A Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) provides direct care and performs routine tasks under the supervision of registered nurses and other medical personnel. This is a highly rewarding career for those seeking to enter the healthcare field in a job offering attractive salaries and good job prospects.

While career growth is limited as a certified nurse assistant, many use this job as a stepping stone to a more advanced nursing career, such as Medical Assistant (MA), Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or Registered Nurse (RN). A real benefit to this option is that you may be able to have your education paid for by your employer if you agree to remain with the facility for a set number of years after graduation.

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How Long Does it Take to Become a CNA – Education Requirements and Training:

Specific qualifications vary by state and work setting. In most cases, a high school diploma or GED, along with completion of a CNA training program will be necessary to obtain a job as a certified nursing assistant. Hospitals may require prior experience as a home health aide (HHA) or personal care assistant (PCA). Certified nursing assistant training is available in high schools, vocational schools, nursing care facilities, and the continuing education department of community colleges.


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Coursework will typically include anatomy and physiology, biomechanics (how to move patients without injury), patient and family communication patient rights and confidentiality, nutrition, and infection control. Personal care skills (eating, bathing, dressing, grooming) are also taught in most programs.

Some employers, primarily nursing care facilities, provide classroom instruction for newly hired certified nursing assistants, while others may rely solely on informal on-the-job training by senior CNAs or nursing staff. Training may last from several days to a few months, usually 8-16 weeks depending on the state you want the license for. The CNA training duration also depends on the institution where you are taking your classes, whether you are full-time or a part time student and how good a student you are. But on average, most institutions will require an average about 75 hours of training classes and then you will need to pass the CNA certification exam at the end of your training.  During training, CNAs attend lectures, workshops, and participate in in-service training (hands on patient care  under the supervision of nursing staff).

CNA  Certification and Licensure

Federal government regulations stipulate that nursing assistants working within nursing care facilities must be certified. Certification requires the completion of a minimum of 75 hours of State-approved training and the passing of a competency test. Nursing assistants who satisfactorily complete these requirements are then known as Certified Nursing Assistants and placed on the State registry so that potential employers may check their status.

Additional requirements may exist on a state-by-state basis; e.g., most states will require that you submit to State-regulated health tests (e.g. TB test), along with a criminal background check. It is best to contact your State Board of Health for all information. You can easily access this agency by typing your state’s name followed by “State Board of Health” into your browser. For example, “California State board of Health.” You may also contact the human resource department of an area nursing facility or hospital to inquire about the process for hiring.

CNA Career Overview

Although specific tasks may vary between type of setting, certified nursing assistants are primarily responsible for providing many duties associated with direct patient care.

  •  Help patients perform activities of daily living such as eating, dressing, bathing, cleaning, and, if able, shopping.
  •  They also perform such tasks as taking the patient’s temperature, recording pulse rate, and blood pressure.
  •  Within a hospital setting, certified nursing assistant may help patients get out of bed, walking and escorting them to examination or operating rooms.  They may also help serve meals, make beds, and clean rooms.
  •  Some certified nursing assistants help other medical staff with setting up equipment for examinations, storing supplies, and assisting with routine examinations.
  •  Certified nursing assistants perform some duties that can be somewhat unpleasant such as emptying bedpans, helping patients with toileting, changing bed linens, and caring for patients who, at times, may be irritable and uncooperative.
  •  Certified nursing assistants also monitor patients’ physical, mental, and emotional condition and alert nurses or other medical staff of any concerns.
  •  Certified nursing assistants employed within nursing homes are often the primary caregiver and have more contact with patients than do nurses and other medical staff. Because nursing home residents may remain at the facility for months or years, many a CNA develop very close relationships with them..

Working as a certified nursing assistant can be physically challenging as part of the work may involve lifting patients from their bed. As a result, a CNA needs to guard against back injury and many often wear back braces when lifting patients to prevent injury. Most CNA training programs include sufficient training in biomechanics (how to properly lift and move patients).

Certified nursing assistants also spend many hours on their feet walking between patient rooms and escorting them to different appointments. Certified nursing assistants do experience safety hazards as a result of being exposed to such minor injuries as cuts and bruises which can cause infection. They are also exposed to major diseases such as hepatitis from blood contamination. Infection can be avoided by following prescribed safety measures such as the use of gloves and masks.

Most CNA training programs cover all necessary safety procedures so that risk of contamination is minimal if all necessary precautions are taken. Although their work is physically and emotionally challenging, many certified nursing assistants derive a great deal of personal satisfaction from helping those in need and, in the cases of those residents not having family nearby, being the person’s main source of support.

Most full time certified nursing assistants work about 40 hours per week on a rotating schedule since patients need care 24 hours a day, 7 days per week, including nights, weekends, and holidays. As such, this is a viable part-time career, especially during nights and weekends.

Career Outlook

Employment prospects for certified nursing assistants are bright! According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rate of growth for CNAs is anticipated to be about 19 percent through 2018, a rate that is faster than that for most other occupations. This demand arises primarily from the aging of the population and increased need for medical and long-term care.  In addition, financial considerations on the part of many hospitals means that they are discharging patients as soon as medically feasible which has increased admissions into nursing homes.

As a result, employment opportunities will be greater within nursing care facilities than in hospitals, and employment prospects will be especially bright within communicate care centers for the elderly (i.e., adult day treatment programs). Advances in medical technology will also spur demand for certified nursing assistants because this technology is extending the lives of the elderly who will then need long-term care provided by CNAs.

One factor that limits growth of CNAs is nursing facility reliance on government funding, which does not increase in tandem with the increased costs of patient care. This then limits the number of certified nursing assistants that a nursing facility can employ.


Median Certified Nurse Assistant salary ranges  in select regional areas.

Los Angeles, CA $31,072
Boulder, CO $29,092
Boca Raton, FL $27,818
Atlanta, GA $28,356
New York, NY $33,591
Dallas, TX $28,214

Figures as per salary.com

Certified Nursing Assistant Schools by State