How To Become a CNA (Certified Nurse Assistant)

How To Become a CNA

CNAs or certified nurse assistants perform a variety of duties. Regardless of their tasks, they always work under the direct supervision of registered nurses. One of their duties is to chart any changes in patient's condition, as well as behavior and daily activities. They record every medication the patient is taking. They document food and liquid intake of the patients. They also prepare patients for treatment or examination. CNAs often perform many of the same duties as LPNs - for example they may be responsible taking patients' vital signs, i.e. monitoring their temperature, blood pressure, pulse and respiration.

The Training Involved for a CNA

Training requirements vary from on-the-job training to completion of a formal training program. Jobs not requiring prior training usually offer either formal or informal on the job training programs.

Training schools to become a CNA are plentiful from vocational-technical schools to nursing homes, hospitals and community colleges. Nursing homes that offer CNA training classes require that the individual work at their facility for a certain amount of time in exchange for the training. Prorams typically consist of a mix of classroom setting and hands-on practice sessions.

How Long Does Training Take to Become a CNA?

This largely depends on the state you work in and certification requirements as well as the type of healthcare facility you want to work in. But in general, training courses range from 4 weeks and up to 90 days. For those without a healthcare background, you may also have to take a few pre-requisites.

CNA Coursework

Students will learn about: patient care standards, legal issues, duties and responsibilities, the use of various medical equipment, proper daily care procedures as well as: nutrition, anatomy, physiology, infection control, body mechanics, nutrition.

Once you complete a certified nurse aid training program, you will be required to sit for the specific state certifying test to become certified and commence working as a CNA in a hospital, long-term care facility (nursing homes), care homes, private homes, adult day cares and clinics.

Licensing Requirements

These differ based on the state you plan to work in, but in general, each state requires CNAs to have:

    • Completed a 75-hour training of intensive classroom and practical experience in a state-approved facility, AND
    • Pass a competency evaluation

After completing the training program and pass the certification exam you can carry the designation of a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). Your name will then be registered on the State registry of nurse aides. In addition to the above mandated requirements, CNA's also have to: be physically fit, complete a physical exam, undergo state-regulated health and fitness tests and pass a criminal background check.

Career Progression for a CNA

If this career is appealing to you, then later on you can consider progressing into other health care professions. You will require additional formal training and/or education depending on your choice for example you may decide to become a licensed practical nurse, registered nurse or a certified medical assistant - all of which will also entail a higher salary.


Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

Training: 8 weeks - 16 weeks (Certificate Program).

Salary: c. $18,790-$36,170


Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)

Training: 1 Year (Certificate Program) 2 Years (Associate Degree)

Salary: c. ​$21,540-$42,760



Training: 12-18 months (Certificate, Diploma, Associate Degree)
Salary: c. $31,640-$58,710



Training: 2-4 years (Associate Degree in Nursing, Bachelor's of Science in Nursing )
Salary: c. $45,880-$98,880

To become an RN, some colleges require you to have taken the CNA course as a pre-requisite. So completing a CNA course can be very useful if you wish to progress to an RN. As an RN, you can then further specialise in any of the following fields: RN in Emergency Room, Family Nurse Practioner (NP), a Charge Nurse (RN) and an RN in Operation Room.

The duties of an LPN are much more basic than that of an RN and are generally employed in general duty nursing such as in nursing home facilities. To progress from an LPN students complete the LPN-RN associated degree program.

Finally, a CMA can further their career by progressing to become an Office Manager within a medical office facility.

Why Consider a Career as a Nurses Aide?

CNAs are in demand right now. This is a rare opportunity and ideal time to join the health care field as a CNA. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics health care and social assistance jobs are envisaged to have the fastest growth rate for the next 10 years.

This projected growth trend is not only visible on the national level, but is visible on the state level as well. This increase in the demand for health care workers is due to an inevitable growing and aging population. Certified nursing assistants can begin work once they undergo the required training and pass the state examination test and may expect to earn between $9 and up to $17 per hour as a qualified CNA professional.

All salary figures courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.