Top Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) Programs

10 Min Read Published November 3, 2023
Top CNA Programs 2024 |

Becoming a certified nursing assistant (CNA) is an exciting way to enter healthcare. The CNA profession is integral to ensuring that patients receive the highest level of care during every shift. Plus, it's a well-paying career that you can start in as little as 3-4 weeks with a CNA program! 

Read on to learn the top CNA programs and what you can expect in a certified nurse assistant course. 

Search CNA to RN Programs

CNAs: earn your RN degree in up to 1/2 the time and cost of traditional programs with Achieve Test Prep's "Nursing Test-Out Program". All applicants must be a CNA to apply.

Are you a CNA?

Fast Facts About CNAs

Salary $35,740 annually or $17.18/hr per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
Program Length 1-3 months
Requirements High school diploma or GED equivalent

Top Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) programs

CNA programs are commonly offered at technical schools, community colleges, healthcare facilities, and other medical service providers. Each state has slightly different graduation requirements. 

In assembling this list, we considered a variety of factors, including:

  • Pass rate on the national exams
  • How quickly students can complete the program and begin work
  • Cost
  • Flexibility in scheduling clinical hours
  • Availability for both online education as well as  in-person classes at a training center
  • Reputation

Consider this list of best CNA programs a starting point. It is also essential to identify approved programs in your state. Keep in mind that you will also need to complete a competency exam upon graduation to practice as a CNA.

>> Related: STNA vs CNA: What's the Difference?

#1. City College of San Francisco, San Francisco, California

Established in 1935, the City College of San Francisco has eleven campuses that offer quality education and programs aimed at helping graduates give back to the community. San Francisco residents are entitled to free tuition.

The school’s Home Health Aide/CNA Program is one semester long. Graduates can earn certifications in:

  • Nurse Assistant/Convalescent Care
  • Home Health Aide, and
  • Nurse Assistant/Acute Care

City College of San Francisco prepares graduates to take and pass the California State Certification for Nursing Assistant exam. Graduates can go straight to work caring for patients in nursing homes, acute care hospitals, and other healthcare facilities.

Additional details to know about this program include:

  • Tuition: Free to residents of the City of San Francisco, $46 per unit for California residents
  • Program Length: 18 weeks
  • Accreditated by:
  • Application Deadline: Not available
  • Application requirements:
    • Must be 18 years or older.
    • Must attend orientation program and complete prerequisite classes for college-level English.
    • Must be certified in CPR by an American Heart Association or American Red Cross approved provider.
    • Must provide proof of immunizations and a physical exam.
    • Must submit a Live Scan fingerprinting form to the Department of Health Services and pass a criminal background check/drug test.
  • Contact Info: Jean Lansang, Department Chair
  • Are Online Options Available? Yes

#2. Century College, White Bear Lake, Minnesota

Century College offers its Certified Nursing Assistant and Home Health Aide curriculum as either a 4-credit course or a not-for-college-credit program.

These courses are the same. However, the student must apply to the college itself to earn college credits. The not-for-college credits are available through the school’s Continuing Education and Customized Training program, which does not require becoming a Century College student.

Choosing the credit program facilitates the use of financial aid. This program is available for full-time and part-time studies during the fall, spring, and summer semesters.

Additional details to know about this program include:

#3. Maine Medical Center, Portland, Maine

Maine Medical Center offers a unique CNA program that is not only free – it also pays students at a rate of $16 per hour plus benefits during the program. This program also provides students with a job upon course completion.

The CNA Program is sponsored and paid for by the hospital’s Center for Clinical and Professional Development in conjunction with Portland Adult Education. The program requires committing to working at Maine Medical Center for a period of time.

Additional details to know about this program include:

  • Tuition: Classes are free, and students earn $16 per hour
  • Program Length: 7 weeks (26-28 hours over four days per week)
  • Accreditation: Maine Department of Health and Human Services
  • Application Deadline: Rolling
  • Enrollment Requirements:
    • Must be 18 years of age or older
    • Must be a U.S. citizen or have work authorization.
    • Must pass a background screening and the CASAS reading assessment with a score of 247 or above.
    • Must attend a virtual information session.
  • Contact Info: Martha Davoli
  • Are Online Options Available? No 

Search CNA to RN Programs

CNAs: earn your RN degree in up to 1/2 the time and cost of traditional programs with Achieve Test Prep's "Nursing Test-Out Program". All applicants must be a CNA to apply.

Are you a CNA?

#4. Pratt Community College, Pratt, Kansas

Pratt’s Nurse Aide Certification program is a hybrid course of online classroom education and on-campus clinical instruction.

Additional details to know about this program include:

  • Tuition: $147 per credit hour
  • Program Length: One semester
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Application Deadline: Rolling
  • Requirements:
    • Must be 16 years of age.
    • Must complete the PCC application.
    • Must submit a copy of your social security card or driver’s license.
    • Must provide proof of a negative TB test administered within the previous six months.
  • Contact Info:
    • Erica Meitler, Director of Allied Health
      • Phone: 620.450.2161
      • Email:
  • Are Online Options Available? Yes

#5. Job Corps (multiple locations)

Job Corps is a federal government program representing the country’s most extensive residential career training program.

This free program helps individuals between the ages of 16 and 24 complete high school and train for meaningful careers. Job Corps also provides job placement services.

Additional details to know about this program include:

  • Tuition: Free
  • Program Length: Completion time varies by training area
  • Accreditation: Not applicable
  • Application Deadline: Rolling
  • Enrollment requirements:
    • Students must comply with their state's requirements in which they plan to work, including compliance with mandatory background and drug checks, immunizations, CPR certification, and more.
    • Must meet basic academic requirements in math and reading and register with the state regulatory authority.
  • Contact Info:
  • Are Online Options Available? No

#6. Hutchinson Community College, Hutchinson, Kansas

Hutchinson’s Certified Nursing Aide program prepares graduates to work in geriatric healthcare settings, including hospital and long-term care.

This 4.5 credit course provides fundamental knowledge of the aging process, emphasizing meeting the needs of geriatric patients. Components include nutrition, personal care, aging body system, and geriatric communication and observation.

Additional details to know about this program include:

  • Tuition: $118 per credit (about $886.00)
  • Program length: One semester (105 hours)
  • Accreditation: Health Occupations Credentialing and the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services
  • Application Deadline: N/A
  • Requirements:
    • Students must have scored 14 or higher on the ACT Reading Test, or
    • Between 40 and 120 on the Accuplacer Writing Score, or
    • 231 or above on the Accuplacer Next-Generation Reading Test
  • Contact Info:  Jennifer Desmond
    • Email:
    • Phone: (620)665-4994
  • Are Online Options Available? No

7. Cochise College, Douglas, Arizona

This five-credit program emphasizes the care of geriatric clients, teaching the basic concepts of anatomy and physiology, client rights, ethics, client safety, legal and professional responsibility, and client care skills.

Upon completion, students must take the Arizona State Certification test to practice as a Certified Nursing Assistant.

Additional details to know about this program include:

  • Tuition: $455
  • Program Length: One semester (consists of three hours of lecture and five hours of skills lab/clinical per week)
  • Accreditation: Approved by the Arizona State Board of Nursing and meets OBRA requirements
  • Application Deadline: N/A
  • Requirements:
    • Placement into Reading 092 or higher and Math 081 or higher
    • Documentation of citizenship or nationality for certification
    • Fingerprinting with background check for felony convictions
    • Reliable transportation to attend classes and clinical training hours
  • Contact Info: Melesa Ashline, MSN, RN
  • Are Online Options Available? No

8. Elizabethtown Community and Technical College, Elizabethtown, Kentucky

Also known as the Medicaid Nurse Aide-Kentucky Medication Aide program, the training at Elizabethtown Community and Technical College is another excellent CNA program to consider.

This program also has approval from the Kentucky Department for Medicaid Services for training nursing assistants to work in long-term care.

The program combines lecture material, a skills lab, and a minimum of 16 hours of supervised clinical training with geriatric patients in a long-term care facility. At its completion, students will receive three college credit hours. Courses are offered year-round during weekdays, evenings, and Saturdays.

Additional details to know about this program include:

  • Tuition: $537.00
  • Program Length: 75 hours
  • Accreditation: Approved by the Kentucky Department for Medicaid Services
  • Application Deadline: N/A
  • Requirements: Completion of the nurse aide packet available through the Admissions Office.
  • Contact Info: Carla M. Allen, Nurse Aide Administrative Assistant
  • Are Online Options Available? No

9. Elgin Community College, Elgin, Illinois

Elgin Community College prepares CNA students to monitor patient vital signs, help with bathing and personal care, help patients in and out of bed, help patients maintain mobility, and assist with other aspects of daily living.
Students must also take the Illinois State Competency Written Evaluation for certification upon completing the program.

Additional details to know about this program include:

  • Tuition: $1,019
  • Program Length: One semester
  • Accreditation: Approved by the Illinois Department of Public Health
  • Application Deadline: Rolling
    • Program availability in fall, spring, and summer
  • Requirements:
    • Must be at least 16 years of age and score in the 12th percentile or better in each section of the PSB-HOA exam.
    • Must also provide a valid social security number to be screened for placement on the Illinois Health Care Worker Background Check Registry and apply for the state CNA certification exam.
      • Must provide documentation of the following:
      • Negative drug test results
      • Completed medical forms
      • Proof of immunizations
      • Proof of health insurance coverage
      • Proof of American Heart Association Basic Life Support for Healthcare Providers CPR certification
  • Contact Info:
    • Nursing office phone: 847-214-7350
  • Are Online Options Available? No 

10. American Red Cross, Multiple Locations

The American Red Cross trains approximately 5,000 students a year as part of its certified nurse assistant program. Considered the gold standard in CNA training, the organization boasts a 90% graduation rate, and more than 80% of graduates pass their state exam.

Credentialed nurse instructors with professional experience teach the program. This program also uses a blended learning approach of digital and classroom education. Coursework includes classroom education and hands-on clinical practice at a skilled nursing facility.

Additional details to know about this program include:

  • Tuition: providers set the pricing for this training, so check class listings for more information.
  • Program Length: Four to eight weeks
  • Accreditation: N/A
  • Application Deadline: classes are available year-round
  • Requirements: providers set the criteria for this training, so check class listings for more details
  • Contact Info:
    • Support:
    • Customer Service: 888-285-1627
  • Are Online Options Available? Yes  

Search CNA to RN Programs

CNAs: earn your RN degree in up to 1/2 the time and cost of traditional programs with Achieve Test Prep's "Nursing Test-Out Program". All applicants must be a CNA to apply.

Are you a CNA?

What You’ll Learn in a CNA Program

Every CNA training program reflects its state’s educational requirements and its faculty’s priorities and philosophies. However, all programs teach the same essentials for patient care and basic medical skills. 

Most CNA programs require a minimum number of hours of classroom education and hands-on laboratory clinical experience. CNA classes address the essential elements of patient care, including:

  • Foods and fluids
  • Safety and hygiene
  • Patient communication
  • Activity and exercise
  • Elimination
  • Vital signs
  • Mental health
  • Infection prevention
  • Ethics and patient dignity
  • Family and family support
  • Dementia and Alzheimer’s
  • Aging
  • Pain
  • End-of-life care
  • Legal issues

To ensure that your nursing assistant training program provides quality education, you'll want to check that it has been approved by the National League for Nursing Accredited Commission and your state’s nursing board.

Upon graduation, you will also need to take your state's nursing assistant certification exam. This CNA exam consists of a written exam, an oral exam, and a hands-on skills assessment. Many states use the National Nurse Aide Assessment Program to confirm applicants’ competency. 


  • How long does it take to become a CNA?

    • You can become a CNA in as little as three-to-four weeks, though most programs take longer. Community college programs take no more than one semester.
  • What is the fastest way to become a CNA?

    • The CNA certification programs that take the least time are offered onsite by facilities that hire aspiring nurse aides and then provide training and certification.
  • Can you take a CNA course online?

    • Some programs offer the nursing theory portion of the CNA training online. Still, the hands-on practical training must be in-person in a laboratory setting or a facility with live patients.
  • Can I become a CNA for free?

    • Several programs offer free programs leading to certification as a nurse’s aide, and some even offer to pay for the hours you attend.
  • Is becoming a CNA worth it?

    • CNAs are in demand, which means that becoming a CNA means job security and good pay. Becoming certified and working with patients is also an excellent testing ground to determine whether a healthcare career is right for you. It also serves as a stepping-stone to more advanced positions if you want to pursue them.
Terri Heimann Oppenheimer
Terri Heimann Oppenheimer Contributor

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer is a freelance writer and editor who is driven by details. She loves to dive into research, ensuring that the information she provides educates, engages and illuminates. Before starting her own business she spent years working in advertising and raising three kids. Today she lives in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, where her she and her husband enjoy travel, the Jersey Shore, and spoiling their grandchildren.

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