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Teacher Licensure Adviser - Jon Miller

Teacher Certification FAQ

Secondary Science Teacher Certification in Biology

Q: I want to get a Biology Teaching Certificate at NIU what do I do?
A: Begin by doing the following:
Read the information about the program requirements on the website. Make sure you understand the requirements.

  1. Download an application packet. Follow all instructions with the packet.
  2. Send application materials to:
    Professor. Jon S. Miller
    Department of Biological Sciences
    Northern Illinois University
    DeKalb, Illinois 60115

Q: Who is the Biology Discipline Coordinator?
A: The biology coordinator is Dr. Jon S. Miller (email: biologycert@niu.ed).

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 courses that everyone must take begin in the fall semester and end the spring semester 2 years later. For example, start fall 2005 and end spring 2007. If you are missing subject matter courses or can only attend part time the process may take longer.

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

A: NO. Such programs depend on the cooperation of school districts. It has been our experience that school districts are not willing to guarantee jobs or placements to individuals in alternative certification programs. It is also not economically possible to offer such programs to individuals. There are other schools who for a price are willing to offer such programs. The Department of Biological Sciences does not participate in any such program.

Q: Can I take my courses at a community college or at an NIU off-campus site?

A: Your advisor will work with you to determine which courses can be taken at other schools or off-campus sites. Such courses are usually limited to courses that classify as general education. Due to the fact that the certification process has switched from course-based to standards-based we strongly recommend that all professional education courses be taken at NIU. If you intend to enroll at a community college before attending NIU, it is strongly recommend that you consider a dual enrollment. Many community colleges have such a program with NIU. To guarantee that your community college course work can be used for certification purposes, you should consult with the Discipline Coordinator before taking courses.

Q: When do I need to apply?

A: Applications should be made during the spring semester. The recommended application period begins in January and extends through May 30. While applications may be taken after this period there is no guarantee of available space or placement in the required clinical experience. 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 jobs are 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 biology major. Get advising from the Biology Department's undergraduate advisor or the biology certification discipline coordinator (accept no substitutes) as soon as possible. You will complete the required course work in biology as you complete the requirements for the Bachelor's Degree in Biology.

Q: I have a Bachelor's degree, what do I do?

A: If you do not have a degree in biological sciences, you will not qualify for the program. You will need to earn a degree in biology or major in biology pursuing a BS degree at NIU before your candidacy will be considered. Bachelor’s degrees in nursing and other allied health related fields and laboratory technician do not qualify as degrees in biological sciences and will not be considered for candidacy into the 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 in biology, you do not need to be admitted to a specific degree program as long as you have a Bachelor's degree in biological sciences. If you are not admitted to the certification program you can not 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 as your major.
  • Post-graduate - If you already have an appropriate Bachelor 's degree in biology, 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 a teaching license. They do not have the ability to enroll in graduate level courses. Students often pursue this choice when they have a biology degree and need to take undergraduate level biology courses while pursing certification. It is possible to switch status from post-graduate to either student-at-large or graduate student. You can not switch back once you 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 masters 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.
  • 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. The advantage of being either a graduate student or student-at-large is that graduate level courses taken toward a degree are used to move individuals on the salary schedule. In other words, you get paid more as a teacher, if you have more education. Some school districts only count coursework toward a degree in your teaching area.

Another advantage of being enrolled in a graduate degree program is that you are eligible for an assistantship. Such an assistantship is available to full-time students. It provides a tuition waiver as well as a stipend. The amount of the stipend depends on the department, the degree you are seeking and the nature of the assistantship. The cost of graduate courses is different from that of undergraduate courses.

Q: When I am all done will I get a job?

A: Virtually 100% of the students who complete the programs and who pursue employment are successful. This is true if you are willing to commute or relocate. While some students seek employment outside the state for personal reasons, there is no reason to expect that you need to take a job anywhere outside northern Illinois.

Q: What type of help getting a job is available?

A: You will receive assistance from the office of Career Services (formerly Career Planning and Placement) and your advisor.

Q: What salary can I expect?

A: The following link provides information related to teacher salaries throughout Illinois for the year 2005-2006:

Q: How much does it cost to attend NIU?

A: The cost of a college education includes tuition, fees, housing and/or travel, and many other variables. Specific information about these costs can be obtained from the Office of the Bursar.
State law requires that Illinois residents enrolling for the first time at NIU (or other state university) as degree-seeking undergraduate students in or after the fall semester be charged a fixed tuition rate schedule for four continuous years, beginning with their initial enrollment. This will help candidates plan for the costs of obtaining a certificate through NIU.

Q: Is there financial aid available to those seeking certification?

A: The NIU Financial Aid Office provides information to students. In addition, the departments with secondary science certification programs also have scholarships available for those pursuing certification. Talk to the appropriate Discipline Coordinator for more information and to see if you qualify.

Q: Is there insurance available to those seeking certification?

A: Yes. student health insurance is available to students through the university.

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. If that person later meets the requirements for an endorsement in chemistry, a chemistry endorsement would be added to the Secondary Certificate.

Q: What endorsements will I have?

A: The endorsements you will have when you complete a certification program depends on the program you pursue and the specific courses you take. All Secondary Science certification programs require that you receive an endorsement in at least one additional area. About 50 % of the students completing the Biology Certification program receive a chemistry endorsement.

Q: Can I get credit for my work or substitute teaching experience?

A: Possibly, but it will not substitute for the 32 credit hours required in the major field. Under some special circumstances you may receive credit if you hold a valid Illinois teaching certificate (Elementary, Special or Substitute). Contact the Discipline Coordinator for more information.

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. To learn more, please refer to the Part 25, Appendix D of the State Board Administrative Rules

Q: I want to teach outside of the State of Illinois. How do I find out what is required in other states?

A. The National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC) website provides links to the certification departments in all states and territories.

For more information, contact Dr. Jon Miller, Coordinator of teacher certification in biological sciences,, (815) 753-7828

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Jon Miller
(815) 753-7828
Office: MO 452; Lab: MO. 329
Dept. of Biological Sciences Nothern Illinois University
DeKalb, IL 60115

Hometown: Lincoln, Nebraska

Degrees earned: B.S. University of Nebraska-Lincoln; M. E. University of Nebraska-Lincoln; M.S. University of Nebraska-Lincoln; Ph.D. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Arrived at NIU: 2000

Classes taught: Secondary Science Teacher; Special Problems, Cell Biology; Student Teaching in Biology

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