Certified Nursing Assistant License Information and Requirements

Sep 15, 2019

Certified nursing assistant licensure is a required credential for nursing assistants. Get some quick facts about the training and other requirements necessary to qualify for certified nursing assistant jobs.

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Certified nursing assistants provide patients with basic care and assist with daily living activities. They must be licensed, which includes completing a training program with classroom lectures and supervised patient-care training.

Essential Information

Nursing assistants must be licensed to work in their state. This licensure includes a competency exam, as well as other requirements that vary by state. Certified nursing assistants (CNAs) work in hospitals, doctors' offices, rehabilitation centers, psychiatric wards and nursing homes. Duties differ based on work environment, but commonly include taking vital signs, changing wound dressings and helping patients move around. Individuals must complete a training program to be eligible for state licensing.

Required Training State-approved CNA training program
Exam Requirements Varies by state
Projected Job Growth 9% between 2018 and 2028* (Nursing assistants)
Median Wage (2018) $28,540 per year* (Nursing assistants)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Certified Nursing Assistant License Information

Although licensing requirements vary from state to state, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that all certified nursing assistants (CNAs) required a state-license (www.bls.gov). Some states recognize out-of-state licenses, but others require workers to go through the licensing process again to make sure state standards are met. Common licensing requirements include completing a CNA training program, which usually involves at least 75 hours of classroom lectures and supervised patient-care training. Before taking the licensing exam, applicants are usually required to pass a criminal background check.

Some states also have a tiered licensing system for CNAs, such as a level 1 CNA and a level 2 CNA. In these states, CNAs are restricted on the tasks they can complete based on their licensing level. Other states may require CNAs to file their name with the state registry board after obtaining a state license. Most states require CNAs to renew their licenses by participating in continued education coursework.

According to the BLS, jobs for nursing assistants are projected to grow faster than the national average through 2028. In May 2018, the BLS reported that professionals in the 90th percentile or higher earned $39,560 or more per year, whereas the bottom 10th percentile earned $21,290 or less per year.

Certified Nursing Assistant Career Requirements


Individuals who want to enter this career field must complete a CNA training program. Some programs include additional training components to meet with each state's unique licensing requirements. Most training programs consist of coursework such as basic nursing skills, infection control, residents' rights, patient care and emergency medical services. Nearly all programs include clinical experience where students apply what they learned in the classroom to treat real-world patients.

Additional Skills

Since workers provide support to both medical staff and patients, CNAs must have strong communication skills. Not only do CNAs have to listen to instructions from nurses and doctors, but they also have to explain care instructions to patients. CNAs must also communicate clearly in writing as they frequently notate the status of each patient. Good interpersonal skills are also useful for this career field since CNAs work so closely with their patients.

For the most part, CNAs require good stamina to be on their feet all day. Additionally, some upper body strength may be helpful for lifting and moving patients. Daily tasks are often repetitive in this career field, so CNAs need to be capable of accurately performing the same task over and over again.

Certified nursing assistants can work in many different settings, including hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and nursing homes. Their responsibilities can include serving meals to patients, measuring vital signs, and reporting patients' health concerns. Licensing requirements vary by state and often involve a minimum of 75 hours of classroom lectures and supervised patient-care training.

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