A Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) is a valuable healthcare team member who spends significant time with patients. They assist patients with basic activities essential to their daily lives, such as bathing and dressing. CNAs are highly regarded in healthcare and provide an important service to patients with limited ability to care for themselves. This role is a great starting point for those interested in pursuing a career in nursing or healthcare. They offer intimate care that impacts the lives of those they care for, including the elderly, disabled, injured, ill, or otherwise infirm.

To become a certified nursing assistant (CNA) in Los Angeles, the following requirements and costs are involved:

  1. Eligibility and Training: Applicants must be at least 16 years old and successfully complete a training program approved by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). This program includes an examination to test knowledge and skills in basic patient care services​​.
  2. Criminal Record Clearance: Obtaining a criminal record clearance is a mandatory step. This involves submitting an Initial Application (CDPH 283B) upon enrolling in the training program and a Request for Live Scan Service form (BCIA 8016)​​.
  3. Competency Evaluation Examination: After completing the CDPH-approved training program, candidates must pass the Competency Evaluation Examination. Once passed, it takes about 30 days for CDPH to receive the examination results from the testing vendor​​.
  4. Equivalency/Reciprocity for Trained Nurses: Individuals already enrolled in or who have completed a Registered Nurse, Licensed Vocational Nurse, or Licensed Psychiatric Technician program, have medical training in military services, or have received licenses from a foreign country or U.S. state, may qualify to take the Competency Evaluation directly. They must submit a Certified Nurse Assistant Equivalency/Reciprocity Application (CDPH 283E), provide fingerprints via Live Scan, and submit educational transcripts or proof of nursing work​​.
  5. Cost of Training: Nursing assistant courses in Los Angeles generally range between $400 and $1200. Additional costs for books, uniforms, and materials for clinicals may apply. Financial aid may be available, and some employers may cover or reimburse training costs​​.
  6. Additional Costs: Besides tuition, other expenses include program supplies (textbooks, uniforms, stethoscope, etc.), a medical examination, and a criminal background check. The cost of the medical exam varies, and the background check can cost around $20-$40. The CNA certification exam fees in California are $90 for the written version and $105 for the audio version​​.

California Requirements to become a Certified Nursing Assistant

Educational RequirementsCompletion of a state-approved CNA training program. Usually involves a minimum of 160 hours, including clinical training.
Exams RequiredCalifornia CNA State Exam, which includes a Written (or Oral) Examination and a Skills Evaluation.
CertificationCNA certification issued by the CDPH once you pass the examination.
Cost of CNA Training ProgramVaries by institution but typically ranges from $1,000 to $2,000. Financial aid may be available.
Cost of ExamApproximately $100 for both Written and Skills exams. Prices are subject to change.
Application FeeApproximately $50 for certification application fee to the CDPH.
Fingerprinting and Background CheckRequired; costs vary, typically around $50 to $75.
Experience RequiredNo prior professional experience required, but clinical training hours must be completed as a part of the CNA program.
Continuing EducationCNAs in California must complete 48 hours of in-service training/continuing education during each two-year certification period.
Renewal of CertificationRenewal is required every two years. The fee for renewal is approximately $50.
Live Scan ServiceFees for this mandatory background check service vary by provider.
Additional RequirementsPhysical examination, TB test, and immunizations may be required by training programs or healthcare facilities.

Difference between CNA to MA and LPN

Certified nursing and medical assistants have similarities in working with patients and providing care, but it’s important to distinguish between them. Medical assistants focus on patient assessment and assisting doctors with care and treatment, while nursing assistants are more involved in direct patient care and have specific duties dictated by their state. Licensed Practical Nurses require a license and passing an exam, while CNAs only need certification. LPNs take classes similar to RNs to learn about healthcare and the human body and can perform certain tasks that CNAs cannot, such as inserting a peripheral intravenous catheter.

Where do CNAs work?

Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) can work in various work settings. Many nursing assistants are employed in hospitals, nursing care facilities, and assisted living facilities that cater to elderly patients. Other work settings may include private physicians’ offices, urgent care centers, and community clinics. Besides, CNAs can also work as home health aides or in hospice, providing care to patients in their homes.

What is the salary rate of CNAs?

The average hourly salary for CNAs is approximately $13.50, resulting in an average annual salary of around $28,000. This position is typically an entry-level job suitable for individuals new to the workforce or interested in pursuing a career in nursing. The salary can vary depending on the location of employment.

What are the certification requirements in California?

To qualify as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) in California, you must fulfill specific California Department of Public Health criteria. Firstly, you need to graduate from an accredited CNA training program. After that, you must pass a competency evaluation examination that tests your knowledge and skills in the field. The state oversees this evaluation, a crucial step toward obtaining your CNA certification in California.

The Training Program Process

To register for a CNA training program in California, you must have a high school diploma or equivalent and be at least 16 years old. The program should have at least 60 hours of classroom instruction and 100 hours of supervised training. Some training programs are offered during employment, provided they comply with state codes.

The California Department of Public Health has a list of approved CNA training programs that can be found at community colleges, trade schools, or the American Red Cross. You can also find local classes or take online courses.

California requires the most extensive CNA training in the country, with 150 hours of training, which can be completed in 6-15 weeks, including 50 hours of classroom instruction and 100 hours of clinical training supervised by an LPN or RN. Accelerated 4-week CNA classes are also available.

After completing the training, you can apply for CNA certification and take the official CNA exam. It is recommended to take a free CNA practice exam to prepare. The exam must be taken at a certified testing center like the American Red Cross or the National Nurse Assistant Training and Assessment Program (NNAAP).

Skills and Traits Needed

Although CNAs improve a patient’s quality of life through practical services, it’s widely acknowledged that the job can be physically and emotionally exhausting, requiring specific skills and traits.

You’ll need several essential skills and traits when choosing CNA as your career. These include the following:

  • Dependability
  • Physical fitness
  • Compassion
  • Good communication
  • Observance
  • Attention to detail
  • Being proactive
  • A positive personality

As a CNA, you play a crucial role in ensuring the smooth operation of a healthcare facility and supporting a patient’s daily needs and desired outcomes.

Best CNA Programs in California

To qualify as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) in California, you must finish an educational program that makes you eligible for the state certification examination. According to our research, the following schools offer CNA programs in California:

1.    City College of San Francisco


The Career and Technical Education division of City College of San Francisco’s Southeast Campus offers a program for home health aides/nurse assistants. This program aims to provide affordable job training and equip students with the necessary skills for entry-level employment. It covers nursing and behavioral science concepts as well as critical thinking skills. Upon completing the program, you can take the state CNA exam and become certified as a home health aide without additional testing.

The Home Health Aide/Nurse Assistant (CNA) program is a full-time course that spans one semester or 18 weeks. The tuition and fees for in-state students are $1,696, while out-of-state students pay $10,372 (according to the 2018-2019 academic year). The school is a public 2-year institution with a student body consisting of 27,008 undergraduate students.

To be qualified for the program, you must have the following:

  • Completed an English or English as a second language course
  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Take a placement test and attend an orientation
  • Pass a background check
  • Have current immunizations
  • A physical exam
  • CPR certification

2.    MiraCosta College


The program entails 79 hours of classroom instruction on nursing techniques and 105 hours of practical training at a long-term care facility. The cost of tuition covers the state certification exam, uniforms, books, and physical exams. Admission is based on a first-come, first-served policy, with a class capacity of 20 students. Students can enroll in the home health aide program after completing this program.

The Certified Nursing Assistant program can be completed in 8 weeks (23 hours per week) or 6 weeks during the summer (32 hours per week) full-time. As of the 2018-2019 academic year, in-state students pay $1,336, while out-of-state students pay $6,768 for tuition and fees. Prerequisites include:

  • Passing English 803 or ESL 803 or passing the English Assessment or approved equivalent.
  • Possessing an American Heart Association HealthCare Provider CPR card with AED.
  • Enrolling in Nursing 160.

Physical examination and tuberculosis tests are also required. The school offering the program is a public 2-year institution with 13,720 undergraduate students.

3.    Shasta College


Shasta College provides CNA and home health aide training at its Redding campus. The college offers two courses: Nurse Aide/Home Health Aide (CNA), a 13-unit course, and Nurse Aide, a 9-unit course. Both programs entail classroom instruction and practical training. Completing either course can prepare you for the state CNA exam, and the home health option can qualify you for certification. Note that there is a waiting list to enter this program.

The CNA program lasts for one semester full-time. As of the 2018-2019 academic year, in-state students pay $1,185, while out-of-state students pay $6,801 for tuition and fees. This school is a public 2-year institution with 9,105 undergraduate students.

Requirements include:

  • Completion of 10th grade 
  • The ability to read and write in English
  • Immunizations
  • CPR certificate
  • Drug screening
  • 2-part tuberculosis test
  • Criminal background check
  • Physical exam
  • A valid Social Security number

4.    Southwestern College


This program will teach you the necessary skills to communicate with patients, collect data, and meet their needs. After finishing the program, you will be ready to take the California CNA exam. This course is intended for individuals interested in pursuing a nursing career and is a prerequisite for SWCC’s associate in nursing or vocational nursing programs.

The Certified Nursing Assistant program is available for either 9 weeks at 3-4 days per week. It could also be 18 weeks at 1-2 days per week with both full- and part-time options. The program costs $1,338 for in-state students and $6,602 for out-of-state students (2018-2019). This 2-year public school offers a program with 18,569 undergraduate students. A reading score of 56 or higher is required to be eligible, and certain prerequisites such as:

  • A physical exam
  • Criminal background check
  • CPR certification
  • Current immunizations
  • Tuberculosis test
  • A valid Social Security numbers

Final Words

With more older people and better medical technology, there is a growing demand for healthcare professionals. Areas with a higher senior population will likely have more job opportunities and better salaries for CNAs. It’s a good idea to research potential job opportunities through educational programs, professional organizations, and social media platforms.