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CNA Training and Course Cost

If you’re seriously considering whether or not to become a certified nursing assistant (CNA), you probably have a few questions, like: What kind of training do I need? How long will it take? And, how much will this cost?

This page will help you understand exactly what you need to do to become a CNA, as well as the approximate time and financial commitment for your training. The good news? Many CNA certificate programs are relatively short and affordable, and if you have a high school diploma or GED, you can get started right away—and be working in your new career within six months.

CNA Training and Certification

Becoming a CNA is a great way to enter the field of nursing quickly. The process is straightforward and fast and doesn’t require complicated prerequisites.

First, look for a CNA certificate program that appeals to you. You may have more than one program to choose from: lots of community colleges offer CNA programs. When evaluating your options, make sure to check that the program you want is accredited in your state.

Program requirements differ for each state. Many programs will ask you to pass a drug test and/or a criminal background check, a physical exam, and a TB test.

Expect to spend around 8 to 10 weeks in your program, which will require hands-on clinical hours as well as classroom course hours. Then it’s time to take your state’s licensing exam.

CNA Courses You Should Expect

Although CNA certificate programs differ from provider to provider and state to state, they all seek to prepare you to work as a bedside nursing assistant, trained to provide basic care to patients.

Possible coursework includes these classes:

  • Taking vital signs
  • Communication skills
  • Patient hygiene care
  • Skin care
  • Feeding techniques
  • Infection control
  • Wound care
  • Range of motion exercise

Online CNA Classes

While some CNA programs do not offer an online component to their training, other certificate programs do. These “hybrid” courses combine virtual training coursework with clinical training in a face-to-face environment.

Typically, eLearning (sometimes called distance learning) uses a combination of methods to deliver instruction and assessments.

  • Discussion boards: Many online courses use discussion boards to facilitate communication among students and instructors. Assignments can be posted on discussion boards, and students can post questions and responses as well. Some students become very good at building community through discussion boards.
  • Video conferencing: Some eLearning programs utilize video conferencing or “chats” where students can communicate in real time with each other and their instructors via a player of some kind. Often instructors deliver a lesson via video, then hold a live Q&A session. These are usually recorded so students who miss the live session can still get the information.
  • Online Exams: Online testing is a convenient way to take a test without having to go to a physical testing site. They may be timed. Scores are usually sent directly to your instructor.

Online CNA courses may be right for you, but it’s important to consider the pros and cons:

Pros Cons
Flexible schedule Requires self-discipline and motivation
Eliminates commuting time Requires time-management skills
Connection with diverse range of students Clinical component cannot be met online

As always, it’s important to make sure the CNA program is accredited in your state.

How to Choose a CNA Program

Whether you are looking for a hybrid program or a traditional CNA certificate program, do your research and choose the program that best meets your particular needs and requirements.

Factors to consider when selecting a training program:

  • Hybrid vs. traditional campus: Do you want the flexibility of taking some classes online, or do you prefer a face-to-face format for all your courses? Clinical experiences are always conducted face-to-face, so this question is about the “classroom” content of the program.
  • How much does your program cost? Does the cost include the fee for the state competency exam? Does it include books and other necessary course materials? Make sure to get a full picture of the costs, to avoid unpleasant surprises.
  • How long is the program? If the program is considerably shorter or longer than the average 8 to 10 weeks, find out why. Each state has its own requirement regarding the number of classroom and clinical hours, so make sure your program complies with those requirements.
  • Accreditation of your selected program by your state is crucial. If your program is not accredited, you cannot sit for your state competency exam, and your name will not be added to the state’s registry of certified nursing assistants.

Getting Your License

Before you can begin working as a certified nursing assistant, you must get licensed through your state licensing agency. Generally, each state’s Board of Nursing is responsible for the CNA certification and license examination.

Once you’ve completed your program, get the licensing process started right away.

  • Submit your application. This is one or two pages, and it will ask for information including your name, address, phone number, social security number, driver’s license or state ID number, height, weight, hair and eye color, criminal background, and possibly more.
  • Background check. You’ll be asked about any criminal records you may have. Some states will require that you submit a fingerprint so they can validate the background information you give them. Certain misdemeanors on your record (e.g., traffic violations) will not disqualify you, but having certain felonies (e.g., assault, domestic violence) will prevent you from getting your license.
  • Pay your fees. These vary from state to state, and will likely include the application fee, the background check fee, and an examination fee.
  • Pass the exam.

The exam will have two parts:

  • In most states, the written part consists of multiple-choice questions (often 60) that you must complete within a certain time (often 90 minutes).
  • In the clinical part of the exam, you will perform a set of hands-on patient care skills. While tests vary from state to state, be prepared for such tasks as:
    • Change bed linen while the patient remains in bed
    • Reposition the patient to prevent bedsores
    • Empty a urinary drainage bag and measure the output
    • Feed a patent who cannot feed themselves
    • Help a patient with weak arms dress
    • Provide catheter care for a bed-ridden patient
    • Provide mouth care for a patient with dentures
    • Give a patient a bed bath
    • Help a patient use a bedpan
    • Help a patient perform range-of-motion exercises

Each process has a step-by-step procedure that you must follow. Skipping one step—for example, forgetting to wash your hands precisely when it’s called for—may be grounds for failing the exam.

Handwashing itself is often considered a separate component with its own strict rules and steps to follow.

There is a time limit for how long you can wait after finishing your CNA program to apply for your license. You’ll have three opportunities to pass each portion of the exam. If it takes longer than two years, you’ll need to retake the CNA training and reapply for licensure.

After you pass your exam, you are certified! Your certificate should take only a few weeks to reach you. Typically, you can keep your CNA license active simply by using it in your work. If you don’t use it in your career, you may need to retake the exam or complete continuing education credits to remain a licensed CNA.

CNA Course Costs

Becoming a CNA is relatively inexpensive way to get into the nursing field, and it’s always possible to advance your career later, while you’re working.

Cost of CNA Programs

When choosing a CNA program, you’ll have several costs to consider.

  • CNA programs: The cost of the actual program varies slightly. However, you can expect to pay around $1,200.
  • Class materials: Materials are not usually provided, so you’ll need to purchase whatever books and educational materials your instructor requires.
  • Uniforms: You will be responsible for purchasing a uniform. This is most likely to be a set of scrubs, non-skid white shoes, and a stethoscope.
  • Fees: Figure your licensing and criminal background check fees (and any other fees that will apply) into the total costs.

Cost of CNA Certification

If your program doesn’t pay for the exam registration and certification fee, you will be responsible for these costs on your own.

The cost for the competency exam varies by state. In New York, for example, the written component is $57 and the clinical portion is $68. In Alabama, those costs are significantly cheaper, at $30 for the written test and $35 for the clinical.

Ways to Pay for CNA Training

Wondering how you’re going to pay for your CNA training? Luckily, there are a number of options.

  • Federal aid: The first step for most students should be to fill out the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Financial Aid. Although federal aid in the form of a loan is not available for most short-term programs such as CNA programs, there are other federal programs that may help, and they rely on the same information.
  • Job Corps: This is a federally-funded program for people aged 16-24 who want to learn a trade, including those who want to become CNAs. All training is paid for, and students receive a bi-weekly living allowance as well as housing.
  • Scholarships: Scholarships are out there if you do some digging. For example:
    • offers a $500 scholarship to a CNA student who has been admitted to a state-approved program.
    • Some scholarships are offered to CNA students who want to further their education, like the $3,000 scholarship from Cerner offered to the “Nursing Assistant of the Year.”
  • Facility-based sponsorships: Many nursing homes and other healthcare facilities employing CNAs sponsor training for future nursing assistants. Some of these facilities may pay for your tuition in exchange for your commitment to work for them when finished, while others will offer the training themselves on-site.