Finding the right CNA program can greatly enhance or detract from a graduate’s ability to find employment, so it’s worth taking time to do your research. We’re listing the most affordable and comprehensive programs with the accreditation you need to begin a rewarding career as a CNA. While most CNA programs only serve the state in which they are located, we’ve spotlighted three programs in full so you can get a sense of what your journey looks like from start to finish. See who makes the grade in 2019.
Forsyth Tech Community College
As one of the largest community colleges in North Carolina, Forsyth Tech Community College is well-equipped to prepare learners for taking up roles as certified nursing assistants. The institution offers nursing assistant classes at five different campuses around the greater Winston-Salem metropolitan area, making it easy for learners to find a location best suited to their needs. A number of courses are also taught online to help individuals who want to keep working while enrolled balance their professional and academic responsibilities. Students will also take part in a number of campus-based testing procedures and lab work alongside clinical practice in local approved healthcare facilities. When participating in distance learning, students use the Blackboard learning platform to complete assignments and interact with peers and professors.
Applicants must possess a high school diploma or GED to apply. Because CPR is included in the course, learners do not need to hold certification when they apply. They do, however, need to pass a criminal background check and drug screening to receive admittance. Once enrolled, degree seekers take part in a 177-hour program that covers topics such as patient safety, legal and ethical issues in nursing, the rights of patients, nutrition, rehabilitation, aging, infection control, and taking vital signs.
Middlesex Community College
A member of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System, Middlesex Community College serves approximately 4,400 students seeking academic and vocational learning programs. The school provides a hybrid certified nursing aide program for individuals wanting distance learning options that work with busy schedules. Many of the classes at MXCC can be taken fully online, but students do need to visit campus as well to take part in face-to-face clinical learning. When completing online requirements, learners use the Blackboard learning platform to manage their work and submit tests and assignments. As part of MXCC’s offering, students have the chance to develop further lab and clinical skills at a local hospital facility.
The program consists of six separate modules to ensure participants gain all the skills needed to pass the certification exam. MXCC’s CNA program receives approval from the Connecticut Department of Public Health. To receive admissions consideration, applicants must hold a diploma or GED, demonstrate English competency, provide immunization information (including PPD testing and a flu vaccine), pass a criminal background check, and be at least 18 years of age or older. The program at MXCC costs $1,199 and includes the exam fee for Connecticut certification and the application fee for CT Nurse Aide Registry.
The Manhattan Institute of Allied Medical Training, located in New York City, offers a certified nursing assistant program that prepares graduates to sit for and pass the NY licensing exam by providing hands-on and practical skills and knowledge. MI’s program exists in a hybrid format so students can enjoy the flexibility of distance education. This format ensures they spend time with peers and professors while learning about the more technical and clinical skills needed for CNA roles. The Manhattan Institute provides three options for completing in-person requirements: four day classes for four weeks, four night classes for eight weeks, or weekend classes for seven weeks.
Students spend the first half of the program completing classroom requirements before moving into part two, which allows them to participate in an externship at a local healthcare facility. After finishing training, students sit for the two-part certification exam. Students at MI pay approximately $6,050 for the program, which includes tuition and fees, registration fees, books, and supplies. Learners can take advantage of career services and professional mentoring while enrolled and after they graduate to find a CNA position that meets their professional goals.
Can You Take CNA Classes Online?
Many certified nursing assistant paths allow students to take part in both online and in-person learning. Most academic coursework tends to exist on a digital learning platform, while clinical and lab work takes place at the physical campus or at a local healthcare facility so learners can gain hands-on skills. Here’s how most online certified nursing assistant programs work:
These CNA programs and classes have most or all of their coursework and resources available online. Research material, complete exercises, collaborate with professors and peers, etc. However, students will need to visit a campus to complete hands-on work, e.g. clinical/patient activities.
These CNA programs and classes have some of their coursework online, but students will mostly work on campus.
How Much Are CNA Classes Online?
Before enrolling in any CNA program, applicants must ensure they can afford to attend. The cost of higher education continues to rise year-on-year, making it difficult for many individuals to pay out of pocket. Every school sets unique price points for their CNA programs, so degree seekers should spend time familiarizing themselves with the costs of each so they can make an informed decision. Some programs include the application and exam fees required for actually receiving certification as a CNA while others do not. Pay close attention to what the stated amount is used for and whether you might incur additional fees throughout the learning process.
Depending on the type of school, costs can vary considerably. At Middlesex Community College, for example, students pay $1,199. At Manhattan Institute, however, the cost rises to $6,050. These can vary considerably when looking at public community colleges versus for-profit institutions, so pay close attention to the type of school you attend.
Online CNA classes that accept financial aid
Financial aid can be a great way to pay for CNA training, but students must meet a few stipulations to qualify. These include:
When looking at a prospective CNA training program, the first step a student should take is to make sure it received accreditation. In addition to receiving approval from the state board of nursing, learners should also find a school that secured national or regional accreditation. The U.S. Department of Education provides the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs for students to search individual schools. Nursing accreditation bodies do exist, but they do not accredit CNA programs.
Courses for credit
Some schools offer non-credit CNA programs. Steer clear of these, as many financial aid sources do not recognize these schools when providing funding.
CNA examination pass rates
Some financial aid sources are wary of programs with low student examination pass rates as it signals that the school does not adequately prepare learners. If you cannot find pass rates on the institution’s website, reach out to the program administrator and ask for two or three years’ worth of the most recent examination pass rates.
Because paying out of pocket isn’t realistic for many learners, several funding sources exist to help lighten the financial burden and steer students clear of debilitating debt. In addition to reviewing the ways highlighted below, students should check with their state to find out if any additional methods exist.
1. Scholarships. Scholarships can be found through educational institutions, state and local governments, private foundations, nursing facilities, healthcare companies, and other organizations that want to further the work of CNAs. Research both national and local options early as many require submitted applications months in advance of the program start date.
2. Loans, subsidized and unsubsidized. The U.S. Department of Education offers a number of subsidized and unsubsidized loans to help cover any portion of an education that the student cannot pay for after exhausting personal income and other funding sources. If possible, seek out a subsidized loan as the government pays the interest on these while the student is enrolled.
3. Veterans benefits. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provides a number of educational programs designed to offset costs for those who served in the military. Be sure to review each program carefully to find one that you qualify for and that covers CNA programs.
4. Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act. Overseen by the U.S. Department of Labor, the Workforce Investment Act helps individuals access career training programs that result in the employment of dislocated workers considered low-income. Each state receives funding via the federal government to disburse to qualified individuals.
5. Employer tuition assistance. Under this scheme, individual companies can provide up to $5,250 in tax-free education assistance per year. Individuals interested in taking advantage of this should speak to their employer to find out if such a program exists at the organization.
6. Payment plans. Some schools, such as Middlesex Community College, providetuition installment payment plans so learners can begin their studies even if they cannot pay the full amount at once. MXCC arranges payments into three separate installments, but students should speak to their school to learn about specifics.
Unpacking the CNA Class Curriculum
The CNA curriculum covers a wide range of clerical and clinical knowledge and skills in order to prepare students to succeed as CNAs in a variety of medical settings. Before enrolling, learners should get a clear sense of what to expect from a program. Here’s a glimpse at some of the core CNA classes students can take online.
An introductory course, students in this class learn about the basics of controlling infections, safely caring for patients, administering treatments under the supervision of qualified medical staff, and ensuring all patients in their charge receive care as needed.
Nurse Aide Healthcare Skills
This course introduces learners to fundamental CNA skills, with emphasis on how to communicate with patients and other healthcare providers, OSHA and HIPAA rules, emergency care response, restorative services, mental health principles, cultural sensitivity, safety measures, and the rights of patients.
Acute Care Nurse Aide Skills
Students enrolled in this class look at common issues surrounding acute care, such as advanced nurse aide skills, reporting findings to the nursing supervisor, caring for and preparing patients before they go into surgery, taking care of them post-op, and patient rights in acute care settings.
With a focus on learning how to assist medical professionals in direct patient care, this course outlines all the responsibilities of a CNA and reviews the types of direct and indirect care a student can administer according to the state board of nursing.
Building on the skills gained in the nurse aide healthcare skills course, this class – which is usually taught in a local healthcare facility – allows them to put those skills to use in real-world settings. Students follow safety protocols, observe how nurses and doctors communicate with patients, and learn about administrative responsibilities.
Advanced Nurse Aide Clinical
Students continue growing their hands-on skills and knowledge in this clinical course, which takes place either on campus or in a medical facility. Learners work under RNs and other medical staff, receive feedback, and take on more responsibilities to test their competencies and grow in confidence.
Caring for the Elderly
This clinical course introduces learners to the basics of caring for an aging population. Students develop skills in assisting patients with eating, bathing, dressing, grooming, and using the restroom. They also learn proper techniques for lifting and moving patients in a way that does not harm either body.
Home Health Aide Clinical
Designed for individuals who want to work with patients in their home, this class teaches them about shopping for, preparing, and storing nutritious meals, keeping a clean home, managing infections, serving the patient’s social needs, and creating a safe environment.
Earning Certification: The C in CNA
Even if an individual attends the top program in the state, makes perfect grades, and graduates at the top of their class, they cannot practice as a certified nursing assistant unless they successfully pass their state’s required certification exam. Before signing up for the test, read over requirements and common exam topics to feel prepared.
All individuals hoping to receive certification as a nursing assistant must attend a state-approved CNA training program that meets specific and individual requirements. Individuals who fail to attend an approved program may not be allowed to sit for the examination.
The majority of states maintain similar requirements as other locations, but prospective students should review those specific to their state before beginning the process. While the majority of states require individuals to be 18 when applying, California, for example, allows 16-year-olds with parental consent to begin the training process. Reach out to your state’s board of nursing for further details.
When seeking to enroll in a CNA program, applicants must provide proof that they are 18 years of age or older, a high school diploma or GED, results of a physical exam, proof of immunization and tuberculosis test results, a background check, and a valid driving license or identification. Some schools also require first aid/CPR certification.
Content of the exam
Some of the topics covered include the aging process, infection control, safety, anatomy and physiology, ethical/legal issues, nutrition, vital signs, body mechanics, mental health, personal care, client rights, responsibilities of the CNA, communication, range of motion, daily living activities, and medical terminology.
The exam itself
The CNA exam is divided into two parts: written and clinical. Those administering the test ask examinees to demonstrate three to six skills. Some of the options include taking vitals, providing dental care, transferring patients to a bed or chair, rotating their position, giving a partial in-bed bath, providing catheter care, and making a bed while occupied.
Still have questions about the exam? Check out the following section for answers to common queries.
Certification Exam Q&A
After students finish their CNA training program, it’s time to study for and schedule the certification exam. Prometric acts as the overseeing agency for administering the test and provides lots of helpful information for students seeking answers. In addition to the questions answered below, learners can find state-specific information on Prometric’s website.
How much does certification cost?
The cost of the exam depends on the state. In Alabama, for instance, the written exam costs $30 and the clinical exam costs $35. In New York, the written portion costs $57 and the clinical portion costs $68. Some states also charge a test site administration fee. Check with Prometric to get exact costs.
Where do I take the test?
Prometric provides a list of testing centers in individual states so examinees can find the site closest to them. Because test locations can change over time, students should ensure they review the most up-to-date listing available before applying.
What should I bring?
Applicants must wear nonskid, closed toes shoes and are encouraged to wear scrubs to perform clinical tests. Test takers must also bring two forms of identification. The first must be non-expired and include both a photo and a signature. The second must include a signature. The names on both must match.
How many questions are on the test?
The written exam comprises 50 scored and 10 unscored questions. The clinical portion of the exam calls on examinees to perform between three and six skills tests. The exact number is chosen by the examiner based on level of difficulty.
How long does the test take?
The test is divided into two sections, written and clinical. Students can take up to 90 minutes answering questions on the first section, while the clinical portion takes between 30-40 minutes. The total amount depends on the specific skills the examiner asks the test taker to demonstrate proficiency in.
What is a passing score?
States set individual passing scores based on the National Standard Setting Study. Because of this, no overarching passing score exists. Applicants to the exam should speak with their state board of nursing to get a better sense of what’s required of them to receive certification.
When do I get the results?
Results are available at different times, depending on the state you live in. For the majority of locations, individuals receive printed score reports before they leave the testing center. Some states email the results within 48 business hours of the exam, while others must wait up to five days after the exam to receive emailed results.
Salary & Job Growth for Certified Nursing Assistants
According to the latest data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nursing assistants earned median salaries of $27,510 in 2017. The agency projects that roles for these healthcare professionals will grow by 11% between 2016-2026, with 177,700 new roles being added to the existing 1,564,300 positions. Individuals in the lowest 10% of earners made $20,680 per year, while those in the highest 10% brought home in excess of $38,630 annually. Nursing assistants working in roles funded by the government tend to earn the highest wages – averaging $32,860 per year – while those employed by retirement communities and assisted living facilities earned the lowest at $25,880 each year.
The reason for the growth of nursing assistant positions is multifaceted. In addition to a growing aging population thanks to seniors living longer, individuals who receive care in hospitals, nursing care facilities, ambulatory healthcare, and home healthcare programs also frequently rely on nursing assistants.
Resources for Students Taking CNA Classes Online
After reviewing all the information provided within this guide, some prospective students may still have a few queries about the educational process or what it looks like for job searchers after graduation. Review these resources for additional information and answers to outstanding questions.