Become a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) in 3 Easy Steps

Joy Milner
September 7, 2021

Last week we discussed the character traits required of a successful CNA. If this sounds like exactly who you are, the next step is to make sure you meet all the requirements of completing a CNA program in your state. You’d be surprised how simple it is to get started! 

Step 1: Graduate from high school or complete a GED program

While the requirements can vary slightly, most states require that CNA students are at least 16 years old and have a high school diploma or GED to begin a program. However, many employers will only hire a CNA who is at least 18 years old. Some programs will also let students begin class if they have proof of 8th grade graduation or if they pass an 8th grade reading and math exam. 

Step 2: Complete an accredited CNA program

In order for the training to be valid, it must be a program accredited by your state. Costs of the program may vary as well, ranging from $600-$2300, depending on where you live.  The class will cover nursing assistant theory, such as basic anatomy & physiology, medical terminology, care techniques, and basic pharmacology, as well as a clinical portion where you will put all of your knowledge to use under supervised training hours. Courses may be fully in-person, or a hybrid in-person/virtual program; however, most programs will require at least the clinical portion to be in-person.  Program lengths vary as well, and can range from 1 to 4 months. You will also need to be able to pass a background check for the clinical portion of class, which typically takes place in a local nursing home. Most locations look for: in the past 5 years, no misdemeanors involving assault or theft, or any felonies.

Step 3: Take your state exam

At the end of your program, you would be required to take a state exam, which usually consists of a written or oral examination, and a skills examination. The test can range in price from free to approximately $125, depending on your state. The exam will certify that you know the required material and can perform the necessary functions of being a CNA. You can plan for a 2-3 hour examination time, approximately 90 minutes for the written/oral exam, and approximately 30 minutes for the skills portion.  During the written or oral exam, you would be required to answer approximately 70 multiple choice questions (possibly more if taken orally).  The skills exam usually consists of performing 5 randomly selected skills from a predetermined list of common procedures executed by CNAs.  The exam may be given at your CNA school or a local testing center.  Some states may even allow you to take the written exam at home, with software and environmental requirements.  The days of the week and times of day the exams may be given will vary widely depending on the city where you will be taking your exam.

If any of these steps worry you, don’t stress! Dreambound is here specifically to guide you through everything, from finding a program that fits your needs, to taking the state exam, and even beyond if you’d like. We are here to help you achieve your success! Now that you know you have what it takes, let’s begin the process!  You can start right here.

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