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Best Online Medical Assistant Programs in Illinois

Discover top medical assistant programs in Illinois and get answers to your
most common questions on what it takes to become a medical assistant.

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WRITTEN BY: Maggie Twaroski
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REVIEWED BY: Edumed Editing Staff

Last Updated: 12/06/2023

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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

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.

Accreditation

When it comes to choosing a medical assistant program in Illinois, accreditation is one of the most important factors to consider. Attending an accredited program or a program at an accredited university ensures you’re receiving a high-quality education, and that future employers will recognize the degree or certification you earned. Additionally, most non-accredited institutions do not offer financial aid options since federal funding goes toward accredited institutions almost exclusively.

Certification Exam Eligibility

Although certification is not required to obtain a medical assistant job in Illinois, it does demonstrate your knowledge, skills, and professionalism to employers. Therefore, you’ll want to make sure your program allows and prepares you to take the certification exam at the end of your studies. Most medical assistant programs in Illinois weave exam preparation into the program, so graduates can jump straight into the workforce upon completion of the program.

Faculty Qualifications

The faculty charged with instructing and mentoring you through your Illinois medical assistant program have a substantial impact on your academic and professional success. Choosing an institution with qualified professors and academic counselors will ensure you have the support you need to complete your certification and excel in the workforce. To assess the qualifications of your institution’s faculty, look for biographies on the institution’s website, or contact the program director for more details.

Graduation and Certification Rates

Some colleges and universities have better graduation and certification rates than others, and it’s important to be aware of these when researching your Illinois medical assistant program. Choosing an institution with high completion rates indicates that the faculty and curriculum are well-equipped to guide students through their programs and to help them succeed.

State-Specific Considerations

Although the state of Illinois does not require any certification for medical assistants, many employers do. Earning your certification demonstrates your commitment and expertise in the field and can help you attain higher-paying and more advanced positions.

Transferability

Since you’ll earn your medical assistant certification through a nationally-recognized organization like the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) or the National Healthcare Association (NCA), it should be valid in most states. Still, if you’re considering moving to another state, it’s worth researching the exam requirements of that specific state to make sure your qualifications will transfer and you can hit the ground running.

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:

Complete a Clinical Externship

A clinical externship is an important part of any medical assistant program, since it exposes you to the real-world situations you’ll encounter over the course of career as a medical assistant. This hands-on experience can be valuable when applying for jobs, not only because it signals to employers — and proves to yourself — that you have the practical knowledge to dive right in. The majority of Illinois medical assistant programsoffer an externship as part of the curriculum, but not all of them facilitate your clinical placement, so read closely and be willing to do your own research and outreach.

Graduate From an Accredited Program

Completing your certification through an accredited program signals to future employers that you received high quality education and training and that you are prepared to enter the workforce. Since most Illinois medical assistant programs are geared towards exam preparation, completing the program from an accredited institution is a solid indicator that you are ready to excel in the exam.

Pass the Certificate Exam

As mentioned previously, the medical assistant certification exam is the pinnacle of the program, since it represents your knowledge and skills in the allied healthcare industry. Passing the exam will make you eligible to present your certificate to future employers, which can lead to a rewarding career.

Renew Your License and Take Continuing Education Credits

Renewing your certification is an optimal way to stay on top of your skills and industry insights. The frequency of renewal depends on the exam you take to begin with, so it’s important to research the requirements for your specific certification. For example, an AAMA certification must be renewed every five years, while an AMT certification must be renewed every three years.

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.

Occupation NameNew Jobs (2020-2030)Job Growth Rate (2020-2030)Average Annual Openings (2020-2030)
United States853,50018.40%104,400
Illinois24,63011.1%2,960

Source: Projections Central

Area10th PercentileMedian90th Percentile
Illinois$28,990$37,500$47,370
Bloomington, IL$26,510$34,620$43,390
Carbondale-Marion, IL$26,310$33,140$37,950
Champaign-Urbana, IL$28,960$36,240$44,530
Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI$29,480$38,000$47,770
Danville, IL$27,760$30,100$38,070
Decatur, IL$26,750$34,660$44,430
Kankakee, IL$28,820$36,360$45,850
Peoria, IL$28,210$34,560$44,080
Rockford, IL$29,890$36,360$45,290
Springfield, IL$28,820$36,360$43,640

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics