Medical Assistant Programs and Certification in Illinois

Medical Assistants are multi-skilled, and they are in demand! For some, the career is as little as a year away. The Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs at Illinois Valley Community College, one of the newest programs, is quoted in Tonica News as stating that research indicates there is local and regional demand ( /2019/08/12/illinois valley community college will launch medical assistant program). This part of the country is not unique in this regard. Nationwide, 23% medical assistant growth is projected for the 2018 to 2028 decade. The Tonica News article specifically references Certified Medical Assistants – medical assistants who have demonstrated a high level of proficiency by achieving prestigious national certification.

Medical assistants perform a variety of routine tasks under the supervision of medical professionals. Typically, they work in outpatient care. Illinois medical assistants are not licensed but may be credentialed by any of several organizations.

Southwestern Illinois College states that certified medical assistants earn about 5 – 10% more than their noncertified counterparts.

Popular Medical Assisting Programs in Illinois

Highland Community College is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Programs (CAAHEP). It offers an Associate of Applied Science. The school boasts a five-year certification examination pass rate of 100% and job placement rate of 85.71%. Highland Community College notes that some students who reside out of district will qualify for in-district rates for the medical assisting program.

National Latino Education Institute in Chicago offers a CAAHEP-accredited bilingual medical assisting program. The school has averaged an 83.43% employment rate across a five-year data period. The most recent accountability report shows a placement rate above 90%.

Southwestern Illinois College, another CAAHEP-accredited option, also boasts solid examination and job placement rates.

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Medical Assistant Certification Options

The following certifications are frequently noted by employers around the nation:

  • Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA)
  • Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) by the American Medical Technologists (AMT)
  • Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) by the National HealthCareer Association (NHA)
  • National Certified Medical Assistant (NCMA) by the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT)

All are accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). There are some commonalities. All administer a certifying examination. All require candidates to demonstrate some form of training. The American Association of Medical Assistants limits certification to graduates of programs that are accredited or housed in accredited institutions. Other certifying agencies have additional pathways such as experience. American Medical Technologists sets requirements for the experience pathway high: five years out of the prior seven.

Some employers reference particular certifications (e.g. Certified Clinical Medical Assistant). Some specify training (e.g. graduation from an accredited program). The University of Illinois-Chicago, for example, noted in a recent job posting, three acceptable certifications: AAMA, AMT, and NCCT.

Top Illinois Employers

Medical assistants are employed in clinic and office settings throughout the state. Many are employed by hospital or health systems such as the following:

  • NorthShore University Health System
  • Dupage Medical Group
  • Amita Health
  • Northwestern Medical
  • The Carle Foundation
  • Advocate Health Care
  • Hospital Sisters Health System
  • Access Community Health Network

OSF Healthcare (Peoria) made the Forbes list of best healthcare employers. Rush Health (Chicago) made the list of best mid-size health employers.

OSF Healthcare recently advertised multiple medical assistant positions, corresponding with different areas of medical practice. Completion of a medical assisting program was listed as required for some, preferred for others. Previous healthcare experience was also a desirable qualification, though experience might be in another area (CNA or medical front office).

Rush University Medical Center, meanwhile, advertised several positions for medical assistants who were certified by AAMA, AMT, NCCT, or NHA. Formal education and prior clinical experience were both listed among the preferred qualifications. Rush cited multiple accolades, encompassing both patient and associate perspectives; the organization noted that it was an top 20 “Best Places to Work” workplace.

Illinois Medical Assistant Salary and Career Outlook

Illinois medical assistants earned an average $17.26 an hour or $35,910 a year in 2018. BLS data suggests that most of the state’s medical assistants earned between $25,700 and $48,730. The highest average was in the Bloomington area: $38,010. There was a very wide range here, though, with a 10th percentile wage of $26,270 and a 90th percentile wage of $57,450.

Average wages in areas of the state classified as nonmetropolitan ranged from a low of $28,900 to a high of $36,130. In the East Central Illinois nonmetropolitan area, those at the 90th percentile made more than twice what those at the 10th percentile did.

Job concentration for Illinois was slightly lower than the national average. Nonetheless, the greater Chicago area had the 4th highest employment levels in the nation.

Illinois Medical Assistant Scope of Practice

Illinois state code authorizes physicians to delegate tasks to personnel such as medical assistants.

The Illinois Nurse Practice Act authorizes nurse delegation to “unlicensed persons” with some restrictions ( scope of practice laws).


The Illinois Society of Medical Assistants is the state professional association. There are nine local chapters: Chicago, Rockford, Aux Plaines, Illinois Valley, Lincoln Land, Mississippi Valley, Northwest Cook, Central Illinois, and Southern Illinois Regional Medical (

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