How to Become a Certified Nursing Assistant (cna)

This article provides in-depth information into What is a Certified Nursing Assistant (cna)? What Certified Nursing Assistant (cna) do? Degrees for Certified Nursing Assistant (cna), Steps to become Certified Nursing Assistant (cna) and much more.

Certified nurse assistants are primarily responsible for providing basic health care to patients with various facilities. They assist patients with their daily routines such as exercising, monitoring, planning their dieting, feeding and treating them with respect while providing professional care. 

CNAs interact with their patients with compassion to support them through their recovery period and also act as a liaison between the patients and the medical professional.and are almost found in all fields of healthcare provided.

Steps to become a Certified nurse assistant

To pursue your career as a CNA, you must follow certain steps to fulfil your career and  increase your earning potentials, Some are:

Step 1- Prepare at college

Preparing to become a CNA is better to start early, this allows you to understand the important aspect of the course, prepare for the possible questions you could be asked, you could take online courses or take a number of practice tests and exams to prepare yourself. This lets you have a good understanding on the subject to excel as a CNA. 

Step 2-  Complete a state-approved education program

Researching various colleges that offer state-approved training for students to become a CNA is necessary. Many states have different regulations so researching the institutions state-wise and also about the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing to clear your way. The various CNA training programs offered are at the community college, Local health providers, American red cross ad online programs.

These programs have a duration of 4-16 weeks which provides students with practical training, compassion in care, work in teams.

Step 3-  Clear the state-specific exam

After the CNA training is complete, you must take the competency exam to certify as a professional CNA. 

The exam is conducted according to certain eligibility conditions put forward by the states. Some states may require additional certification requirements such as getting the background check and taking a number of education credits each year to continue education. The exam has practical as well as theoretical sections i.e: the clinical section is a demonstration of their skills and how they treat their parents. Results are obtained on the same day the examination was held, and students start their work upon clearing this exam.

Step 4- Obtain CNA license

In the state-specific exam for CNAs, there is a theoretical and a practical section to learn about the clinical skills they acquired. After you clear this exam, You get a license to work as a professional CNA at health care. To keep the license active, you are required to complete 48 hours of education every two years as per the state. When you need a license renewal, you check for the education continuing subsidization which most the employers cover.

Step 5- Land on a job

After getting licensure, you apply for your first job. A certified nursing assistant works under the supervision of a licensed practical nurse(LNP) or Registered nurse(RN).

Your growth in the role of CNA is more rapid on an average and CNAs are adaptable to nearly every job at a health care.

Step 6- Continue education at school

According to certain state regulations, it is necessary to continue your education for certain years to keep your CNA licence active. Education is provided by various health care institutions. We advise you to check with the state board to get precise information about the requirements to become a CNA in that state. Many states may require CNAs to have a minimum of 12 hours of continued education each year for a time frame of two years.

Types of degrees for a CNA

A certified nursing assistant does not necessarily need a college degree but mandatorily requires you have training and in turn a post secondary certification.

You could jump into an associate’s or bachelor's degree program to become a certified nurse. 

Associate’s degree in nursing

An associate degree is a two years program that includes courses such as anatomy, nutrition, microbiology, nursing and others. This may also require work experience and training in addition to formal education. You could also take online courses that help you to accelerate your education and give you flexible study hours. This could be a stepping stone to your bachelor’s degree.

Bachelor's degree in nursing:

After getting an associate’s degree in nursing, you could earn an accelerated bachelor’s degree that could take less time.  This program allows you to take the coursework from the previous program and this helps you graduate sooner. CNAs with a Bachelor's degree in nursing could fetch a job with higher earnings.

CNA Certification courses:

CNAs must be certified to work as professionals to work at a healthcare company. To obtain this certification the students take the training program essential to certify according to the state regulations, The certification courses could be in-person training or online. Certification is important to signify that the student has the knowledge to take care of patients. The certification training programs could take upto 4-16 weeks.

Online CNA classes:

CNA training programs prefer students trained at the campus to get their hands on both practical and theoretical sections. Online classes are not available students could choose hybrid training programs where the theory classes are taken online and practical in clinics to get real world experience.

Concentrations to be considered to be a CNA

Academic concentrations: Students pursuing the CNA training program learn various subjects including english, biology, chemistry, sociology with addition to practical skills. These skills help them treat their patients in a better way. Training program consists of two sections which is practical as well as the general education at classes, here are some academic concentrations by how they acquire those skills,

Basic nursing skills

This course provides basic nursing concepts of nursing including anatomy to physiology, to help them treat various patients. This also enhances the skills of nurses to be responsible about treating their patients with comfortness.

Skills acquired:

  • Learn to work in teams

  • Professionalism

  • Good communication

  • Compassion and empathy towards patients

Anatomy and physiology

Anatomy and physiology is a course that outlines the structure and function of the human body  and these are mandatory for the nursing students. It lays a foundation to get a nursing license in their state.

Skills acquired;

  • Structure and functioning of human body

  • Understanding the anatomical structure of systems of the human body i.e: reproductive system, muscular, skeletal, cardiovascular systems.


Nutrition is another course covered by the nursing students but it is not emphasized on. Nursing itself is a challenging career, this course trains them to keep their health well balanced. This lets them treat patients by restricting their diet where the Food choices are directly related to human health.

Skills acquired:

  • Nutrition required for a human body

  • Maintaining a balanced diet

  • Understanding the role of nutrition supplements

Infection control

This is a course to educate the nurse on how to prevent the spread of infectious agents and preventing the infectious outbreak and epidemics. This is mostly pursued by students who obtain a Bachelor's degree in National Council Licensure examination of registered nurses(NCLEX-RN) 

Skills acquired:

  • To prevents the infections to spread

  • Educate civilians on techniques to control infections

The Red Cross

The American Red Cross is a National Assistant Training(NAT)  program to train students with day classes to enhance skills required for certification. It focuses on empathising, communication skills, and other procedural skills to treat patients. This course is held up to 4 - 8 weeks.

Skills learnt:

  • Infection control techniques

  • Communication and working in teams

  • Time management

  • Ensuring safety and providing care to patients

Job concentrations

CNAs learn many courses under their training program, after completing the training program, they can look up to other career opportunities, Here are some job concentrations for you,

Licensed practical nurse(LPN) 

As a trained CNA, you could advance your career as a Licensed practical nurse, A CNA gives treats the patients at the entry-level whereas an LPN treats the patients with extensive care. You can work for this role by obtaining a state-approved training program for about 12-18 months. You clear the National Council Licensure Examination(NCLEX) and obtain the license. This role gives you higher earning potentials and you provide a specialized level of treatment to the patients. An LPN earns $44,000 on an average per annum.

Registered nurse(RN)

A registered nurse profession is a level up role and includes the duties of performing the diagnostic tests, analyze results, treat patients according to treatment plan and others. As a CNA you could choose a two-year associate degree program in nursing. Graduates can take the Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses and land on a job. A registered nurse can earn up to $37,000 to 4110,000 per year.

Neonatal Nurse

Neonatal Nursing is the role of nursing newborn infants with disorders or malfunctions such as infection, a birth defects. The nursing students after completing the associates degree, jump to the bachelor's degree in nursing and acquire specific training required for this job.

The annual earning of the neonatal nurse is about $93,000.

Personal care aide

Work as a personal caretaker who not only provides health treatments but also championships required for the patient’s recovery.You reside at the patient's home and assist the patients will jointly work with the health care. Salary for a personal care aide is about  $21,000.

Physical therapist:

Physical therapist is a person who is a healthcare professional to treat people with medical problems  and health-related issues. This may range from all ages of patients who face difficulty in performing functional activities . To be a physical therapist, you obtain an associate degree from an accredited physical therapy program. The earning of a physical therapist is about $82,000.

Skills required to stand out as a CNA

CNAs can adapt to various career opportunities due to the training and the courses they learn, but on the practical side they need certain skills to stand out as a certified nursing assistant, hence, here are some skills a CNA must possess to accelerate growth in the job,

Good observation skills: In the medical field even the smallest detail mattress, here good observation skills to notice their detail is one main skills required for a CNA. Observing keenly on the physical and mental changes in the patient’s health and reporting them gives better chances of treating. They must pay attention to details and learn about the clients routines to assist them better.

Good verbal and written communication: As a CNA you must communicate effectively with the patient and the doctors. A CNA acts as a liaison between the two and must be clear on what to communicate and convey the patient's message to the doctor. Strong writing skills are required in reporting and documenting the condition and variation in the patient's  health.

Empathy and compassion: Empathising and being compassionate towards patients comes under the interpersonal skills of the CNAs. This is important to interact well helps them to connect effectively with the patient they assist.

Know the medical terminologies: Knowledge on the various conditions and common disorders will give you the importance in the profession of a CNA. With proper training and certification of  various other courses you could be more towards treating their patients better and getting higher growth opportunities.

Time management and organisational skills: A CNA must be able to prioritize the tasks assigned to them to be more organised about their roles and also manage time effectively. Reporting the completion of tasks timely, independently and effectively will give CNAs an opportunity to accelerate their career growth and give the higher earning potential.

Certified Nursing Assistant (cna) Salaries

Certified Nursing Assistant (cna)