How to Become a CNA in California
Becoming a certified nursing assistant is an excellent way to start your journey toward a rewarding medical career.
Wondering how to become a CNA in California?
Obtaining the necessary training and education is the first step of the process.
From there, you’ll need to meet the state’s licensing requirements before you can begin applying for CNA jobs in California.
Education and Training
According to the California Board of Public Health, you must complete a state-approved training program or obtain an adequate amount of equivalent experience in order to become a CNA in CA. Becoming a non-certified nurse’s aide or getting another entry-level healthcare or nursing job is one way to gain the necessary experience to qualify for CNA licensure.
CNA Certificate or Diploma
However, earning a CNA certificate or diploma from an accredited California trade school is usually a faster option. Job seekers who have completed an approved CNA program might also have an easier time finding work since most employers prioritize applicants who have a formal education.
Do You Need a Degree to be a CNA in California?
Since certified nursing assistant is a non-degree profession, those who lack college degrees can apply for CNA jobs in California. In fact, many aspiring LPNs, BSNs and RNs in California work as CNAs while pursuing their two-year or four-year nursing degrees.
Completing a certificate or diploma program is adequate for getting a CNA job in a hospital, nursing home, outpatient clinic, or another medical facility.
What Do You Study?
California’s Board of Public Health has a list of approved training programs that aspiring CNAs can take to meet the state’s educational requirements. Courses at these schools often include instruction on:
- Monitoring patients’ vital signs
- Performing personal care tasks
- Effective communication techniques for interacting with coworkers, patients, and their families
- Safely transferring patients to and from beds, wheelchairs, etc.
- Assisting patients with bathing, dressing, eating, and other Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)
- Infection prevention protocols
- Following patient privacy laws and ethical healthcare practices
Many CNA schools in California partner with local clinics and medical facilities to provide student externships. During these programs, students practice the skills they’ve learned in class while working with actual patients and medical staff. A supervising nurse must document each student’s hours to ensure they meet their program’s requirements.
Additional Instruction and Certification
In addition to the typical classes you take in a CNA program, you may need to obtain a Basic Life Support credential. Both the American Red Cross and the American Heart Association offer classes that teach students how to render life-saving aid using CPR, first aid, and Heimlich maneuver techniques.
Learning Extra Skills
Some schools incorporate these lessons into their existing curriculum, so you might be able to earn these certifications while pursuing your CNA certificate. You can also browse the Red Cross or American Heart Association websites to find a local class and obtain a BLS credential on your own.
How Long is CNA School?
A CNA certificate or diploma program usually takes between six and 15 weeks to complete. However, there are some accelerated courses that students can finish in about four weeks. You might also find specialized CNA courses that take roughly six months to complete and qualify you to work in unique settings like:
- Intensive care, surgery, or emergency room departments
- Hospice care facilities
- Military hospitals and medical centers for veterans
- Research hospitals and campus nurse offices
CNA Program Costs
Tuition costs to become a CNA in CA vary, depending on where you attend school. For example, CNA training through the American Red Cross costs about $1,795. Meanwhile, the state-approved course at Central Coast College in Salinas might cost closer to $2,500. Generally speaking, students can expect to pay between $1,000 and $1,500 at most schools.
California CNA Requirements
After completing their training programs, aspiring CNAs in CA must pass a Competency Evaluation Examination through an approved CNA testing vendor. Once you pass the test, you’ll need to submit the following to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH):
- Proof of identification, certifying that you are at least 16 years of age
- Certificate or diploma from your state-approved CNA training program OR a CNA Equivalent Training form
- Criminal record clearance and a copy of a completed Request for Live Scan Service form
- A completed CNA Licensing Application form
It takes roughly 30 days for the CDPH to receive your test results from your chosen vendor. Once they confirm that you’ve passed your competency exam, you’ll receive your credential and become eligible for CNA jobs in California.
CNA Salaries in CA
Depending on which part of the state you live in, the typical CNA salary in California may differ. While the average annual earnings for California nursing assistants is about $42,386, you might earn a bit more or less if you work in a particular city. Check below to find regional salary information for CNAs in CA.
- Los Angeles $40,538
- San Francisco $54,433
- Oakland $48,524
- Santa Barbara $41,566
- Anaheim $40,792
- Sacramento $42,546
Once you have more CNA work experience, your employer may offer performance-based raises and bonuses that boost your annual earnings. Also, CNAs who work in surgical and specialty hospitals typically make more than those working in nursing homes.
CNAs in CA provide direct patient care in nursing homes, hospitals, and home care settings. Duties for these professionals typically include:
- Bathing, grooming, dressing, and feeding patients
- Checking their patients’ blood pressure, heart rate, and other vital signs
- Turning or moving bed-bound patients
- Transferring patients to and from beds and wheelchairs
- Providing companionship and putting patients at ease before and after procedures
Reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics predict a five-percent growth rate in the demand for CNA jobs in the United States over the next decade. California CNAs may have an easy time finding jobs during this time frame, especially since many CNAs in CA eventually move on to LPN, RN, and BSN careers.