Overview of a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Career

Overview of a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Career

Are you interested in a fast track into the healthcare industry? Consider a career as a certified nursing assistant (CNA). CNAs, also known as nursing assistants or nurse aides, are crucial members of the healthcare team working under the guidance of a registered nurse (RN).

  • Time Required to Become a CNA
  • 4-16 weeks
  • Job Opportunities
  • Expected 8% growth from 2020 to 2030
  • Average Yearly Earnings
  • Around $31,000 per year

To enter the healthcare field swiftly, all it takes is completing a 4-16 week CNA program. Continue reading for more details on CNA responsibilities, educational requirements, and income prospects.

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Differences Between LPN and CNA: Salaries and Key Details

CNAs play a vital role in hospitals, nursing homes, and residential care facilities. They assist patients with basic tasks such as mobility, eating, dressing, and personal hygiene. Additionally, they support nurses and other healthcare providers by monitoring vital signs like temperature and blood pressure.

While CNAs do not administer medical treatment, they must possess enough healthcare knowledge to identify when to seek help from a nurse or other healthcare professional if a patient’s well-being is at risk.

Primary Responsibilities

  • Aiding patients in staying clean, comfortable, and well-groomed
  • Assisting patients with eating and drinking
  • Providing physical assistance to patients, including moving them in and out of bed or helping them change positions
  • Measuring vital signs and recognizing potential warning signs, like changes in blood pressure or signs of an infected wound

Key Qualities for this Career

  • Effective written and verbal communication
  • Physical endurance
  • Interpersonal skills, including patience and compassion
  • Attention to detail
  • Time management skills

Where Can You Find Certified Nursing Assistants?

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) as of July 2022, 96% of CNAs work in skilled nursing facilities, hospitals, residential care facilities, or home health care. CNAs perform similar duties in all these settings, which include assisting patients with daily activities, communicating with other healthcare team members, monitoring patients’ vital signs, and adhering to facility and legal safety protocols.

Nursing and Residential Care Facilities

CNAs primarily care for elderly individuals who require long-term support with daily activities. Entry-level CNAs may discover more opportunities in these settings.


CNAs care for patients of various ages who have shorter stays and diverse medical conditions, providing more learning opportunities. Experienced CNAs are preferred in hospital settings.

Home Health Care

CNAs work in patients’ homes and may be tasked with additional responsibilities beyond their standard scope, such as cleaning, cooking, and running errands.

Reasons to Pursue a Career as a Certified Nursing Assistant

The advantages and disadvantages of being a CNA can help you decide if this career path aligns with your goals.

Benefits of Becoming a CNA

  • Opportunity to build strong relationships with patients
  • Short educational and training period
  • Prospects for career advancement
  • Flexible work schedule

Disadvantages of Becoming a CNA

  • Lower income
  • Long work shifts
  • Limited autonomy
  • Physically demanding job

How to Become a CNA

To become a CNA, you must complete a training program that includes 75 hours of training, with at least 16 hours of supervised practical training. Course subjects typically cover residents’ rights, personal care skills, basic nursing skills, basic restorative skills, caring for cognitively impaired residents, and mental and social services needs.

You’ll need a high school diploma or GED to enroll in a CNA program and qualify for a state licensure exam. Upon passing the exam, you’ll obtain your CNA license and be listed on your state’s registry, allowing you to apply for CNA positions.

What’s the Earning Potential for Certified Nursing Assistants?

The BLS projects an 8% increase in CNA jobs between 2020 and 2030, with 192,800 job openings each year.

CNAs typically earn an average hourly wage of $13.97, resulting in an annual salary of approximately $30,000, according to Payscale data from July 2023. The lowest 10% of CNAs earn $10.73 per hour, while the top 10% make $17.98 per hour. Earnings can be influenced by skills, experience, work environment, and location.

CNAs with additional skills such as Microsoft Excel, office administration, medical terminology, typing, and cognitive behavioral therapy tend to command higher-than-average salaries, as indicated by Payscale data.

CNAs with 10-19 years of experience earn 4% more than the average, while those with over 20 years of experience earn about 8% more than the average.

According to BLS data from May 2023, junior colleges, scientific research and development services, and the federal executive branch offer CNAs above-average pay.

Frequently Asked Questions about Certified Nursing Assistants

What is the role of a CNA?

CNAs assist the healthcare team in implementing care plans, aid patients with daily activities, and report any changes in a patient’s abilities or needs to their supervisor.

How long does it take to become a CNA?

CNA programs typically range from 4-16 weeks, though the timeline may vary if you have other commitments. After completing the program, you’ll need to fulfill clinical hours and pass the exam, which can take six months or longer, depending on your state’s requirements.

What’s the difference between a registered nurse and a CNA?

Registered nurses (RNs) and other healthcare professionals operate under their own licenses, while CNAs work under the supervision of an RN.

Is being a CNA challenging?

The demanding workload, extended shifts, and physical requirements of the CNA role can be challenging for some individuals.

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