medical assistant schools

How to Become a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant)

Want to become a  CNA and get information on Certified Nursing Assistant Programs? Get answers to frequently asked questions about becomming a Certified Nursing Assistant. Find out what CNA training, CNA certifications or CNA Classes may be required to enter this field. 

certified nursing assistant projected job growth

What is a Certified Nursing Assistant?

Providing basic care, a Certified Nursing Assistant helps patients with everyday activities of daily living. They may record vital signs, measure food and liquid intake, and remind patients to take their medications at the appropriate times. They also wear uniforms to promote cleanliness and protect their clothing. There are several steps to becoming a nurse, and a CNA is one of them.

What type of job responsibilities does a Certified Nursing Assistant typically have?

A CNA performs different tasks including:

  • Transferring patients between beds and wheelchairs
  • Serving meals and helping patients eat
  • Helping patients use the toilet
  • Assisting in dressing patients
  • Observing patients to detect symptoms that need immediate care
  • Report patients’ complaints and symptoms to nurses
  • Providing physical support

certified nursing assistant median salaryWhere do Certified Nursing Assistants work?

A Certified Nursing Assistant may work with patients or residents in hospitals – state, local, and private, home health care, residential care facilities, and nursing homes. They may work weekends, nights, and holidays.


What type of Certified Nursing Assistant Programs Might I Need?

If you want to pursue becoming a CNA, you must complete a state-approved education program and pass your state’s competency exam. Additionally, some states require continuing education and a criminal background check.

You could enroll in a Certified Nursing Assistant programs at a local community college, vocational school, or even online to earn your certificate. There are many options for your CNA classes. Once your educational requirements have been met, you may be eligible to take your state competency exam. After passing the test, you might earn the title of CNA – this title may vary from state to state. You are placed on your state’s registry after successfully passing your competency exam. Nursing assistants must be on the state registry in order to work in nursing homes.

What Type of CNA Classes Might I Take?

As with any degree program, certain coursework is generally required. Certified nursing assistant training tends to inlcude a variety of CNA classes such as:

  • Nutrition
  • Mental Health
  • Infection Prevention
  • Legal and Ethical Issues
  • Patient Safety
  • Patient Communication

What is a Certified Nursing Assistant's Salary Potential

Because the healthcare industry employment is expanding, becoming a CNA may be the perfect career path.

The job outlook could indicate increased demand for nursing assistants, since many aging baby boomers will need care in long-term facilities like nursing homes. States with the highest employment levels in this occupation are: California, New York, Florida,Texas, and Pennsylvania.

What are Some Other Common Names for Nursing Assistants?

There actually may be more names for nursing assistants than you realize. A common one is patient care technician or patient care associate (PCT or PCA). If you’ve spent any time in a hospital, you may also be familiar with the term “nursing orderly”—but there are also certified medication aides (CMAs), geriatric nursing assistants (GNAs) and licensed nursing assistants (LNAs). Although the names may be different, in general, the overall duties performed are very similar.

What Is a Patient Care Technician?

A patient care technician (PCT) is responsible for helping doctors and nurses with patient care, which involves performing various clinical, laboratory and administrative tasks.  The job description of a PCT is almost the same as that of a certified nursing assistant, but in some cases patient care technicians may have more clinical responsibility due to a greater level of technical skill. There are also not yet the same certification requirements for all PCTs—although some states (or employers) may require that you take the CNA exam.

Some examples of the types of duties that patient care technicians provide include:

  • Helping to ensure patient comfort and safety
  • Assisting patients with walking, bathing and eating
  • Measuring and recording temperature, pulse, weight and respiration rates
  • Collecting and analyzing blood samples
  • Preparing rooms and sterilize equipment
  • Managing patient records

If becoming a Certified Medical Assistant is not for you, but you still want a career in allied health, you may want to explore other medical assisting careers.

Ultimate Medical Academy
A.S. Health Sciences - Medical Administrative Assistant
As a UMA student in this online program, you’ll learn how to keep the healthcare system moving forward. That includes learning how to greet patients and get them checked in, schedule appointments, assist with patient insurance claims, perform medical coding and more.
Medical Assistant Career Diploma
Offered through Penn Foster College, the self-paced Medical Assistant diploma program can help you prepare to take the next steps toward becoming a skilled medical assistant. Geared toward students who don’t want or need to earn an associate’s degree, the course will cover 41 lessons, as well as a 160-hour externship for hands-on experience.
Purdue University Global
Medical Office Administration Certificate
Purdue Global’s online medical office administration program is designed to equip you with the knowledge and technical skills necessary to pursue entry-level positions in this exciting field. Coursework focuses on areas including insurance processing and fundamental medical office administrative and clerical tasks.
Grantham University
Associate of Applied Science in Medical Admin Assistant
The Medical Administrative Assistant (AAS-MAA) associate program provides a solid foundation in basic medical office functions, teaching you the skills needed for providing administrative support to healthcare professionals. This program can also serve as a step toward a more advanced degree in healthcare. Upon completion of the program, students may sit for the Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA) exam, an entry-level medical assistance industry certification from the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
Independence University
Associate of Applied Science in Medical Assisting
The Medical Assisting AOS degree program is designed to provide the students the knowledge and clinical skills for gaining entry-level employment in a medical facility in both administrative and clinical areas. Specific training is provided in preparing instruments and materials, vital signs, phlebotomy, medication preparation and administration, clinical documentation and assisting the physician with exams and procedures. Training in computer and administrative skills is also provided as they pertain to electronic health records and medical office procedures. The student will be able to function independently with administrative duties as well as clinical duties and computer functions of the office.