How to Earn a CNA Certification

A CNA certification is necessary to start your CNA career. Learn more about what to expect here.

March 25, 2022 • 4 Min Read

edited by Veronica Freeman

How to Earn a CNA Certification

Certified nursing assistants (CNAs) help patients clean themselves, use the restroom, and change positions in bed. Other typical job duties include recording vital signs and writing reports for nurses. A CNA certification helps these professionals advance their career. The certification process involves many steps, including a CNA certification exam.

The following article explores the CNA certification process, the certification exam, and certification renewal requirements. The following sections highlight resources for candidates preparing for the CNA certification exam. Candidates can speak with their school's admissions, academic, or career advisors for further information.

Steps to Earning CNA Certification

Candidates follow the steps below to obtain CNA certification. Please note that specific requirements vary by state. Individuals can consult their state's government website for details.

Typical CNA program admission requirements include a high school diploma or GED. Learners without either can research local schools offering a GED-preparation program. These classes help students prepare to take the GED exam and typically involve little to no cost.

Many CNA programs offer part-time enrollment options. Some students complete their CNA program in as few as 10 weeks. Learners pursuing an associate degree may need up to two years. Students complete clinical rotations at long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes. Some programs feature cohort-based learning models, allowing students to develop professional relationships with peers.

Each state requires a certification exam. Exams comprise multiple-choice questions. Test-takers also complete a manual skills test, which involves performing tasks required of CNAs. Candidates can visit their state's public health board website to find a testing center. These websites also describe fee schedules.

Candidates who pass the CNA certification exam complete their state's certification application. Application questions cover the individual's educational experience and criminal history. States may deny certification to candidates who committed a crime other than speeding. Applications also ask whether the candidate lost a medical license or certification due to improper behavior.

CNA certification qualifies holders to work at nursing care facilities, hospitals, and retirement communities. CNAs can also find employment with home healthcare service providers and government agencies. Individuals can begin researching positions while in school. Career counselors at junior colleges and technical schools help learners network and explore job boards.

Recertification requirements vary by state. In California, CNAs must earn 48 continuing education units every two years. Professionals may earn 24 units through online classes. CNAs submit the renewal application and continuing education documentation by the recertification deadline. Renewing a lapsed certification requires an additional fee.

The CNA Certification Exam

CNA certification exam fees vary by state. As of March 2022, test-takers typically pay about $120. The written portion lasts 90 minutes and features 60 multiple-choice questions, 10 of which do not impact the final score. Candidates have 30 minutes to complete the clinical portion.

Candidates take the exam at an approved testing center. Individuals may need to travel several hours to take the exam. Candidates prepare for the exam through CNA program coursework and online practice tests. Some exam-preparation resources require a fee.

  • Multiple-Choice Test

    The CNA certification exam features 60 multiple-choice questions covering physical care skills, nurse aides' role, and psychosocial care skills. Topics include anatomy and physiology, the aging process, and medical terminology. Candidates usually complete this section before the manual skills test. Individuals need a minimum 70% score to pass.
  • Manual Skills Test

    The manual skills test requires candidates to perform typical job duties under observation. Tasks include moving a patient, taking vital signs, and inserting a catheter. Candidates demonstrate mastery of these skills using a manikin. Proctors also assess hand-washing skills. Not washing hands for at least 20 seconds results in automatic failure.

CNA Practice Exams

Individuals can access CNA certification exam resources online. The following resources can help candidates prepare for exam day and improve their chances of passing on the first try.

  • Certified Nursing Assistant Practice Exam - Tests.com

    Tests.com provides 750 free CNA certification exam questions. Other resources include a test guide, additional practice exams, and virtual flashcards. Visitors create an account to access more resources.
  • CNA Plus Academy

    CNA Plus Academy offers free CNA practice tests, which do not require an account. The website also features a CNA career guide, resume advice, and the latest salary information.
  • CNA Practice State Test Questions Flashcards - Cram.com

    Cram.com offers thousands of flashcards to help individuals prepare for various certification exams. Users can play interactive games to increase retention. These resources do not require an account.
  • Free CNA Practice Test - CNA Training and Certification Information

    CNA Training and Certification Information provides two downloadable practice tests for CNA candidates. Visitors can also read blog posts on CNA best practices, professionalism, and continuing education classes.
  • Free CNA Practice Test - Union Test Prep

    Union Test Prep delivers free and low-cost exam-preparation materials. Visitors can answer questions covering basic nursing skills, communication, ethics, and client rights. Premium users unlock other questions.
  • Nurse Aide NNAAP Exam Prep - Practice Quiz

    Practice Quiz offers three ways to study for the CNA certification exam. Users can learn in a traditional study mode, attempt free daily questions, or take practice tests.
  • Prometric Nurse Aide Practice Exam

    Candidates take the CNA certification exam at a Prometric testing center. Prometric offers the latest study materials, including three free exams. As of March 2022, a supersized practice test costs $35.
  • Practice Questions - Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana

    This Indiana college offers dozens of free practice questions online. The questions cover topics including restorative services, infection control, and CNAs' responsibilities. Users review answers at the bottom of the page.

Transferring CNA Certification to Another State

Transferring a CNA certification to another state involves extensive paperwork. CNAs relocating to California submit an initial application and verification of current certification. The state requires documentation from the CNA and their previous state's board of public health. Additional required documents include a copy of a CNA certification and proof of employment within the last two years. California accepts a W2 or paystub.

CNAs moving to California have already completed a background check in their home state. However, California requires live scan fingerprinting. As of March 2022, candidates pay a $32 fee for fingerprint analysis. CNAs who received training while in the military undergo an identical process.

Each state requires a unique transfer process, which can significantly impact CNAs' job prospects. Professionals should research the new state's requirements before moving.

Questions About Renewing Your CNA Certification



How often do I need to renew my CNA certification?

CNA certification remains valid for two birthdays after its issue date. As a result, CNA certification lasts 13-24 months.

What will I need to be able to renew my certification?

CNAs earn continuing education units to qualify for certification renewal. Professionals can take classes online or in person and maintain documentation of completed units.

Where can I take continuing education courses?

States' department of public health websites maintain lists of approved continuing education providers. Lists may change with little to no warning. CNAs should check each provider's status before enrolling in classes.

How much will continuing education cost?

Some providers offer free continuing education classes. As of March 2022, CNAs typically pay $20-$280 per class. Expensive classes often award more continuing education units.

Are there any other costs associated with recertifying?

CNAs should expect to pay a small recertification fee. Reactivating a credential also requires fees. CNAs can review their state's fee schedules online.

Additional Resources for Aspiring CNAs

The American Red Cross provides a 4-8-week program to help aspiring CNAs prepare for the certification exam. Students can learn on site or in a hybrid format. First-time visitors can watch a 50-minute video to learn about the program. Many CNAs advance professionally by becoming a registered nurse. This resource helps individuals learn about their state's RN licensing requirements. The website features a link to each state's nursing board. State nurse aide registries can answer questions about the CNA certification process. This resource provides the contact information for each state's registry. Other resources include CNA practice exams and career-planning advice.

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