“How long does it take to become a CNA?” is a question often asked by those trying to decide if they want to start a career in nurse assisting. The quick, easy answer is between five and 20 weeks, but this depends on several different factors. We’ll take a closer look at each of them below.
How Long Does it Take to Become a CNA?
Completing the steps required to become a nursing assistant can take anywhere from one to four months. The total amount of time it will require for you to complete your training and pass your state’s CNA certification exam (this is the NNAAP in 22 states) depends on the following:
- Length of the classes you attend
- How long it takes to complete your clinicals
- Whether or not you pass your exam on the first attempt
- How long it takes to get listed in your state’s Nurse Aide Registry
Read on to learn more about each of these steps.
How Long are CNA Classes?
The length of nursing assistant classes varies by program. Your state also has a large impact on course length.
Since 1987, federal regulations have required that all CNA training programs include a minimum of 75 hours of class time. Since 2008, there has also been a push in the healthcare community to increase the national minimum to 120 hours in the classroom. As of April 2017, this has not yet happened, however.
Nonetheless, many states require students to complete more than the federal minimums. The table below lists state-by-state requirements through the end of 2016.
Required Classroom Hours by State
|State||Required Classroom Hours|
|District of Columbia||120|
How Long are Clinicals?
The federal minimum for clinical trials is 16 hours. As is the case with classroom hours, your state’s requirements may be higher.
At the time of this post, 32 states (and the District of Columbia) have requirements which exceed the national minimum. In some cases, these state minimums are significantly higher (e.g. California and Missouri require 100 hours of clinical training).
The following table shows required clinical hours by state through 2016.
Required Clinical Hours by State
|State||Required Clinical Hours|
|District of Columbia||75|
How Long Does it Take to Get Your CNA Certification?
Upon completing the required classroom and clinical hours, the next step toward becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant is taking your state’s certification test. As mentioned earlier, 22 states use the NNAAP for testing.
As of early 2017, the following states require students challenging for certification to pass the NNAAP.
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
If you live in one of the other 28 states, you will be required to take a state-specific exam instead.
In most cases, students have 12 months to challenge for certification after completing their training program. However, if your goal is to start working as a CNA as quickly as possible, you may schedule a testing appointment immediately after completing your training program.
For students who live in a state that uses NNAAP, you may schedule an exam through a Pearson VUE testing center. Students in other states will need to contact their local state board of nursing to schedule a testing date.
An appointment can usually be scheduled within a week or two. From there, it’s up to you to pass the exam in order to move on to the final step in the process.
How Long to Receive Your Test Scores?
Receiving your test results can take as much as 10 business days. Some states do provide scores on the same day as the test however.
Your certificate is usually mailed out within five business days of passing the exam.
How Long Does it Take to Get Added to the Nurse Aide Registry?
The final step in becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant is getting added to your state’s nurse aide registry. After passing your certification exam and becoming certified to work as a CNA, you will need to have your name added to this official registry so that employers can verify your credentials.
As for how long this process takes, expect to wait between two and 10 business days before seeing your name appear on the registry.
Total Time to Become a CNA?
Adding together the total time required to complete all of the steps involved, you can see that it can take between five weeks and five months to become certified and ready to work as a CNA. The vast majority of this time will be spent completing the required hours in your training program.
If you’d like to get a specific time frame for how long it will take to become a CNA in your state, we recommend that you contact your state board of nursing. Good luck in completing the steps we’ve discussed and in your career in healthcare!