To be a certified nursing assistant (CNA), it's necessary to have a high school diploma or GED, and to complete a state-approved training program. CNAs must be certified by passing a state exam and are required to renew certification every two years.
Certified nursing assistants (CNAs) work within hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare facilities, helping patients with basic daily living activities. This entry-level healthcare position requires completion of a state-approved training program, passage of a state certification or licensing exam and regular renewal of credentials for continued eligibility.
|Required Training||State-approved training program; some programs lead to the award of a certificate|
|Required Skills||Safe lifting and moving techniques for patients; accuracy in vital sign measurement; sanitary bathing and toileting procedures; basic nursing principles|
|Exam Requirements||Written and practical skills tests|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||18% for all nursing assistants|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$25,710 for all nursing assistants|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Becoming a Licensed CNA
Most CNA training programs require that candidates have a high school diploma or GED prior to entry. CNA training courses are typically offered through community colleges, trade schools or local hospital programs. These programs may last anywhere from three weeks to six months. Upon completion, CNA candidates may take their state's certification exam. The exam consists of both a written component and a practical, skills competency section. The written exam may be available in languages other than English or may be taken orally, depending on state regulations. It may include such topics as reading patient vital signs, proper chart recording and understanding emergency procedures.
Candidates may also need to pass a physical exam, drug test and criminal background check, depending on state requirements. Once all of these requirements are met, candidates are added to the state's Nurse Aide Registry and are eligible for employment.
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CNA certification is typically valid for two years and CNAs are required to renew their credentials every 24 months. CNAs must submit a renewal application within 30 days of their certificate's expiration and pay any associated renewal fees. Most states also require that CNAs provide proof of having completed a specific number of continuing education units (CEU) or in-service training. They may also require that CNAs provide proof of having worked in a paid nursing position over the past 2-year period.
CNAs with certificates that have been expired for more than 30 days are usually considered to be in delinquent status and may be prohibited from continuing to work until their certificate is renewed. In cases where a CNA's certificate has been expired for more than two years, renewal candidates may need to submit proof of having received recent re-training from an approved CNA program. They may also have to once again pass a criminal background check and drug testing prior to being issued a new certificate.
Salary Information and Employment Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in May 2015 that nursing assistants earned a median salary of $25,710 per year. Employment of these workers was expected to increase faster than average, at 18% from 2014-2024.
In addition to passing a state-approved CNA program and the certification exam, CNAs must be able to lift patients safely and pass a background check. Continuing education courses may be required to renew their certification, which is required every two years.