CNA Classes in San Diego: Online & On-Campus Training Programs

Learn about top accredited and state-approved CNA programs in San Diego, what topics classes cover, and how to gain certification in California.

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Last Updated: 03/17/2021
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Whether offered by a local community college, vocational school, career and technical education center, or hospital, CNA programs in San Diego offer a quick and cost-effective option for entering the nursing profession. In as little as a month, you can gain the qualifications needed to seek certification and join this exciting and meaningful field.

COVID-19 accelerated the drive towards online CNA programs in San Diego, making it possible for you to find an accredited, state-approved program with maximum flexibility. If this seems like a good path, keep reading to learn more. We’ve highlight top San Diego programs, reviewed topics covered, examined typical costs, and explained how much you can earn in a CNA program.

Best CNA Classes and Training Programs in San Diego

Finding a top CNA training program in San Diego can take some digging, especially if you want to prioritize affordability, accreditation, and ample student support services. Accredited and state-approved is essential in a CNA program since the absence of either can lead to problems receiving licensure and finding work. Whether you’re looking to start or advance your CNA career, we’re here to help. Check out the three high-quality CNA programs spotlighted below and learn how each may fit your needs.

MiraCosta College

Since 1987, MiraCosta College has educated students aspiring to become certified nursing assistants. In this CNA program approved by the California Department of Public Health, graduates work in clinical settings, long-term care centers, homes, and acute care settings. Some also pursue licensed vocational nursing or registered nursing degrees.

You can choose from two timelines. An eight-week program is offered twice per semester and requires 23 hours of class time each week. An accelerated summer program takes six weeks and meets for 32 hours per week. Regardless of the path you choose, you’ll attend both theory-based and clinical classes.

MiraCosta accepts new students on a first-come, first-serve basis and requires sign-up at least two weeks before a new program starts. At the end of the program, you qualify to take the state certification exam for CNAs. As of 2021, graduates maintain a 97% pass rate on the written portion and 92% on the skills portion. Residents of California spend approximately $600 on tuition, textbooks, uniforms, required tests and exams, and a CPR card.

Southwestern College

Southwestern College offers its in-person CNA program four times each year: January, March, June, and August. Comprising 8.5 units, the summer, spring I, and spring II classes last nine weeks and meet three days per week for eight hours. The fall program lasts 18 weeks and meets two days per week. Topics explored include gathering patient data, meeting basic patient needs, implementing fundamental procedures, and communicating with patients and their families. Graduates work in health care agencies, hospitals, clinics, and skilled nursing facilities.

Upon completing SWC’s program, graduates qualify to take the state exam. They can also transfer into an associate nursing degree program or the university’s vocational nursing program. Students can only repeat the CNA course once and must attend all sessions to qualify for graduation.

SWC accepts only 30-40 new students for each session, so early registration is important. The department also offers virtual information sessions to help you learn more.

Escondido Adult School

Escondido Adult School has educated non-traditional learners in the San Diego area for more than 50 years. As part of its health and medical career preparation, the school provides a certified nurse assistant in-person program consisting of 280 hours of clinical and lecture-based coursework. Plan to spend 40 days completing all the requirements of EAS’s CNA program.

New CNA classes begin every six weeks and cover topics like basic anatomy and physiology, health and medical ethics, basic nursing skills, and medical terminology. After completing all the courses included in AES’s program, you can sit for both the clinical and skills-based California State Board Certified Assistant exams.

All applicants must possess a high school diploma or equivalent, a CPR card, and a negative TB test. They must also participate in a mandatory online orientation before starting classes.

FAQs About CNA Classes in San Diego

What skills do you learn in CNA classes in San Diego?

CNA courses cover many important topics involving providing basic nursing care. At San Diego College of Continuing Education, for instance, the 250-260 hour CNA program covers concepts like body mechanics and nutrition, patient rights and independence, resident care skills and procedures, and emergency procedures and prevention of catastrophe. Meanwhile, the California Medical College curriculum consists of 170 hours spent on topics such as nursing assistant administrative practices, ethics codes and HIPAA compliance, human body systems and development, and monitoring vital signs. Any program approved by the California Department of Public Health should cover all required information.

How much do CNA classes cost in San Diego?

The cost of CNA classes in San Diego varies based on the type of school. Nonprofit institutions, for example, tend to cost less than for-profit schools. Some colleges, such as the San Diego College of Continuing Education, provide their CNA program for free, but students must purchase textbooks, scrubs, and other required materials. Unlike degrees or certificate programs, most CNA classes are charged as a one-time payment rather than per credit. We look at the costs of three San Diego options below to give you an idea of what you can expect.

Mira Costa College

CNA Program

Total Credits: 184 hours

$600 for the full program

San Diego College of Continuing Education

CNA Program

Total Credits: 250-260 hours

Free, but students spend $400 on related expenses

Southwestern College

CNA Program

Total Credits: 8.5 units

$750-850 for the full program

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

If you need help paying for your CNA classes, you’ve got options. Many colleges and vocational schools in San Diego provide scholarships and grants to help cut costs. If you attend a properly accredited and state-approved CNA program, you may qualify for a federal student loan. There are also external CNA scholarships available from professional associations, foundations, and nursing facilities. Make sure you understand how to take charge of your financial aid, as it can make a difference in whether or not you can afford a CNA program.

How long do CNA classes in San Diego take to finish?

The amount of time you spend enrolled in a CNA class in San Diego depends on several factors. As evidenced by the programs highlighted throughout this guide, both standard and accelerated timelines exist. Some programs can take a full semester to complete, while many summer options take only six weeks. San Diego Medical College provides a state-approved option lasting just 27 days. If you’re juggling work and classes simultaneously, a more extended program may better fit your schedule. Consider a shorter summer program if you want to complete requirements and earn your state certification as soon as possible.

Inside Look at Online CNA Classes in San Diego

As of now, few online CNA classes exist in San Diego. Most still incorporate significant campus participation, but some are starting to provide more hybrid options. You may need to complete required clinical classes at school, but didactic classes might be available digitally. Given the extended role COVID-19 has played, more schools are considering how to deliver at least some components online.

For example, the online CNA course at San Diego Medical College requires students to complete two weeks of online theory classes followed by a one-week break for COVID-19 testing. Once you receive a negative result, you complete two weeks of in-person clinical classes. Most of these options include synchronous online classes where you need to log in at specific times to meet with instructors and fellow students.

Common Questions About Online CNA Classes in San Diego

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

As long as you attend an accredited program that’s been approved by the California Department of Public Health, completing requirements online will have no bearing on your ability to receive certification. That said, you should ask about the pass rate of graduates for any program you consider.

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

Employers care about whether you passed your CNA certification exams and attended a properly accredited and approved program. Your certification does not specify whether you took your classes in-person or online.

Are online CNA classes more affordable than campus programs in San Diego?

While online CNA classes may not be less expensive than their campus-based counterparts, you may avoid some costs because of online learning. For example, you’d save money on driving to and from campus, paying for campus-based fees, eating out, and buying parking passes.

Can I complete my San Diego CNA training faster by taking classwork online?

The answer to this question depends on your schedule. While some online CNA classes in San Diego take less time than in-person options, you need to consider if you can balance an accelerated program with existing responsibilities. That being said, you will at least save driving time by learning at home rather than going to a classroom, which may make it easier for you to meet requirements more quickly.

How to Become a CNA in San Diego

Because every state sets its own rules for CNA certification, it’s important to make sure you understand them before starting the process. The California Department of Public Health lays out certification requirements. At this time, these include:

  • Attend a CNA training program approved by the state
  • Upon enrolling in the training program, submit your Initial Application
  • Pass the Competency Evaluation Examination
  • Submit evidence of a criminal record clearance
  • Submit the Request for Live Scan Service form
  • Allow for at least 30 days for the department to receive your exam scores

EduMed also provides a California CNA page that lays out step-by-step details on what it takes to become a CNA in San Diego.

Earnings Outlook: How Much Does a CNA Make in San Diego?

As the table below demonstrates, certified nursing assistants working in San Diego make substantially more than the median earnings for both the state as well as nationwide. They also make more than CNAs living in any other metropolitan area of California.

When reviewing your earning potential, consider the cost of living in San Diego. CNAs may earn more in the city, but they also pay higher rates for things like rent, parking, and food than CNAs living in a rural area of California. Review the table carefully to see what your income could look like after earning certification.

Annual Earnings for CNAs in San Diego

10th Percentile Median Earnings (50th Percentile) 90th Percentile
San Diego-Carlsbad, CA $27,240 $35,830 $53,410
California $19,430 $26,360 $34,690
United States $21,960 $29,660 $40,620
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA $26,880 $33,610 $46,250
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA $25,750 $33,930 $43,870
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA $32,620 $41,410 $64,210
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA $27,890 $38,510 $52,840
Sacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade, CA $27,620 $36,060 $59,040

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2019