How to Become a CNA: Education and Career Roadmap

Jul 16, 2018

Research the requirements to become a certified nursing assistant. Learn about the job description and duties and read the step-by-step process to start a career in nursing assistance.

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  • 0:01 Certified Nursing Assistants
  • 0:38 Career Requirements
  • 1:21 Steps to become a CNA

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Certified Nursing Assistants

Certified nursing assistants (CNAs) work in nursing homes, private homes and hospitals under the supervision of nurses to provide long-term care. Duties for certified nursing assistants include assisting patients with daily living tasks, updating nurses on a patient's condition, monitoring patients' vital signs, helping patients with movement and collecting samples for testing. This work involves many hours spent standing and, at times, demands lifting or moving patients who require assistance.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Postsecondary award or certificate
Degree Field Certified nurse assistant, nurse aide or similar program
Licensure and Certification State certification is required; current CPR certification required to enter some programs and for employment
Training and Experience Short-term on-the-job training typically required; some employers may require at least 1 year of experience
Key Skills Possess compassion, patience and excellent communication skills; physical stamina
Salary (2015) $12.89 per hour (average wage for all CNAs)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Online Job Postings (August 2015), (July 2015)

CNAs typically have postsecondary awards or certificates as certified nurse assistants or nurse aides. They are state-certified, often with current CPR certification, which is required for some programs and employment. CNAs usually receive short-term on-the-job training, although some employers may require at least one year of experience. They are expected to be compassionate and patient, with excellent communication skills and physical stamina.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average hourly wage for nursing assistants, which includes certified nursing assistants, was $12.89 in 2015.

Steps to Become a CNA

What steps do I need to take to become a CNA?

Step 1: Complete Prerequisites

Many schools require candidates to attend an orientation or informational session before attending class. They must also show proof of current immunizations and submit to a criminal background check. Completion of a cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) course may also be required to enter a training program.

Step 2: Enroll in a Training Program

Community colleges, technical schools and medical facilities typically offer CNA programs, which prepare students to take the state certification exam for nurse assistants. The curriculum varies by location, but most take 6-12 weeks to complete. The program consists of coursework, lab studies and supervised clinical training. Students learn basic nursing skills, such as anatomy and physiology, communication and observation, patient care and infection control. By the end of the program, they can gather patient data, conduct basic procedures and provide restorative care, among other duties.

CNAs provide long-term care to patients in nursing homes, private homes, and hospitals. They're expected to have postsecondary training and certification in addition to compassion and physical stamina, and they earn an average hourly wage of $12.89.

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