CNA and Related Healthcare Programs

CNAs are trained medical professionals who provide support to doctors and nurses, checking patients’ vital signs and medical records as well as assisting physicians. In order to become a CNA, proper certification is required. Many CNA programs are offered at community colleges, technical schools, or even hospitals. Program requirements vary, but students must complete 6 -18 weeks of classes including a lab component, clinical training, and all relevant coursework.

Top Online Nurse Assistant Degree Programs

For anyone who wishes to earn a nurses assistant certification, or CNA, earning a medical assisting or nursing assistant degree is usually required. Most often, an associate's degree from one of the schools below will be sufficient. For those wanting a more advanced degree, bachelor's level programs are also available.

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Kaplan University
AS in Medical Assisting
Kaplan University — Kaplan's associate's degree in medical assisting at their School of Nursing offers courses on numerous topics including community nursing care, management, and informatics. Graduates of this program will be eligible for becoming a CNA.
Herzing University
AS in Medical Assisting
Herzing University — The AS degree in medical assisting at Herzing University prepares students for jobs as medical and nursing assistants at physicians' offices. Students are trained to perform routine lab tests, help a doctor in the ER, and handle some administrative duties.
Strayer University
BBA in Health Services Admin
Strayer University — With more than 80 campus locations and a vast online contingent, Strayer University is reparing students to handle day-to-day and long-term business activities under numerous health services organization – including hospitals, private practice offices, clinics, long-term health facilities, and government and non-profit organizations – through its BBA in health services administration.

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What Does CNA Stand For?

CNA stands for certified nursing assistant. Nursing assistants are high in demand, and it is an area that is expected to grow. CNA requirements and licensing vary from state to state. There are a few steps to becoming a CNA. CNAs work under nurses, directly with patients, providing them with quality care and aid with long term treatment. Becoming a CNA is easier than one might expect, but it is imperative to understand the responsibility involved with this career. Many regard CNAs as “just” nursing assistants, but they have many responsibilities and are trusted with important patient issues such as records and prepping a patient for nurses or doctors.

What are the Prerequisites for Becoming a CNA?

A GED or high school diploma is needed to become a CNA. This is all you need to submit when applying for a program. Most applicants are accepted into CNA programs. These programs are at community colleges and trade schools, or they can also be organized through community centers, hospitals, and nursing homes. There is great demand for CNAs, and it is an industry that experiences high turnover rates. If you feel you have the compassion and courage to care for others on daily basis, but are not interested in going to school to become a nurse or other medical personnel, a CNA certificate may work for you.

What degrees start a CNA career?

Becoming a CNA doesn't require you to obtain a degree in most cases. Meeting the requirements and passing the CNA exam are usually all that is needed to start your career. However, obtaining an associate or even a bachelor degree can yield better results over a long term period. Programs most commonly associated with healthcare include:

How Long Will it Take Me to Become a CNA?

Programs to become a certified nursing assistant usually take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. This depends on the program and if the CNA is specially trained to work with a particular type of patient, such as geriatrics or pediatrics. Most CNAs do not specialize in any one type of patient care until after they have experienced years on the job. For example, a CNA who begins his or her career in the psychiatric ward of a hospital will likely go on to specialize in mental health patients. CNAs are certified to assist any type of nurse since their certification does not include any specialty.

The technical time spent on becoming a CNA is 150 hours of training, usually dispersed over the span of eight weeks. Any program promising to make you a CNA in less time than this is likely not a legitimate organization or program. In some states there are certified nursing assistant programs that can be completed online.

What are the Steps for Becoming a CNA?

  1. Enroll in a CNA program either online or at a traditional school. CNA programs are offered through community colleges and trade schools. Most universities do not have CNA program, but some may serve as the setting for a CNA program if the program is organized by a community group. The Red Cross often hosts CNA programs. Classes vary from full time to part time. There are also online courses that allow a person to complete the 150 hours of training on their own time. Find a program that is reputable by looking up reviews online. You should find one that boasts job placement and has a significant graduation rate.
  2. Practical training completed during classes is the foundation of a CNA’s career. This practical training will be used daily with all types of patients, whether you are working in a hospital or clinic. There is a practical test portion for all CNAs, and you must pass this section to become certified. The practical information taught includes patient care, CPR, safety instruction, and regulations. You will also train hands-on, under the supervision of an instructor or nurse. You will learn about basic hygiene, nutrition, recording vital signs, and how to communicate with patients and their families.
  3. Study and be well-prepared for the certification exam. There are many resources online for studying for the CNA exam in your state. Use these resources to your advantage by taking practice tests before the big test. This is important, especially for those who do not normally test well. Get in the habit of assessing the layout of the test and how questions are phrased. This can help you substantially when it is time for the exam.
  4. Take your state’s CNA exam. This will ensure that you are qualified to practice in your home state. This is a very important test, so prepare seriously for the test and get adequate sleep in the days leading up to the exam. The CNA exam in every state is divided up into two parts: one portion is written and tests everything taught during lectures and the classroom to become a CNA. The other portion is practical skills learned while working in clinicals. These are the hands-on skills you acquired that show how to appropriately care for a patient. In order to become CNA certified, you must pass both portions of the test. Depending on what state you are in determines how these tests are administered. Some requirements vary slightly.
  5. Receive your CNA certificate. Weeks after the CNA exam is administered, you will receive your results in the mail. If you pass the CNA exam in your state, you will also receive your certificate. This is proof to potential employers that you are eligible to work as a CNA in that state. This certificate only certifies you for the state in which you took the test. Following this, you can begin applying for jobs in your area.

What is an Online CNA Program Like?

There are many online CNA programs available, but you have to be careful about which one you choose. Some online programs are scams and may not adequately prepare you for the CNA exam in your state. Before enrolling in a program, ensure that the school is properly accredited. Because CNA requirements are localized, it is essential you check out the online program with a discerning eye. This prevents you from wasting any time or money. One good way to find a reputable CNA program is to see if they are on the National League Nurses for Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) website. This site lists all reputable CNA programs, including online programs.

A CNA program conducted online covers the same material you will cover in the classroom. The online setting allows students to work at their own pace and work around a busy schedule. Many people becoming CNAs already have full time jobs and may have a family to care for. The online option allows students to take their education into their own hands and offers flexibility. Beware of online CNA programs that promise your certification in a few weeks. Also beware of those that make no mention of the specific requirements and criteria for your state. Many online CNA programs promise to prepare anyone for the CNA exam. Because this exam varies based on state, there is no way for an online program to cater to everyone.

Is it Better for Me to Attend a Traditional CNA Program?

CNA programs can be completed either through a traditional campus setting or via an online program. The coursework and material you will cover will be the same either way, but if you choose to attend an online program, you can schedule your courses and studying around your current career or family obligations. This enables you to learn online at your own pace. CNA programs do require you to complete a certain number of clinical hours in order to get the hands-on training and experience you need to complete the program. In some cases, a student may need to arrange clinicals with a hospital, clinic, or other medical facility in their area. Not all facilities are willing to work with students, as having an uncertified medical personnel member working with patients poses a liability. It is for this reason that it is strongly encouraged that you begin communicating with an adviser early enough in the program to give yourself ample time to register for your clinical hours through a participating facility. For some students, an option may be to do a combination of both traditional and online, that way you still have the flexibility of completing courses online around your schedule, but can still take some courses on campus if you choose to do so.

Looking for a CNA degree program?

Use this degree finder, and we'll help you find a Certified Nursing Assistant degree program.