How to Earn a CNA Certification

Licensing & Credentials for a Certified Nursing Assistant Career

CNAs are responsible for duties such as taking vital signs, changing catheters, and feeding and cleaning patients. In order to perform these tasks effectively, CNAs are required to undergo rigorous training and then receive a stamp of approval from the state they want to work in. This page provides information on CNA certifications, including how to get a new license, transfer a certification to another state, find practice certification exam questions and recertify credentials.

Steps to Earning CNA Certification

Certified nursing assistants have a demanding, fast-paced job, so employers want to know that the professionals they hire are up to the challenge. As a result, the process of receiving a CNA certification is rigorous and designed to prepare students to thrive in an often stressful work environment. The table below outlines the steps that are usually involved when becoming CNA certified.

Step 1: Earn a high school diploma or equivalent

In order to be admitted into a CNA training program, hopeful nursing assistants must first complete a high school diploma or GED. During this time, students should take courses such as CPR, biology, chemistry, anatomy, physiology and first aid.

Step 2: Successfully complete an accredited CNA program

Each state has its own standards, so accreditation ensures that students will receive the training they need to land a job after graduation. During the CNA degree program, students take courses in emergency medicine, infection control, communication and documentation skills, and long-term care techniques.

Step 3: Pass certification examination

After completing a CNA training program, students must pass their state’s certification exam to legally gain employment. These tests are designed for students to demonstrate both clinical and practical knowledge, so they can meet the rigors of the profession.

Step 4: Complete certification application

The process for CNA certification varies from one state to the next. Generally, prospective CNAs are required to fill out an application, submit to a background check, arrange to have college transcripts sent to the board of nursing, and pay an application fee.

Step 5: Find employment

CNAs have a bright occupational future ahead of them, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The agency reports that there will be an 18 percent increase in job opportunities by 2024. CNAs can find employment at hospitals, medical clinics, hospices, home health agencies, and urgent care centers.

Step 6: Recertify

CNAs are required to keep their knowledge and skills current in order to maintain their certification. The exact steps depend on what state CNAs work in, but they may be required to complete continuing education courses or a certain number of work hours to recertify their credentials. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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The CNA Certification Exam

The last step to entering the CNA field is to obtain certification, which requires passing an exam. The CNA certification test is the culmination of everything students learn during their training programs, and represents a wide range of skills students should know by the time they’ve completed their degrees. As a result of this holistic focus, it is designed to measure both theoretical concepts and practical skills.


This portion of the test is made up of 70 to 75 questions. Students have around 90 minutes to two hours to complete the exam. Topics tested include catheters, mobility aids, mental illness, and the symptoms of disease.


This part of the certification exam is where prospective CNAs demonstrate their hands-on skills. Students are required to perform five tasks from a list of various skills, which may include hand washing, bedpan handling, denture care, patient bathing and grooming, and interacting with patients suffering from serious mental illnesses.

After completing a CNA program, graduates are expected to prove their understanding of several areas related to the profession. The following are some of the subjects that can be found on the certification exam.

  • The role of CNAs
  • Safety
  • Infection control
  • Personal care
  • Data collection
  • Patients’ rights
  • Communication skills
  • Mental health
  • Disease processes
  • Patients’ environmental needs

Find CNA Practice Exams

Preparation is key to doing well on the CNA exam, and there are many resources around the web that students can use for free. The following are examples of these invaluable resources.

Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Practice Exam Sample - provides practice tests, flashcards, and study guides. Also, students can purchase a comprehensive exam kit from the company.

CNA Plus
Created by Elegant E-Learning, Inc., this site has several practice tests that represent different levels of difficulty. Practice questions are put through a rigorous accuracy check before they are added to the tests.

CNA Practice State Test Questions Flashcards -
Offers CNA practice questions in a flashcard format.

Test-Guide.Com helps students by providing study guides, test taking tips, and practice examinations. After finishing each practice test, students receive a score and answer explanations.

Free CNA Practice Test - CNA Training and Certification Information
Students can download free practice tests from this site.

Free Practice Test for the CNA - Union Test Prep
This website has practice tests that cover a range of areas on the CNA test, such as basic nursing skills, clients’ rights, and restorative skills.

NNAAP Practice Exam (PDF) - Assessment Systems Inc. (ASI)
Includes a complete practice exam and answer key.

Nurse Aide NNAAP Exam Prep - Practice Quiz
In addition to practice exams, allows students to sign up for a daily question email, which allows them to learn test topics gradually.

Nurse Aide Practice Exam - Prometric
Provides a variety of practice materials that cover both the written and clinical skills sections of the CNA certification exam.

Practice Questions - Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana:
Ivy Tech Community College provides a sample test with detailed feedback for the correct and incorrect answers.

Find the Nurse Aide Registry in Your State

Although the science of nursing is the same no matter where CNAs practice, the specific requirements to enter the field may be different from one state to the next. That’s why it’s important for students to consult their state’s nursing registry to fully understand what’s expected of them in order to obtain a license. A list of each state’s registry can be found below.

[State Maps]

Transferring CNA Certification to Another State

CNAs have transferrable skills that can easily be applied to new settings—even if professionals are interested in working in another geographic location. However, before packing their bags, CNAs must officially transfer their certification to the new state. This process is outlined below.

Completely fill out paperwork

CNAs that plan to practice in a new state must fill out an application to begin the certification transfer process. In addition, professionals may be required to fill out paperwork in their current state to alert the nursing board that they intend to move.

Submit supporting materials

The materials professionals must submit may vary, but generally, applicants are asked for proof of their education and employment history, and copies of their current CNA license, social security card, and driver’s license.

Provide fingerprint card

CNAs are expected to undergo a criminal background check in order to transfer their license, so it’s necessary to complete a fingerprint card and submit it to the board of nursing.

FAQ: Renewing Your CNA Certification

The health care field is constantly evolving, so all professionals must keep their skills current to provide the best patient care. To that end, every state requires CNAs to renew their certifications periodically. The questions below describe this process.

How often do I need to renew my CNA certification? CNA certifications should be renewed every one to two years, depending on the state. Each license has an expiration date on it.
What will I need to be able to renew my certification? Requirements may include working a certain number of hours, completing continuing education courses, and passing another background check. In some cases, CNAs may be required to retake their certification test.
Where can I take continuing education courses? Nursing assistants can find continuing education providers through their state board. Courses may be taken through two- or four-year colleges, as well as private companies.
How much will continuing education cost? The cost for continuing education depends on the provider offering the courses.
Are there any other costs associated with recertifying? The cost to recertify can be up to around $200. Fees vary by state.

Additional Resources for Aspiring CNAs

CNA Training & Classes - American Red Cross
This page describes the curriculum students need to complete in order to qualify for a CNA certification.

State Boards of Nursing - Contacts and Requirements
Includes nursing board contact information, licensing and continuing education requirements, fees, and certification renewal information for every state.

State Nurse Aide Registry Contact Information
Site that lists the addresses and telephone numbers for all the CNA registries around the United States.

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