Becoming a Certified Nurses Aide | Harris School of Business
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5 Things to Know about Becoming a Certified Nurses Aide (CNA)

Certified Nurses Aides can also be called Nursing Assistants

Are you a person who likes to care for others? Would you like to work in a healthcare setting? Certified Nurses Aides (CNAs) play an important role in a nursing team. They assist nurses by working directly with patients and helping them with their basic needs. Many CNAs work in nursing homes, where elderly patients are in need of help with their basic daily living activities.

To learn more about this career, you may want to read the profile on nursing assistants in the Occupational Outlook Handbook, published by the U.S. Department of Labor. This resource describes what nursing assistants do, how to get the training you need, and what kind of income you can expect.

Read below to find out more about this important career.

1. What do Certified Nurses Aides do?

Certified Nurses Aides are responsible for providing basic care to patients. “Basic care” refers to some of the daily needs and activities that patients may need extra assistance in doing. In a typical day in this career, you might be expected to complete the following tasks:

Help patients with basic needs such as:

  • daily cleaning, bathing, and using the bathroom
  • getting dressed and grooming
  • walking or getting around in a wheelchair
  • moving between beds, chairs, and wheelchairs
  • eating and drinking and other needs around meal times

CNAs are also responsible for taking vital signs, such as blood pressure and temperature. They record information about the patients’ health concerns and share this information with the nurses. Many CNAs work in nursing homes, where residents may stay for months or years. These long-term arrangements can allow CNAs to develop close relationships with their patients.

Does this type of work appeal to you? If so, continue to read more about becoming a nursing assistant!

2. How is the workplace environment?

Most nurses aides work in nursing care facilities, residential care facilities, or hospitals. The workplace environment is professional. Nursing assistants wear scrubs, and are expected to have a neat and clean appearance.

If you decide to pursue this career, be aware that the work can be physically tiring, since you will be attending to the basic needs of patients. In this position, you would be expected to spend much of the day on your feet, and you may be responsible for strenuous activities, such as moving or lifting patients.

Most positions in this field require full-time hours. Depending on how the healthcare facility is set up, you may work day shifts, night shifts, weekends, and some holidays.

3. What training is needed?

If you want to become a Certified Nurses Aides, you will need to enroll in and complete a training program that is approved by the state where you intend to work. Your state will also have a competency exam that you will need to pass at the end of your training program.

Training programs for this career typically teach the basic principles of nursing, and will include some clinical work, such as measuring vital signs. You can find nursing assistant programs in community colleges, vocational schools, private career schools, and other educational facilities.

Once you have completed your training program, you will need to take your state’s exam before you can begin working in your field. Once you pass the exam, your name will be entered on your state registry, which is required in order to work in a nursing home. At this point, you will also be able to use the professional title that your state uses for this career. For example, many states use the title Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), but this term can vary from state to state.

Some states may have additional requirements. It is important to check with your state’s Board of Nursing to be sure you have completed all of the requirements.

4. How much do CNA’s make?

The amount of money you can make as a nursing assistant will vary depending on different factors, such as your level of experience, and the region in which you live. You can learn more about the median annual wage of nursing assistants at the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook. You can also search job postings for CNA’s in your area, and the ads might give you an idea of the kind of wage you can expect to earn.

5. What is the job outlook for the future?

The Occupational Outlook Handbook provides information about the job outlook for hundreds of different careers. For Nursing Assistants, the Handbook predicts that “Employment of nursing assistants is projected to grow 21 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations.”

The Handbook attributes this possible growth to the aging of the baby boom population, which will result in more elderly patients in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. The growing rates of chronic conditions such as dementia may also result in an increase in the number of patients needing long-term care.

While the job outlook is strong, the Handbook cautions that cuts to program such as Medicare and Medicaid could limit the demand for nursing assistants in government-funded facilities, but that other opportunities may arise in areas such as home health and community rehabilitation services.

We hope this article has been useful to you as you begin to map out your new career.


This article was provided by the Harris School of Business. Founded in 1965, the Harris School of Business has provided career-focused education to adults for several decades. The Harris School specializes in allied health and business management, offering career programs in these areas: medical assistant training, dental assistant training, certified nurses aide training, medical billing and coding training, massage therapy, and many more.