CNA - Certified Nurse Assistant: Educational Requirements

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

Certified nursing assistants work in hospitals, nursing homes and residential care facilities. They are required to complete a short training program that lasts roughly eight weeks, after which they need to be registered or licensed, depending on state requirements.

Essential Information

Certified nurse assistants (CNAs) perform basic healthcare duties in hospitals and care facilities under the supervision of a registered nurse or licensed vocational nurse. In most states, aspiring CNAs must complete an approved training program and a competency test.

Required Education Completion of a short training program
Other Requirements State CNA registration or licensure
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 18% for all nursing assistants*
Median Salary (May 2015) $25,710 for all nursing assistants*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Overview

Federal and state laws require any aspiring certified nurse assistant (CNA) to complete an approved postsecondary training program. Vocational schools and community colleges offer programs that include classroom education and a clinical rotation. Coursework taken as part of a registered nurse (RN) or licensed vocational nurse (LVN) degree program may also satisfy CNA training requirements.

Training institutions generally require applicants who have earned their high school diploma or received qualifying scores on reading and math competency tests. Most also require students to acquire CPR certification before or during the program. Additionally, students must meet health requirements, which may include a tuberculosis screening and submission of proof of vaccinations.


CNA training programs last approximately eight weeks. Relevant coursework includes anatomy, patient rights, medical ethics, medical terminology, infection guidelines and knowledge of diseases. Additional knowledge and skills include pre- and post-operative care procedures, patient hygiene, patient communication and administrative duties.

Certification Requirements

Requirements vary by state. Generally, applicants must apply to register as a nurse assistant with their state health department and pass a written competency examination upon completion of an approved training program. Students in the process of completing RN or LVN degree programs may also be able to test for and work as CNAs.

Some states may allow nurse assistants to work for a limited time while going through the application and testing process. A nurse assistant can only be designated a CNA after completing the registration process.

Career Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that employment of nursing assistants will increase 18% from 2014-2024, which is notably faster than the average for all occupations. In May 2015, the BLS stated that nursing assistants earned $25,710 as a median annual wage.

The 18% job growth rate projected for certified nursing assistants is much faster than average. This means that qualified applicants should have good options for employment. Becoming a CNA requires completion of a short-term training program and subsequent registration or licensure.

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