Medical assistants are in high demand, and Illinois is a hub for the programs that prepare students like you to earn their certification and meet that demand. The state’s job growth is expected to increase substantially over the next ten years, meaning you can feel confident that a top job at a hospital, clinic, private practice, outpatient care center, or pharmaceutic company will be waiting for you after graduation. You may have convinced yourself that you are too busy to pursue your medical assistant certification or worried that you wouldn’t have the time or energy to go to campus every day. We’re here to tell you that online programs put your goals within reach, allowing you to balance your current responsibilities and your future ambitions.
Attending a top online medical assistant program in Illinois will thoroughly prepare you with the administrative and clinical skills you need to navigate the practical realities of managing a medical office and contributing to patient care. But where do you begin? In this guide we’ll walk you through some of Illinois’ top programs, the features that set them apart, the steps you’ll have to take on the road to certification, and the salary waiting for you on the other side of your certificate or degree.
Spotlighting Top Medical Assistant Programs in Illinois
Illinois offers a host of top-tier online medical assistant programs, so many in fact that it can be overwhelming to sift through them all. We’ve spotlighted the following three programs to help you get a feel for what the best ones have to offer, from flexible scheduling and affordable tuition to academic and professional support that prepares students for promising careers.
Northwestern College’s Medical Assistant Certificate program equips Illinois students with the practical skills necessary for a successful medical assistant career. Students have the choice of completing the program on-campus or fully online, making it a flexible option for those with other full-time or part-time obligations. The curriculum focuses on communication with patients and healthcare staff, basic medical theory, critical thinking in a healthcare setting, and a thorough understanding of industry standards. In addition to comprehensive classroom learning, the program also emphasizes hands-on field experience through a 160-hour externship requirement, where students gain practical experience under the supervision of a healthcare professional. Once students have earned their certificate, they will be eligible to sit for the American Medical Technologist (AMT)’s Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) examination.
Southern Illinois University
Southern Illinois University’s Online Clinical Medical Assistant Training program prepares students with the knowledge and skills required to pass the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) exam. This highly flexible program does not follow a strict enrollment schedule, so students can begin anytime. In addition to exam preparation, the curriculum focuses on instilling a thorough understanding of medical terminology, basic medical procedures, patient privacy and security, and healthcare ethics in students. The program also offers students the opportunity to participate in a clinical experience in order to apply the theoretical principles of the curriculum in real-world situations. Upon graduation from the course, students will have the knowledge and skills required to perform the administrative and clinical tasks required of medical assistants across a variety of healthcare settings, from hospitals and clinics to private care centers.
Accelerate U at National Louis University
The seven-month Medical Assistant Certificate Pathway at National Louis University’s Accelerate U enables students to earn their medical assistant certificate in a flexible, accelerated manner. This program is ideal for working professionals or those with other time-intensive commitments, since courses can typically be completed with 20 hours of work each week. In addition to online didactic coursework, students are required to complete monthly in-person trainings as well as a 160-hour externship with an approved organization. Unique to this program, students receive a stipend during their externship in addition to valuable insights from healthcare professionals at various levels, including doctors and nurses.
The program emphasizes the importance of a supportive, 1:1 learning environment by matching each student with a coach to help guide them through their academic journey. If graduates choose to pursue a bachelor’s degree, they can transfer credits from the certificate program, making it easier to earn their degree in a timelier manner. The program works with several healthcare partners to give graduates primary consideration in employment following graduation.
Must-Haves in Online Medical Assistant Programs in Illinois
Before applying for a medical assistant program in Illinois, you’ll want to make sure it meets certain standards of quality. We’ve outlined some of the top aspects to consider when choosing your program, including an institution’s accreditation and graduation rates, certification processes, faculty qualifications, and state-specific requirements.
Becoming a Certified Medical Assistant in Illinois
Even though you’re only entering the beginning stages of your medical assistant career, it’s normal to want to know what lies ahead. Fortunately, the path to becoming a certified medical assistant in Illinois is straightforward, especially when you know the right steps to take. Let’s take a look at what you can expect in your academic and professional journey:
Answering Your Questions About IL Medical Assistant Programs Online
Now that you know the broad strokes of what it takes to become a medical assistant, you may have questions about the specifics of the program that will help you get there. We’ve answered some of the most common questions about online medical assistant programs in Illinois below so you can feel prepared to find the program that’s right for you.
Are scholarships or grants available for online medical assistant students in IL?
When working towards your medical assistant certification, you may be eligible for certain scholarships, grants, or other financial aid services through your institution, state, or the national government. However, since certificate programs operate differently than degree programs, financial aid services may be more limited. For this reason, most Illinois schools aim to provide affordable certificate programs. Still, it’s always important to verify your funding options with your school before enrolling.
Are there professional organizations or networking opportunities for Illinois medical assistants?
Yes, medical assistants in Illinois have numerous opportunities to expand their network and become active participants in the allied healthcare community. One of the most influential organizations is the Illinois Society of Medical Assistants (ISMA), a state level affiliate of American Association of Medical Assistants. Through ISMA, members can attend networking events, conferences, and board meetings, volunteer, continue their education, and more.
Do I need to complete any prerequisites before applying?
Most Illinois medical assistant programs only require a high school diploma and a minimum GPA. However, some programs (like Waubonsee Community College, for example) require students to complete prerequisite courses in medical terminology, biology, and/or anatomy and physiology prior to enrolling in the program, so it’s important to research your institution’s requirements. Even if prerequisites are not required, having previous experience or course work in the healthcare field or medical assistantship can make your program application more compelling, and may allow you to complete your certification in less time.
How much should I expect to pay for my program?
The cost of a medical assistant program in Illinois varies within each institution, but Illinois offers many affordable options. Typical costs for some of the top Illinois schools range from $2,000-$7,000, depending on the program length.
What are the admission requirements for Illinois medical assistant programs?
Typical admission requirements for Illinois medical assistant programs include a minimum GPA, high school diploma or GED, placement or entrance exam, a clean background checks, and a mandatory orientation. Some schools’ admission requirements are less stringent, and others more so.
What does an online medical assistant curriculum in Illinois cover?
The primary focus of an Illinois medical assistant program is to prepare students to pass the certification exam. Curriculum will cover topics that will appear on the exam from an administrative and medical perspective. For example, students can expect to learn topics surrounding basic medical terminology, biology, and procedures, as well as administrative tasks such as record keeping, medical billing, and patient privacy.
Salary and Career Insights for Illinois Medical Assistants
Medical assistant jobs are expected to grow rapidly in the next ten years, both nationally and across Illinois. The United States expects to see a robust 18.40% job growth, with Illinois just behind at 11.10%. These findings indicate that Illinois is a prime place to be for medical assistants in the next ten years, with 2,960 average annual openings and a median wage of up to $38,000.
Certain areas in Illinois are projected to be more lucrative than others, however, namely urban over rural locations. For example, the Rockford, Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, and Champaign-Urbana areas are offer the highest annual wages — although the cost of living in these areas tends to be higher in the former than the latter. Bloomington, Carbondale-Marion, and Decatur are among the lowest-paying areas in Illinois, though these suburban hubs offer a lower cost of living compared than the larger, more densely populated cities.
As you take the next step toward your career as a medical assistant, it’s important to consider which area will offer the best job opportunities and earning potential for you.
Source: Projections Central
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics