The Complete Guide to Getting CNA Certification

To work in the nursing field, CNA certification could be the right fit forward. Certification is the access to a career in which you are indispensable to a registered nurse (RN) or licensed practical nurse (LPN) or even a doctor. Here as CNA, one needs to take care of those who cannot care for themselves.

To become a certified nursing assistant is the aspiration of many individuals who want to make a stable career in the healthcare sector. Such individuals opt for CNA certification courses which help them to get certified and listed in their state’s registry.

This is important as the listing is necessary to find jobs in healthcare facilities across the state and provide daily care for the patients.

The courses are designed as per the norms of the particular state and the duration of the course also differs from one state to another. The main objective of the course is to train the students to take care of the patients who need long term care as they are physically or mentally ill.

The certification is necessary to make the student a thorough professional who can empathize with the patient and take care of them with ample patience.

CNA Certification Courses Overview

First of all, You have to find out the schools and colleges in your area which are accredited.


  • Eligibility criteria
  • Application process
  • Initial exams
  • Training classes
  • Clinical sessions
  • Final examinations
  • And the job opportunities in your state

The eligibility criteria also differ from one state to the other. Still, the basic norms include the age limit of eighteen, you should have completed at least a high school diploma, you should not have any physical or mental illness and some states have the criteria that the student must not be pregnant at the time of admission.

You have to get the application form from the respective school or college and fill the relevant details.

You may have to submit two copies of any photo identity proof with your signature and also details of any crime committed in the past for which you have been convicted.

A thorough background check is conducted by all the schools and colleges irrespective of the state of aspirants who want to pursue CNA courses. If you had committed a felony or any crime, then your application will be rejected.

These are some of the major CNA certification requirements which have to be fulfilled to be enrolled in the course. Clearing the initial exams is also a must for you to be enrolled in the course. The exam would test your verbal and written communication skills.

If you fail to pass, you may be provided with training in the skills lab and you can re-appear for the exam.

CNA Certification Eligibility Requirements 

The CNA certification program is very popular among individuals who want to pursue a career in the nursing and healthcare sectors. The most important aspect of the nursing certification includes its eligibility criteria to enroll for the certification program. CNA certification requirements are the most important things to be aware of before applying for the course.

The CNA course is offered in schools and colleges and it is important to know whether they are accredited properly before choosing the program offered. The requirements for doing the certification differ from one state to another.

The eligibility criteria, application process and other requirements are different in each state and are laid down as per the norms of the state. You will have to fulfill all the requirements to apply for the certification and eventually become a certified nursing assistant.

Though the eligibility criteria differ from one state to another, some basic requirements remain the same. You will have to be eighteen years old and completed at least a high school diploma at the time of your application. You have to fill up an application that would be provided at the school or college where you would be applying for. The most important constituent of the CNA certification program requirements is the background check of the applicant.

The applicant should have a clean record and should not have committed or convicted for criminal activities or felony. You shouldn’t have been involved in any illegal activities in the past; these criteria differ from one state to another. The background check is a very important part of the application process and the school or college may just reject your application for the program if you are found to have gone against the law at any point in time in the past.

How to Apply for the CNA Certification

CNA certification requirements are strict to enroll only those individuals who are dedicated to offering services and sincere enough to carry out the responsibilities which are crucial for the recovery of patients.

You must be sure about enrolling for the highly demanding course as a job of a certified nursing assistant is very difficult, you should also understand the responsibilities of a CNA before deciding to go for the program.

Requirements to become a certified nursing assistant is a high school diploma or GED (General Educational Development) and the completion of a 6-12 week training program followed by certification.

CNA certification is essential for a nursing assistant job because it is mandatory and offers some advantages like job security, a better salary and more hiring opportunities. A nursing assistant can work in hospitals, health care facilities, retirement homes, adult daycare facilities, or at the patient’s private home.

Let’s recap

  • Student must have completed 18 years of age.
  • Student must have completed a high school diploma or GED (equivalent to high school diploma).
  • Student should have completed 40 hours of a training session under the instructions of a registered nurse (RN).
  • Student must possess proficiency in English to understand and communicate with the patients.
  • If demanded by the licensing authority, student must submit the transcript.
  • Student must have passed the CNA competency exam before applying for the license.
  • Student should submit the medical check proof and background check proof which ensure the good health and clean background of the student.

How to Obtain a CNA Certification

To obtain training, one needs to enroll the name for the certified nursing assistant training program. The courses are conducted in community colleges, online courses, or health care facilities that offer a training program.

The program includes theory as well as practical skills with several different topics such as

  • Basic Nursing Skills
  • Infection Control
  • Proper Body Mechanics
  • Nutrition
  • Basic anatomy
  • Physiology

After completion of the course, the student has to clear a certification exam to obtain a CNA certificate followed by obtaining a license from the respective state to practice further.

Wondering what does a CNA Certificate look like? see the example below

cna certificate example
CNA Certificate Example

CNA Certification Exam

A CNA test for certification includes theory as well as practical skills test, so the students must work hard in both the regards to clear the test. In many states, it is mandatory to clear the skill test to appear for theoretical tests.

The tests are conducted by the state health department or even by the American Red Cross Society and the students have to give the test as per the norms of their respective states.

The written exam includes a portion covered in lectures, whereas the skill test will cover that the students learned during the clinical class.

Tests vary from state to state, but a student must pass both the tests for CNA certification. Practice test papers are available and even online practice tests are also available.

Exams for CNA License

To become a certified nursing assistant, one is desired to take CNA classes, mostly from an accredited school or college or a stable institution like a nursing home or a recognized hospital that offers a CNA training program for students. Taking classes through an accredited institution renders recognition as a certified nursing assistant and after certification, helps in getting the CNA license too.

There are certain rules and regulations regarding the CNA classes and CNA license which include the type of classes taken (offline/online), classroom sessions attended, practical or clinical sessions attended, hands-on training completed, results for the exam of the state (passed/failed), etc.

If one wants to apply for the CNA license, one should accomplish the training program for the same and then give the CNA certification exam which is also known as the National Nurse Aide Assessment Program exam (NNAAP).

cna certification exam

On passing the exam, one becomes eligible to get the certification and apply for the license further. This exam is the same for the certification as well as the license. It is designed to evaluate the knowledge, skills and abilities of the student that are required to be possessed for continuing the practice as a nursing assistant.

The evaluation takes place in 2 forms out of which one deals with the written or technical knowledge test and the other one deals with the practical or clinical skills of the students. Those students, who clear both the tests, are only eligible for the position of entry-level nursing assistant.

They can then apply for the certificate and license too. The CNA license exam is approved by the state and the federal government and thus has recognition.

CNA Certificate Examination Pattern

  • The exam has 2 tests – technical / theory based upon the course taken in classroom sessions and practical/clinical based upon the clinical skills of students developed during the hands-on training sessions
  • The technical test paper consists of a specified number of multiple-choice questions (MCQs in English only) and this number may vary from state to state
  • Some students find it difficult to solve the paper in English, so some of the states also provide an alternative of the oral exam in other languages for the convenience of those students
  • The practical test consists of any 5 random clinical tasks to be performed successfully by the students, within the given specified time
  • The CNA instructor will be present there during both the tests to monitor every task of the students

The Technical / Theory Part which needs to be revised

  • All the course material that has been taught in the classroom sessions
  • All the related material available, that may help during the technical and clinical test

The Clinical Tasks to be practiced

  • Washing of hands, cleanliness practices
  • Assisting ambulate using transfer belt
  • Assisting the use of bedpan
  • Cleaning of dentures
  • Counting and recording of pulse rate, respiratory rate
  • Feeding and dressing
  • Measuring and recording blood pressure, urinary output
  • Bed making (occupied/unoccupied)
  • Re-positioning the patient
  • Providing mouth care
  • Providing catheter care for female patients
  • Transferring a patient from the bed to wheelchair and vice versa
  • Communicating with patients

Some of the websites and medical or health science institutions also provide the practice tests for the CNA exam. Websites or institutions offering online classes also offer to give free online practice tests. Students can try getting such practice tests to be comfortable during the final CNA exam.

Renewal, Verification and Transfer of License

After you acquire the certificate, you should be careful about renewal as it has a fixed period of validity.

Getting the certified nursing aide certificate allows one to start their nursing career, but one has to remember that this certificate has to be renewed every 2 years in order to keep it valid. A certain renewal fee is also charged to it renewed.

If the renewal period is exceeded, then one might be penalized for the same. There are certain CNA recertification requirements:

  • One has to present the proof of being a US citizen
  • One has to continue the nursing practice for a minimum 150 hours within a period of 2 years
  • One has to keep updating the relevant personal information (e.g. address) in the states nurse aide registry
  • One has to complete the 24 hour (in-service) competency or evaluation program which is variable from state to state
  • One has to meet the desired requirements regarding online or on-paper recertification
  • One has to apply for it well before the date of expiry approaches

Getting your certificate verified is also an important process and you should make sure you get a hard copy of your the same as it has the original seal of the licensing authority.

If you would be looking for job opportunities in other states in the future, you will have to apply for the transfer of the license.

It is better to know all the terms and conditions related to nursing aide certification before deciding to pursue a career in the health care sector and this would help you to achieve a successful career as a certified nursing assistant.

You can find detailed state-wise information on CNA license here and it would be better to know the terms and conditions related to the license requirements in each state before deciding to pursue a career in the health care sector as a certified nursing assistant.

You Got Your CNA Certification, Now What?

Once you have got your CNA certification, now what?

Well, it is an accepted fact across the globe that becoming a CNA is the easiest way to enter the health care industry. It is always beneficial to have training for a short time and then, immediately getting a kick start in the industrial domain. Considering time investment, it is still better to get trained for a month or so rather than spending years studying for a degree and then, searching for suitable jobs for a longer time.

The training program for certified nursing assistants may last anywhere from 3 weeks to 3 months. One can take the classes and can immediately go-ahead for prospects after the state certification. Students can start working while they are taking classes.

This way, they can learn and earn at the same time to afford their expenses. After getting the state certification, the certified nurse aides get listed on the state’s nurse aide registry and, thus, get access to almost all the health care employers across their state. The employers can directly contact the prospective nursing assistants for the best suitable jobs.

However, the CNAs can individually go and contact hospitals, nursing homes and other health care facilities for the best of job opportunities they may offer.

One must keep in mind that anyone can do a CNA’s job after the desired training, but there are a large number of long-term employment opportunities for those who wish to pursue a career in nursing and stay in the same for a lifetime. One can opt for continuing education in nursing. After CNA, there are some more steps for a nursing professional.

Becoming a registered nurse (RN) requires specialized training after years of experience. The intermediate step between certified nurse aide and registered nurse is the licensed practical or vocational nurse (LPN / LVN) which also requires specialized training as the job becomes more challenging at that stage. Thus, all these 3 stages of a nursing professional have a lot of employment scope in all kinds of health care facilities.

Choosing to become a CNA is a good decision to make. You indeed will have a bright future in the health care industry. The job of a nursing assistant is very rewarding for an individual who is compassionate to serve the sick and disables.


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