Study to Become A Certified Nursing Assistant: Degrees at a Glance
Completing a certified nursing assistant (CNA) certificate, diploma or training program can provide you with the skills needed to work in a hospital, long-term care facility or rehabilitation center. These programs teach how to assist patients with personal hygiene, mobility and feeding. CNAs provide daily care services for the elderly, ill and injured.
After completing a CNA education program, you need to pass certification exam that consists of both written questions and demonstration of competency with clinical tasks. Certificate, diploma and training programs equally prepare you to take state CNA exams. In most states, a student who has passed the state exam will be placed on the state registry and hold the title of Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) or Nursing Assistant Registered (NAR) credential.
|Certificate, Diploma or Training Program|
|Who is this degree for?||Individuals looking to immediately enter the workforce or continue their education and enter a nursing degree program|
|Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary)|| -Nursing aides, orderlies and attendants ($25,000)*|
- Home health aide ($22,000)*
|Time to Completion||1 semester full-time|
|Common Graduation Requirements||-Successful completion of all coursework |
-Perfect attendance at clinical sites
|Prerequisites|| -High school diploma or equivalent |
- Ability to read at an 8th grade level
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).
Certified Nursing Assistant Certificate, Diploma or Training Program
CNA education programs are designed to prepare students for state licensure exams. Programs cover basic skills needed to assist and care for the ill, injured and elderly. CNAs have excellent job prospects according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS predicted that job growth for CNAs would increase by 20% between 2010 and 2020.The majority of jobs were expected to be available in nursing homes and long term care facilities. Most certified nursing assistant programs can be completed in a short amount of time, allowing students to immediately enter the workforce.
Pros and Cons
- Most certified nursing assistant programs don't require any prerequisite courses before gaining admission
- Online or hybrid programs are available to accommodate the needs of students
- Students can be trained and ready for employment in less than 6 months
- CNAs may work irregular schedules, including holidays, weekends and nights
- A job as a nursing assistant can be emotional and physically tiring
- Risk of injury from lifting patients
Courses and Requirements
Most certified nursing assistant certificate, diploma and training programs consist of two portions. One portion of the program requires students complete coursework which includes modules, textbook reading and class lectures. The other portion of the course requires students to complete a clinical experience. This usually takes place in a long-term care facility and is arranged by the school. During this portion of the program, students gain hands-on experience by working with patients under the supervision of their instructor. Students enrolled in a CNA program learn how to safely transport patients, provide basic personal hygiene and toileting needs.
Most schools require students have perfect or near perfect attendance at the clinical site in order to receive their certificate or diploma. Students need to have a strong understanding of the material taught in class in order to pass the state certification exam.
Online Degree Options
Online programs leading to a CNA certificate or diploma are available in a variety of formats. Fully-online programs are available in addition to hybrid programs, which allow students to complete some classes online and others on campus. Online programs allow students to complete all required coursework online, but students still need to complete their clinical hours at a long-term care facility or nursing home. Online and hybrid programs may appeal to returning students, parents and individuals working full-time.
Online refresher courses are also available for students who have expired nursing assistant certificates. Refresher courses are offered in a self-paced format and prepare students to take the written and manual skills portion of the state examination. This allows students to renew their certification without leaving their home.
Stand Out with This Degree
Students who are enrolled in a CNA program can gain letters of recommendation and references by showing up on time and conducting themselves in a professional manner at clinical sites. Students who have completed a CNA program can show employers their dedication by attending a certified nursing assistant skills review session at a community college. Graduates of a certified nursing assistant program can increase their chances of being hired by obtaining additional certifications. Furthering your education as a certified medication assistant will allow you to distribute medication. Employers value employees who can perform multiple job functions.
Strong job prospects await individuals who have graduated from a CNA program, but their beginning salary is often fairly low. A licensed practical nurse (LPN) is an alternative career option in the nursing field with similar job prospects and a higher salary potential. Most licensed practical nursing programs take about a year to complete and allow graduates to perform more complex duties. LPN's are responsible for administering immunizations, performing blood draws and monitoring patients. Many LPN programs require students to complete a certified nursing assistant program and pass the state exam as a prerequisite for admission.
Students who have successfully completed an accredited LPN program and have passed the NCLEX-PN exam to become a LPN can enroll in a 'bridge program' to complete their registered nurse (RN) degree. In 2011, the BLS reported that LPNs made a median annual salary of about $41,000 and RNs made a median of about $66,000.