How to Become A Certified Nursing Assistant

Certified nursing assistants (CNAs) are healthcare professionals who provide personal, hands-on care to patients. They do this in healthcare settings under the supervision of a registered nurse (RN) or licensed practice nurse (LPN). In general, CNAs assist their patients in bathing, feeding, and all other daily living activities. Besides that, they also support doctors and nurses for diagnostic and treatment procedures. Trained CNAs record patients’ condition and information, assess findings, and report significant nursing staff changes.

As compared to other nursing professionals, being a CNA does not require any college degree. Any prospective nursing assistant should enroll in a state-sanctioned training program and then pass a state certification exam. Once they pass that exam, they will be placed on a state registry as a CNA, licensed nursing assistant, or other similar titles, depending on the state. After that, they are all set to start their practice. Each state has different requirements for CNA, so it is necessary to check them. 

With the increased healthcare burden, the demand and scope for health professionals are growing. Indeed, the CNA profession’s estimated growth is predicted to be 7% to 9%, which is greater than the average.

What are the Educational Requirements for a CNA?

To become a CNA, individuals need a high school diploma or GED and nursing assistant training. You can find about these programs via community colleges, trade schools, and medical facilities. Before enrollment, ensure that the program you are looking into is approved by their state’s nursing board and by the National League for Nursing Accredited Commission (NLMC).

After successful training, you will need to pass a CNA certification examination. The exam has two parts-a written section and a practical section. The written exam will be taken in the classroom, and it will consist of multiple-choice questions, and you will have 90 minutes to complete it. The practical exam is the clinical assessment, which is taken individually in front of the examiner. In this assessment, candidates are provided with four randomly selected skills to demonstrate their competency. They have 30 minutes to complete this section. 

CNA Certification Requirements

CNA certification requirements vary state by state. General requirements for CNA certification is mentioned below;

  • Candidates should complete at least 75 hours of education and training from a state-approved CNA program. 
  • A passing score on the competency exam
  • A completed statement with information about physical and mental status, felony convictions, and other personal information
  • Seven hours of HIV/AIDS training 

CNA specialty certification

While general Certified Nursing Assistant education, training and certification are mandatory for each state, you can opt for additional specialty training. These supplementary credentials will help you to expand your opportunities in an area of your interest. Eventually, you can qualify for a higher pay scale.

Besides, specialty certification typically needs education and experience beyond the initial CNA certification. The organization for each credential determines those requirements. Some standard CNA specialty educational certifications include:

  • Certified Alzheimer Caregiver
  • Certified Hospice and Palliative Nursing Assistant
  • Certified Wound Care Associate
  • Medication Aide Certification

What Will You Learn in Your CNA Course?

The CNA education and training programs include coursework and hands-on clinical practice. The course educates about working in various settings such as patient’s homes, hospitals, home care agencies, clinics, etc. This training also educates about caring for patients with different types of health issues such as diabetes, respiratory problems, cognitive impairment, etc. Students learn the following skills;

  • Providing bathing to the patients (bed bath, sponge, tub bath, etc.)
  • Performing vital signs
  • Providing a plan of care
  • Administering oxygen
  • Providing exceptional care to elderly clients, infants, and adults.
  • Removing peripheral and indwelling catheters
  • Providing emergency care beyond CPR
  • Performing infection control and asepsis
  • Assisting clients with personal care

Besides that, CNA training and education also involves learning about how to protect themselves from injuries. Working as a CNA means being on your feet for most of the day and involves physical tasks. Physical tasks increase the risk of injury; therefore, it is essential to know and implement safe practices.

To help protect themselves, CNAs specifically receive education and training for;

  • Maintaining proper body mechanics when caring for patients.
  • Safe practices while transferring and lifting the patients
  • Maintaining a safe and clean environment.
  • Handling equipment safely and correctly.

How long does CNA training take?

Generally, most Certified Nursing Assistant programs take between 4-12 weeks, broken down into instructional hours and clinical skills.

Nursing assistant programs usually accommodate a wide range of students’ schedules. Hence they can find different flexible programs for those who work full time or have greater family responsibilities. Not only that, but many institutes offer day, evening, and weekend classes as well.

Online CNA training programs

Many CNA training schools provide online CNA classes. However, there are a few such institutes at which CNA students can complete their entire training remotely. Most of the job requires person-to-person interaction and hands-on skills training to learn in the classroom, skills lab, and clinical placements. 

Online, hybrid programs allow you to complete and submit some assignments online. At the same time, you need to attend the skills training at the labs and on campus. Clinical placements help students apply those learned skills to real patients. Often, students complete their placements at local nursing homes or hospitals on a schedule coordinated by the school.

Are there any prerequisites for a CNA program?

Most schools that offer Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) education and training require candidates to have a high school certificate and submit their school transcript. Furthermore, many schools also conduct an aptitude or entrance examination and a criminal background check before admitting them.

What is the job market for CNAs?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says employment is expected to increase by 7%-9% due to an aging population and more patients with chronic illnesses.

Data and statistical analysis indicate that CNAs’ demand will be much stronger in-home health care and community-based care organizations. Apart from this, CNAs also work in clinics, hospitals, and assisted living facilities. See a summary of the CNAs’ job descriptions concerning the type of healthcare organization below;

  1. Home health care: CNAs provide care to the patients in their homes. The schedule is less frenetic than in other settings, but you usually have to do the same type of work.
  2. Hospitals: CNAs usually prefer to work in hospitals because of higher pay, benefits, and opportunity to work with a wide range of medical staff. They can also find work opportunities at different departments that help broaden their skillset. However, there is a lack of long-term relationship maintenance with patients since most are discharged after a few days. Also, they have to work in shifts with a higher workload.
  3. Nursing and long-term care facilities: With increasing chronic illness and aging, long-term care demand is also rising. Working in this sector helps CNAs know their patients, and many CNAs say that this increases their job satisfaction. 


The bottom line is, Certified Nursing Assistants’ education and training involve clinical, theoretical, and practical knowledge for a variety of patients of different ages and physiological conditions. They work under the supervision of RNs and LPNs, and they closely serve to provide personal care to the patients. They are trained to work in different types of healthcare organizations. Their demand will increase at a faster pace in the next decade. 

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