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.

CNA Nurse


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

Join A CNA Program

You will most probably need to join and complete an approved CNA program in your state to prepare for the nurse aide certification exam.

Apply For CNA License

Once you have completed your CNA program (or not, depending on your state), you can apply for your CNA license with your state's nursing board or licensing authority.

Pass Your CNA Exam

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.

Become A Certified Nursing Assistant

After you pass your CNA exam, your name is added to your state’s nurse aide registry and you may receive your CNA license from your state in four to eight weeks.

CNA Programs by State

Just click on your state or the state where you want to get your training, and you’ll be presented with great options:

FAQs About CNA Programs

Get the answers to the most commonly asked questions about CNA programs.

What are CNA courses?

CNA programs or courses help you prepare for your state's Certified Nursing Assistant exam and a career as a CNA. These courses/programs include classroom education and supervised clinical training. These courses train you to help patients with their personal hygiene and daily living needs, provide them comfort and transportation assistance, and monitor their vital signs. You will also learn how to work in specific settings including nursing homes, assisted living facilities, hospices, hospitals, doctors’ 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 most states prior to applying for CNA licensure. In the states that don’t require it, this requirement is waived if you are in the process of completing an RN degree or LVN / LPN license program and have already taken classroom lessons and clinical training required for CNAs as part of that RN or LVN/LPN program or if you simply have a high school diploma or GED or even if you don’t have the diploma/GED, you just have to be over 18 years of age and you can attempt the state’s CNA exam directly.

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 are simply to help you discover what a CNA program entails so that you can decide if it is the right career for you.

What can I expect in a CNA program?

In an approved CNA program, you will be prepared 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 lectures, classroom discussions, instructional videos, and practice 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, so whether you are currently employed or still in school working towards a high school diploma or other degree program, completing a CNA program is convenient for you. After completing 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 like 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 in daily activities including bathing, moving from one place to another, oral hygiene, feeding, and personal grooming. You will also learn how to encourage your patients’ 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 a CNA program?

The cost of a CNA program varies 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 have to pay 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 prove financial need.

What are the requirements of CNA programs?

In order to take CNA programs, 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 if you don’t have a high school diploma or GED. You may also need to attend an orientation session for those entering a CNA program or those entering continuing education studies. In addition, you may 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 program. You must also pass all quizzes, tests, and assessments with a satisfactory grade.

How long are CNA classes?

CNA programs vary in length depending on the school you choose. The Red Cross offers a four-week CNA course, whereas community colleges often offer eight-week courses. When quantified by hour, programs usually range from 75 - the minimum required by federal law - to well over 100 hours. These hours are broken down into classroom instruction, lab work, 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. Also, there are three-week programs that often require full eight-hour days from Monday through Friday for accelerated completion.

What is the level of difficulty for CNA programs?

Most CNAs rate the level of difficulty for CNA programs and subsequent exam as easy, especially those who 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. 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 parts of CNA programs, but even those were described “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 a CNA program?

After completing your CNA program, you will be eligible to apply for license through examination in most states. Application requires submitting proof of completion of your CNA program (in most states) and fingerprints for an in-depth criminal background check (you will need to submit fingerprints at a later stage in other states). Once you pass the written and clinical portions of the exam, your name is added to your state’s nurse aide registry. At this point, you will be able to start applying for jobs 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 required by your state. Some continuing education may also be required to maintain your license.

From the Blog

Most-read posts from our blog:

Quick Facts About CNA Careers

Quick Facts About CNA Careers

| Basics | 5 min read

Tips for Finding the Best CNA Jobs

Tips for Finding the Best CNA Jobs

| Career | 4 min read

Best Places to Work as a CNA

Best Places to Work as a CNA

| Career | 3 min read

Find CNA Programs Near You

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