How to Become a Certified Nurse Assistant:
The Definitive Guide

Do you enjoy the art of helping people, are you the one that people call when they need a hand?

If so, then you may be just the right person to become a Certified Nurse Assistant.

These wonderful people are there to help patients with day to day tasks, providing care and companionship to people when they need it the most.

What is a Certified Nurse Assistant?

A Certified Nurse Assistant is a special person who helps patients with their daily needs like bathing, medications and taking vitals, under the care of a Registered Nurse.

As a Certified Nurse Assistant, you’ll likely be around some of the same patients throughout your day, making sure that they are taken care of and doing well.

Most Certified Nurse Assistants work in hospitals, where they see several patients at one time.

Other Certified Nurse Assistants may work in doctor’s offices, adult daycare centers, or outpatient clinics.


It is possible that there will be different types of patients that a Certified Nurse Assistant may see throughout the day.

So, there will likely be different tasks to do, including but not limited to:

  • Turning or repositioning patients
  • Obtaining vital signs
  • Bathing
  • Dressing wounds
  • Assisting in the bathroom
  • Stocking supplies
  • Combing hair and brushing teeth
  • Answer phone calls


Being a Certified Nurse Assistant is a great stepping stone or even a potential career, and the average Certified Nurse Assistant makes around $31,000 a year.

Certified Nurse Assistants who may not have as much experience or may not even be certified yet will likely make around $29,000 a year.

Those that have been working as Certified Nurse Assistants for many years and have certifications in the career can expect to make around $35,000 a year.

Some other factors that may determine salary can include the population of the city that you work in, as well as the size of the facility.

Large hospitals will typically pay more than doctors’ offices in small towns.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

Annually National Average Salary: $30,720


Average Annual Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$35,320
New Hampshire$33,430
New Jersey$31,190
New Mexico$28,850
New York$38,810
North Carolina$26,540
North Dakota$34,320
Rhode Island$33,020
South Carolina$26,560
South Dakota$28,120
West Virginia$26,900
Puerto Rico$22,540
Virgin Islands$31,150

Annual Average Salary: Top 5 States

The top earning state in the field is Alaska, where the average salary is $40,320.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

Alaska - $40,320
New York - $38,810
Hawaii - $37,710
California - $36,630
District of Columbia - $35,320
* Employment conditions in your area may vary. * Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey.
Conducted by: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Labor.

How to Become a Certified Nurse Assistant

Step 1Meet the Minimum Requirements

Although it is not necessary to earn a college degree in order to work as a Certified Nurse Assistant, there are still some requirements to get hired for this job.

First of all, you are going to want to make sure that you have a high school diploma or GED.

You must also make sure that you have at least a 2.0 GPA in school.

Some of the classes that you should take prior to graduation include:

  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Biology
  • Psychology
  • Life sciences
  • Math

Having proper communication skills will set you apart in this career as well.

It is also a good idea to make sure that you have some CPR training and are CPR certified.

Certified Nurses Assistants are at the ground level when it comes to the medical field, so many people use this career as a stepping stone into nursing.

Step 2Complete Training

Once you get hired as a Certified Nurse Assistant, you are going to need to complete a training program.

There are several places you can go to get training as a Certified Nurse Assistant, whether through your work, the American Red Cross, or community colleges.

The American Red Cross offers online courses so that you don’t even need to leave your home in order to go to school.

There are two parts to the training program, one is a classroom section, the other is a hands-on training that will be very useful.

The training program will typically cover topics like:

  • CPR
  • First aid
  • AED usage
  • Infection control
  • Taking vital signs
  • Range of motion exercises
  • Communication skills and teamwork practices

You must first begin in the classroom setting, and then once you learn all of the information, you will move onto clinical.

Clinicals can be extremely helpful and will allow you to get the hands-on training that will make you a great asset as a Certified Nurse Assistant.

With clinical, you will be working with real patients under the supervision of a registered nurse.

He or she will show you how to care for patients, what kinds of things you will be doing on a day to day basis, and everything you need to know about the job.

Then, they will step back and let you take control.

This is a great way to learn how to be a good problem solver, especially if you find yourself in a situation where you need to be quick on your toes.

Step 3Become Certified

Now that your training is complete, it’s time to take the exam to become a Certified Nurse Assistant.

The exam may be given by your employer, but you can also find places online to take it, and even at some colleges and the American Red Cross.

Details of the exam vary by state, but mostly it is 50/50 with written answers as well as multiple choice.

You’ll also need to show your skills physically, by showing what you have learned through your clinical (see, they are important!).

It’s important to show how you bathe a patient, how to roll and move them, as well as how to dress wounds and dispense medication.

Once you pass the exam, you will be a Certified Nurse Assistant!


You do not need to have a college education in order to become a Certified Nurse Assistant.

However, you must have a high school diploma or GED.

You’ll also want to make sure that you have a 2.0 GPA or higher, and that you are eighteen years old before starting out as a Certified Nurse Assistant.

Most employers will allow you to do on the job training that you will be paid for.

However, there are Certified Nurse Assistant training programs at some colleges, hospitals, and even from the American Red Cross.

Once you have started your training program, you can expect to learn through classroom time, as well as hands-on experience called clinical.

These clinical trials will allow you to work with patients in a real hospital, under the supervision of a registered nurse.

This way, you will get a feel for the career before you step into it fully.

Some programs may take as little as four weeks to finish, while others may take up to 12.

The time frame depends on the employer and the state in which you work.

The topics that will be covered in the program may vary as well, but typically include:

  • Becoming a valuable and adaptable employee
  • Art of caregiving
  • Safety promotion
  • Special care instructions
  • Transitioning from student to employee

After you have completed your classroom training, you will move onto clinical.

Then it is time to take the Certified Nurse Assistant exam, and become Certified!

Many people use the job of Certified Nurse Assistant as a stepping stone toward other areas of the medical field.

It is possible to earn a degree while working as a Certified Nurse Assistant if you decide you would like to gain other skills.

Many Certified Nurse Assistants go on to become registered nurses or medical assistants.

Video About The Career


Once you have finished a program to become a Nurse Assistant, it’s time to get certified.

You’ll need to have already completed the training program in order to take the exam for this certification.

Other requirements include:

  • Passing score on competency exam
  • Completed statement about physical and mental health
  • Background check
  • HIV/Aids training

The purpose of certification is to ensure the competency of your knowledge, especially because you are working with real people with real illnesses.

Each state may have a different test to determine whether you are educated enough to work as a Certified Nurse Assistant.

Most tests consist of a written portion of the test, and then a physical portion where students showcase what they learned in the program.

Both parts of the exam will be taken on the same day.

You will likely have about two hours to complete the written portion, and then another thirty to forty-five minutes for the physical portion of the test.

Some of the things that the exam will likely cover:

  • Activities of patients daily life
  • Infection control
  • Data collection
  • Mental health needs
  • Cultural needs
  • Patient rights
  • Law and ethics

You will either receive a pass or fail score, no percentage will be given.

If you pass the exam, congratulations!

You are now a Certified Nurse Assistant and can start working.

One thing to keep in mind is that you will have to recertify after two years.

Many states require that you do at least twelve hours of training every year in order to stay up to date.

Recertification will require that you show proof of working as in the role of a Certified Nurse Assistant in the hospital or facility you are employed.

You will also be required to stay up to date on:

  • Domestic violence
  • Patient rights
  • Medical documentation
  • First aid

There may be other certifications available through your employer as well.

Certification Example:

certified nurse assistant certificate

Average Training Program Duration: 0-6 Months

The length of the training program you complete depends on your employer and where you take the classes.

Some classes can take as little as four weeks to complete.

Other employers may require a twelve-week class.

Sometimes, it is better to get the shorter classroom hours with the longer clinical so that you can get hands-on training.

All in all, t can take from one month to three months to finish Certifed Nurse Assistant training.

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Job Outlook

The job outlook for a Certified Nurse Assistant is good for the next decade.

It seems that the career will grow by around 9 percent.

This means that there will be more job openings, especially with the rise in technology.

Technology allows for new jobs to open, and more ways to treat specific diseases.

Along with technology, the baby boomer generation is growing older.

The prevalence of disease and the ability to treat them allows for more jobs for Certified Nurse Assistants.

Something that could cause an issue with the growth of the Certified Nurse Assistant career is cut to government funding.

Whether or not funding is cut, there will always be a need for this career.

Employment Growth Projection: 9%


That's a higher than average projected growth of 135,400 jobs.

Should you Become a Certified Nurse Assistant?

Overall Satisfaction

Overall Satisfaction: Low

It is likely that if you work as a Certified Nurse Assistant, that one day you may want to become a Registered Nurse, this is a great place to start, and many Certified Nurse Assistants say that going this route was a good idea for them.

The upward mobility within this career can be difficult, but possible through promotions.

The stress level is higher than normal as well, as you will likely be working longer hours and working to physically help patients with daily tasks.

Average Salary

Average Salary: Low

For the average Certified Nurse Assistant in the United States, the yearly salary is around $31,000.

Depending on how much education and whether the Nurse Assistant is certified, the salary can vary.

Nurse Assistants who are not certified and have little experience will make around $29,000 a year.

While, Certified Nurse Assistants that have been working for many years, have certifications, and education can make around $35,000 a year.

Some other factors that can determine salary include specializations and the population of the city of employment.

Job Growth Outlook

Job Growth Outlook: Medium

Within the next ten years, Certified Nurse Assistants should expect a growth of around 9 percent in the career field.

There will always be a need for doctors, nurses, and other medical staff.

The baby boomer population is aging, which means more people will need medical care.

There are also projected to be more facilities like outpatient care and rehab centers opening in the future.

This means that there will likely be more jobs for Certified Nurse Assistants in the future.

Education Duration

Education Duration: 0-6 Months

Unlike most other nursing programs, you will not need to earn a college degree to become a Certified Nurse Assistant.

Instead, you’ll need to enroll in a Certified Nurse Assistant program, this can take anywhere from four to 12 weeks to finish.

It is possible to take Certified Nurse Assistant program classes online, but they are offered at many community colleges as well.

In a Certified Nurse Assistant program, you will learn through classroom time, clinical experience, and a CNA exam.

Personal Skills Needed

Personal Skills Needed

There are certain skills that a Certified Nurse Assistant needs to have in order to be a success in the career.

These skills include:

  • Incredible communication skills
  • Observation skills
  • Time management skills
  • Organizational skills
  • Compassion
  • Empathy
  • Team player
  • Physical stamina

It is possible that you will spend some time lifting and moving patients in this career, so make sure that you are physically able to do this so that you do not hurt anyone.

Being able to follow directions, but also think on your toes is another great quality for a Certified Nurse Assistant.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is the average salary of a Certified Nurse Assistant?

In the United States, the average salary for a Certified Nurse Assistant is around $32,000 a year.

When just starting out as a Certified Nurse Assistant, it is more likely that you will make around $28,000.

With certifications and experience in the field, some Certified Nurse Assistants can make around $40,000 a year.

Salary can vary based on employers as well as the population of the facility where you work.

Q. How long does it take to become a Certified Nurse Assistant?

It doesn’t take much time to become a Certified Nurse Assistant.

In fact, it may be possible to become a Certifed Nurse Assistant before you need your next haircut!

Some employers require that you enroll in a training program, this can last around four weeks, or even up to twelve weeks at some places.

Most of the time, this training is paid so you won’t even need to worry about tuition!

Q. What does a Certified Nurse Assistant do?

A Certified Nurse Assistant is there to assist the nurse.

He or she is also there to help the patient with anything that they may need.

This could be teeth-brushing, bathing, dressing, the list goes on.

A Certified Nurse Assistant is the one who helps people live their every day lives.

Q. What is the demand for Certified Nurse Assistants?

Although this career is growing slower than most in the same field, there is still a need for Certified Nurse Assistants.

This job is physically and sometimes mentally stressful, but it is important none the less.

There will always be a need for medical staff, and many hospitals, as well as other facilities, are opening up to provide more jobs.

Q. How much does it cost to become a Certified Nurse Assistant?

For the most part, it shouldn’t cost much at all to become a Certified Nurse Assistant.

The most expensive things that you will need to buy will be scrubs and any items that you need for work.

Most employers will pay for Certified Nurse Assistant training, and they may actually pay you to take the classes.

One of the things you may need to pay for is the exam, which can cost around $200.

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