FAQ - Science Teacher Education - Northern Illinois University

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Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: I want to get a Secondary Science Teaching Certificate at NIU what do I do?

A: Begin by doing the following:


Go to Program Requirements.  Click the link that corresponds to the science area you are interested in (Biology, Chemistry, Geology, or Physics) and make sure you understand the requirements. Then:

Follow the link:  How to Apply

Download an application packet. Follow all instructions with the packet.  

Send application materials to:
Judy Boisen
Coordinator for Secondary Science Education Certification

Faraday 323
Northern Illinois University
DeKalb, Illinois 60115

Q: If I am accepted in the program, how long will it take until I am certified?

A: The program is designed to take 2 years. The certification courses that everyone must take begin in the fall semester and end the spring semester 2 years later. For example, start fall 2011 and end spring 2013. If you are missing subject matter courses or can only attend part time the process may take longer.

Q: What are the admission requirements?

A:  Please go to the Program Requirements link on the home page.  Admission requirements vary depending on the science area. (Biology, Chemistry, Geology, Physics)

Q: When do I need to apply?

A: Applications should be submitted during the spring semester. The application period begins in January 15th and extends through May 30. New students seeking certification begin their professional education coursework in the fall semester only. They complete the program at the end of a spring semester when most teaching jobs become available. Students may enroll and take courses at other times but the 2 year certification cycle of professional education courses only begins in the fall.

Q: I do not have a Bachelor's degree, what do I do?

A: Apply to NIU as an undergraduate. Once you are accepted, declare a major in one of the science departments. Get advising from the Department's undergraduate advisor, the certification discipline coordinator or the Coordinator of Secondary Science Education Certification (accept no substitutes) as soon as possible.

Q: I have a Bachelor's degree in science and would like to become certified to teach middle school or secondary science, what do I do?

A: If you have a bachelor’s degree in science (Biology, Chemistry, Geology, Physics) you may apply to the program and pursue certification.  It will take 2 years to complete the required certification courses at NIU. A transcript evaluation will be completed and you may have to take additional coursework to satisfy deficiencies.

Q: I have a Bachelor's degree in an area other than science but wish to get an endorsement to teach science, what do I do?

A: If you do not have a degree in one of the sciences, you will not qualify for the program at NIU. You will need to earn a degree in one of the areas of science or major in science pursuing a BS degree in Biology, Chemistry, Geology, or Physics at NIU before your candidacy will be considered.

Q: Do you have an alternative certification program that will allow me to get certified in less time?

A: NO. NIU does not offer an alternative certification program. 

Q: Should I enroll as a Student-at-Large, Graduate, Post-Graduate or Undergraduate?

A: It is NOT necessary to complete a degree program at NIU at the same time as completing certification requirements. Therefore while you must be admitted to NIU to be admitted to the certification program ina science area, you do not need to be admitted to a specific degree program as long as you have a Bachelor's degree in . If you are not admitted to the certification program you cannot take many of the courses in the program nor can you be recommended by NIU for a teaching license. You have the following choices.

  • Undergraduate - Choose this option if you do not have a college degree. You should declare Biology, Chemistry, Geology, or Physics as your major.
  • Post-graduate - If you already have an appropriate Bachelor's degree in science, you may wish to enroll as a post-graduate and just pursue teacher certification. Post-graduates are classified as undergraduate students. They may be pursuing a second bachelor's degree or simply be pursuing secondary teacher certification. They do not have the ability to enroll in graduate level courses. Students often pursue this choice when they have a degree in Biology, Chemistry, Geology, or Physics and want to take courses while pursing certification. It is possible to switch status from post-graduate to either student-at-large or graduate student. You cannot switch back once you have done so. 
  • Student-at-Large - Choose this option if you have a bachelor's degree and wish to be able to take some courses for graduate credit. Students pursue this option when they are unsure of whether or not they wish to pursue a master’s degree or if they don't have time to complete the lengthy application process for admission to a graduate program as a graduate student. It is always possible to switch status from student-at-large to graduate student.  These students are the last to sign up for classes so class availability may be an issue.  Any undergraduate course work that is taken as a student at large will not count toward a master’s degree.
  • Graduate student - A graduate student is someone who is pursuing a graduate degree, either masters or doctorate. It is not necessary to complete the degree to complete the teacher certification program in Biology, Chemistry, Geology, or Physics. The advantage of being either a graduate student or student-at-large is that graduate level courses taken toward a degree may be used to move individuals on the salary schedule. In other words, you may get paid more as a teacher, if you have more education. Some school districts only count coursework toward a degree in your teaching area.

Q: What is the difference between a certificate and an endorsement?

A: A "certificate" is the license required for an individual to teach in an Illinois public school.
An "endorsement" is a descriptor that is placed on a certificate to identify and limit the specific areas in which the individual is qualified to teach in conjunction with that certificate. For example, a candidate who completes a secondary certification program in biology will receive a Secondary Certificate (Type 09) endorsed in biology. That candidate will be able to teach all levels of biology (regular, honors and AP) as well as all other science courses at the regular level.  If that person later meets the requirements for an endorsement in chemistry, a chemistry endorsement would be added to the Secondary Certificate.  Candidates wishing to obtain a second endorsement in a science discipline must have 12 semester hours of credit in the second discipline and pass the content test for that discipline.

Q: What endorsements will I have?

A: The endorsements you will have when you complete a certification program depend on the program you pursue and the specific courses you take. All Secondary Science certification programs recommend that you receive an endorsement in at least one additional area.

Q: What is a "highly-qualified" teacher in Illinois and how does a teacher earn that status?

A: In response to the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, the State Board of Education has established criteria for teachers to be considered "highly-qualified." The state criteria are aligned with the federal requirements and are intended to provide educators and school districts with guidance for assuring that all teachers in core academic subjects are "highly-qualified" in each area of teaching responsibility by the end of the 2005-2006 school year. You will be highly qualified on the completion of the teacher certification program at NIU.

For more information, contact Judy Boisen, Coordinator for teacher certification in secondary sciences, jboisen@niu.edu, (815) 753-6819