement, you must take the tests offered through ILTS.

2. Content-Related Course Work

Chances are good that you have already completed all necessary content-related course work as part of your bachelor's degree. To be eligible for a PEL with an elementary teaching endorsement, you must show that you have a broad background in several different subject areas (many colleges have similar requirements simply to graduate). In addition, you must have an 18-semester hour "concentration" in a subject that is appropriate for an elementary classroom, including, but not limited to, one of the following: mathematics, biological or physical sciences, history, English, literature, foreign language, art, music, theatre, geography, psychology or sociology. Nine semester hours of this concentration must be upper-level course work, and none of the courses may be double-counted to fulfill general education requirements.

When you apply to the MSEd program, our certification manager will review your transcripts to see if you need to complete any extra course work to satisfy these requirements. Any such extra courses are referred to as "deficiencies." If admitted to the program, you will see the certification manager's transcript review showing any extra "deficiency" courses that you will be required to take.

"Deficiency" courses must be taken at Northwestern and do not count toward the completion of the master's degree. Please note that these course are not requirements for entry into our program; they are requirements for certification.

Please view the General Education Requirement worksheet so that you have an approximate idea of what to expect from the official transcript review. Requirements listed on this document are subject to change without notice. If you are admitted to the MSEd Program, please be sure to verify all "deficiency" courses with our certification manager.

3. Pedagogy-Related Course Work

You do not need to have any background in education course work upon entry to the MSEd program. The MSEd curriculum will satisfy all state-required pedagogy course work. This includes observations, student teaching and portfolio creation.

4. Licensure Portfolio

As you complete your field work in the MSEd program, you will build a licensure portfolio. This will include artifacts such as lesson plans, videos, and assessments from classes you have taught during student teaching, as well as your reflections on those artifacts. It is expected that this should be a thoughtful and critical analysis of your work, your present development and your understanding of learning and teaching. You will not pass student teaching or be recommended for licensure until your final portfolio has been approved.

Other Issues Related to Certification

Middle school endorsement
If you wish to teach at the middle school level (grades 6-8), you should consider getting a middle school endorsement. Middle school endorsements are given for specific subject areas (mathematics, language arts, social studies, etc.). Earning a middle school endorsement will require that you take two extra classes (you may use elective slots), and may require extra content-related course work. You may speak to your adviser or the certification manager for details.

Teaching in states outside of Illinois
Most states recognize other states' teaching certificates, meaning that you can apply for a comparable license in another state after earning your teaching certificate at Northwestern University. There may be additional requirements to get a standard certificate for the state you eventually teach in; this can range from simply taking a state-specific certification test to actually completing additional college-level coursework. The following portal provides links to the 50 states' boards of education. If you know you will be leaving Illinois to teach after graduating, you may want to investigate the target state's requirements. Note that even if you never teach in Illinois, you must first get an Illinois teaching certificate before going to another state; it is much more difficult to get a certificate in another state if you are not already certified.

International students
If you earned your undergraduate degree in a country other than the United States, you must submit your transcripts to a private transcript evaluation service that has been approved by the Illinois State Board of Education before applying to the program. A list of the approved transcript evaluation services is available on the Illinois State Board of Education's website. Additionally, any person applying for a teaching certificate who is not a citizen of the United States must file a signed letter of intent with the Illinois State Board of Education indicating that they will apply for U.S. citizenship either (1) within 10 years of the date that the letter is filed or (2) at the earliest opportunity after the person becomes eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship.
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Master of Science in Education
School of Education & Social Policy
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