Licensure

Licensure

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 test(s).
  • Complete all content-related coursework for the subject you want to teach.
  • Complete all required education-related coursework.
  • Successfully complete the licensure portfolio.

1. Licensure Tests

A content area test specific to the subject you will teach is required to become licensed. The test is offered through the Illinois Licensure Testing System. Elementary teachers only need to take one test; secondary teachers need to take separate content area tests for middle grades and high school.

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. You can find test dates and register for the test on the ILTS website . You are responsible for your own test registration fees.

Please note that we can't 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 sufficient coursework in the content area you want to teach. Elementary teachers must have a broad background in several different subject areas, as they are responsible for teaching all subject areas to their students. Secondary teachers must have roughly the equivalent of an undergraduate major in the subject area that they'd like 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 content-area licensure requirements.

Content-area licensure requirements are considered additional degree requirements beyond the core 15-unit master's degree curriculum. These courses are to be taken at Northwestern, unless approved by petition. Note that these courses are not requirements for entry into our program; they are requirements to successfully complete the program and state licensure.

Please view the appropriate content area list below to get a sense of what to expect from the official transcript review. In order for a course to be counted, the candidate must have received a grade of "C" or higher. Courses in which the candidate received a grade of "C-" or lower will not be counted. Licensure requirements are subject to change. If you are admitted to the MSEd Program, please be sure to verify all content-area licensure requirements with our licensure manager.

Licensure requirements by content area

Natural sciences: Coursework covering at least three of the following areas:

  • physical science
  • life science
  • earth science
  • space/astronomy


Math: 2 courses (math or statistics only; linguistics, logic, and other non-math "quantitative" courses will not satisfy this requirement)

Social/Behavioral Science: Coursework covering at least four of the following areas:

  • history
  • economics
  • political science
  • geography
  • Illinois consitution and economics


Literature/Fine Arts: 2 courses

  • 1 earth science course
  • 1 astronomy course
  • first year college physics
  • first year college general chemistry (including labs)
  • 18 semester hours in biology, including:
    • first year college biology (including labs)
    • 3 upper division (300-level) biology courses
  • 1 earth science course
  • 1 astronomy course
  • first year college biology
  • first year college physics
  • 18 semester hours in chemistry, including:
    • first year general college chemistry (including labs)
    • organic chemistry and labs
    • 3 upper division (300-level) chemistry courses
  • 32 total semester hours in Economics/Social Science (12 of which must be upper division/300-level), including:
    • 18 total semester hours in economics
    • 4 US history courses
    • 2 non-US history courses
    • 1 course in an additional social science area (not economics or history)

32 total semester hours in English (12 of which must be upper division/300-level), including:

  • 2-course survey in American or British literature
  • 2 courses in American or British literature (whichever was not covered above)
  • 1 course in close reading/literary analysis
  • 1 non-western/US racial minority literature course
  • 1 grammar, newswriting, linguistics, or poetry course
  • 5 additional literature courses
  • 32 total semester hours in History/Social Science (12 of which must be upper division/300-level), including:
    • 4 US history courses
    • 2 European or world history courses
    • 2 non-western history courses
    • 1 introduction to economics course
    • 1 American government or politics course
    • 2 "related social studies core" courses from the list below:
      • macroeconomics
      • microeconomics
      • introduction to comparative politics
      • introduction to international relations
      • North America (geography)
      • introduction to sociology
      • introduction to psychology
  • 32 total semester hours in Math (8 of which must be upper division/300-level), including:
    • differential calculus
    • integral calculus
    • differential calculus multivariable functions
    • multiple integration
    • linear algebra
    • statistics and/or probability
    • geometry
  • 1 earth science course
  • 1 astronomy course
  • first year college biology
  • first year college general chemistry (including labs)
  • 18 semester hours in physics, including:
    • first year college physics
    • 4 upper division (300-level) physics courses
  • 32 total semester hours in Political Science/Social Science (12 of which must be upper division/300-level), including:
    • 18 total semester hours in political science
    • 4 US history courses
    • 2 non-US history courses
    • 1 course in an additional social science area (not political science or history)
  • 32 total semester hours in Spanish (12 of which must be upper division/300-level), including:
    • 12 semester hours of Spanish language literature
    • 12 semester hours of Latin American/LatinX culture/history

3. Education-Related Course Work

You don't need to have any background in education coursework upon entry to the MSEd Program. The MSEd curriculum will satisfy all state-required education coursework. This includes observations, student teaching, and portfolio creation.


4. Licensure Portfolio

As you complete your fieldwork in the MSEd program, you will build an edTPA licensure portfolio. This includes artifacts such as lesson plans, videos, and assessments from classes you've taught during student teaching, as well as your reflections. 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

Consider getting a middle school endorsement if you want to teach at the middle school level (grades 6-8). Middle school endorsements are given for specific subject areas (mathematics, language arts, social studies, etc.). Earning a middle school endorsement will require taking two extra classes (you may use elective slots), and may require extra content-related course work. Speak to your adviser or the licensure manager for details.

Teaching outside of Illinois

Most states recognize other states' teaching licenses, meaning you can apply for a comparable license after earning your teaching certificate at Northwestern University.  You may have 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 plan to teach outside of Illinois 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 an undergraduate degree outside the United States, you must submit your transcripts to a private transcript evaluation service 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 under "International Resources." Additionally, non-US citizens applying for a teaching license must file a signed letter of intent with the Illinois State Board of Education indicating that he or she will apply for US citizenship either (1) within ten years of the date that the letter is filed or (2) at the earliest opportunity after the person becomes eligible to apply for US 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

Email: msedprogram@northwestern.edu