State licensure is required to teach in any Illinois public school and many private schools. Through the Master of Science in Education Program, students will earn both the state license and a master's degree. Students earn a Professional Educator License (PEL) with an endorsement to teach at the elementary level (grades 1-6), or to teach a specific subject at the middle grades (grades 5-8) or high school (grade 9-12) level.

In order to earn your license, you must:

  • Take and pass the appropriate Illinois licensure tests.
  • Complete all content-related coursework for the subject you wish to teach.
  • Complete all required education-related coursework.
  • Successfully complete the licensure portfolio.

1. Licensure Tests

There are two tests required to become licensed, both offered through the Illinois Licensure Testing System:
  • Test of Academic Proficiency (TAP); ACT/SAT scores can be submitted in lieu of the TAP
  • Content Area (specific to the subject you will teach)

Only the TAP test should be taken before applying to the Master of Science in Education Program. Register for the complete TAP, which includes all four subtests, 401, 402, 403 and 404, in a single five-hour session. You can find test dates and register for the test on the ILTS website. You are responsible for your own test registration fees.

If you live out of state and can't take the TAP prior to the application deadline, we will review your file and make a provisional decision without the test. But you must take and pass the TAP as soon as possible after relocating 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 licensure manager will have more information about the Content Area test and will help you decide when to take it. In general, the Content Area test should be taken no later than Sept. 1 prior to student teaching.

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

Download this PDF to see the institutional pass rate information on Illinois testing requirements.

2. Content-Related Course Work

To be eligible for a PEL, you must show that you have a broad background in several different subject areas (many colleges have similar requirements simply to graduate). In addition, secondary teachers must have roughly the equivalent of an undergraduate major in the subject area that you wish to teach.

When you apply to the MSEd Program, our licensure manager will review your transcripts to see if you need to complete any additional undergraduate coursework to satisfy these requirements. Any necessary extra courses are referred to as "deficiencies." If you are admitted to the program, our licensure manager will review your undergraduate transcript and inform you of exactly how many deficiency courses you must take.

"Deficiency" courses must be taken at Northwestern and are considered to be additional degree requirements beyond the core 15-unit master's degree curriculum. Please note that these courses are not requirements for entry into our program; they are requirements for successful program completion and state licensure.

Please view the appropriate content area worksheet below (pdf links) to get a sense of what to expect from the official transcript review. Requirements listed on these documents are subject to change without notice. If you are admitted to the MSEd Program, please be sure to verify all "deficiency" courses with our licensure manager.

Elementary Teaching (1-6)

3. Education-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 education 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 an edTPA 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. The edTPA replaces what used to be a third required licensure test, the Assessment of Professional Teaching (APT).

Other Issues Related to Licensure

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 licensure manager for details.

Teaching in states outside of Illinois

Most states recognize other states' teaching licenses, 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 licensure test to actually completing additional college-level course work. 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 license before going to another state; it is much more difficult to get a license in another state if you are not already licensed.

International students

If you earned you 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 license 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 he or she 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.

Contact Us

Master of Science in Education School of Education & Social Policy

618 Garrett Place
Evanston, IL 60208
Northwestern University

Phone: 847/467-1458