Online CNA Classes & Certification Programs

Certified nursing assistant (CNA) programs aren't offered fully online, but various schools have CNA programs with some degree of online components. These hybrid programs allow students to complete coursework online and practicums on-site. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

How to Choose an Online CNA Program

There are several things to consider when choosing a CNA program, including cost, program length, flexibility and residency requirements.

Residency Requirements

All CNA programs require various face-to-face components, whether inside a classroom or in a healthcare setting. Make sure that the programs you're considering offer these experiences at a location near you.

Flexibility

Most CNA programs are full-time, usually taking students one semester or less to complete. As you review your program choices, consider how the program requirements will work with your schedule. Some schools may require more daytime experiences while others may allow students to complete on-site components during the evenings and weekends.

Cost

The cost of CNA programs can vary by school but many have tuition of around $1,000 or $2,000. Some schools may offer a flat-rate fee for a CNA program, while other schools may impose tuition and various fees separately. Some programs may include the cost of CNA exams and other certifications (such as Basic Life Support). Although cost is an important consideration, keep in mind that you may be able to obtain various forms of financial aid.

Accreditation

Typically, accreditation represents schools or programs meeting criteria set by the accrediting organization. Accreditation shows that the school meets certain standards, and may also help students obtain financial aid for their program and employment upon graduation. Nursing schools might be accredited by The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). However, CNA programs aren't accredited by any particular body. Instead, students should look to see that their program is approved by their state's board of nursing or public health department.

Which Program is the Right Choice: CNA, LPN, MA?

Students interested in a medical career can become certified through different paths in one year or less. While certificate holders can become a certified nursing assistant (CNA) or medical assistant (MA), a diploma is needed to become a licensed practical nurse (LPN).

Job Title Preferred Education Program Length Certification 2018 Median Salary
Certified Nursing Assistants Certificate 1 semester CNA $28,540
Licensed Practical Nurse Diploma 1 year LPN $46,240
Medical Assistant Certificate or Experience 1 semester MA $33,610

Job and salary data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Overview of Hybrid CNA Programs

Hybrid CNA programs consist of some or all online coursework, on-campus labs and other educational experiences, as well as clinical practice in healthcare settings.

Program Length

The length of a hybrid CNA program can vary by school, student prerequisites and course load. The total hours required in CNA programs can range between 80 and 100, divided between instruction and practice. First-time students can complete their program in as little as four weeks or as long as one semester (three months). Accelerated programs demand more time from students through full-time coursework and practical requirements, while part-time programs enable students to attend on-site sessions less frequently.

Admission Requirements

Most programs require students to have earned a high school diploma or an equivalent and be 18 years or older, although some programs are open to students who are 16 or 17 years old. Students may also need to earn a qualifying score on the ACT, SAT, other national tests or skills assessments conducted by the schools. Because of the clinical practice requirements, students might need to have up-to-date immunizations (including the flu) and pass a background check and/or drug screening.

Practicum Requirements

CNA programs provide students with instruction through three key deliveries: instruction, lab exercises and clinical practice. Students may be required to complete around 40 hours of combined clinical practice and lab work, or they may have 40 hours of clinical practice with lab work built into their instruction. Lab work may include developing skills for assessing patients, taking vitals and using medical charting programs. Clinical practice hours are typically completed in various settings including hospice care and/or nursing homes, hospitals and physician offices.

Common Courses

CNA programs may be presented as a single CNA course or contain a few specific courses within the certificate curriculum. Some of the courses, or learning requirements, that are included in many CNA programs are listed below.

  • Medical Terminology - Students explore the roots of medical terminology and discover how to understand the meaning of various terms using the suffixes, prefixes, and roots of words.
  • Intro to Nursing - This course may cover topics like basic nurse aide responsibilities, such as taking vital signs and practicing professionalism, as well as ethics and safety. Students may also learn about the various levels and functions of nursing, as well as the structure of healthcare organizations.
  • Understanding Patients - CNA students familiarize themselves with anatomy, development, nutrition and mental health of patients, and may also study various methods of disease control and health promotion.

Schools That Offer Hybrid CNA Programs

There are numerous schools that offer CNA programs with some degree of online coursework. The easiest way to find what schools have convenient practicum options near you is to check with your local community colleges and vocational schools. Some CNA programs with online components are compared in the table below.

School Name Location Program Program Length Program Cost (2019-2020)
Bismarck State College Bismarck, ND CNA 8 weeks $630 (plus $160 for CNA exam)
Lanier Technical College Gainesville, GA CNA 1 semester $1,000
Kennesaw State University Kennesaw, GA CNA 6 weeks (full-time) or 3 months (part-time) $1,799
Rasmussen College Romeoville, IL
Eagan, MN
CNA 4 weeks $1,000
Richmond Community College Hamlet, NC CNA 1 semester $238
Eastern Iowa Community College - Urban Campus Davenport, IA CNA 8 weeks $652
Middlesex Community College Middletown, CT CNA 10 weeks $1,299

Program and school information provided by respective school websites

Certification Requirements for CNAs

Certification is mandatory to work as a certified nursing assistant in all states. To obtain certification, nurses must complete a certificate program that is state-approved and includes fundamental nursing knowledge and supervised clinical practice. After completing their program, nurses can register for and take their state nursing aide examination. Many states also require nurses to pass a background check for certification, and some employers may require or prefer nurses who hold additional certifications (such as basic life support and CPR).

Continuing Education

Nursing assistants may choose to continue their education to keep their nursing knowledge up-to-date, and some may continue their education because it is required in their state for license renewals. States that require continuing education for license renewals require various amounts of CE hours over license periods. For example, one state may require nursing aides to complete 24 hours of CE over two years while another state might require 12 CE hours each year. Nurses can check with their state's license renewal requirements to review what (if any) number of CE hours are required, and where those hours can be completed. Most states will have a list of approved CE providers where nursing assistants can complete their credits.

Career Options for CNA Graduates

There are a few different careers that CNA-program graduates can qualify for, several of which are discussed below.

Nursing Assistants

Nursing assistants work under the supervision of registered nurses and physicians, giving basic care to patients in various settings. Their responsibilities can include bathing patients, moving patients, administering medications and treatments, as well as taking patient vitals and noting medical discrepancies and concerns. Other employers of nursing assistants include home healthcare companies, continued living facilities and governmental facilities. In 2018, the median salary for nursing assistants was $28,540, with the highest-paid earning over $39,560. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects openings in this job field to grow 9% from 2018 to 2028.

Orderlies

Orderlies are responsible for cleaning treatment areas and transporting patients. Their duties can include cleaning equipment, changing linens, stocking medical supplies, pushing wheelchairs and assisting patients with movement (such as walking around). They work under the supervision of nurses, primarily in hospital settings. In 2018, they had a median annual salary of $28,060; the highest median wage of $29,780 was reported for orderlies working in ambulatory healthcare services. The orderlies job field is expected to grow by 5% between 2018 and 2028.

Dental Assistant

Some states require dental assistants to complete approved dental assisting programs, while other states do not. CNA graduates have a basic understanding of medical processes and terms that can make them more qualified for dental assisting positions than those without postsecondary training. Dental assistants are responsible for a variety of duties which can include processing x-rays, scheduling appointments, preparing patients for dental procedures and assisting dentists during procedures. In 2018, dental assistants had an overall median salary of $38,660, with the top 10% earning over $54,800.

Home Health Aides

Home health aides assist patients who have illnesses that limit their ability to complete daily activities. Their duties may include changing bandages, taking vital signs and arranging transportation. They had a median salary of $24,200 in 2018, with the highest-earning 10% making more than $32,180. They are expected to see job growth of 37% from 2018 to 2028.

Personal Care Aides

Personal care aides have similar duties as home health aides, but don't typically provide medical services. Their duties may include driving patients, cleaning and cooking, providing companionship and shopping for patient groceries. Their median salary for 2018 was $24,020 and the highest-paid personal care aides made over $31,650. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects personal care aide jobs to grow 36% between 2018 and 2028.

Medical Assistants

Medical assistants perform clinical and administrative duties, such as assisting with patient exams, scheduling appointments, and updating medical records. The median salary of medical assistants was $33,610 in 2018, with those working in outpatient care centers or hospitals earning more than those working in physician offices. This job is expected to grow 23% between 2018 and 2028.

Occupational Therapy Aides

Occupational therapy aides work primarily in therapy offices and hospitals, but can also work in nursing care, social assistance and educational facilities. Their duties can include setting up and cleaning equipment for therapy, assisting patients with insurance and billing forms, scheduling appointments and transporting patients. The highest-paying industries for occupational therapy aides in 2018 were nursing care facilities ($36,700) and educational services ($35,900). The field is expected to grow by 19% from 2018 to 2028.

Physical Therapist Aides

Physical therapist aides help patients that are trying to manage pain and/or regain movement, working under the supervision of physical therapists. Their duties can include moving patients, answering phones, scheduling appointments and cleaning therapy equipment. In 2018, they had a median salary of $26,240 and they are expected to have a 23% growth from 2018 to 2028.

Psychiatric Aides

Psychiatric aides work with patients who have developmental disabilities and/or mental illnesses. Their duties can include serving meals, restraining patients, transporting patients, monitoring patients, and assisting patients with daily activities (such as dressing). The median salary for psychiatric aides was $29,180 for 2018, with the highest-paid 10% earning over $46,490.

Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers are usually trained on the job without any postsecondary education; CNA graduates may have an advantage by already possessing fundamental medical knowledge and skills. These assistants and caretakers may perform various tasks such as feeding animals, monitoring animals after surgery, providing first aid to animals, collecting specimens and administering medications and immunizations. In 2018, they had a median salary of $27,540 and they are expected to see a job growth of 19% from 2018 to 2028.

Job Title Median Annual Salary (2018) Estimated Job Growth (2018-2028)
Nursing Assistants $28,540 9%
Orderlies $28,060 5%
Dental Assistants $38,660 11%
Home Health Aides $24,200 37%
Personal Care Aides $24,020 36%
Medical Assistants $33,610 23%
Occupational Therapy Aides $28,160 19%
Physical Therapist Aides $26,240 23%
Psychiatric Aides $29,180 11%
Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers $27,540 19%

Career Advancement for Certified Nursing Aides

With experience and/or further education, CNA graduates can pursue a variety of related careers. Several careers are discussed below along with their salaries, outlooks and requirements.

Licensed Practical Nurses and Licensed Vocational Nurses

Licensed practical nurses and licensed vocational nurses (or LPNs and LVNs) work under the supervision of physicians and registered nurses, providing basic care to patients. Their duties may include consulting with patients, updating patient records, changing bandages and monitoring vital signs. LPNs and LVNs must complete an approved postsecondary program, which typically leads to a one-year diploma, and obtain licensure. They had a median salary of $46,240 in 2018, with the top 10% earning over $62,160.

Psychiatric Technicians

Psychiatric technicians care for patients with mental and/or developmental issues or disabilities. Their duties can include leading group activities, administering medications, restraining patients and monitoring vital signs. Many employers hire candidates with a college certificate and relevant experience (such as nursing assistant experience). The median wage for psychiatric technicians in 2018 was $32,870, with the highest-paid 10% earning over $64,430.

Registered Nurses

Registered nurses (RNs) work more independently than LPNs and CNAs under the supervision of physicians. Some RNs may provide more primary care in settings where physicians are only present one or two days per week. To become an RN, candidates should earn at least an associate's degree and pass a national exam. In 2018, registered nurses had a median salary of $71,730, and they're expected to see job growth of 12% from 2018 to 2028.

Physician Assistants

Physician assistants often need applicable experience in a clinical role (such as nursing assistant) and a master's degree. They work with other healthcare providers to provide patient care including exams, treatments and diagnoses. Their duties may include assessing patients, researching treatment options and counseling patients. This job field is expected to grow 31% from 2018 to 2028 and had a median annual salary of $108,610 in 2018.

Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners

These caregivers are considered advanced practice registered nurses, or APRNs. They provide collaborative and primary care to patients, and are required to have earned at least a master's degree and obtained relevant licensure. Nurse anesthetists provide care to patients who are undergoing anesthesia, and nurse midwives work with women who are pregnant, trying to get pregnant or are postpartum. Nurse practitioners work with various patients, usually specializing in work with certain populations (such as pediatrics). The median salary for these APRNs in 2018 was $113,930, and they are expected to have job growth of 26% from 2018 to 2028.

Respiratory Therapists

Respiratory therapists usually have an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree and need state and/or national licensure. They provide care to patients that struggle with breathing due to various conditions such as emphysema or asthma. Their duties can include performing tests, monitoring and counseling patients, and consulting with other physicians to create care plans. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects this job field to grow 21% from 2018 to 2028, and reports their annual median salary for 2018 as $60,280.

Medical and Health Services Managers

Medical and health services managers usually need to have at least a bachelor's degree and applicable work experience in administration and/or healthcare practice. They may oversee departments, services, or even healthcare facilities. Duties of these managers can include recruitment, goal setting, preparing budgets, and managing finances and employees. In 2018 they had a median annual salary of $99,730, and they are expected to have a job growth of 18% from 2018 to 2028.

Job Title Median Annual Salary (2018) Estimated Job Growth (2018-2028)
Psychiatric Technicians $32,870 12%
Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses $46,240 11%
Registered Nurses $71,730 12%
Physician Assistants $108,610 31%
Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners $113,930 26%
Respiratory Therapists $60,280 21%
Medical and Health Services Managers $99,730 18%

Salary and outlook information provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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