CNA - Certified Nurse Assistant: Educational Requirements

Certified nurse assistants perform basic healthcare duties in hospitals and care facilities under the supervision of a registered nurse or licensed vocational nurse. They must be registered with a state regulatory body.

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Education Overview for a Certified Nurse Assistant

Federal and state laws require any aspiring certified nurse assistant (CNA) to complete an approved postsecondary training program. Vocational schools and community colleges offer programs that include classroom education and a clinical rotation. Coursework taken as part of a registered nurse (RN) or licensed vocational nurse (LVN) degree program may also satisfy CNA training requirements.

Training institutions generally require applicants who have earned their high school diploma or received qualifying scores on reading and math competency tests. Most also require students to acquire CPR certification before or during the program. Additionally, students must meet health requirements, which may include a tuberculosis screening and submission of proof of vaccinations.


CNA training programs lasts approximately eight weeks. Relevant coursework includes anatomy, patient rights, medical ethics, medical terminology, infection guidelines and knowledge of diseases. Additional knowledge and skills include pre- and post-operative care procedures, patient hygiene, patient communication and administrative duties.

Certification Requirements for a Nurse Assistant

Requirements vary by state. Generally, applicants must apply to register as a nurse assistant with their state health department and pass a written competency examination upon completion of an approved training program. Students in the process of completing RN or LVN degree programs may also be able to test for and work as CNAs.

Some states may allow nurse assistants to work for a limited time while going through the application and testing process. A nurse assistant can only be designated a CNA after completing the registration process.

Career Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that employment of nursing aides, attendants and orderlies will increase 21% for the years 2012-2022 ( In May 2012, the BLS stated that nursing assistants earned $24,420 as a median annual wage.

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