How to Become a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

Becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) is a rewarding journey that allows individuals to make a significant impact on the lives of others by providing essential healthcare services. CNAs play a crucial role in the healthcare system, assisting nurses and other medical professionals in caring for patients. In this guide, we'll explore the steps involved in becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant, from understanding the role and how it differs from practical/vocational nursing to fulfilling educational requirements and finally applying for CNA jobs.

Step 1: Understand the Role of a Certified Nursing Assistant

Before embarking on the journey to become a CNA, it's crucial to have a clear understanding of the role and responsibilities associated with this position. Certified Nursing Assistants work under the supervision of licensed nurses, providing basic care to patients in various healthcare settings such as hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities.

CNAs are responsible for tasks like assisting patients with daily activities, measuring vital signs, maintaining patient hygiene, and providing emotional support. Their role is pivotal in ensuring the well-being and comfort of patients, making them an indispensable part of the healthcare team.

Certified Nursing Assistants vs LPNs

It's essential to distinguish between Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) and Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) to make an informed decision about your career path. While both roles involve patient care, there is some delineation in daily duties and responsibilities that make each role distinct.

CNAs primarily focus on:

  • Providing basic assistance
  • Vital sign monitoring
  • Patient comfort
  • Reporting and documentation
  • Collaborative support

LPNs primarily focus on:

  • Administering medications
  • Coordinating patient care plans
  • Clinical care
  • Wound care procedures
  • Patient education

The educational requirements for CNAs are generally less extensive than those for LPNs, making the CNA route a more accessible entry point for individuals interested in pursuing a career in healthcare. Understanding these distinctions will help you determine the most suitable role based on your career goals and preferences.

Step 2: Fulfill the Educational Requirements of a Certified Nursing Assistant

To become a Certified Nursing Assistant, candidates must meet specific educational requirements. While the exact requirements may vary by state, the following steps generally outline the educational process:

  • High School Diploma or Equivalent: Most CNA programs require candidates to have a high school diploma or a General Educational Development (GED) certificate. A solid foundation in subjects like biology and anatomy can be advantageous.
  • Enroll in a State-Approved CNA Program: Look for state-approved CNA programs offered by community colleges, vocational schools, or healthcare institutions. These programs typically cover essential topics such as infection control, patient care, and communication skills.
  • Classroom and Clinical Training: CNA programs consist of both classroom instruction and hands-on clinical training. Classroom sessions provide theoretical knowledge, while clinical training allows students to apply their skills in a supervised healthcare setting.


Upon completing the required education, aspiring CNAs must pass a state-approved certification exam. The exam usually includes a written or oral component and a practical skills assessment. Successful completion of the exam demonstrates the candidate's competence in the essential duties of a Certified Nursing Assistant.

To prepare for the certification exam, candidates can take advantage of study materials provided by their CNA programs, practice tests, and review sessions. It's crucial to familiarize oneself with the specific skills and knowledge areas assessed in the exam to boost confidence and performance on test day.

Step 3: Apply for Certified Nursing Assistant Jobs

After obtaining certification, the next step is to explore job opportunities and apply for CNA positions. Here are some essential tips to guide you through the job application process:

  • Create a Professional Resume: Craft a compelling resume that highlights your education, certification, and any relevant experience or skills. Tailor your resume to the specific requirements of the CNA positions you're applying for.
  • Network and Seek Recommendations: Leverage professional networks, online platforms, and connections made during your CNA program to discover job openings. Seek recommendations from instructors or healthcare professionals you worked with during your clinical training.
  • Apply Online and In-Person: Explore job listings on online job portals, hospital websites, and healthcare recruitment platforms. Additionally, consider visiting healthcare facilities in person to inquire about job openings and submit your resume.
  • Prepare for Interviews: Practice common CNA interview questions for job interviews. Showcase your passion for patient care, understanding of the CNA role, and commitment to maintaining high healthcare standards.
Last Updated/Verified: Jan 26, 2024