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Nurse's Aide Education Requirements and Career Information

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a nurse's aide. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as the training programs, job duties, and certification to find out if this is the career for you.

Nurses have a wide range of responsibilities. Certified nurse's aides or nursing assistants can help ease the myriad duties that fall into that area of responsibility, and thus free the nurse to perform additional job functions. Specialized education and licensing prepare you for this vital occupation.

Essential Information

Nurse's aides, also known as certified nursing assistants, provide basic nursing and personal care to patients (dressing, bathing, feeding, changing bandages, checking vital signs, etc.). Entry-level positions in the field require a high school education and successful completion of a certified nursing assistant (CNA) program. Additional requirements may vary depending on the state and employer. This career field may appeal to those who enjoy helping other people, or who have an interest in medicine.

Required Education High school diploma and successful completion of a certified nursing assistant program
Certification or Registration Required; graduates must pass a state exam
Other Requirements Vary by state and employer; may include continuing education and/or a background check
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 17%
Median Salary (2015)* $25,710

Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

All prospective nurse's aides need to have a high school-level education. Nurse's aides can complete a nursing assistant certified program to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to work in the field. In some cases, nurse's aides may receive on-the-job training in place of formal education. Additional state laws and employer requirements may vary.

Certified Nursing Assistant Program

A certified nursing assistant program (CNA) prepares students to provide daily patient care to those in need. These programs are available through community colleges and vocational schools. Applicants to CNA programs must receive immunizations and undergo a background check before enrolling. Some programs may also require applicants to hold a current CPR certification card.

Most CNA programs include a clinical experience component. This education provides students with an opportunity to gain hands-on experience while under the supervision of a licensed health care professional. These programs can usually be completed in a semester or less. Common courses may include:

  • Human anatomy
  • Medical terminology
  • Basic nursing care
  • Basic home care
  • Nutrition
  • Basic personal care
  • Patient interaction and communication

Certification Requirements

Upon successful completion of their educational programs, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that prospective nurse's aides must take a competency exam in order to become certified. Individual states may also have other certification requirements, such as continuing education.

Career Information

Nurse's aides work in hospitals and nursing homes, while the similar-titled home health aides work in patient homes. A nurse's aide's duties occur under the supervision of a health care professional, such as a licensed or registered nurse. Their job duties may include:

  • Dressing, bathing and feeding patients
  • Changing bandages and linens
  • Helping patients get out of bed or move about
  • Taking patients' temperature, blood pressure and pulse
  • Offering patients emotional support

Career Outlook and Salary Info

The BLS anticipated a 17% increase in the employment of nursing assistants from 2014-2024 The best employment opportunities were expected to exist with nursing homes and residential-care facilities. Employment prospects would also be strong in home health services and community rehabilitation facilities.

In May 2015, the BLS reported that the median hourly wage for nursing assistants, including nurse's aides and attendants, was $12.36. However, the highest-paid ten percent earned $17.74 or more an hour.

Nurse's aides have little career mobility without completing additional education. Those who opt to pursue more education often enter undergraduate nursing programs to become a licensed vocational nurse or registered nurse.

If you're interested in medicine, becoming a nurse's aide or nursing assistant can provide you with an entry into the medical field. Once you earn a high school diploma, you receive approved, specialized training at the state level. This will enable you to sit for a competency exam. Once you pass the exam, you'll be certified by your state and placed on that state's registry. You may have the opportunity to further your career with additional education and training to become a Certified Medical Assistant, which will allow you to dispense medicine.

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