College of Education > Student Resources > Field Experience & Student Teaching > Licensure & Careers > Professional Educator License (PEL) and Endorsements

Professional Educator License (PEL) and Endorsements

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Professional Educator License (PEL)

In order to serve as a teacher, school support personnel, or an administrator in the state of Illinois at a public or recognized non-public school, you must obtain a Professional Educator License (PEL). To obtain a PEL, you must complete an Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) approved program and pass state tests and requirements specific to their area of education.

Upon successful completion of the Illinois State Board of Education's (ISBE's) requirements, DePaul may entitle eligible individuals to an Illinois Professional Educator License (PEL).

Requirements include:

  • Successfully completed an approved educator preparation program and are recommended for licensure by the Illinois institution offering the educator preparation program, including:
    • Coursework in the following areas: cross-categorical methods, reading methods and reading in the content area; and
    • Student teaching (teachers) or internship (administrative and school support personnel)
  • Successfully completed all testing requirements (see below)
  • All professional education and content-area coursework required for issuance of an Illinois license, endorsement, or approval must have been passed with a grade of "C" or its equivalent.  (C minus is not considered a C)
  • Met all other criteria established by rule of the State Board of Education.


The initial Professional Educator License (PEL) includes a credential called an endorsement. Endorsements are added to a PEL upon successful completion of state requirements and indicate your role as an educator and subjects and grades you are eligible to teach. Educators have only one PEL but may have multiple endorsements to indicate various subject areas and grade levels. Additional endorsements can be earned and added to a PEL either concurrently or at a later date.

A teaching endorsement may be a grade-level endorsement (i.e. early childhood, elementary, secondary, or special) or a content/subject-area endorsement (i.e. middle school language arts, senior high school health education, or transitional bilingual educator). Administrative endorsements include chief school business official, director of special education, superintendent, principal, and general administrative. School support personnel endorsements include school counselor, school social worker, school psychologist, school nurse, and speech language pathologist (non-teaching).

Required Tests

You are required to take different tests depending on which license and endorsement you are pursuing and which program you are in.

The content tests are designed to assess a candidate's knowledge of content in the specific teaching, school service personnel, or administrative field in which licensure and endorsement are sought. The tests are based on current and relevant expectations for teacher preparation students and for teachers in Illinois as defined by the Illinois Content Area Standards for Educators.

Secondary Science & Social Science Tests

The tests for all secondary science majors have two parts: general science (consisting of questions on biology, chemistry, physics, earth science and space science) and a more in-depth test on your specific major. This is taken as one single test with two parts. The tests for all secondary science majors have two parts: general science (consisting of questions on biology, chemistry, physics, earth science and space science) and a more in-depth test on your specific major. This is taken as one single test with two parts.

Secondary majors in all areas of the social sciences must take a two-part test: general social sciences (consisting of history, geography, political science, economics, anthropology, sociology and psychology) and a more in-depth test on your specific major. All social science majors must take the social science- history test to qualify for the license. (Social Science- History test #114)

Need help preparing for your Content Area Test?

Visit the Academic Success Center to learn more about the tests, schedule a tutoring appointment, or to review study guides and other preparation materials.

If you are in the World Language Education program, pursuing licensure in the teaching of a foreign language (Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese or Spanish), you must take an oral proficiency test – an interview – before you begin student teaching. You must earn a rating of "intermediate-high" or better on the test.

NOTE: This requirement does NOT apply for students in Elementary Education or Early Childhood education who have a concentration in a modern language.

The Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) is:

  • A standardized procedure for the global assessment of functional speaking ability
  • An interview by telephone between you and a certified tester from the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL)
  • A test that assesses your ability to communicate orally as measured by the criteria for 10 proficiency levels

The OPI is a carefully structured conversation between a trained and certified interviewer and you – the person whose speaking proficiency is being assessed. The interview is interactive; there is no script or prescribed set of questions, and the tester will adapt the interview based on your skills. The topic to be discussed is decided by your interests.

By asking questions, the interviewer tests your ability to handle communication at various levels of proficiency; a clear "floor" and "ceiling" of your ability is determined. Also, you might be asked to take part in a role-play to show linguistic capabilities not easily elicited through the conversational format. Since the OPI is an assessment of speaking ability, independent of any curriculum, it does not matter when, where, why and how you acquired your speaking ability in the language.

The interview - lasting 10-30 minutes – is digitally recorded and assigned an initial rating by the tester. The interview is then rated again in a “blind” review by a second certified tester. Under the supervision of the ACTFL testing office, a final rating is assigned and an ACTFL OPI certificate is issued to those who earn a rating of intermediate-high or better.

The ACTFL Certified Testers

The testers and raters are highly specialized language professionals who have completed rigorous training in conducting the test and rating the results. ACTFL strictly monitors all testing and rating.

How to Register for the Test

If you are a language teaching student, you will need to take the OPI administered by the ACTFL. Allow four weeks for the registration process.

Once you are ready to sign up for the exam, take these five steps:

  1. Go directly to the ACTFL LTI registration and login page.
  2. Create your individual account. Click the "Sign up" button under "New User."
  3. Once you have created your account, begin registration. Log in under "Returning User."
  4. The registration process requires three possible dates/times. Please consult first with Alyssa Hepker, department assistant for the Department of Leadership, Language and Curriculum, to determine possible dates/times as she will serve as your OPI proctor. Please also copy WLE Program director, Dr. Jason Goulah  on this email.
  5. Complete all the information requested for registration.

Taking the Test

Once your application has been processed you will be sent an e-mail with your confirmed test date, time and other instructions. This e-mail will provide you with a unique ID and password to access your test information and status on the OPI website. Please keep this important email and website information. You will be able to verify the date and time of your OPI and, after the test, check the status of your test result. You will also be able to print your ACTFL OPI proficiency certificate. The proctor will also be notified of the OPI date, time and telephone number by email.

Finalize appointment arrangements with your proctor. All appointments are considered confirmed, unless notice is sent by the candidate or proctor. If an appointment needs to be rescheduled:

  • Contact the OPI test coordinator immediately (800-486-8444 extension 14). There is no charge for rescheduling at least one business day before the scheduled appointment.
  • For appointments that are canceled or rescheduled within 24 hours of the test, there is a $55.00 rescheduling/cancellation fee.
  • For missed appointments, there is a $55.00 fee. A $55.00 fee for canceled applications will be deducted from your refund if you cancel the test.

Once your test is rated (usually within two to four weeks), you can view the test results on the OPI website. Each test becomes a permanent record in the ACTFL test archive. For an additional fee of $50.00 a test rating can be expedited as "express" and a final rating guaranteed within 10 business days.

Test Tips

Prepare for the test by reading the proficiency descriptions (below). Be sure that you fully understand the functions, level of accuracy and discourse length required at each level.

When taking the OPI, listen carefully to the questions asked by the interviewer before answering. When answering, give as detailed a response as possible. Saying little to avoid making mistakes will not improve your rating. If you do not know a specific term in the target language, describe it and try not to resort to English or making up words. If you do use English or a slang term, do not be surprised if the interviewer asks you to describe what that word means in the target language.

Language Proficiency Standards and Intermediate-High Level

Intermediate-high speakers are able to converse with ease and confidence in most routine social situations. They are successful in exchanging basic information about work, school, recreation, or particular interests and areas of competence, though hesitation and errors may be evident.

While intermediate-high speakers can handle the tasks of the advanced level, they are unable to sustain performance at that level over a variety of topics. With some consistency, speakers at the intermediate-high level can narrate and describe in major time frames (tenses) during a coherent discourse of paragraph length. However, the performance of these advanced level tasks doesn’t have to be perfect; you are allowed some mistakes (e.g., errors in the narration or description, semantically or syntactically, a disintegration of connected discourse, a reduction in breadth and appropriateness of vocabulary, or some hesitation in conversing). Overall, intermediate-high speakers can be understood by native speakers unaccustomed to dealing with non-natives, even though the dominant language is still evident and gaps in communication occur.

edTPA is a performance-based, subject-specific assessment to emphasize, measure and support the skills and knowledge that all teachers need from Day 1 in the classroom. Aspiring teachers must prepare a portfolio of materials during student teaching including lesson plans and unedited video recordings of themselves at work in a real classroom.

Need help with edTPA?

Visit the Center for Educational Technology for filming tips, edTPA guides and other resources.

Visit the edTPA website to learn more about the edTPA, fees and registration.

​​​Use the chart below to determine which of the above tests you are required to take for your program and license.

Professional Educators License (PEL) with... Required Tests 
Endorsement in Early Childhood Education Early Childhood test (#206), edTPA
Endorsement in Elementary Education Elementary test (#110), edTPA
Endorsement in Secondary Education Content test in your subject area (Biology,  English, History, Math, Social Science, etc), edTPA
Endorsement in Physical Education PE test (#144), edTPA
Endorsement in Special Education (LBS1)  LBS1 (Learning and Behavior Specialist 1) test (#155), Special Ed General Curriculum test (#163), edTPA
Endorsement in World Language Education (WLE) Content test in your subject area, edTPA, Oral Proficiency Interview
Endorsement in Special & Elementary Education (SEE) LBS1 ( Learning and Behavioral Specialist 1) test (#155), Elementary test (#110), Special Ed General Curriculum test (#163), edTPA
Endorsement in School Counseling School Counselor Test (#181)
Endorsement in Reading Specialist Reading Specialist test (#221), edTPA
Endorsement in Principal Principal Instructional Leader Test (#195 & #196)
Endorsement in Superintendent Superintendent Test (#225)

Highly Qualified and No Child Left Behind

To be highly qualified in a licensure or endorsement area you must either pass the content area test in that subject or complete HOUSSE (for veteran teachers). Many schools are now requiring their teachers to have highly qualified status to be employed, so if you are pursuing an endorsement area it is a good idea to take the content area test in that subject. Additional information is available on the ISBE Highly Qualified Website.

Licensure Officers

Upon successful completion of the Illinois State Board of Education's (ISBE's) requirements, DePaul College of Education’s licensure officers recommend eligible individuals be entitled to an Illinois Professional Educator License (PEL).

We have three licensure officers at the College of Education:

Nancy Hashimoto
Director of Advising/ Licensure Officer

Jordan Humphrey
Assistant Dean for Assessment
(773) 325-7582

Brandon Washington
Academic Advisor/Licensure Officer

Licensure in Other States

Please note each state has its own rules and regulations regarding educator licensure. You should contact the Board of Education in the state where you want to pursue licensure. State requirements vary.

Many states will have a document that must be signed by DePaul to verify that you have completed your requirements for licensure in Illinois. Please direct the form to the licensure officer in the College of Education.

Substitute Teacher Licensure

In Illinois, you must have at least a bachelor's degree to become a substitute teacher. You may apply through the Educator Licensure Information System (ELIS) for a substitute teaching license. Application for a substitute license currently costs $50 (plus $10 yearly registration fee) and requires the application form and official transcripts. Note that once you earn your teaching license, you can be employed as a substitute teacher without possessing a substitute teaching license. Please visit ISBE's website for more information on substitute teacher licensure.

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) have additional requirements in order to substitute teach in their schools. Please visit the Chicago Public Schools website for more information.