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Certified Nursing Assistant Programs in California

More than 50 training sites in California have nursing assistant programs. Read an overview of 10 of the largest schools' programs, requirements and tuition info and find out which school is the right one for you.

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Essential Information

Programs for aspiring certified nursing assistants combine lectures with practical experiences and may last 6-18 weeks. Individuals interested in a CNA program may need to attend an orientation session and may need to complete prerequisite courses to be considered for admission. Depending on the school, students may also need to complete an interview. In addition, applicants may need to provide proof of current immunizations, negative TB tests and current CPR certification.

Career Requirements

To work as a certified nursing assistant or aide (CNA) in California, an individual must complete a state-approved nurse assistant training program that includes at least 100 hours of supervised clinical training and 50 hours of classroom instruction. Students must also pass the National Nurse Aide Assessment Program (NNAAP) examination. The exam consists of an oral or written test and a hands-on practical examination.

California also requires that prospective CNAs pass a physical examination, fingerprint scan and criminal background check prior to certification. Students may also be required to have cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification. CNAs must complete 48 hours of continuing education every two years to maintain certification status. The 10 education centers and 2-year colleges outlined below offer state-approved CNA courses or programs that prepare students for the state exam.


American River College

American River College in Santa Clara has a nurse assistant training program that limits its class size to 15 students. Before students can begin this program, they must attend a mandatory orientation session. By combining theory knowledge with hands-on clinical training, students learn to care for and assist patients with their daily care needs. Topics of study include infection control, patient care skills, residents' rights and effective communication. Applicants must take a required English class or show proof of a completed assessment test.

  • Program Offered: Nurse assistant program
  • Undergraduate Tuition (2012-2013): $46/unit, in-state; $254/unit, out-of-state*
  • School Type & Setting: Two-year, public; large suburb

Bakersfield College

Located in Bakersfield, this school offers a six-unit nursing assistant program. Students learn to collect specimens, take and document vital signs, document patient information and perform basic hygiene on patients. Other topics of study include residents' rights, healthcare safety and the role of the caregiver. Upon completion of all training, students are prepared to take the American Red Cross competency exam for CNAs. Students must provide valid social security cards.

  • Program Offered: Certified nurse assistant program
  • Undergraduate Tuition (2012-2013): $1,000 estimated total program cost*
  • School Type & Setting: Two-year, public; rural

College of the Sequoias

Visalia-based College of the Sequoias has a nursing assistant program that prepares students to work in nursing homes, hospitals, long-term care facilities and home care settings. The nursing assistant program consists of one course, which integrates classroom discussions and lectures with lab studies. Students who successfully complete this course can sit for the state nurse assistant certification exam. Applicants must provide proof of current immunizations, negative TB tests and current CPR certification. The college's Student Services division offers various programs to help students reach their career goals, including work study, student employment and a First Year Experience program.

  • Program Offered: Nursing assistant program
  • Undergraduate Tuition (2012-2013): $46/unit, in-state; $291/unit, out-of-state*
  • School Type & Setting: Two-year, public; midsize city

Hacienda La Puente Education Center

Located in La Puente, this education center offers a nurse assistant - CNA program at its Willow Center. The 480-hour program provides students with the knowledge and skills to work in long-term hospital facilities and to obtain the credential of CNA. To be eligible for enrollment in this program, a student must first complete the caregiver certification course, which entails at least 60 hours of training. Selection for both of these courses is based on a written and oral interview. Hacienda La Puente Education Center's Student Services department offers services such as career counseling, assessment screening and job placement.

  • Program Offered: Nurse assistant - CNA program
  • Undergraduate Tuition (2012-2013): $1,165 estimated total program cost plus $130 for Caregiver Certification Course*
  • School Type & Setting: < Two-year, public; large suburb

Lake Tahoe Community College

Lake Tahoe Community College, which is located in South Lake Tahoe, offers a nursing assistant training. This eight-unit program, offered in the fall, can be completed in one quarter. Prior to entering the program, candidates must attend a mandatory orientation session. In addition to completing classroom instruction, students obtain hands-on training by providing patient care at Barton Memorial Hospital. Students will also obtain Basic Life Support for the Professional Rescuer certification while in the nursing assistant program.

  • Program Offered: Nursing assistant training program
  • Undergraduate Tuition (2012-2013): $31/unit, in-state; $170/unit, out-of-state*
  • School Type & Setting: Two-year, public; distant town

Los Angeles Valley College

Located in Valley Glen, Los Angeles Valley College offers a CNA class that trains students to work in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. The 20-hour, state-certified CNA class is taken with the home health aide (HHA) class. The nursing assistant class, which combines classroom study with clinical experiences, teaches students to provide basic nursing care to patients while assessing their overall conditions. The HHA class teaches students how to care for patients in their homes and assist family members. When all training is complete, students can take the state exam to obtain certification as a CNA and an HHA. The CNA class is one of several free classes offered through the college's continuing education division.

  • Program Offered: Certified nursing assistant class
  • Undergraduate Tuition (2012-2013): Free tuition*
  • School Type & Setting: Two-year, public; large city

MiraCosta College

The CNA program at MiraCosta College in Oceanside admits students on a first-enrolled, first-admitted basis. Additionally, students must enroll in Nursing 160 to be considered for admission. Other prerequisites are completion of an English course (or passing an English placement test) and proof of CPR certification. MiraCosta College offers students this program in two formats. One option, which is offered twice a semester, has students completing coursework 23 hours a week in an accelerated eight-week program. The second option has students completing coursework 32 hours a week for six weeks during the summer. The curriculum consists of 79 hours of theory and 105 hours spent in long-term care facilities obtaining hands-on training. The college also offers an eight-week HHA class for CNAs who want to expand their knowledge and career options.

  • Program Offered: Certified nursing assistant program
  • Undergraduate Tuition (2012-2013): $550 estimated total program cost for CA residents*
  • School Type & Setting: Two-year, public; large suburb

Pasadena City College

The five-credit hour nursing assistant program at this Pasadena-based school lasts six weeks and trains the aspiring CNA to work with patients as part of a healthcare team. Students complete 54 hours in the classroom covering the basic principles of nursing and 108 clinical hours gaining hands-on experience. This class, offered during the winter and summer semesters, is graded on a pass or no pass basis. Applicants must be at least 16 years old and qualified to perform CPR by the American Heart Association.

  • Program Offered: Certified nursing assistant program
  • Undergraduate Tuition (2012-2013): $46/unit, in-state; $253/unit, out-of-state*
  • School Type & Setting: Two-year, public; midsize city

Rio Hondo College

Whittier-based Rio Hondo College offers a nursing assistant pre-certification program that prepares students to care for geriatric patients in long-term care facilities. Applicants must complete reading assessment tests, be at least 16 years old and have a valid social security number. The one-semester, 16-week program consists of 64 hours of theory-based courses and 120 hours of clinical education. Topics of study include patient care skills, emergency care procedures, patient rights, medical and surgical asepsis, vital signs, death and dying, patient care procedures and long-term care patients.

  • Program Offered: Nursing assistant pre-certification program
  • Undergraduate Tuition (2012-2013): $46/unit, in-state; $236/unit, out-of-state*
  • School Type & Setting: Two-year, public; large suburb

San Diego Continuing Education

This continuing education center in San Diego offers a 260-hour nursing assistant program that students can complete in anywhere from eight weeks to 18 weeks. Through a blended curriculum of lectures and hands-on training, students learn to provide patients with daily care, such as bathing, feeding and assisting with other needs. Other topics of study include medical/surgical asepsis, vital signs, weights and measures, communication and interpersonal skills, long-term care residents, death and dying and rehabilitative care. CNAs who wish to further their studies can enroll in the school's 50-hour HHA program, which can be completed in two weeks.

  • Program Offered: Nursing assistant program
  • Undergraduate Tuition (2012-2013): Free tuition*
  • School Type & Setting: < Two-year, public; large city

School Comparison: At a Glance

School Name School Type and Setting Nursing Assistant Programs Offered Undergraduate Tuition (2012-2013)
American River College Two-year, public; large suburb Nurse assistant program $46/unit, in-state; $254/unit, out-of-state*
Bakersfield College Two-year, public; rural Certified nurse assistant program $1,000 estimated total program cost*
College of the Sequoias Two-year, public; midsize city Nursing assistant program $46/unit, in-state; $291/unit, out-of-state*
Hacienda La Puente Education Center < Two-year, public; large suburb Nurse assistant - CNA program $1,165 estimated total program cost plus $130 for Caregiver Certification Course*
Lake Tahoe Community College Two-year, public; distant town Nursing assistant training program $31/unit, in-state; $170/unit, out-of-state*
Los Angeles Valley College Two-year, public; large city Certified nursing assistant class Free tuition*
MiraCosta College Two-year, public; large suburb Certified nursing assistant program $550 estimated total program cost for CA residents*
Pasadena City College Two-year, public; midsize city Certified nursing assistant program $46/unit, in-state; $253/unit, out-of-state*
Rio Hondo College Two-year, public; large suburb Nursing assistant pre-certification program $46/unit, in-state; $236/unit, out-of-state*
San Diego Continuing Education < Two-year, public; large city Nursing assistant program Free tuition*

Source: *Schools' websites.

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