How to Become a CNA

Become a Nursing Assistant

Nursing Assistant Related Resources

This career plan is designed for the high school student, high school graduate and the college graduate interested in beginning a career as a nursing assistant. High school graduates and college graduates will want to start at step 4.

Career Plan Steps:

  1. Take classes that focus on the sciences, like anatomy and physiology to see if you like them. Volunteering in a nursing home or other long-term care facility is a good first step to see if this line of work is what you are looking for. CNA work can be physically and mentally demanding.

  2. A high school diploma or GED is often not required to enroll in a on the job training program. In some states you are able to start a training program as early as 16 years of age. Work toward your high school diploma. There are certifications and advancement opportunities that will be available to you if have the diploma.

    The Mayo Clinic recommends that you take classes in algebra, anatomy, health education, nutrition, and foreign language. Make sure you also have strong reading comprehension skills and a basic knowledge of computers. If you’re looking for another good elective, you might try speech or communications.

  3. Many employers will require that their CNAs be 18 years or older and hold a high school diploma. Starting a CNA training program while you are in high school but maintaining focus on getting good grades and graduating with a diploma or GED is a wise choice.

  4. Get to know your Area Health Education Center, and check the website of Learning for Life. These organizations may have resources for you. Learning for Life arranges career exploration opportunities for students ages 14 to 20. There is a place on the site to enter information if you want a local resource person to contact you.

  5. Get your CPR certification. Volunteer. Look for positions in long term care facilities or nursing homes.

  6. You may have the option of completing a CNA course through a high school vocational program. If not, begin exploring post-graduation options. As a CNA student, you might be eligible for government funding.

  7. Start and complete a CNA training program.

    Consider joining a professional organization, too. You might explore the National Network of Career Nursing Assistants or the National Association of Health Care Assistants.

  8. Complete all licensure or certification requirements. Research the CNA licensing requirements in your state. These can be found on your state’s board of nursing website or through the state’s licensing department.

  9. Find a job. You may look for work either before or after you finish your training. (Be sure you can complete a program within four months, though. If you are hired without having completed a program, your employer will be an educational resource.) CNAs will often receive free training at a facility as long as they agree to work at the facility upon completion of the training period for a predetermined amount of time.

Personal Traits: Most nursing assistants stay in the field only a short period. Some complete higher education and move into specialized health care roles; others leave the health field. However, some people do stay on as nursing assistants forty or more years! The National Association of Career Nursing Assistants reports that ‘stayers’ are CNAs who develop positive relationships with their patients. More often than not, they had a close relationship with an elderly person when they were young and this influenced their career plans.

The personal traits and skills that have proven valuable to possess in the CNA field are similar to that of a practical nurse or registered nurse. Patient care takes a certain personality type and CNAs are no exception. Below are some traits that Susan Biel, an owner of a assisted care center in Florida, believes have helped a number of CNAs that she works with successful in their career.

  • Patience
  • Key attention to details
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • Ability to perform under stressful conditions
  • Able to perform multiple tasks at once