How to Become a Certified Nursing Assistant in 5 Steps

Certified nursing assistants work alongside nurses and other medical staff to provide basic, hands-on patient care. Find out the typical duties, education requirements and certification information. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Certified Nursing Assistant?

Bathing, feeding, dressing, grooming and moving patients are tasks that certified nursing assistants perform. They work under the supervision of nurses to provide direct personal care to patients. As part of their duties they review patient charts to ensure that the patients are following the correct diet, being repositioned as needed, and they also measure food input and waste output. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 41% of nursing assistants worked in nursing care facilities as of 2014. 25% of nursing assistants were employed in hospitals.

Education Required Postsecondary certificate
Education Field of Study Nursing assistant
Key Skills Taking vital signs, helping transport patients, caring for patients' basic needs
Licensure/Certification Required in all states
Projected Job Outlook (2014-2024) 18%*
Median Salary (2015) $25,710*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Research the Career Duties of a Certified Nursing Assistant

The duties of a certified nursing assistant typically include helping patients to wash, eat and get dressed. As a CNA, you also might monitor and record vital signs, prepare patients for medical procedures, keep rooms clean and assist patients in using bedpans or bathroom facilities. Additionally, you might help with exercises, provide catheter care and transport patients to and from their rooms. Since you likely would have more contact with patients than other medical staff would, you might be depended upon to observe and report any changes to their conditions.

Step 2: Enroll in a Nursing Assistant Program

Nurse assisting programs are offered at select vocational schools and community colleges. Your program of choice could take from a few weeks to a few months to complete, and your studies might include classes like emergency and safety procedures, infection control, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), medical terminology, anatomy and nutrition. Clinical experience also may be an important part of your program's curriculum.

Step 3: Pass a Certification Examination

If you plan to work in a nursing home, federal guidelines require that you first complete at least 75 hours of a state-approved, formal training program, such as those mentioned above, and receive a passing score on a certification exam. These exams vary by state but generally include written portions and clinical skills evaluations. Your state may have additional requirements. When you've met all mandates, you will be recognized as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA).

Step 4: Obtain Employment

Nursing assistants are employed by hospitals, assisted living facilities and adult day care centers, and they also work in private residences. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for nursing assistants was expected to grow at a rate of 18% between 2014 and 2024 because of a growing number of elderly citizens. Other jobs may be vacated by nursing assistants who leave the field due to the emotional and physical toll of the work.

Step 5: Consider Career Advancement Options

After receiving your CNA certification, you could continue your education and become a medical assistant. You also might consider entering nursing school to become a registered nurse or licensed practical nurse. Your experience as a certified nursing assistant could be beneficial when applying to these programs.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Orderlies work with the same patients that nursing assistants work with, but their duties involve assisting patients by pushing wheelchairs or supporting them when they move. They change linens and clean the facilities. They do not necessarily need postsecondary training. Home health aides can also pursue employment without postsecondary studies. They assist individuals in their own homes, and primarily work with the disabled or elderly. Home health aides help their clients with daily activities. Personal care aides do not need postsecondary studies, either, and they assist their clients with personal grooming and care and other routine tasks.

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:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools

  • Independence University

    Independence University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Independence University:

    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees

    Online Programs Available

  • Fortis College

    Fortis College responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Fortis College:

    • Associate Programs
    • Certificates

    Campus-Based Programs Available:

    View All Locations
    • Arizona: Phoenix
    • Florida: Phoenix, Cutler Bay, Orange Park, Port St Lucie
    • Indiana: Phoenix, Cutler Bay, Orange Park, Port St Lucie, Indianapolis
    • Ohio: Phoenix, Cutler Bay, Orange Park, Port St Lucie, Indianapolis, Centerville, Cuyahoga Falls
    • Pennsylvania: Phoenix, Cutler Bay, Orange Park, Port St Lucie, Indianapolis, Centerville, Cuyahoga Falls, Scranton
    • South Carolina: Phoenix, Cutler Bay, Orange Park, Port St Lucie, Indianapolis, Centerville, Cuyahoga Falls, Scranton, Columbia
    • Tennessee: Phoenix, Cutler Bay, Orange Park, Port St Lucie, Indianapolis, Centerville, Cuyahoga Falls, Scranton, Columbia, Nashville
    • Utah: Phoenix, Cutler Bay, Orange Park, Port St Lucie, Indianapolis, Centerville, Cuyahoga Falls, Scranton, Columbia, Nashville, Salt Lake City
    • Virginia: Phoenix, Cutler Bay, Orange Park, Port St Lucie, Indianapolis, Centerville, Cuyahoga Falls, Scranton, Columbia, Nashville, Salt Lake City, Norfolk
  • Capella University

    Capella University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Capella University:

    • Doctoral
    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees

    Online Programs Available

  • The George Washington University

    The George Washington University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at The George Washington University:

    • Master

    Online Programs Available

  • Maryville University

    Maryville University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Maryville University:

    • Bachelor Degrees

    Online Programs Available

  • Grand Canyon University

    Grand Canyon University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Grand Canyon University:

    Online Programs Available

  • Purdue University Global

    Purdue University Global responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Purdue University Global:

    Online Programs Available

  • Herzing University

    Herzing University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Herzing University:

    Online Programs Available

  • Keiser University

    Keiser University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Keiser University:

    • Bachelor Degrees
    • Associate Programs

    Online Programs Available

  • Regent University

    Regent University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Regent University:

    • Doctoral
    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees

    Online Programs Available

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. Next »