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Early Childhood Professional Education


Apply by December 1 for Spring 2023 Admission!

Late admission petitions are currently being accepted until December 1, 2022 for Spring 2023 admission. Complete a petition and indicate you are applying for the Early Childhood Professional Education program.


The Early Childhood Professional Education Program is designed to make higher education more accessible and to address the shortage of early childhood teachers and educators in the state. This 2.5 year degree program meets all requirements of the Illinois Early Childhood Access Consortium for Equity Act (ECACE). See below for more information on the ECACE scholarship.

Admission Requirements

  • Current or previous experience in the field of early childhood education.
  • An AA, AS, AAS, or AT degree in Early Childhood Education from an approved Illinois community college program.
  • The Gateways Level 4 Credential.

Designed for the Working Adult

The Early Childhood Professional Education Program is uniquely designed to offer coursework online, in the evening, and in an eight-week format to meet the needs of working professionals. Field and clinical experiences will be arranged to meet the geographic and logistical constraints of program participants. This program offers two professional tracks:

  • Licensure Track - ECE bachelor's degree and Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) Professional Educator Licensure 0-2nd Grade and Gateways Level 5 Credential.
  • Non-Licensure Track - ECE bachelor's degree and Gateways Level 5 Credential.
Amy Heinrichs

A Non-Traditional Journey To Finding Her Passion

Amy Heinrichs is a junior from Palatine, IL, and she is a part of our first-ever Early Childhood Professional Education cohort.

Read Her Story

Who should apply

Current and prospective early childhood professionals who meet all of the following qualifications:

  • Are or were a member of the incumbent workforce currently working or having worked in the early childhood field, including family child care and center-based care settings, Preschool for All school-based settings, and Head Start, that serves children from birth to age 5 and includes teachers, assistant teachers, directors, family child care providers, and assistants.
  • Have completed an AA, AS, AAS, or AT degree in ECE from an approved community college program with 2.0 grade point average or higher.
  • Have the Gateways Level 4 Credential and current membership in the Gateways to Opportunity®Registry.
  • Are seeking a bachelor's degree in ECE and additional state credentials including:
    • Illinois State Board of Education Professional Educator Licensure for birth through second grade.
    • The Gateways to Opportunity Level 5 Credential
  • Are committed to continuing or returning to teaching or direct services in the early childhood care and education field in Illinois after they complete their program of study.

    How to Apply

    • Create a myIllini account.
    • Indicate your interest in the Early Childhood Professional Education Program in your application.

    Advising & Support ›

    Stay on track with our academic advisors.

    Contact Us ›

    Please email  Anne Pradzinski, Director of Early Childhood Professional Education Program, with any questions.

    Illinois ECACE Scholarship Program

    This program meets the eligibility requirements for the Illinois Early Childhood Access Consortium for Equity Scholarship. For more information, go to the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) website.