Why Become a Certified Nursing Assistant

Becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant is a great way to enter the field of nursing. You can get started as soon as you graduate high school, or sooner in some states. Here are some great reasons to choose this path.


    The job outlook for nursing assistants is expected to grow by 21% from 2012 to 2022, which is faster than average.


    CNAs work in a variety of settings including nursing homes, assisted living facilities, hospitals, doctor's offices, and urgent care clinics.


    There is high demand for CNAs due to the increase in elderly population and high turnover rate in the nursing industry.


    According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, CNAs earn $24,000 to $26,000 per year. The top paid CNAs earn up to $36,000 per year.


    As a CNA, you will be able to care for patients’ basic needs, allowing you to improve their quality of life on a daily basis.

How to Become a Certified Nursing Assistant?

Follow these steps to become a Certified Nursing Assistant in your state:

  • 1


    You will need to join and complete an accredited CNA program in your state to prepare for the nursing aid certification exam.

  • 2


    Once you have completed your CNA program, you can apply for your CNA license with your state's nursing board or licensing authority.

  • 3


    In order to get your CNA license, you will need to pass the CNA exam consisting of a theoretical (written) and clinical (hands-on) test.

  • 4


    After you pass your CNA exam, you will receive your CNA license in four to eight weeks. You can then apply for employment as a CNA.


The following schools offer accredited CNA programs in the country.


Get the answers to the most commonly asked questions about becoming a CNA.

  • What are CNA courses?

    CNA programs or courses help you prepare for your state's Certified Nursing Assistant exam and career as a CNA. These courses/programs include classroom education and supervised clinical training. These courses are geared to train you to help patients with their personal hygiene and daily living needs, as well as provide comfort, transportation, and monitoring of vital signs. You will also learn how to work in specific settings including nursing homes, assisted living facilities, hospices, hospitals, doctor's offices, medical clinics, and urgent care clinics under the instruction of licensed nurses and doctors. Successful completion of an approved CNA program is required by state and federal laws prior to applying for CNA licensure. In some states, this requirement is waived if you are in the process of completing an RN or LVN / LPN degree program and have already taken classroom lessons and clinical training required for CNAs as part of that RN or LVN/LPN degree program.

  • Where can I find CNA courses?

    Accredited vocational schools, nursing schools, community colleges, the Red Cross, and even some high schools offer CNA courses. CNA courses are typically offered on-campus, but some of the classes - the classroom education - are, as they can be, offered online also. If you are not sure if becoming a CNA is right for you, you can find free CNA courses online through OpenCourseWare systems from universities such as Des Moines University, Johns Hopkins University, University of Michigan, and University of Notre Dame. Note that courses offered through OpenCourseWare systems are non-credited, so they will not count towards any requirements for completion of a CNA program in your state. These would be simply to help you discover what CNA coursework would entail so that you can decide if it is the right career path for you.

  • What can I expect in a CNA program?

    In an accredited CNA program, you can expect to complete coursework that prepares you for the written and clinical portions of your state's Certified Nursing Assistant exam. Your CNA program will cover communication, safety, patient rights, nursing ethics, patient care, vital sign monitoring, elimination techniques, nutrition, emergency response, rehabilitation, and mental health. You will learn these skills in classroom, lab, and clinical settings. You will be taught through instructor-led lecture, classroom discussions, viewing instructional video, and practicing in a nursing lab. Depending on the school you choose, you will have the choice of morning, afternoon, or evening classes to fit your schedule, whether you are currently employed or still in school working towards a high school diploma or other degree program. After you have completed your CNA program, you should know how to provide basic patient care in settings such as a nursing home, hospital, and doctor's office.

  • What do you learn in a CNA program?

    During your CNA program, you will learn to effectively communicate with patients, their family, and those involved in their medical care, including other facility staff, nurses, and doctors. This will include the use of correct medical terminology and abbreviations. You will learn to identify the basic needs of your patients and changes in their physical, social, and emotional growth and development. You will be taught legal and ethical principles surrounding patient care, including confidentiality, policies and procedures, and your ethical responsibilities as a nursing aide. You will be trained to assist patients with daily activities including bathing, transportation, oral hygiene, feeding, elimination, and personal grooming. You will also learn how to encourage your patient's behaviors to allow for a restraint-free environment, and when / how to restrain patients when needed for their safety and the safety of their family and facility staff caring for them.

  • What is the cost of CNA courses?

    The cost of CNA courses vary based on the school you choose to attend. Some programs break the fees down by classroom instruction, clinical training, textbooks, and other components. Others charge by credit hour, and the cost for those programs depends on how many credits they break the training into. In addition to the courses, you may also have to pay additional fees for application processing at your school of choice and criminal background check. If you are currently working in a healthcare setting, you may want to check with your employer to see what costs they are willing to cover to help you transition to becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant. Some states require that employers cover part or all of tuition costs for certification training. Grants may also be available for students who demonstrate financial need.

  • What are the requirements of CNA courses?

    In order to take CNA courses, you must meet specific requirements, which vary based on the school you choose. Most schools require that you complete a routine criminal background check along with a physical and mental evaluation to ensure that you are capable of completing the CNA program and meeting the occupational responsibilities of a CNA. You may need to pass basic testing in reading and mathematics. You may also need to attend an orientation session for those entering a CNA program or those entering continuing education studies. In addition, you will need to submit your immunization records or proof of immunity from certain diseases and conditions. Attendance to all classroom-led instruction, lab skills training, and clinical experience are mandatory to passing your CNA courses. You must also pass all quizzes, tests, and assessments with a satisfactory grade.

  • How long are CNA classes?

    CNA courses vary in length depending on the state you are in and their particular requirements. The Red Cross offers a four-week CNA course, whereas community colleges often offer eight-week courses. When quantified by hour, programs range from 75 to 80 hours. These hours are broken down into classroom instruction, lab skills, and supervised clinical practice. The length of time you spend in class depends on the school and overall length of the program. For example, in an eight-week program, day classes will meet for three to four hours Monday through Friday, with some full-day meetings on Saturdays for labs and clinical practice. Evening classes will meet for four hours without a Saturday lab option. There are two- to four-week programs that often require full eight-hour days from Monday through Friday for accelerated completion.

  • What is the level of difficulty for CNA courses?

    Most CNAs rate the level of difficulty of the CNA courses and subsequent exam as easy, especially if you had no troubles passing high school biology or human anatomy and physiology classes. Even students who take their CNA program while working full time do not find it difficult to keep up with their coursework. The information covered, especially for the written part of the state's Certified Nursing Assistant exam can mostly be answered using common sense. CNAs rated vitals and medical terminology as the most difficult part of the CNA courses, but even those were still described as simple. As long as you pay attention in class and practice your skills, you should not find it difficult to complete your CNA program and go on to pass your CNA exam.

  • What happens after completion of CNA courses?

    After you have completed your CNA courses, you will be eligible to take the Certified Nursing Assistant exam in your state. Once you pass the written and clinical portions of the exam, you can apply for your CNA license. Application requires submitting proof of completion of your CNA courses, along with fingerprints for an in-depth criminal background check. If you pass the background check, you will receive your CNA license within four to eight weeks. At this point, you will be able to start applying for job opportunities as a Certified Nursing Assistant. Then, to keep your CNA license active, you will need to maintain continuous employment as a CNA for at least the minimum number of hours as required by your state. Some continuous education may also be required to maintain your license.

Find CNA Classes Near You

Your path to becoming a CNA starts here. Search for a CNA program near you.