Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA): What Are the Educational Requirements?

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

What Is a Certified Nursing Assistant?

Certified nurse assistants (CNAs) work with other medical personnel to care for patients in a variety of medical settings. They usually help patients and residents with daily tasks, such as dressing, bathing and eating. CNAs can also provide basic clinical care, such as taking vital signs and consulting with patients about their health issues. Jobs are available at hospitals, nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

Learn more about the education and training requirements, job duties and necessary skills for this career by reviewing the table.

Training Required State-approved nurse assistant training program; on-the-job training
Key Responsibilities Check vital signs, dress/bathe patients, transfer patients
Licensure/Certification Certification is required to use the CNA title and is granted after passing a competency exam
Job Growth (2014-2024) 18% (for all nursing assistants)*
Median Salary (2015) $25,710 (for all nursing assistants)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Education and Training Do I Need to Become a CNA?

You'll need to complete an accredited CNA program to work as a CNA in your state. Most CNA programs range from 75 to 150 hours and include classroom coursework and practical training. Topics of study might include medical terminology, body systems, nursing assistant duties, communication skills and patient care techniques. Graduates are usually awarded a certificate of completion. Vocational schools, community colleges and some chapters of the Red Cross offer CNA training. Additionally, hospitals and clinics sometimes offer on-the-job training programs for CNAs. You'll need a high school diploma or GED (General Educational Development) certificate to enroll in most CNA programs.

After you complete your training program, you'll need to pass a competency examination in order to be added to your state's registry of CNAs. Licensure and certification requirements vary by state, so you may need to meet additional educational or training requirements.

What Job Duties Will I have?

As a CNA, you'll assist medical staff and care for patients in settings such as hospitals, rehabilitation clinics and nursing homes. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), some of your duties might include serving meals, making beds, changing bedpans, monitoring vital signs and helping patients dress and bathe.You could also assist doctors and nurses by taking a patient's temperature, blood pressure and pulse rate.

What Skills Do I Need?

CNAs provide direct care provided to residents of long-term care facilities; usually, that means far more personal contact than most health care professionals. Because you'll be spending a considerable amount of time with patients, you'll need excellent communication skills, emotional stability and the ability to work in a team setting. You're likely to encounter terminally ill and elderly patients as a CNA, so you'll also need to enjoy working with people and have a compassionate, caring attitude.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

The CNA is the lowest level of nursing; those who want to advance in the field may want to seek higher designations, such as the Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or Registered Nurse (RN) credential. LPNs need to earn a postsecondary certificate, while RNs need an undergraduate degree in order to practice. Another option is a job as a home health aide. Rather than working in a healthcare establishment, these aides help people with daily activities in their own homes. Unlike CNAs, they do not need to be certified.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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