CNA Certification and Certificate Programs

Mar 24, 2021

Essential Information

The primary goal of CNA certificate programs is to prepare students for professional certification, which requires an examination. In many instances, registered nurses provide the classroom and practical training designed to meet certification requirements.

Prerequisites for the CNA certificate programs include a high school diploma and CPR certification. Students may be required to attend preliminary orientation or advising sessions as well. Additionally, many programs require applicants to pass a reading assessment test, criminal background check and drug screening.

Certification standards and exams vary by state; therefore, students should complete certificate programs in the state where they wish to practice. Students may also be required to complete an externship in order to gain hands-on experience.

CNA Certification

CNA certificate programs usually limit course topics to information directly related to nursing, with few, if any, general education requirements. Students learn how to take a patient's vital signs, such as temperature and blood pressure, and understand essential medical terminology. Some common course topics in CNA certificate programs include the following:

  • Anatomy and nutrition
  • Healthcare ethics
  • Emergency procedures
  • Personal and home care skills
  • Communication
  • Infection and disease control

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), CNAs and other nursing aides are expected to see 8% growth in job opportunities from 2019-29 ( During this time, advances in technology may lead to longer lifespans, creating more demand for CNAs who provide long-term care.

The BLS stated that CNAs and other nursing aides earned an average salary of $30,720 as of 2019. This figure equates to $14.77 per hour. The top ten percent of CNAs made a salary of $40,620 or more, while those in the bottom ten percent earned about $21,960 or less per year. Alaska, New York and Hawaii were the top paying states for this profession in 2019, while New York, California, and Florida employed the most CNAs in the U.S.

Continuing Education

After completing a state-approved training program, an aspiring CNA needs to take a competency exam in order to be placed on his or her state's registry. Passing this exam results in the CNA credential, which must be renewed every few years. CNAs might need to meet additional employer or state requirements as well.

CNAs may choose to advance their careers by pursuing other nursing certificates or degrees. A common first step is enrollment in a practical nursing or registered nursing program. These programs may require 2-4 years of study and can lead to additional career opportunities.

Professional certification is necessary for nursing assistants and aides, which they can acquire through a program, where they'll learn about terms and techniques. Salary and job availability is at a moderately healthy state.

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