Everything You Need to Know About Online CNA Programs
If you aspire to be a certified nursing assistant, or CNA, but are being held back due to time and scheduling constraints, online CNA programs may be the answer. Find out what is involved in finding and completing online CNA programs, including eligibility requirements and typical costs, to make the most informed decision possible.
About Online CNA Programs
The first thing to understand about online CNA programs is that they aren't conducted completely over the internet. Like all CNA programs, online courses are designed to prepare you for your state's CNA certification exam. In all 50 states, the certification exam consists of two parts: a written skills portion and a clinical skills portion. For the latter, you are required to demonstrate proficiency with various skills. This part of your training cannot be conducted over the internet. Online programs typically partner with local hospitals and other facilities, so you can expect to spend at least part of your training at such sites. Lab work is also part of most curricula, and it must also be completed in person.
Benefits of Online CNA Programs
Although online CNA programs aren't conducted completely online, they are still excellent options for busy adults who struggle to fit classes into their schedules. Some of the top benefits of online CNA programs include:
- Flexibility - Lectures and homework are mostly handled online, so you can complete them according to your own schedule.
- Accessibility - Online programs minimizes the amount of commuting that you must do, as you can complete much of your work wherever you have internet access.
- Savings - Although it's not universally true, many online CNA programs are more affordable than strictly campus-based programs, as there is less overhead.
Eligibility requirements for most online CNA programs are exactly the same as those for campus-based programs. To be eligible, you must meet the following criteria:
- at least 16 to 18 years old, depending on the state
- high school diploma, GED or extensive experience in the healthcare field
- clean criminal background check
- clean health screening
- a computer and reliable access to the internet
How to Find an Online CNA Program
Whether online or offline, the most important aspect of selecting a CNA program is choosing one that is accredited and approved by your state's board of nursing--or the board of nursing in whichever state you plan to work as a CNA. While unaccredited and unapproved programs may provide the training and knowledge that are needed to work as a CNA, they do not make you eligible to sit for the CNA certification exam. Before checking anything else, make certain that the program in question is approved and that you will be eligible to sit for the exam upon completing it.
Since online CNA programs are actually hybrid, or blended, programs, with on-site clinical skills training at local facilities, it is generally best to look for programs that are offered by local community colleges and vocational schools. That way, you won't have to go far to complete the on-site training requirements. Further, the right online program will be based in your state, as its curriculum must be designed with your state's CNA certification exam in mind.
Keep in mind that although online CNA programs are more flexible and convenient in many ways, they all consist of a minimum of 75 hours of instruction and training. Most take anywhere from six to 12 weeks to complete.
Some of the top rated online CNA schools include:
- Pennsylvania State University Online School
- Lake Region Technical College Online School
- Quinnipiac University Online School
- St. Joseph's College Online School
Clinical Skills Training in Online CNA Programs
Carefully review every online CNA program that you consider to ensure that you will be able to fulfill its clinical skills and lab work sections. Reputable programs will clearly state where, when and how such training is handled by the program, so you will know what to expect before enrolling. Confirm that you will be able to participate in and complete your practical skills training, and remember that half of the certification exam involves demonstrating those skills.
No reputable online CNA courses are conducted entirely online. If you run across any, they are certainly not accredited or approved by the state board of nursing and should therefore be avoided.
Typical Cost of Online CNA Programs
Online CNA programs are often slightly less expensive than programs that are conducted completely on campus. However, tuition costs vary widely, with programs costing anywhere from $250 to more than $2,000. With online programs, however, you can usually save money by not having to commute back and forth. Books and other study materials are often a little more affordable too.
By comparison, on-campus programs that are offered by local colleges typically charge around $71.50 per credit hour. Some programs require 10 to 12 credits for completion, so total tuition costs can approach or even exceed $10,000 in some cases.
In addition to tuition, you can expect to pay around $500 for books and study materials, around $200 for uniforms and other supplies, around $25 for a criminal background check and another $100 or so in miscellaneous fees, including a technology fee and campus access fee.
So, is an online CNA program right for you? If saving time and money are top priorities, it might be the easiest way for you to become a CNA.