5 Steps to Becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant

Five steps to becoming a CNA include earning a high school diploma, finding and completing a CNA program, passing the CNA exam, and securing employment.
5 Steps to Becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant

If you have landed on this page, you have made a smart step to beginning a successful and rewarding career. Certified nursing assistants are in great demand today, and this demand is expected to increase for the next several years. And one of the most attractive features about becoming a CNA is that you only need to complete five steps before you can launch your exciting new career!

  1. Earning a High School Diploma or GED - Contrary to popular belief, you do not need a high school diploma (HSD) or GED to become a CNA. However, it is highly recommended to have a HSD or GED, as some employers prefer to hire CNAs with HSD or GED and you will need it if you later decide to move into another, more advanced medical field like that of a registered nurse.
  2. Locating a Training School and Fulfilling its Entrance Requirements - The next step to becoming a CNA is to locate a school for your training and check out its entrance requirements. Typically, you can find CNA programs in such educational facilities as local community colleges, vocational schools, and trade schools. Entrance requirements, sometimes referred to as admission requirements, often vary from one training facility to the next. As a result, you can learn about these requirements by visiting the school's website or speaking to an admissions representative. In most cases, entrance requirements include the following:
    • Entrance Exam (math, reading, and writing)
    • High School Transcripts (If Applicable)
    • Completion of an Admissions Application
    • Completion of a Financial Aid Application (If Necessary)
    • Proof of Current Vaccinations
  3. Registering for and Completing Your CNA Program - After completing all of your school's entrance requirements, you can register for your CNA program. Depending on the scores you achieved on your entrance exams, you may need to complete various general education courses before you can begin your actual CNA training. A program adviser can help you determine what courses you will need to take to complete your program. Typically, CNA programs consist of a mixture of theoretical coursework and practical, hands-on training. Most programs last only a few short weeks and include such training classes as those listed below.
    • Introduction to Healthcare
    • Nutrition and Dietary Concerns
    • Geriatric Care
    • Ambulatory Transfers
    • Infection Control
    • Safety and Emergency Procedures
    • Basic Nursing Skills
    • Communication and Interpersonal Skills
  4. Studying for and Taking Your CNA Competency Exam - Once you have completed your CNA training, you will need to study for your state’s CNA competency exam, also known as the CNA certification exam. An acceptable score on this exam will place you on your state's nursing assistant registry and allow you to seek employment as a CNA. Your school can help you locate a testing center near you, and depending on your state, you will have two or three chances to pass this two-part exam. The first part of your exam involves answering 60 to 90 multiple choice questions, and the second part involves performing three to six practical skills. Requirements you may need to fulfill before taking your CNA exam are as follows:
    • Submission of a Testing Application
    • Proof of CNA Training
    • Proof of CPR Certification
    • Payment of Current Exam Fee
    • Criminal Background Check
  5. Seeking Out and Securing Employment - If you have made it this far, you can now begin looking for a position as a CNA. While many employers today require the completion of online applications, it is still a good idea to keep a paper copy of your resume. There are many resources you can use to locate a CNA position, and some of the more popular resources are listed below.
    • Your School's Job Bulletin Board
    • Your Local Employment Office
    • Bulletin Boards in Local Libraries
    • CNA Staffing Agencies
    • Online Job Websites
    • Websites of Local Medical Facilities


Five steps to becoming a CNA include earning a high school diploma, finding and completing a CNA program, passing the CNA exam, and securing employment.

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