How to Become a Physical Education Teacher in Illinois

The Illinois State Board of Education has projected that by 2018 roughly 1,835 physical education teachers will be needed statewide in order to adequately fill positions in Illinois public schools.

Follow these four steps to become a PE teacher in Illinois:

Step 1. Earn a Degree and Complete a PE Teacher Prep Program
Pass Illinois PE Teacher Licensure Examinations
Register and Update Your Illinois Teacher License
Add Physical Education and Grade-Level Endorsements

Illinois has recently begun to study the possibility of implementing a new strategy to improve physical fitness programs throughout the state. This has come as a result of recent studies that demonstrate clear links between healthy, physically active students and improved academic performance and test results.

Referred to as Enhanced Physical Education, the success of this proposed strategy depends largely on the highly motivated and well-qualified PEteachers who will carry it out.



Step 1. Earn a Degree and Complete a PE Teacher Prep Program

All applicants who wish to teach physical education in Illinois public schools must hold at least a bachelor’s degree that includes a teacher preparation component.

Conventional Route to Certification

There are 27 colleges and universities in the state that offer physical education teaching programs that are approved by the Illinois Board of Education. The Board has also published a list that shows the specific programs offered by each college, including those specific to physical education.

By completing a bachelor’s program combined with a teacher preparation program in physical education, you will satisfy Illinois State Board of Education requirements specific to coursework, student teaching, basic skills assessment, content-area testing and, in some cases, a professional teaching assessment. Successfully completing these requirements will prepare you to teach PE in any public school in Illinois.

Student teaching is a critical component of any PE teacher preparation program in Illinois. This will involve completing at least five semester hours of student teaching under the supervision of an Illinois-licensed Physical Education Teacher. Your period of student teaching should be at least three months long, and consistent of supervision, observation and evaluation.

The Illinois State Board of Education recommends that you take the Test of Academic Proficiency (TAP), or a subtest of the TAP related to physical education, before beginning your student teaching.

The code for the Physical Education subtest is 144, and more information on test times can be found here.

Alternate Route to Certification

If you did not earn your degree in the state of Illinois, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Must have earned your bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
  • Provide proof of completion of a program that is comparable to an Illinois state-approved program
  • Complete a course in cross-categorical methods in special education
  • Complete at least six semester hours in methods of reading in the area of pertinent content

The Illinois State Board of Education is currently updating their procedures regarding those applicants who have earned their bachelor’s degree and wish to complete the state pedagogy courses in a master’s program. Information will be updated here as soon as the Illinois State Board of Education publishes its updates.

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Step 2. Pass Illinois PE Teacher Licensure Examinations

Illinois has migrated from a complicated certification system and recently implemented a simple licensing system that took effect in 2013.

The three types of licenses that are now issued by the state are:

  • A professional educator license (PEL)
  • Educator license with stipulations (ELS)
  • A substitute license

Most prospective educators coming from colleges and universities will fall into the category of a PEL.

In order to earn a PEL, you must complete the following tests:

Illinois Test of Academic Proficiency (TAP)

You must pass the TAP, the Illinois Test of Academic Proficiency, which consists of four subtests: a 50 question, multiple-choice Mathematics test, an extended response Writing test, a 60 multiple-choice question Reading Comprehension test, and a 60 question, multiple-choice Language Arts exam.

You must earn a total score of 240 out of 300 or higher in order to pass the full test. If you do not pass all of the sections, the ones you did pass will be logged and stored. You will have to sign up, take, and pass the previously failed sections in order to pass the full TAP.

You may opt to send in your ACT and SAT scores instead of taking the TAP. You must have a composite score of 22, with a minimum English/Writing score of 19, on the ACT. The minimum scores for the SAT are a combined 1030 on the math and critical reading portions, and a minimum of 450 on the writing portion.

Content-Area Examination

You will be required to pass a physical education content-area examination that consists of 125 multiple-choice questions.

Assessment of Professional Teaching (APT)

You must pass the Assessment of Professional Teaching test (APT). This is a 120 multiple-choice and two written response question test that examines your pedagogical and professional expertise. You can choose tests ranging from: Birth – 3rd Grade, K-9, 6-12, or K-12, depending on your desired student age group.



Step 3. Register and Update Your Illinois Teacher License

After completing the exams necessary to earn your Illinois teacher license, you will need to register with the Regional Superintendent of Schools specific to the region in which you will work. You should be aware of these guidelines concerning the registration of your license:

  • PEL physical education licenses are valid for 5 years, and must be registered for each year that it is valid
  • It is $10 per year to maintain registry. If you have earned a PEL, your license fee will involve a one-time payment of $50, which will ensure it is registered for the full length of its validity.
  • If you hold more than one license, such as both a PEL and an educator license with stipulations, you must register and pay for each license separately
  • In order to register a license, you must log in to their ELIS account and click on the registration tab to pay for and register the license

In order to be able to renew a teaching license after the 5-year validity period you must complete 120 hours of professional development through an approved provider. Because the Illinois Board of Education has recently changed from a certificate to a licensure system, they do not yet have a new list of approved providers. New teachers will be able to find the updated list on the Illinois State Board of Education website after January 1, 2015.

Out-of-State Applicants

Applicants that attended an out-of-state university that are applying for a PEL in Illinois must fulfill the following requirements:

    • Produce a transcript proving you have earned at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university
      • The transcript must show the successful completion of at least 32 semester hours of content coursework OR completion of a major in the content area being applied for


  • Complete the 73-05 State-Approved Verification and the 73-06 Grade Verification forms
  • Pass the TAP or substitute adequate ACT and SAT test scores for the TAP requirement
  • Pass the PE content-area tests
  • Pass the APT test in the desired teaching age group
  • Successfully complete student teaching requirements or similar teaching internship
  • Complete at least one course (3 semester hours minimum) in cross-categorical special education methods
  • Complete at least one course (3 semester hours minimum) in ESL/bilingual teaching methods
  • Complete at least 6 semester hours on the methods of reading for the PE content area

The Illinois State Board of Education has provided a list of courses that will fulfill the requirements above. Other courses must be approved by the Board of Education individually.



Step 4. Add Physical Education and Grade-Level Endorsements

Endorsements are added to your existing teaching license to certify that you are qualified to teach subjects and/or age groups in addition to your initial PEL qualifications.

As an Illinois physical education teacher, you must earn an endorsement in either Middle or High School. There is no primary Physical Education endorsement for Elementary School. (Note: In order to earn any primary content endorsement in the state of Illinois, you must already hold a K-9, K-12, 9-12, or PK-21 endorsement)

The requirements for earning a Physical Education endorsement in Middle School are:

  • 6 semester hours of courses in middle school professional education
  • 18 semester hours of Physical Education coursework

The requirements for earning a Physical Education endorsement in High School are:

  • 24 semester hours of undergraduate coursework
  • 12 semester hours of graduate level coursework
  • Pass the Physical Education content test

After completing all these steps, you will be qualified and ready to start teaching as a physical education teacher in Illinois.

Once you have successfully earned your PE teaching endorsement, you may want to earn additional endorsements in such areas as health or biology.

Phys Ed Teacher Salary in Illinois

Data published by the Illinois Department of Employment Security, also known as IDES, reveals an entry-level phys ed teacher salary in Illinois of $24,809. The median salary statewide is 58% higher at $59,497, and experienced teachers average another 22% more at $76,470. So, while the beginning salary may seem low, there is much more financial potential than the entry wage generally implies.

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When looking at phys ed teacher salary geographically, the Illinois Department of Employment Security published the following:


Entry Wage: $27,313
Median Wage: $59,637
Experienced Wage: $81,188
DuPage County Local Workforce Investment Area

(Naperville, Downers Grove, Wheaton)

Entry Wage: $40,035
Median Wage: $68,554
Experienced Wage: $91,285
Cook County Local Workforce Investment Area


Entry Wage: $18,075
Median Wage: $43,222
Experienced Wage: $59,890
North Central Economic Development Region

(De Witt, Fulton, Livingston, Mc Lean, Marshall, Mason, Peoria, Stark, Tazewell, Woodford Counties)

Entry Wage: $46,416
Median Wage: $62,232
Experienced Wage: $74,725
Northeast Economic Development Region

(Cook, DeKalb, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, Will Counties)

Entry Wage: $25,464
Median Wage: $58,507
Experienced Wage: $79,837
Also, the salary table shown here can be used to reference phys ed teacher salaries, which have been published by the U.S. Department of Labor, throughout the state:

Area name
Annual median wage
Chicago-Joliet-Naperville IL Metropolitan Division
Chicago-Joliet-Naperville IL-IN-WI
St. Louis MO-IL

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