CNA Classes in California: Online & Campus Training Programs

CNA classes in California can lead you to an exciting healthcare career fast. Find top-rated, state-approved programs and learn more about the certification process and career outlook for CNAs in CA.

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Last Updated: 03/17/2021
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Certified nursing assistants (CNAs) are integral to the healthcare system. They provide frontline patient care in a variety of medical settings, from home health care to hospitals. As the healthcare industry expands to meet the demand for care, opportunities for CNA employment are expected to grow. California offers numerous opportunities for becoming CNAs with programs in place state-wide to help you get into the workforce quickly.

Programs are available in private educational institutions, community colleges, vocational schools, hospitals, and high schools. Training usually takes only a few months. Though the hands-on nature of CNA work means most courses are in person, the coronavirus pandemic has led many schools to move some training online. This guide looks at both online and on-campus options, what it takes to become a CNA in California, what to expect once enrolled in a program, and the kind of salary and job outlook to expect.

Best CNA Classes and Training Programs in California

Becoming a certified nursing assistant in California requires finding an approved program. With numerous options available, how do you choose the best and most affordable? We surveyed the options and narrowed them down to the schools that truly stand out in terms of accreditation, student support, and affordability. The three standout schools for 2021 spotlighted below are all approved by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).

Ventura College

The Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Program at Ventura College provides the opportunity to enter the healthcare workforce in a matter of months. This program takes one semester to complete with about 12 hours per week of classroom time. It teaches body mechanics, infection control, nutrition, communication, and patient rights, as well as the basic nursing care expected of CNAs. Most of the program is hands-on at a campus extension location.

Applicants must submit to physical and criminal clearance checks, be CPR certified, complete an application, undergo drug and alcohol testing, and expect mandatory attendance during the first three weeks of the program. Preparation for the program includes taking courses in basic mathematics and English. Estimated costs, including all fees and the cost of the state certification exam upon graduation, is approximately $728.

California Career Institute

Lasting seven weeks, the Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) program at the California Career Institute prepares students for work in a variety of medical and healthcare settings. The program teaches skills in infection control, range of motion exercises, communication, adaptability, providing care and bedside nursing, basics of CPR, AED and other lifesaving measures, and teamwork and diversity skills for the workplace.

The program lasts only seven weeks, and students attend class only three days per week. This allows time to work while earning your CNA certificate. Students also enjoy small class sizes, licensed instructors with professional experience, an accessible location for classes, and hands-on training with advanced simulations that prepares them for the rigors of working with patients in a variety of settings. Graduates also have access to workshops with professionals in the field, employment assistance, and help writing resumes and building portfolios.

San Diego College of Continuing Education

Those in the San Diego area can take advantage of the 12-16 week Nursing Assistant program at San Diego College of Continuing Education. Students complete 250-260 hours of training, which includes lectures and hands-on skills practice. You’ll learn a variety of skills, including communication, professionalism, standard procedures in medicine, rehabilitative care, nutrition, body mechanics, observation and charting, caring for individuals in acute or long-term care settings, emergency procedures, and coping with death and dying.

On the first day of class, students are fingerprinted and undergo a criminal background check. Only those who pass can continue the program. A brief orientation is required for enrollment, during which students are assessed for reading and math skills. Eligible students receive an application packet with all the information needed to continue the CNA path. This program is tuition-free; however, students pay approximately $400 for expenses, including uniforms, physical exams, and state certification.

Learn More About California CNA Classes and Other Nursing Programs Near You

FAQs About CNA Classes and Training in California

What skills do you learn in CNA classes in California?

CNA classes in California teach the skills and knowledge necessary to provide the best possible patient care. Topics covered include patient safety, wound treatment, cleanliness, assistance with day-to-day living, communication skills, activities and exercise for patients based on ability, nutrition and hydration, mental health issues, digestion and elimination, and care for special situations, such as for patients who are intubated. Though much of this is taught first through lecture, it is also taught in hands-on training through simulations and, in some cases, with real patients in a healthcare setting while closely supervised by instructors.

How much do CNA classes cost in California?

In most cases, CNA programs are very short, and the full tuition costs are expected upfront or in regular installments. Financial aid is also available. The following tuition rates for three CNA programs in California give an idea of cost.

Citrus College

Nurse Assistant Program

Total Cost: $326

Ventura College

Certified Nursing Assistant

Total Cost: $728

El Camino College

Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA)

Total Cost: $600

Where can I get help paying for my CNA classes in California?

CNA programs vary in cost, from a few thousand dollars to free. Even if the program is free, like the San Diego College of Continuing Education, there are still expenses involved for students. Those expenses include uniforms, appropriate shoes, and state examination fee. However, scholarships, grants, and student or personal loans can help cover costs. Financial aid is often only available to those who attend a state-approved program. To learn more about paying for your CNA program, see our CNA scholarships guide and main financial aid guide.

How long do CNA classes in California take to finish?

CNA classes in California can often be finished in a semester of part-time study or in a matter of weeks of full-time study. Eight to twelve weeks is a typical timeline for a CNA program in California, whether courses are taken online or not. However, there are accelerated programs like the one at Pacific Times Healthcare College where students finish in 16 days of intensive study. Class timing and flexibility are also factors. For instance, it takes longer to complete a course taught only on weekends, but it may be more suitable for those working full-time.

Inside Look at Online CNA Classes in California

Most CNA programs in California still require significant on-campus attendance. However, in response to the coronavirus pandemic, many schools are looking for ways to keep their students safer and thus are turning to hybrid models to cut down on face-to-face time. Santa Ana College is one example. To learn more about CNA courses that might be available online, check out our guide to online CNA classes.

Common Questions About Online CNA Classes in California

Will taking CNA classes online in California impact my ability to get certified or licensed?

As long as the program you choose is state-approved and properly accredited, online CNA classes in California have the same rigorous standards as coursework taught on campus. Given that, getting licensed as a nursing assistant is the same whether courses are online or not.

Do employers in California care if I take some of my CNA classes online?

Employers care about hiring someone who can do the job. If you are certified, an employer knows you bring the needed knowledge and skills to the table. That’s why an accredited and state-approved school for CNAs is essential. Whether you took classes online or in-person does not matter.

Are online CNA classes in California more affordable than campus programs?

There is usually no discount for taking classes online. However, there are other financial advantages. For example, lack of commute saves wear and tear on your vehicle, time spent in traffic, and fuel costs. Other advantages include avoiding parking fees and gaining access to e-textbooks.

Do online CNA classes in California take less time to complete?

Not necessarily, since training time for CNAs is usually already minimal and only for covering all necessary material. Programs are already designed to get you into the workforce fast. You might, however, find some flexibility with online work, like being able to take a class on your own time and not adhering to a set schedule.

How to Become a CNA in California

Becoming a CNA in California requires graduation from an approved program and passing an examination. The following steps take you through the requirements for becoming a certified nursing assistant and beginning work in the state as a CNA.

Step 1
Complete CNA training

CNA programs in California must be approved by the CDPH for their graduates to sit for the CNA exam. To find a list of approved schools, visit the Licensing and Certification Program page.

Step 2
Submit the application

Upon enrollment, you must submit an initial application to the CDPH. You must also submit the Request for Live Scan Service form.

Step 3
Pass relevant exams

Upon completion of the training program, applicants take the Competency Evaluation Exam. The test can be completed through an authorized vendor.

Step 4
Complete remaining licensure requirements

Applicants must be at least 16 years of age, have a clean criminal background check, and complete the approved CNA program.

Step 5
Learn how to keep the license current

Renewal of the license for a CNA requires 48 hours of in-service training or continuing education units during the two-year certification period. A minimum of 12 of those hours must be earned each year, and only 24 can be taken online. Submit the Renewal Application along with the documentation of hours completed.

To learn more about initial licensing and renewal, visit the Licensing and Certification Program page.

Salary and Job Outlook for CNAs in California

When you consider enrolling in CNA programs in California, you might be curious about the job outlook and the salary possible. We consider the salary and job outlook below along with the demand for CNAs in California.

Is there high demand for CNAs in California?

The healthcare system is booming across the country, with 8.9% job growth for CNAs expected from 2018 to 2028. That number is much higher in California with 14.3% growth expected. This demand is spurred, in part, by the aging baby boomer population as well as by advances in medicine helping them live longer, more productive lives. Consider this information when comparing the job outlook for CNAs in California to that in the rest of the country.

Job Outlook for CNAs in California

CNA Employment (2018)Projected New CNA Jobs (2018-2028)Projected CNA Job Growth (2018-2028)
California76,00010,90014.30%
United States1,513,200135,4008.90%

Source: Projections Central

How much do CNAs make in California?

CNAs in California make slightly less than the national average, but pay for those in certain areas, especially in metro areas, tends to be higher than the national average. Some of the highest incomes are found in areas with large populations, like Salinas, Sacramento, San Jose, and San Francisco. These areas also have large hospital systems or a variety of long-term care and clinical settings that make CNAs more in-demand than in smaller, more rural areas of the state.

Annual Earnings for CNAs in California

10th PercentileMedian Earnings (50th Percentile)90th Percentile
California$19,430$26,360$34,690
United States$21,960$29,660$40,620
Bakersfield, CA$25,100$30,310$39,720
Chico, CA$25,600$30,850$40,790
El Centro, CA$23,440$26,480$40,040
Fresno, CA$24,950$30,280$39,660
Hanford-Corcoran, CA$26,540$32,610$44,530
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA$26,880$33,610$46,250
Madera, CA$27,020$35,440$46,840
Merced, CA$24,750$28,820$39,820
Modesto, CA$26,470$33,400$48,490
Napa, CA$28,360$35,350$40,970
Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA$25,620$32,410$44,720
Redding, CA$28,070$34,350$41,650
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA$25,750$33,930$43,870
Sacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade, CA$27,620$36,060$59,040
Salinas, CA$27,080$39,820$73,790
San Diego-Carlsbad, CA$27,240$35,830$53,410
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA$32,620$41,410$64,210
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA$27,890$38,510$52,840
San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA$27,010$33,270$43,200
Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA$28,160$38,040$75,650
Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA$27,570$36,870$48,890
Santa Rosa, CA$28,950$37,310$48,530
Stockton-Lodi, CA$26,610$33,310$42,510
Vallejo-Fairfield, CA$29,650$38,390$50,580
Visalia-Porterville, CA$24,140$28,890$37,990
Yuba City, CA$27,310$35,140$46,200

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2019

California CNA Student and Professional Resources