CNA Degree Program

What degrees are available?

Certified nursing assistants need to learn basic care.

Unlike other nursing jobs, certified nursing assistants (CNAs) are not required to hold a college degree. However, training is required resulting in a postsecondary non-degree certificate or diploma.

What certification do I need?

  • After completing your training program, you'll need to take a competency exam. Once passed, you'll be placed on a state registry.
  • But you're not done yet. Every 24 months, CNAs need to complete a minimum of 48 hours of continuing education. It's not uncommon for an employer to either pay for the courses or provide the education themselves. 

How long will it take?

  • Generally, most certified nursing assistant programs take between four and 12 weeks. This is broken into contact hours and clinic practice.
  • State-approved programs offer a minimum of 75 hours of classroom instruction and clinical training.
  • Nursing assistant program can divide 120 hours this way:
    1. four weeks in class
    2. two weeks in a clinical setting

Are online programs available?

  • Community colleges and vocational schools offer CNA programs, many of which are online. If you enroll in an online program, you will most likely do your clinical work at a local hospital coordinated by the school.  

How much will my education cost?

  • Tuition for CNA programs will vary based on whether you enroll in a diploma program or an associate's degree program.
  • Medical assistant program runs about $17,000 for a nine-month program.
  • An accelerated program totals about $13,000.
  • Once you earn your diploma, don't put your wallet away just yet. The state competency exam—often given by Prometric or PearsonVue computer-based testing systems—will cost you. The price varies by state, so check with your state board of nursing to narrow down the exact costs. 

Are there prerequisites?

  • Most certified nursing assistant programs require candidates to have a high school diploma or GED equivalent and to provide their school transcript.
  • Some schools and programs will also require candidates to pass an entrance exam and a criminal background check. 

What accreditation is there for my program?

  • A certified nursing assistant program should be approved by its state board of nursing. Most states will provide a list of approved programs and you should always check how long the program is approved for. Many times, the same school's larger nursing program will be accredited by one of the major accreditation bodies.
  • If you decide to go on to further education after becoming a CNA, accreditation will play an important role. Accreditation is a definitive way to know if a program meets nationally-recognized nursing education standards. Independent accrediting organizations register schools once they've undergone a rigorous application process. Because these organizations stay up to date on state governments and health departments, they know whether a school or program provides the necessary training to students.
  • For students, accreditation can help with financial aid eligibility. Earning a degree at one accredited school also allows a student to pursue further education at other accredited schools. Plus, if you move to another state, training from an accredited school can make getting a new license easier.
  • A quick tip: Accreditation isn't earned and maintained in perpetuity. Accreditations are usually given for a certain amount of time, usually between 5 and 10 years, and are different for each school.  It's a good idea to check with your potential program about the length of time it's accredited for.

Main Accreditation Bodies

  • The Accreditation Commission for Education (ACEN), formerly NLNAC: Accredits the entire spectrum of nursing programs (associate's, diploma, bachelor's and master's)

Furthering your Education

  • If you decide you want to boost your career options and become a licensed practical or licensed vocational nurse (LPN/LVN) in the future, you'll need to enroll in another training program specifically geared to LPNs/LVNs.
  • Another option is to earn an associate's or bachelor's degree to become a registered nurse (RN).

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