If you're thinking about becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant, or CNA, you should know that it pays to find out what you need to do ahead of time. Perhaps one of the most confusing aspects of becoming a CNA is obtaining your license. Some people don't think it's necessary, but most employers require it. Licensing requirements vary by state, but they are largely identical in the most important ways. By learning about them, you'll have a much easier time becoming licensed.
Things You Need to Know About Licensing Requirements for CNAs
Keep these points in mind before working toward obtaining your CNA license to avoid unpleasant surprises:
- Is It Necessary? - Because a small minority of employers don't require nursing assistants to be certified, some people think licensure isn't necessary at all. However, the vast majority of employers only hire actual CNAs. The very title requires that these professionals have their certification, or license. Employers who don't require certification usually pay a lot less. More importantly, obtaining a CNA license doesn't cost a lot of money, and it doesn't take long. If you're serious about working as a CNA - whether you plan to do so throughout your career or as a stepping stone on your way to becoming an RN - you should absolutely obtain your license.
- You Must Complete CNA Program - Another common myth about CNA licensing is that you can sit for the exam without any advance preparation. Nothing could be further from the truth. Only those who have taken and passed a state-approved CNA program are eligible to sit for the exam, which is administered by the state. CNA programs usually run anywhere from four to 12 weeks. They consist of classroom instruction and clinical, hands-on education in simulation labs or real healthcare settings. These programs are designed with CNA licensing exams in mind, so by the time you complete yours, you will be ready to take and pass yours.
- Take the Licensing Exam - Once you've completed your CNA program, you'll have the documentation you need to sit for the CNA certification exam. You can sign up by contacting your state's health department or board of nursing. The cost to take the exam is usually around $100, and it consists of a written, multiple-choice section as well as a practical section, where you demonstrate your CNA skills in person to an observer. Until you take and pass the exam, you won't be able to get your CNA license, and you won't qualify for the vast majority of jobs in the field.
- Obtain Your License/Certification - All told, it should take one to three months to complete a CNA program and take the exam. From there, you can apply for your certification or license with the state. This part of the process is usually very fast, so you can expect to have your certification before you know it.
Please note that to be admitted to most CNA programs, you must have a high school diploma or GED. You usually must also complete CPR instructions, and most programs require students to provide their immunization records and undergo tuberculosis screening. These points indirectly affect your ability to get your CNA license, so make sure to have them all covered. Just contact your state board of nursing or health department far ahead of time to ensure you know exactly what you need to obtain your CNA license.