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The 411 on CNA Training

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So you’ve decided to become a CNA. Congrats! You are on a great career path and are about to embark on a journey that will change your life. Whether you intend to stay a CNA for the length of your career or climb the nursing ladder, by means of LPN or RN, what you learn as Certified Nursing Assistant will serve as the foundation of your career.

What you learn in CNA training will stay with you throughout your career.

It is important to understand that CNA training involves a lot of information, mostly new to you, and is taught at a fast pace. Since this is most likely your first look into the medical field there will be times you will feel overwhelmed with all new information to learn, memorize and practice. Keep up on your studies, be a responsible student and your should preform well.

Education is an important factor of joining the workforce of today, with many top ranked schools offering nurses aide training programs both online and offline, as well as free courses available in select areas within various nursing facilities. Therefore, it is important to find a reputable training program or certification class so that you become a highly-capable medical professional.

Most CNA training programs will be 75 hours long over a 6 week period – there are accelerated programs available. Training can be done in a classroom, online, or as a hybrid of both.

Certified Nurses Aid (CNA)

Licensed Practical Nurse(LPN)

 Registered Nurse (RN)

Hourly Rate:  c. $9-$17

Hourly Rate: c. $15-$28

Hourly Rate: c. $22-$47

Training: 8-16 weeks

Training: 12-18 months

Training: 2-4 years

All salary figures courtesy of US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Completing a specialized training course will allow students to apply for the state examination to become a Certified Nurse Assistant. In addition to taking the certification exam, CNA’s can make themselves more marketable by completing the acute care training program.

Many certified nurses aides who underwent the necessary training claim that the program itself is a lifetime experience that will never be forgotten. It gives you the knowledge and confidence needed to start working patients because it is so hands on.

What you will learn is vital and once you’ve successfully completed the program you will be able to serve your community, work as a CNA and regard it as the baseline towards becoming a Registered Nurse, if you wish to continue on with your studies.

CNA Training

What are the training requirements for a CNA?

State By State

Every state is different and requires different qualifications for CNAs. Therefore, CNA training classes can differ somewhat from one school and state to the next. However, the core of these programs is basically the same. Find your state’s requirements for CNA field entry in order to ensure the curriculum offered at the school you choose is going to be sufficient.


When starting the search for a CNA training program, your first step will be to identify the schools that you are interested in, and then check to make sure they offer an accredited CNA program.

Accreditation is perhaps the most important factor in receiving your education, as most employers will not accept a certificate from a school that is not accredited (or affiliated with a healthcare facility that is accredited). Whether you choose to take classes at a bricks-and-mortar establishment or online, your education options should start with accredited colleges offering CNA courses.

CNA Factfind

  • Career level: Entry-level
  • Education: State-approved program
  • Licensing: Passing score on state competency exam
  • Licensing renewal: Usually every two years

Finding CNA Training Programs

There are a variety of options for CNA training programs found in vocational centers, technical centers, nursing care facilities, high schools, private colleges and community colleges.

Many students opt to obtain their education through the healthcare facility in which they would like to work, as these often offer free CNA certification courses with the promise of post-graduation employment. There are also campuses that offer nursing assistant training classes consisting of 50 or more classroom earned hours, with an average of 28 on-site learning hours in an approved facility.

You may also opt for online courses or weekend classes. However, if you prefer to learn through hands-on environment, then a campus set-up or hospital training would be ideal for you. But, if you have a full-time job and wish to make a career change or you have small ones at home, then online courses are the way to go.

Here is a typical nurse’s aid training program:

  • The first six weeks include classroom based training, that is lectures, study guide work and practicing skills.
  • The last few weeks (2-3) of the training program is the clinical practice where students get actual hands-on skills practice at a nearby nursing home.

There are many CNA training programs to choose from each varying in benefit, cost and convenience.

In-Class CNA Instruction

CNA training that takes place in a classroom environment with an instructor is beneficial because of the hands-on, real life experience it offers. It is highly recommended that if you are just starting out in the medical field and have no prior experience handling patients in health-related situations that you take your CNA training at an in-class environment.

  • Cost: Moderate to High $300-$800
  • Employable: High
  • Flexability: Low

CNA Training Online

There are many sites currently that are offering CNA training online. Each site goes about training in a different way but generally you will receive a training packet, access to training videos, and live time with an instructor for any questions. This option is great if you need a refresher course but it really isn’t recommended for those just starting out as a CNA. These courses may prepare you to pass the CNA test but when it comes to actually taking care of patients this type of training falls short. Plus, its not the first choice of employer.

  • Cost: Low $150-$300
  • Employable: Low
  • Flexibility: High

Free CNA Training

If you can get on the job training for no cost to you that would be the best option yet! These opportunities do exist, however, it does take some digging. Start with calling your local red cross – they may have free CNA training set up in your area as part of their program or they may know which facilities offer free CNA training. If you don’t have any luck with your red cross office then an online search of hospitals, nursing homes, and hospice centers in your area will be your next step. Ask them if they offer classes, or have a train to be hired program. If they do, great! But know that many of these programs will start you out at a lower hourly rate, weight this fact against how much money your are saving on the training. However, if it ensures you getting hired right out of training or passing your state CNA test then it may just be worth it!

  • Cost: NONE!
  • Employable: Very high
  • Flexibility: Low

Taking CNA Classes Online

Nurse studying nursing books

You can pursue your goals of working as a nursing assistant by enrolling in one of the accredited schools that offer CNA training online. They offer programs that make it easier for you to complete the training right at the comfort of your own home. Online courses can often cost less than those held on a campus, and are a great fit for people with busy lives and who are self-motivated and disciplined.

There are no prerequisites when entering an online training program. Just like the traditional training programs, the online training version for potential nursing assistants includes the basics of effective communication and how the patient’s records are entered. Students are also taught on the proper way to take vital signs. Some online schools also teach their students how to place catheters and feeding tubes.

Usually, you are provided with a full academic library from which you can perform research for written assignments or tests. From writing guides to learning resources, nursing resources, and much more, you are getting a full spectrum of resources that are highly essential to the quality of your education and your overall success.

The online curriculum differs slightly from the offline options, but with many programs you are still required to perform in the field for the appropriate state-required training hours

Prerequisites for CNA Programs

A high school diploma/GED may be required before you can sign up for the training. Many classes hold a small a number of students so getting your application in early is important. You will also be required to complete a physical examination with the doctor of your choice, obtain MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella) Clearance, obtain TB Clearance (can be done during your physical examination and obtain criminal clearance check online.

You can also advance to become a registered nurse or licensed practical nurse by going back to school and undergo further training. Completing a nursing aide training program is pre-requisite for some of the RN programs. After you have completed your training, you are now ready to take the certification examination to become a licensed certified nursing assistant.

…Lastly, How do I go about getting financial aid for CNA training?

Explore options for financial aid and scholarships offered to prospective students so you are able to choose the school for which it will be easiest to pay.

If you cannot find nursing homes that offer free CNA training and finance is required then your next option would be student loans or a federal Pell grant.

If you qualify for FAFSA (federal college aid via ) money then you can use it to enroll in a CNA program offered at a local community college.  Just ensure that the school is enrolled in the Title IV program and has a school code for FAFSA.

Alternatively, most community colleges have a payment plan that you can enroll in so enquire about this when you are making initial contact. Lastly, student loans can be taken out and not paid until after graduation. Gaining your CNA certification should not mean you have to wind up in a financial bind!