To become a medical assistant in Illinois, you should consider completing the following steps:
|Complete a Medical Assisting Education Program|
|Consider Pursuing National Certification|
|Learn More about Employment Opportunities for Medical Assistants in Illinois|
According to the Illinois Department of Employment Security, there were 18,361 medical assistants employed in the State in 2012. By 2022, this number is projected to increase to 21,916. The addition of 3,555 medical assistant jobs in Illinois in just a decade, representing a growth rate of more than 19 percent, indicates a wealth of opportunities for individuals seeking a career in this field.
In 2007, the Illinois legislature enacted a revised Nurse Practice Act that included several provisions that are of relevance to medical assistants. Of particular interest to medical assistants is the section that details the authority of physicians to delegate tasks to professionals beyond registered nurses and licensed practical nurses. Similar language was again repeated in the Illinois Medical Practice Act and the Illinois Administrative Code (Section 1285.335, Physician Delegation of Authority).
In short, medical assistants in Illinois are permitted to perform medical assisting tasks, provided they work under the direct supervision of physicians.
Preparation through education and training is vital to becoming a well-qualified medical assistant in Illinois. Although these professionals are not licensed or registered in Illinois, success is most often dependent upon achieving a certain degree of education and training.
Step 1. Complete a Medical Assisting Education Program
An accredited program in medical assisting includes all of the necessary components to produce a qualified and competent entry-level medical assistant. The two most widely recognized credentialing bodies for medical assistant programs are the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). There are currently 19 programs accredited by CAAHEP and 12 programs accredited by ABHES in Illinois.
All medical assisting programs in Illinois, whether they are certificate, diploma, or associate degree (A.S. or A.A.S.) programs, culminate in an externship, which provides students with a real-world experience in a clinical setting.
Students in medical assistant certificate or diploma programs, which usually take less than a year to complete, learn about anatomy and physiology, the fundamentals of medical diagnostic and laboratory techniques, and hands-on training for tasks such as taking vital signs and administering injections, just to name a few.
Associate degree programs, which usually consist of about two years of study (60 semester units), include the same areas of study as certificate or diploma programs, as well as more advanced study in areas such as medical assisting, anatomy and physiology, medical administration, and human growth and development. Associate degree programs are an ideal choice for students who may pursue a bachelor’s degree in a healthcare-related field in the future.
Upon graduation from an accredited program, you can expect to possess the skills to become a medical assistant in a physician or specialist’s office, a healthcare clinic, a hospital, or an outpatient care center. Further, graduates of accredited programs are also eligible to take a national certification examination.
Step 2. Consider Pursuing National Certification
One or more nationally recognized credentials in medical assisting may provide you with the competitive edge needed to secure a medical assistant job in Illinois. Further, it is now becoming commonplace for everyone from employers to liability practice insurance carriers to require medical assistants to hold one or more nationally recognized credentials.
The two most widely recognized credentials in the industry, both of which require meeting specific eligibility requirements (which are satisfied through the completion of a medical assistant education program) and passing a certification examination include:
- Certified Medical Assistant, American Association of Medical Assistants
- The Registered Medical Assistant, American Medical Technologists
Other recognized medical assistant credentials include:
- National Center for Competency Testing: The National Certified Medical Assistant
- National Healthcare Association: Certified Clinical Medical Assistant
- The American Society of Podiatric Medical Assistants: Podiatric Medical Assistant, Certified
- The Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel In Ophthalmology: Certified Ophthalmic Assistant
Step 3. Learn More about Employment Opportunities for Medical Assistants
A better understanding of the medical assistant profession in Illinois can be achieved through membership in a professional association, such as the Illinois Society of Medical Assistants, which has chapters in:
- Illinoi Valley
- Aux Plaines
- McLean County
- Mississippi Valley
- Northwest Cook
- Lincoln Land
- Southern Illinois
Illinois’ largest hospitals and physician groups are also some of the largest and most active employers of medical assistants. Consider beginning your job search by learning more about career opportunities with these organizations:
- Advocate Medical Group, Park Ridge
- Loyola University Medical Center, Maywood
- Northwest Medical Faculty Foundation, Chicago
- Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Chicago
- Alexis Medical Center, Hoffman Estates
- University of Chicago Medical Center, Chicago
- Rush University Medical Center, Chicago