Get Meaningful Clinical Experience as a CNA

Whether you are just starting or well into your premed journey, it’s important to take stock of your extracurricular activities: What do your pursuits say about you as a person and future physician? You’re choosing the life of a doctor, someone who works continuously with people and populations. You’ll want to demonstrate your attraction to this central aspect of medicine, not only to medical school admissions committees, but also to yourself! As you prepare for the future, remember that getting acquainted to clinical work before medical school is critical. Becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) is one great way to get clinical exposure while doing meaningful (and compensated) work.

You may have seen CNAs in nursing homes, assisting your loved ones with their basic daily activities, such as feeding and bathing. Or you may have seen them in action on hospital floors, collecting vital signs, assisting with medical procedures, and helping mobilize patients. CNA work is skilled, physical, and very hands-on. Working as a certified nursing assistant, you are sure to learn the basics of teamwork within the healthcare team, building rapport, and handling a patient’s body with care and respect. A CNA’s scope of practice, type of credentialing exam, and length of training vary by state and requirements may vary further by institution. You don’t need a specific degree to become CNA–just a certificate from a state board-accredited institution, a desire to help, and a willingness to learn! 

While some states us the NNAAP for credentialing CNAs, others use different exams to evaluate a nurse aide’s competency. The total number of hours in training varies by state, as do exemptions and reciprocity rules. Make sure you carefully read the requirements! Here’s what you will need to do to become a certified nursing assistant by U.S. state:

Alabama: In Alabama, you are required to complete a state-approved CNA training program, 75 hours of clinical and skills training, and pass the NNAAP Exam, administered by Pearson VUE. After that, CNAs are registered in the Alabama Nurse Aide Registry and may begin working. 

Alaska: Prior to becoming eligible for certification, new NAs in Alaska must complete a state-approved training program as well as 140 hours of clinical and skills training. They may then sit for the NNAAP Exam and apply for certification through the Nurse Aide Registry. 

Arizona: In addition to 120 training hours, the state of Arizona requires completion of a state-approved CNA training program. Arizona administers its own written and manual skills exam. Providing proof of lawful US residency is a prerequisite for CNA certification in this state. 

Arkansas: Passing a competency test and completing at least 90 hours of education in a state-approved CNA training program are required for becoming a CNA in Arkansas.

California: California Code of Regulations requires the completion of a state-approved CNA training program, plus a passing score in the NNAAP exam. California also conducts background checks prior to certification.

Colorado: CNAs in Colorado must first complete a state-approved CNA training program and obtain a passing score on the NNAAP exam.

Connecticut: To be certified in this state, you must complete an approved CNA program. Connecticut administers its own version of the Nurse Aide Examination through Prometric.

Delaware: The State of Delaware asks CNAs to sit for the Nurse Aide Examination, which is administered through Prometric. Applicants must first complete an approved CNA training program.

District of Columbia: According to District of Columbia Municipal Regulations, CNAs must first complete an approved training program that is at least 120 hours long, then pass the NNAAP Exam in order to become certified.  

Florida: As long as you pass Florida’s nursing assistant competency exam, you are eligible to become a CNA. You can choose any of the following to satisfy the education prerequisites for the exam: complete an approved CNA program, obtain a high school diploma (if 18 years of age or older), or complete the special curriculum offered by the state.

Georgia: In Georgia, a nurse’s aide who wishes to become certified must complete an approved program and then pass the NNAAP exam before applying. 

Hawaii: Nurse’s aides in Hawaii must first complete a state-accredited program that is at least 100 hours in length. Then, they may sit for the Hawaii Nurse Aide Competency Exam.

Idaho: state-approved CNA training programs in Idaho must be at least 120 hours in length. The NNAAP is not used in Idaho, but rather a two-part exam that includes manual and written portions. Candidates must pass the manual exam before advancing to the written section.

Illinois: Nurse’s aides must complete a basic nursing assistant training program that covers a curriculum approved by the state. Applicants who have completed this training or CNA-equivalent training in the military may sit for the Illinois Nurse Aide Competency Exam.

Indiana: Requirements for becoming a CNA in Indiana are somewhat unique. State approved programs are at least 105 hours long, but depending on the applicant, may not be required. The certification exam is offered through Ivy Tech Community College and examinees who pass the test are entered into the state’s nurse aide registry.

Iowa: Prior to taking the CNA competency exam, nurse’s aides in Iowa must complete 20 hours of on-the-job training within six months prior to the exam, or a 75-hour CNA training program. After passing the exam, CNAs must register in the Iowa Direct Care Worker Registry.

Kansas: CNA candidates in Kansas must complete an approved training program that is 90 hours in length and pass the state’s certification exam.

Kentucky: In Kentucky, CNAs are called State Registered Nurse Aides, or SRNAs. To become one and register in the state’s Nurse Aide Registry, you’ll need to complete a 75-hour training program and pass the competency evaluation exam. 

Maine: There are a number of special paths and equivalency options for fulfilling the CNA requirements in Maine. In most cases, completing an approved program of at least 180 hours is required before an applicant can take the two-part Maine CNA exam. 

Maryland: There is more than one type of CNA in the Maryland, and each has a slightly different set of training requirements! Candidates first determine which type of certification suits their needs and interests, complete the respective training programs, and pass the NNAAP exam.

Massachusetts: The requirements for becoming a CNA in this state are to complete an approved training program of at least 75 hours, and successful completion of the state’s nurse aide competency evaluation.

Michigan: CNA training programs in Michigan are called Nurse Aide Training and Competency Evaluation Program. Candidates must first complete this 75 hour program and then pass the CNA exam administered by Prometric.

Minnesota: Minnesota has no shortage of paths to becoming a CNA! You may choose combinations of didactic classes and on-the-job training, variable program lengths and different curricula. Ultimately, passing the two-part final exam will determine your eligibility for certification. 

Mississippi: To become a certified nurse aide in Mississippi, you must complete an approved training course and pass the NNAAP exam.

Missouri: State-approved CNA training programs in Missouri vary in length, but they are 175 hours at minimum and are required prior to sitting for the state CNA certification exam. 

Montana: Montana requires at least 75 hours of training in a state-approved program, followed by successful completion of a two-part knowledge and skills exam administered by a third party contractor. 

Nebraska: In Nebraska, CNA training involves a minimum of 75 hours in an approved program, completion of a short course on abuse/neglect, and a passing score on the state’s CNA evaluation exam.

Nevada: An approved 75-hour CNA training program is required for most candidates in the state of Nevada. NAs can become certified after passing the Nurse Aide Competency Exam. 

New Hampshire: CNAs are called Licensed Nursing Assistants (LNAs) in New Hampshire. Like many other states, there are a number of exemptions for LNA programs. But in general, most applicants will need to complete a state-approved LNA training program to be eligible for the CNA competency evaluation program. 

New Jersey: CNA training in New Jersey must be through a state-approved, 90-hour program. The certification test used in this state is the NNAAP.

New Mexico: The minimum number of hours for CNA training in New Mexico is 75 hours, but total hours vary depending on the institution. The final credentialing exam is a state-specific CNA exam offered through Prometric. 

New York: Depending on the type of program, state-approved CNA training in New York can take anywhere from a minimum or 120 hours to 324 hours. Once training is complete, applicants must pass the New York State Competency Examination for the Nursing Home Nurse Aide. 

North Carolina: A minimum 75-hour CNA training program or equivalency waiver is required before sitting for the credentialing exam. North Carolina uses the NNAAP administered by Pearson Vue. 

North Dakota: Programs that meet Department of Health approval in North Dakota are at least 75-hours long. Like many other states, North Dakota uses the NNAAP exam for credentialing CNAs. 

Ohio: State Tested Nurse Aides in Ohio are equivalent to CNAs in other states. Approved training programs are at least 75 hours long—the federal minimum. The Ohio STNA Exam is the next prerequisite for credentialing, and it is administered through a third party contractor.

Oklahoma: There are six different types of certified nurse aides in Oklahoma, each with their own training requirements and examinations! It all depends on the setting in which you want to work. All training programs meet the federal minimum of 75 hours and involve a final exam. Refer to the Oklahoma State Department of Health guidelines for more.

Oregon: Certified nurse aides receive certification and work at two levels in Oregon, CNA1 and CNA2. It is possible to train for one or both at the same time. The minimum approved program length in this state is 155 hours long, with additional hours required for CNA2 training. The CNA1 Competency Evaluation Exam is administered through a third party contractor.

Pennsylvania: CNA candidates must meet a number of personal health and background check requirements before completing a minimum 80-hour CNA training program. The credentialing test in Pennsylvania is the NNAAP. 

Rhode Island: State-approved CNA training in Rhode Island is 100 hours or more. After completing the training, candidates must pass the NNAAP.

South Carolina: South Carolina uses the NNAAP exam for CNA credentialing. Prior to sitting for the exam, candidates must have completed a state-approved training program lasting at least 100 clock hours. 

South Dakota: In order to become a CNA in this states, candidates must complete a state-approved training program that meets the 75-hour federal minimum. A state-specific Competency Evaluation Exam is administered through a third party, and those who pass are certified and eligible to work at CNAa.

Tennessee: Much as in other states, Tennessee requires CNA candidates to first complete an approved training program that is at least 75 hours in length, and then obtain a passing score on a Competency Evaluation Exam administered by a third party.

Texas: The type of training required of CNAs in Texas can vary based on where you intend to work. In general, the  Texas Nurse Aide Training and Competency Evaluation Program involves at least 100 hours of training, followed by the NNAAP exam. 

Utah: Approved training programs for CNAs in Utah are a minimum of 100 hours. Upon completion, candidates must sit for and pass the state’s own CNA competency exam.

Vermont: CNAs are LNAs (Licensed Nursing Assistants) in Vermont, and the required training programs for certification are 80 hours long at minimum. Certification is complete once the candidate passes the NNAAP exam.

Washington: This state requires CNA training to be at least 85 hours in length. Once a candidate passes the NNAAP, they are certified and eligible to work within the CNA scope of practice.

West Virginia: Approved CNA programs in West Virginia must last at least 120 hours. The credentialing exam is specific to the state and is administered through a third party. Examinees are certified after passing.

Wisconsin: Nursing Aides who wish to become certified in Wisconsin are mandated to complete at least 120 hours of state-approved training. The final credentialing exam is the NNAAP.

Wyoming: CNA training in Wyoming is at least 120 hours long, with the opportunity to complete further training to become a CNA2 and expand one’s scope of practice. Certification is complete once a passing score is obtained on the CNA Certification Exam administered by Pearson Vue / Credentia.