Certified Nursing Assistant Jobs: Salary and Career Facts

Research what it takes to become a certified nursing assistant. Learn about job duties, salary, certification and employment outlook 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 nursing assistants (CNA) provide direct personal care to patients. They may help a patient bathe, exercise, get dressed or use the bathroom. CNAs work under the supervision of registered nurses to ensure that patient care plans are followed, charts are updated, and that patients are fed appropriately. CNAs may also give a patient medication and take their vital signs. As of 2014, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that 41% of CNAs worked in nursing care facilities, while 25% worked in hospitals. They are required to complete an accredited postsecondary program and on-the-job training to earn their credentials. They also need to be licensed by the state where they work.

Training Required Nursing assistant training program
Key Responsibilities Bathe, feed and dress patients; check vital signs; dispense medications
Licensure/Certification Licensure is required for all CNAs in nursing homes; a passing score on a state competency exam is required to use the designation Certified Nursing Assistant
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 Would I Do as a Certified Nursing Assistant?

As a certified nursing assistant (CNA), you work with nurses and other hospital staff to assist patients with daily activities, such as dressing, grooming, bathing and eating. Depending on the patient, you may take vital signs, help move patients or change linens. You need a compassionate manner when dealing with disgruntled or disoriented patients, as well as the physical strength to help support patients who need assistance with mobility. You also need to be aware of and practice safety protocols to avoid contamination, infection and injury.

What Education or Training Do I Need?

Not all employers require you to complete a formal training program prior to beginning work as a nursing assistant, though you may need a high school diploma or the equivalent. Many healthcare facilities provide on-the-job training for nursing assistants. You may take basic classes when you begin working, or you could shadow a senior worker in order to learn the skills you need.

To become certified, however, you need to complete a CNA training program. Vocational schools, community colleges and healthcare facilities offer CNA training programs, which are typically between 75-150 hours in length and consist of classroom coursework and hands-on training. CNA programs typically cover topics such as anatomy and physiology, patient care, nursing skills and patients' rights.

How Do I Become Certified?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the federal government requires nursing assistants to be licensed CNAs to work in nursing homes. Individual states have varying requirements for CNA certification and licensure, though most require you to complete at least a 75-hour training program and pass an examination to obtain licensure. You can check with your local Department of Health and Human Services or Nurse Aide Registry for specific state requirements. CNA exams are typically divided into written, clinical and physical sections.

What Salary Could I Earn?

The BLS reported that as of May 2015 nursing assistants earned a median salary of $25,710. The BLS noted that nationwide employment for this group was projected to increase 18% in the decade from 2014-2024, which is faster than average for all other occupations. Most job openings were predicted to be in nursing care facilities because the U.S. population continues to age and hospitals need to discharge patients at a faster rate.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Home health aides, personal care aides and medical assistants all perform duties that have some similarities to the work of a certified nursing assistant. Home health aides and personal care aides may assist individuals affected by disability, illness or injury. They may visit them in their homes and help them bathe, dress and perform other tasks related to their personal care. Home health aides may take a patient's vitals and record data that's required by a nurse who has developed a care plan for the patient. Medical assistants see patients in doctors' offices. They may take a patient's vital signs, update their medical history and information, and assist the doctor with an examination of the patient. Home health aides and personal care aides do not necessarily need formal postsecondary education, although medical assistants need to complete an accredited postsecondary program.

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