CNA - Certified Nurse Assistant: Career Summary, Job Outlook, and Training Requirements

Research what it takes to become a certified nurse assistant. Learn about job duties, education requirements, wages and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Do Certified Nurse Assistants Do?

Hospital patients and nursing home residents are often looked after by Certified Nurse Assistants (CNAs), who provide sponge baths, hygiene care, vital sign checks and meal assistance. CNAs provide essential help to registered nurses and doctors, who supervise their work as they provide basic care and assistance to injured, sick or infirm patients. In long-term care facilities, CNAs are often the main caregivers and contact points for residents. In some states, CNAs can gain additional training to give medications to patients. The following chart gives you an overview about entering this field.

Degree Required Postsecondary certificate or diploma
Education Field of Study Nurse's aide, nursing assistant
Key Responsibilities Assist patient with cleaning and hygiene; assist patient with transferring between bed and chair and with walking; take and record patient's vital signs; assist patient with meals
Licensure and/or Certification All CNAs must be licensed or registered with the state; additional specialty certification is available
Job Growth (2014-2024) 18%*
Median Salary (2015) $25,710*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What will my Duties be as a Certified Nurse Assistant?

Certified Nurse Assistants are sometimes referred to as nursing aides, and they work under the supervision and guidance of licensed and registered doctors and nurses. As a CNA, you are charged with providing direct patient care. Most often, you will carry out tasks such as bathing patients, feeding or serving meals, and transporting patients to and from their rooms.

Your CNA duties also include assisting medical professionals by collecting bodily samples from patients, monitoring eating habits and overall health, assessing vital signs and preparing patients for surgeries or medical treatments. You may also be trained to set up some medical equipment. Other responsibilities include keeping patients' rooms clean, changing bed sheets and emptying bedpans whenever necessary.

What is the Projected Job Outlook?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that jobs for nursing assistants would increase by 18% from 2014 to 2024 (, which is much more rapid than the average predicted job growth rate for that time. The projected growth is attributed to an increasing senior population that will require long-term residential care to enhance the quality of life. Also, while advanced technology has prolonged lives, it has also created the need for more nursing assistants. The BLS projected that job opportunities for nursing assistants would be most abundant in nursing homes and community facilities for the aged. As of 2015, the mean annual salary for nursing assistants who worked in nursing homes was $25,710, and the mean was $25,130 for those who worked in assisted living facilities.

What Training Requirements Must I Fulfill?

In order to become a CNA, you must enroll in an accredited Certified Nurse Assistant program. If you plan to work in a nursing facility, federal guidelines require that your training program be at least 75 hours long. Many training programs are offered at community colleges and vocational schools.

CNA programs generally focus on topics such as infection control, personal care skills, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) instruction, medical terminology, body mechanics and nurse aide clinical experience. Your chosen program of study should allow significant hands-on learning opportunities, thus preparing you to take a licensing examination. When you have successfully passed the state-administered examination, you will be designated a Certified Nurse Assistant. Other licensing requirements may exist in your state, so you should get more information from your state nursing board.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Related careers to CNAs would include home health aides, personal care aides, licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses. Home health and personal care aides, who assist patients or clients in their own homes, must complete on-the-job training to begin their careers. LPNs and LVNs generally complete a certificate or diploma program; similar to CNAs, they work under the supervision of registered nurses and doctors. Occupational and physical therapy aides are also similar, since they assist OTs and PTs, and they must complete on-the-job training.

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