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Are you interested in becoming a certified nursing assistant (CNA)? If the answer is “yes” or even “maybe”, you’ve come to the right place. will provide you with all the information you need to kickstart your CNA career. 

You can also get matched with online CNA training programs – for free! Get started by entering your zip code below, and compare your top matches. Find the best CNA online program for you, and get started on your path to a new career!

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What Is a CNA and What Do They Do?

Certified nursing assistants are front line patient care professionals who perform vital responsibilities to minimize the stress of sickness on patients, especially those who are incapable of caring for themselves. 

CNAs hold a crucial position within the healthcare field as they are relied upon to offer basic care and free up LPNs and RNs to perform more tasks that require advanced training and expertise.

While the duties of a nursing assistant may vary from one setting to another, the professionals typically provide hands-on contact with patients through helping the patients with basic tasks such as dressing, eating, bathing, getting in and out of bed, grooming, exercises, walking and getting into wheelchairs.

The core duties of CNAs include:

  • Ensuring high-degree personal hygiene for patients by helping with baths and showers, assisting with movement to bathrooms and toilets, and giving shampoos, shaves, backrubs, urinals, bedpans and baths.
  • Providing daily living activities such as feeding patients, serving meals, ambulating, positioning and turning patients, and providing nourishment and freshwater between meals.
  • Maintaining patient stability through prompt checking of vital signs and weight, recording intake and output volumes, and testing urine.
  • Ensuring patient comfort by applying appropriate materials and resources, transporting patients, answering patient calls, and reporting observations and changes to nursing supervisors.
  • Documenting activities by completing forms, logs, records and reports.

Typically, nursing assistants work in hospitals, retirement communities, physician offices, community care centers and nursing care facilities. Some are employed by family members for their loved one, making in-home visits to provide companionship and physical care for their patient

The job is often performed indoors, but it requires physical ability. For instance, nurse aides lift equipment, food, clothing, bedding and other supplies, and move patients when necessary. 

Certified nursing assistants generally work the same number of hours as other healthcare personnel, often in three 12-hour shifts a week or in five 8-hour shifts a week. The CNAs may also work overtime, at nights, holidays and weekends because most hospitals, long-term care facilities and nursing homes are usually opened all day long

Nonetheless, the CNA is an ideal choice for all individuals who are seeking career stability and those who are committed to helping others.

CNA Hourly Pay Range

Depending on their place of employment, a CNA’s salary may vary. In a government setting, like a Veteran’s Association hospital, CNAs reported a median salary of $35,500. Whereas a home-service CNA has the lowest median pay at around $29,000 annually. 

On the other hand, some CNAs are paid hourly, the median hourly wage being $13.92. Their schedules and earning potential vary depending on their place of employment, the needs of their employer and their employment contract. When paid on an hourly schedule, CNAs are eligible for overtime pay. However, if they are salaried, they may not be. 

How to Become a CNA

In order to become a CNA, federal law requires that one must complete the required training, pass a state competency exam and be placed on a state nurse aide registry. The required training consists of supervised clinical studies, nursing classes, a set amount of hours spent in the classroom or in clinical settings and must be approved by the state. Some states require additional coursework, such as HIV/aids training.

Many schools currently offer CNA programs within their regular curriculum, however, it’s not necessary to attend a four-year institution to obtain your CNA certification. Community colleges, hospitals, vocational schools and the Red Cross are among the various educational settings from which you can pursue CNA training. The certification process can last anywhere from 4-12 weeks, and depending on the state you live in, can require between 16-100 supervised clinical hours in order to become certified. 

One thing to note is that many of these programs require a high school diploma or its equivalent. However, if you are able to pass the reading and mathematics assessments, they may still allow you to enroll.

After your coursework has been completed, you must pass a state-approved nursing assistant certification exam. This exam may include written/oral exams, clinical hours and/or skills tests.

Is Online CNA Certification Right For Me?

Many schools are now beginning to offer online CNA programs. Students enroll in their core nursing courses online, and use an approved local clinical location to complete their required clinical hours. Quite frequently, these approved clinical locations are nearby hospitals where the CNA in-training resides.

There are several key benefits to earning your CNA certification online:


Students are busy these days. Work, family, travel, community responsibilities, and other classes can all interfere with a typical course schedule. With online classes, you can study for tests, complete your coursework, and chat with other students on your own time.


 With online courses, you’ll have access to class materials including lectures, discussions, assignments and test prep, 24 hours a day.

Learn at your own pace

Online classes let you decide which sections to spend your time on. Do you need some more time on medical terminology? No problem, the class travels at your pace so you can take all the time you need.


Students may be able to transfer credits from their online CNA program to a four-year university. CNA courses taken at community or vocational colleges may be less expensive, which can help lower the overall cost of earning your nursing degree if this is of interest later on.

Additionally, the time and money you’ll save by not having to drive to a traditional classroom is nothing to sneeze at. Car repairs and gas prices add up.

And keep in mind that if cost is a concern, some employers will pay for your certification if you agree to work for them for a minimum set period of time post-graduation.

How Much Do Online CNA Classes Cost?

The cost range of an online CNA program may vary, depending on the institution or program you decide to enroll in. The average cost of an online CNA program is $700 – $1,500. Some programs with higher fees cover the cost of the state certification exam, uniforms and classroom supplies. Those with a lower fee may not.

Online CNA programs are not currently offered for free. However, there are many options available should you need help to cover the cost of a CNA training program. For example, some employers may pay for your training, or it can be reduced if you are pursuing a nursing degree from a four-year institution.

Other ways to cover the cost of the training program include programs eligible for Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act grants, Medicare and Medicaid tuition reimbursement (if you work for a Medicare/Medicaid funded facility), other grants and scholarships or student loans.

CNA Program Information & Curriculum

Depending on the state in which you live, CNA programs may vary in terms of length, type of coursework and/or required clinical hours.


Courses tend to cover a variety of topics – from core nursing classes to technical skills – as well as how to work in different healthcare settings. 

In a CNA program, what students learn about will include:

  • Long-term care
  • Basic nursing care
  • CPR training
  • How to to take vital signs
  • Personal care and communication skills
  • Emergency procedures
  • How to control infections
  • Repositioning and transferring training
  • Range of motion exercises
  • Dementia care protocol
  • Legal and ethical aspects to healthcare

Program Length

CNA programs tend to take between 6-12 weeks to complete, though there are programs available that can take as little as 4 weeks. Completion time can depend on course-method (in-person or online), whether or not the student is full or part-time and if they are taking courses for a set period of time or those that are self-paced.

Many nursing students choose this route, as it’s a career-path that allows them to begin working more quickly in their field.

It’s important to note that although the CNA certification is not particularly long in length, in order to maintain your certification, you must pursue a minimum of 48 hours of continuing education courses every 24 months – though many employers will provide this as part of their continued training programs.

Differences by State

Different states may have separate additional requirements or more clinical training for their CNA programs compared to others, though the course content for the certification remains mostly the same. For example, some may follow the required federal minimum of 72 hours clinical hours, others will require as many as 120.

Please note that you should know your state’s guidelines for CNA certification and licensure.

Career Advancement Opportunities

Similarly to most careers – there is room for advancement in the healthcare field once you’ve completed your CNA certification. Certain Bachelor degree programs are CNA to RN bridge programs, meaning that you can either receive credit for CNA completion or will complete the certification while you are pursuing your degree. Those that pursue this route will graduate with a bachelor of science in nursing degree (BSN), and tend to earn higher salaries.

Other opportunities for advancement include obtaining your RN or LPN license or higher levels of CNA training (1, 2 or 3 – each level brings additional responsibility), becoming an educator in the healthcare field, becoming a care home administrator or pursuing a career in geriatric care management.