CNA - Overview of a Certified Nursing Assistant Career

Working as a CNA (certified nursing assistant) requires little formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and licensure to see if this is the right career for you.

Becoming a certified nursing assistant might be a good way to test the waters to see if a career in healthcare might be a good fit for you. CNAs perform basic patient care tasks in a hospital or long-term care facility. Upon completion of a short training program and passing a competency exam, you'll be set to enter this rapidly growing field.

Essential Information

Certified nursing assistants help patients during their stay at a medical facility by providing basic services. Individuals interested in this job have different educational options, but they may need to meet state or federal requirements to work in certain settings. All states require assistants to complete a training program related to the field and pass a competency exam in order to be registered as a nursing assistant. Additional licensing and certification regulations may apply.

Required Education Completion of a state-approved training program
Licensing and Certification Required in some states, though regulations vary; all nursing assistants must pass a competency exam and be registered with the state; voluntary certifications available
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 18% for nursing assistants
Median Salary (2015)* $25,710 for nursing assistants

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Certified Nursing Assistant Career Overview

Certified nursing assistants (CNAs), also known as nursing aides, provide basic patient care, such as feeding patients and taking vitals. CNAs often work with patients in long-term care facilities, like nursing homes, or other medical facilities, such as hospitals and clinics. They also perform routine maintenance tasks, including changing the beds and cleaning rooms. Certified nursing assistants usually work under the supervision of registered nurses and other medical professionals.

Career Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that employment for nursing assistants, which includes CNAs, is expected to increase 18% from 2014-2024. This expected growth in jobs is due to population growth, especially among the elderly, and overall expansion of the healthcare industry. Job opportunities were also predicted to arise out of the need to replace CNAs who leave the profession.

Salary Information

In May 2015, the BLS listed that the federal government and insurance carriers were among the top-paying industries for this career field. Nursing assistants made an average annual salary of $25,710 that year, as per BLS reporting.

Educational Requirements

Individuals interested in becoming a CNA may choose from programs offered through community colleges, trade schools and high schools. Many of these programs can be completed in under a year and qualify individuals to sit for state certifying exams. Curricula may include such course topics as medical terminology, plus training in First Aid and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation.

A significant portion of CNA programs involves hands-on training, either in labs or during clinical experience. During hands-on training, students can practice their acquired skills under the supervision of faculty members or medical professionals and receive evaluations. Students often complete labs and coursework simultaneously prior to undergoing clinical experience in a healthcare facility.

Licensing and Certification Requirements

Licensing standards for CNAs vary by state or employer type, but they typically require some type of certification. The BLS indicates that there are federal requirements for CNAs who work in nursing facilities. Some states require CNAs to earn additional certifications depending on their job or may offer different certification levels based on experience. Common state requirements include background checks and a certifying exam.

At a projected 18% growth rate from 2014-2024, the occupation of CNA will grow much faster than the national average rate for all occupations. Basic qualifications include the completion of a state-approved training program and sitting for a competency examination. Depending on your state and/or potential employer, you may be required to become licensed or certified.


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