Best CNA Programs

People who enjoy caring for others can enjoy a CNA career. Explore the steps to becoming a CNA, salary potential, school costs, and financial aid for CNA training.
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  • CNAs perform supportive medical duties, assisting patients with personal care and hygiene.
  • CNAs must hold a high school diploma or GED and complete state-approved training.
  • Students must pass a competency exam, including a written test and skills assessment.
  • The median CNA salary was $30,290 in 2021.

CNAs perform supportive medical duties in hospitals or long-term care facilities. They are typically responsible for monitoring patients’ vital signs, administering medications, and safely transporting patients into beds and wheelchairs.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median CNA salary in 2021 was $30,290, with the potential to earn more within specific locations or facilities.

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Although exact requirements vary by state, CNAs must complete state-approved training programs. These typically consist of both classroom instruction and hands-on clinical training. To earn state-issued certification, students must pass a competency exam, which usually includes a written test and a demonstrated skills assessment.

Many community and technical colleges offer CNA programs. Students should look for accredited CNA programs with high graduation and job-placement rates.

Best CNA Programs

Rankings Methodology:

  • Must offer less than one-year certifications
  • Accredited
  • Less than 18:1 faculty to student ratio
  • Less than $35,000 in tuition costs
  • Over 50% graduation rate

Charlotte Technical College

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  • Type: Public
  • Cost: $11,028
  • Location: Port Charlotte, Florida
  • Admission requirements: High school diploma or GED, background check, drug testing
  • Graduation requirements: 600 hours of study
  • Accreditation: Accredited by the Commission of the Council on Occupational Education

This program covers a broader array of skills than many CNA programs, and students will learn to perform a variety of supportive medical duties. Courses like advanced home health aide and basic healthcare worker prepare learners to serve patients in both acute and long-term care.

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Healthcare Career College

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  • Type: Private, for-profit
  • Cost: $20,861
  • Location: Paramount, California
  • Admission requirements: High school diploma or GED
  • Graduation requirements: Four interim exams, one final exam
  • Accreditation: Council on Occupational Education, Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education

This eight-week program equips students with practical knowledge of medical office protocols, insurance billing processes, and diagnostic coding. Students can access on-site clinical experience and on-campus certification testing.

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Indian Capital Technology Center-Muskogee

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  • Type: Public
  • Cost: $6,672
  • Location: Muskogee, Oklahoma
  • Admission requirements: High school diploma or GED, government-issued photo ID, social security card, and background check
  • Graduation requirements: 100% attendance, 80 hours of coursework
  • Accreditation: Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Programs and Oklahoma State Accrediting Agency

To complete this 80-hour program, students can adhere to an evening schedule, which consists of two four-hour-long classes each week. They may also pursue an accelerated format that requires two weeks of full-time study.

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International Training Careers

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  • Type: Private, nonprofit
  • Cost: $22,035
  • Location: Miami, Florida
  • Admission requirements: High school diploma, passing admission test score
  • Graduation requirements: 110 hours of coursework, which includes at least 40 hours of clinical practice and at least 20 hours of clinical practice in a nursing home setting
  • Accreditation: Council on Occupational Education

Students train in both classroom and clinical settings under the instruction of a registered nurse. Coursework prepares learners for the National Nursing Assistant Examination, as used in the state of Florida.

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Pontotoc Technology Center

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  • Type: Public
  • Cost: $1,823
  • Location: Ada, Oklahoma
  • Admission requirements: High school diploma, GED, or college transcript, OSBI Criminal History Report
  • Graduation requirements: Completion of 75 total hours of classroom, lab, and clinical instruction
  • Accreditation: Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education

In this program, learners complete all training and testing requirements to earn CNA certification in Oklahoma. Students gain clinical experience in both PTC lab and long-term care environments. A Flex-Track option allows students to clock in and out of open training hours.

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Quest College

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  • Type: Private, for-profit
  • Cost: $16,849
  • Location: San Antonio, Texas
  • Admission requirements: High school diploma or GED
  • Graduation requirements: 106 training hours
  • Accreditation: Council on Occupational Education

This program runs on weekdays from 8:30 a.m to 12:45 p.m. This condensed schedule allows learners to complete training in five weeks. After passing the state exam, graduates are qualified to work as CNAs in the state of Texas.

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Regional Center for Border Health

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  • Type: Private, nonprofit
  • Cost: $6,088
  • Location: Somerton, Arizona
  • Admission requirements: High school diploma or GED, a passing Test for Adult Basic Education (TABE) score, state of Arizona background and fingerprint check, drug testing, citizenship documentation
  • Graduation requirements: 153 hours of study, including written and skills tests and a CPR certification exam
  • Accreditation: The Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools

This program prepares students to earn certification through the Arizona State Board of Nursing. The 153-hour program runs for 6 weeks and fulfills state-specific training requirements.

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Treasure Coast Technical College

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  • Type: Public
  • Cost: $10,146
  • Location: Vero Beach, Florida
  • Admission requirements: High school diploma or GED
  • Graduation requirements: 165 training hours
  • Accreditation: Council on Occupational Education

The 165-hour program runs for ten weeks. Learners devote 90 hours to a basic healthcare worker training course and an additional 75 hours of nurse aide and orderly training. Graduates prepare to take the Florida State Certification test, which is administered on campus.

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Vantage Career Center

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  • Type: Public
  • Cost: $999
  • Location: Van Wert, Ohio
  • Admission requirements: Pre-admissions assessment, high school diploma or GED
  • Graduation requirements: 80 hours of classroom and hands-on training
  • Accreditation: Commission of the Council on Occupational Education

Learners can complete the 80-hour program in four weeks. Students attend 'traditional' instructional classes Monday through Thursday and attend clinical hours on Fridays. Students learn in small groups, and class sizes are limited to 20 students.

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Washington County Career Center-Adult Technical Training

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  • Type: Public
  • Cost: $15,681
  • Location: Marietta, Ohio
  • Admission requirements: High school diploma or GED, background check
  • Graduation requirements: 80 hours of classroom and hands-on training
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC) and the Ohio Board of Regents, Division of Vocational Education

Students can complete this condensed 80-hour, full-time program in two weeks. Learners can choose from multiple start dates throughout the year.

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Other Notable CNA Programs

Steps to Become a CNA

Nearly all CNA certification programs require applicants to hold either a high school diploma or GED. After earning the necessary prerequisites, students must complete several steps to become a CNA. Although requirements vary considerably by state, most require CNAs to complete at least 75 hours of training.

Students enrolled in state-approved CNA programs typically build a practical understanding of pharmacology, human anatomy, medical facility conventions, and emergency procedures in traditional classroom settings. Often, students must take intermittent written assessments to demonstrate their learning. Students must also complete hands-on clinical training under the supervision of experienced nurses and other medical personnel.

To earn certification once their training is complete, CNAs must pass an exam with both written and hands-on components. Below are the most common steps to becoming a CNA:

  • Step 1: Earn a high school diploma or GED
  • Step 2: Complete a CNA training program
  • Step 3: Pass a state-specific CNA certification exam

How Much Do CNA Programs Cost?

CNA training programs vary significantly in price. CNA school costs — including tuition, supplies, licensing expenses, and exam fees — typically fall between $5,000 and $25,000. Fortunately, CNA certification programs are comparatively short-term, and learners do not need to pay for multiple semesters or years of coursework.

Private institutions are generally more expensive than public institutions. Many public community or technical colleges offer affordable CNA school costs for in-state learners. As with most postsecondary education programs, students may use student loans or explore financial aid options to relieve CNA school costs.

Students should be sure to research grants and scholarships. Although financial aid for CNA training is often distributed based on need, grants and scholarships are often designated for key populations, such as single parents or veterans.

How Much Does a CNA Make?

According to BLS data, as of 2021, the median CNA salary was $30,290 per year, with the potential to earn more within different industries and facilities. For example, CNAs employed by government agencies earned a median of $37,310 in 2021, while those employed by hospitals earned $35,870, and those employed by skilled nursing facilities earned $29,970.

In the coming decades, an aging population will likely necessitate more supportive medical professionals like home health aides, personal care aides, medical assistants, and CNAs. Between 2020 and 2030, the BLS projects that the number of jobs for CNAs will grow by 8%, accounting for 115,300 new jobs.

Financial Aid for Your CNA Program

CNA Scholarship

  • Eligibility: Individuals who have been accepted into Nurse Aide or CNA programs
  • Award amount: $500
  • Deadline: September 21
  • Applicants are required to submit an essay reflecting on why they hope to work as CNAs and why they wish to receive the scholarship. Individuals are evaluated on attention to detail and essay content.

CNA – RN Scholarship Program

  • Eligibility: Citizens of the United States or Canada enrolled in accredited CNA or RN certification programs accredited. They must have earned a minimum high school or college GPA of 2.5.
  • Award amount: $1,000
  • Deadline: March 31, October 31
  • Applicants must include an essay under 500 words exploring the importance of a specific technological innovation in healthcare. Candidates are evaluated on writing skills, creativity, research, and argumentation.

Certified Nursing Assistant Scholarship

  • Eligibility: Students enrolled in CNA certification programs
  • Award amount: $1,000
  • Deadline: NA
  • Applicants must write a 300-500 word essay reflecting on their specific career goals, what obstacles have challenged their pursuit of these goals, and how they hope to impact long-term care patients. Candidates must also follow the organization on social media.

Frequently Asked Questions About CNA Programs

Can you be a CNA without a degree?

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To earn certification, CNAs do not need to hold a postsecondary degree. In most cases, they do not need to earn general education requirements prior to training. However, CNAs must have at least a high school diploma or GED.

Many technical or community colleges that offer CNA training programs also offer fast-track GED preparation and testing, allowing learners to quickly earn the credentials needed to pursue CNA training.

What will you learn in a CNA program?

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CNA students learn how to assist patients with everyday personal care such as eating, dressing, bathing, and maintaining basic hygiene.

Under the supervision of registered nurses, CNA students practice moving patients out of hospital beds, wheelchairs, and other mobility devices. Often, learners simulate these duties with weighted training mannequins. Under the guidance of experienced nurses, learners may also practice with real patients.

CNAs must also learn to perform supportive medical duties and first aid. They must have an academic foundation in human anatomy, physiology, and pharmacology. These professionals learn how to monitor patients' vital signs, administer medications, and respond to emergency situations.

How long do CNA programs take?

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Every state has its own requirements regarding the number of classroom and clinical hours that CNAs must complete. Although students enrolled in CNA certification programs must meet or surpass state-mandated guidelines to qualify for certification, program length may vary dramatically.

CNAs can often complete condensed full-time programs in as little as two weeks. However, not all learners can commit to a full-time schedule. Some students may find part-time or evening classes to be a more realistic commitment. Often, part-time certification programs take about six to ten weeks to complete.

Do you have to take a CNA test or certification to become a CNA?

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Certification requirements vary by state. However, all states require CNAs to take a certification assessment after completing their training programs. The written test covers topics such as resident's rights, emergency procedures, first aid, and pharmacology.

Usually, certification exams have a demonstrated skills assessment; candidates must demonstrate proper technique in a variety of caretaking duties, such as lifting, feeding, changing, and bathing, to be approved for certification. Often, CNAs must also perform simulated emergency first aid like CPR and the Heimlich maneuver.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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