The Ultimate CNA Requirements Guide

A Certified Nursing Assistant’s responsibility is to provide basic care to the patients and to help them with their daily living activities. To become a Nursing Assistant, the applicant must have a GED or a high school diploma.

However, it is a misconception that all CNA programs require GED or high school diploma. Check for the local requirements with the state health department.

As per the federal and state laws, one has to enroll in a Nursing Assistant Training Program at a community college, vocational school, or opt for online courses. Most schools require applicants to get a CPR certification before or during the training program.

In this article, we will talk about every single requirement you should follow to become a successful CNA. But, before getting into the requirements, let’s know the CNA course structure.

CNA Course Structure

Certified nurse aide classes are offered by various schools, community colleges, nursing homes, medical schools, health care facilities, etc.

Every student is obliged to have at least 75 hours of training, 51 theoretical instructions and 24 hours of practical course.

One can accomplish certified nursing aide classes offline or online as per the convenience. The classes last usually from 3 weeks to 3 months depending upon the time schedules and a number of sessions covered.

Some classes are regular and full time, while some are part-time or weekend or short-term classes. All of these have similar course work which is conducted during the training program and the program is said to be completed only after finishing the course work.

The course trains students on anatomy, patient rights, medical principles, medical terms, infection guidelines and knowledge of diseases.

Apart from these topics, students gain skills in pre- and post-operative care procedures, patient hygiene, patient communication and administrative duties.

After finishing the course, the student must take a CNA Certification Test, Get a certificate and license to work in any medical field legally.

Now you know how the CNA course works. So, let us dive into the details requirements you need to follow to complete this course successfully.

Educational Requirements to Get Enrolled in CNA Classes

  • Age must be above 17
  • High school diploma must be completed and proof must be produced
  • If not a high school diploma, GED (general educational development) test must be cleared and proof must be produced
  • TABE (test for adult basic education) must be cleared, in some states for English proficiency and simple Math
  • First aid training must be completed, in some states
  • CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) in some states

Most of the facilities which offer classes for certified nursing assistants mandate that the students who wish to enroll in the classes must be high school diploma holders; if not due to certain reason, a GED (general educational development) test certificate holders.

A high school diploma and the GED certificate are considered to be equivalent. Some states demand the completion of a first aid training and CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) certification.

One should have completed 17 years of age to get admission to the CNA courses.

There are a few states which ask the students to accomplish a series of many pre-requisite courses before they join the CNA classes.

  • Basic medical terminologies
  • Basic patient care
  • Structure and function of the human body
  • First aid
  • Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
  • Computer basics

There are certain other requirements for taking classes of certified nursing assistant

  • One must be able to read, write and speak English fluently
  • One must be able to perform simple Math and Statistics
  • One should possess proof of TABE (test for adult basic education)
  • One should have precise written communication skills
  • One should possess excellent interpersonal skills

After completing the classroom session and practical session in the certified nurse assistant program, the students have to appear for the certified nursing assistant state competency exam and successfully pass it for getting the certificate. The exam is state-approved and thus, the requirements may vary for different states.

CNA Skills Requirements

  • Helping and assisting the patient with his daily living procedures: bathing, nail care, oral care, and hair care
  • Taking and recording the patient’s vital signs: blood pressure, respiration, pulse, and measure and record the patient’s weight
  • Collecting specimens: stool/ sputum and urine
  • First aid procedures and cardiopulmonary resuscitation
  • Techniques for moving and positioning ambulating patients
  • Feeding techniques
  • Assisting patients during motion exercises
  • Changing linens and cleaning the patient’s room and maintain hygiene
  • Helping patients to use the bathroom or the urinal
  • Preventing and controlling infection and spread of disease for a CNA and the patient

CNA Exam & Certification Requirements

Certification of any specific field or profession is nothing but the publicly awarded credential that gives the proof of the candidate’s capability to work in that particular profession.

The certification exam is a formal exam that tests the level of knowledge, experience, and skillsets required in that respective occupational field.

Therefore, the CNA certification is valid proof which signifies that the candidate is eligible to practice as a nursing assistant. Obtaining the certificate is an easy procedure, but it has certain requirements that must be fulfilled to get the certificate.

  • The students are mandatory to have full attendance in CNA classes before appearing for the exam.
  • The exam is conducted in 2 parts: technical and practical which are to be passed separately.
  • The technical test has multiple choice questions based upon the classroom sessions, while the practical test has any 5 clinical skills (randomly) to perform in front of the RNs and supervisors.
  • The students should meet all the requirements for the exam (as per the respective state)

For applying for the CNA certification exam, one has to follow a procedure that involves an application form, fees for the exam, etc.

This procedure can be completed online or by mailing the details and required documents. The respective facility offering the classes provides a step-by-step guide along with all the related documents.

Possession of the CNA certification has its own benefits for the sake of a certified nursing assistant. It indicates the potential and skill of the candidate of working as a nurse aide.

It plays an important role during placement for jobs by the facility or applying for jobs individually. Students who seriously want to pursue their careers in the nursing profession for the long-term must possess a certified nurse assistant certificate.

For that, they need to start by joining the certified nurse aide classes to obtaining a CNA certificate.

The CNA Certification Test has two parts:

  1. The theoretical test evaluates the theoretical knowledge of students regarding basic medical care procedures.
  2. The practical test examines the student’s proficiency in his handwashing procedures, patient care and other basic nursing procedures.


Before taking this test, the student is required to fill an application form at the Nursing Aide Registry; the licensing authority under the state health department.

This application form is required to be signed, notarized and then sent to the local division of the State Licensing Office.

The CNA student is obliged to fill a Verification of Training to ensure that the student’s Training Program is part of a credited program.

Background and medical check

The Certified Nursing Assistant Certification procedures also require the student to get a background check. He has to fill a fingerprint card at the Department of Public Safety to pass the local and national background checks.

The applicant should not have any sentence for the past seven years. The applicant must obtain a medical fitness certificate which should clearly state that he/ she does not suffer from any transmissible disease.

The license is then processed in a few weeks and the student receives the response via e-mail or letter. If the student passes both exams, he obtains a CNA License and he can work in health care facilities, in hospitals, or at the patient’s home.

Re-appearing laws for students who fail differ from state to state; you need to check for the same.

CNA License Requirements

  • Age: The applicant is required to be at least 18 years of age to be considered for a certified nursing aide license. This age may vary from one state to the other, such as in some states the eligibility is 16 years.
  • High School Diploma: Most states require that the candidates opting for a nursing assistant certification to possess a high school diploma degree. In case, if they do not have this degree, then they should have an alternative to it such as a GED (General Educational Development), as it is equivalent to a high school diploma.
  • Competency: After the completion of the nursing aide course, the student has to pass a written competency test. This test comprises of the theoretical and practical session that is conducted by the certified nursing assistant licensing authority.
  • English Proficiency: The applicant is required to have excellent oral and written communication skills
  • Medical check: A proof of the latest medical check has to be submitted to ensure the good health condition
  • Background Check: The student should have a clean background record to obtain a nursing assistant certification

Requirements for Continuing Education

Once the students are CNA certified, they need to maintain the certificate by accomplishing a specific number of continuing education classes every year.

These classes are of 12 hours per year. While attending such continuing classes, the certified nursing assistants get an overview of what they already know regarding professional nursing practice.

They also get to know and grasp the new practices and treatments in the health care industry. The biggest advantage of such continuing CNA classes is that the students can expand their previous knowledge and explore new areas of study as well.

They can also polish their skills in any particular area while taking these continuing CNA classes. The facility offers continuing CNA classes also provides the necessary educational facilities for the same. The process of renewal of CNA certification has to be followed every year.

CNA Job Requirements (Responsibilities)

Many high school graduates nowadays are eager to enter the health care arena to kick start their career. Such students who wish to become nursing professionals first have to become certified nursing assistants (CNAs).

Becoming a certified nursing aide is the foremost step which in turn goes up to licensed nurses (LPN / LVN) and registered nurses (RN). The job of a CNA tends to give a lot of exposure to the nursing and total health care field as well as a valuable experience for working as a nursing professional for a long-term duration.

The job of a certified nursing assistant is very much responsible and challenging. It requires lots of dedication and strong will to work for the disabled. It is the key to becoming a successful nursing professional.

CNAs have to perform various tasks such as

  • Feeding the patients
  • Providing medication as per the prescription
  • Bathing and grooming of patients
  • Giving emotional support to patients and their relatives
  • Getting the important signs of patients
  • Keeping a regular record of patients health
  • Reporting the changes in patients health to senior nurses and doctors
  • Communicating between patients and doctors, etc.
  • At times, they may be involved in diagnostic practices, under the supervision of doctors.

All of the tasks done by certified nurse aides demand a great deal of nursing talent and skills.

The students have to learn and acquire these skills and knowledge through the CNA classes. The training programs for certified nursing assistants cover all the necessary aspects related to nursing.

In short, becoming a certified nursing assistant has certain requirements; and even after certification, there are some requirements for maintaining that certificate.


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