How to Get CNA License

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If you're a caring, practical person who likes helping people, being a CNA might be the perfect job for you. A CNA – certified nursing assistant or nurse aide – typically works with patients under the supervision of a registered nurse or licensed practical nurse. Rather than carry out nursing duties, a CNA acts as a liaison between patients and nurses. She also performs healthcare-related tasks, such as recording height and weight and helping patients with bathing, toileting and dressing.

How Do You Become a CNA?

Before you apply for a CNA license, you have to meet certain requirements. You must be 18 years or older and have a high school diploma or GED, as well as a valid state ID or SSN to enroll in a CNA training program. CNA training programs are available at community colleges, vocational schools and the Red Cross. The duration and content of CNA training programs vary by state. In Oregon, for example, the training program consists of 80 hours of classroom and lab time and 75 hours in a skilled nursing facility with actual patients in a real-life healthcare setting.

The training program concludes with a certification exam that includes both written and practical components. Following successful completion of the training program, you can apply for your CNA license with your state's nursing board and pay the required processing fee.

Most states require a CNA to pass a fingerprint and criminal background check, undergo drug screening and take a physical exam. It takes up to eight weeks to receive your CNA license; as soon as you do you can apply for job opportunities.

Can You Get a CNA License Online?

A CNA is a hands-on job with a great deal of person-to-person interaction, so practical training in a clinical setting is crucial. This makes it impossible to get a CNA license online. However, many programs offer a hybrid format, where students can submit some assignments online, but still need to attend classes and labs on campus. For example, Hopkinsville Community College in Kentucky offers part of its CNA course online.

How to Get a CNA License in Another State

If you move out of state, you need to either transfer your CNA license to your new state or apply for a new one, depending on the new state's requirements. In some states, such as Texas and Michigan, you can transfer your CNA license under a process known as reciprocity. But you must come from an approved state, where the state CNA training program you completed meets or exceeds the requirements of the new state. This process can take four to eight weeks, during which time the new state may or may not allow you to work as a CNA. Some states can require that you take the CNA exam again to get your license, so contact the board registry in your new state for details.


  • To get a CNA license, you must be 18 or older, have a high school diploma and a valid state ID or Social Security number, take a CNA training program and pass your state's CNA certification exam.