Online CNA Classes:
What You Need to Know

Online CNA Classes: What You Should Know

There are plenty of websites that tout online CNA classes but there are few, if any, available where students can complete their entire education remotely. Because much of the job relies on person-to-person interaction, CNAs need to learn these skills in the classroom, lab and during clinical practice.

If you were considering an online nursing program, don’t let this news deter you. Even without the availability of online CNA classes, you can still fit in your nursing education while working and juggling family responsibilities. CNA programs are designed for:

✔    Working adults

✔    Parents

✔    Commuters

✔    Career-changers

With the understanding that students have more than just school on their plate, campus programs actually offer many of the same perks as an online class.

  • Programs are flexible: Day, evening and weekend classes are offered at many schools
  • Short program duration: Between four and 16 weeks.

Coursework is highly focused so you won’t feel like you’re wasting time learning topics you won’t need to do your job as a CNA. Students are taught nursing assistant fundamentals and practical skills they’ll need in their career. While the training is fast-paced, it’s also thorough.

Although you won’t find online CNA classes taught 100 percent online, some programs offer a hybrid format. Students can submit some assignments online, but they’re still required to attend class and labs on campus.

Online CNA Classes or Something Else?

Be sure to do your research if you come across a school or website offering online CNA classes. In some cases, you’ll be redirected to an on-campus program. This is problematic if you enroll expecting to complete your coursework online.

In other instances, you may be redirected to a related healthcare field, such as medical assisting (a field where online classes are prevalent).

If you’re unsure about a program’s validity, check with your state’s nursing board. Each one provides a list of state-approved CNA programs offered by schools, nursing homes and other facilities.

No matter which learning format you choose, be sure the school’s faculty has relevant and current experience in nursing.

Traditional or Online CNA Classes?

Online CNA classes are virtually non-existent and you’re more likely to find courses at brick-and-mortar campuses. Because the role of a CNA is hands-on, your training will come in the form of classroom work and clinical experience. One exception: Some schools offer a hybrid approach where you can complete certain CNA classes online.

While every student’s preferred learning style is different, the facts show that hands-on training is incredibly beneficial.

Certified nursing assistants, also known as nurses’ aides, typically build relationships and strong bonds with their patients. While the job can be demanding, CNAs are a constant in a patient’s life, providing comfort and support. Daily tasks most of us take for granted—bathing and feeding ourselves—can be difficult for the injured or elderly. Helping patients complete these activities is one reason certified nursing assistants are an integral part of the health care team at any facility.

Although CNAs work in a medical setting, they are not required to have a college degree. However, they do need to complete CNA classes to become licensed. Not sure what to expect from a CNA program? On the fence about this career? Wondering if you can take online CNA classes? Keep reading to find out what it takes to work as a CNA.

CNA Fast Facts

  • Career level: Entry-level
  • Education: State-approved program
  • Licensing: Passing score on state competency exam
  • Licensing renewal: Usually every two years

What are CNA Classes?

Although CNAs don’t need an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, specific training is still required. You’ll be responsible for the care of others so it’s important to understand proper procedures and the correct protocol.

CNA certificate classes prepare students for their state licensure exam which measures your nursing skills, knowledge and judgment.

Your curriculum will teach you how to care for patients in a variety of ways. Once completed, you should be well-versed in:

  • Bathing procedures
  • Taking vital signs
  • Nutrition
  • Oral hygiene
  • Shaving
  • Properly making a bed
  • Promoting exercise and activity

Even if you didn’t pay attention to anatomy and physiology during high school, a CNA class will thoroughly cover these topics. You’ll learn about the different systems in the body, ranging from the nervous system to the endocrine system.

What Else Will I Learn in CNA Classes?

CNAs should have encyclopedic knowledge on caring for patients who have diabetes, respiratory issues and cognitive impairment. Not only will you need to understand these medical conditions (and others), but you’ll be taught how to manage them as well.

What You’ll Learn: 

The difference between Type I and Type II; how to treat hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia

How to recognize respiratory problems; how to manage oxygen flow rate

Cognitive impairment:
How to care for a patient with dementia; how to work with a patient’s family members

Once you complete your classes, you should also have a strong understanding of legal issues affecting nursing assistants and how to handle situations that are beyond a CNA’s role.

Talk Like a CNA

Get out the flash cards. Here are a few terms you’ll need to know.

Scope of practice:
Actions you can perform under your license

Informed consent:
Permission from a patient based on potential consequences

Wrongful act or infringing on a patient’s rights resulting in legal liability

Chronic illness:
Condition that lasts for a long period of time and must be managed

Where Can I Take CNA Classes?


Some employers offer on-the-job CNA training, but if you want to hone your skills before landing a position, you have other options.

According to a 2010 report by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, 26.3 percent of CNAs surveyed took classes at a technical or vocational school while 21.8 percent were trained at a community college or junior college.

The same report outlined the specific tasks CNAs were taught in these institutions. After graduating, CNAs were able to do the following:

  • Administrating oral and topical medications
  • Administrating oxygen
  • Blood glucose testing
  • Special care for elderly
  • Special care for infants
  • Emergency care above CPR
  • Removal of peripheral and indwelling catheters

If your future career trajectory includes earning an LPN/LVN or RN degree, taking your CNA courses at a community or junior college can help. Some nursing programs will accept previous course credit or work experience which can save you time and money.

CNA Program Prerequisites

One of the advantages to a CNA program is the limited number of prerequisites you need to fulfill before enrolling. If your educational background is minimal, but you want to work in nursing, CNA classes may be a good fit.

Each school is different, but you can typically expect the following prerequisites.

Before you’re accepted, you’ll need:

✔    A high school diploma or GED

✔    Some programs will look for past health care work experience, such as being an aide in a hospital

After acceptance, you’ll need:

✔    To pass a fitness test

✔    To pass a background check

Who Takes CNA Classes?

CNA students come from all types of backgrounds, but you’ll share a common desire to help others. Here’s a peek at who you might encounter in class. Do any of these describe you?

Who: High school graduates
Why They Enroll: High school graduates interested in starting a nursing career without attending college

Who: A person who wants to work in health care
Why They Enroll: Health care can provide job security and becoming a CNA is a great starting point. 62 percent of CNAs say that’s why they became one.

Who: Someone looking to enter the nursing field quickly
Why They Enroll: CNA programs last between four and 12 weeks.

Who: Someone making a career change
Why They Enroll: Some people decide later in life that they want to work in health care. Personal circumstances can also be an impetus for change.

Who: A person interested in becoming a nurse
Why They Enroll: Nurses need a college degree, but working as a CNA can provide good experience first. Some employers even offer tuition reimbursement so you can get your RN while working.

Top 10 Traits You Need to Be a CNA

As a CNA, you’ll have daily contact with patients who may be elderly or ill. While CNA classes will prepare you for the ups and downs of the job, certain innate qualities will also help you succeed as a certified nursing assistant.

The Top 10 Traits

Dependable: Patients will rely on you to help with daily activities, like bathing and eating.

Compassion: A kind and caring nature will help patients feel emotionally supported by you.

Physically fit: You’ll move, lift and adjust adult patients as they get out of bed, dress, stand and walk.

Observant: You’ll need to pay close attention to changes in a patient’s condition.

Decision maker: You have to act fast and make quick decisions when patients need you.

Team player: CNAs are part of a larger health care group that includes nurses and other CNAs.

Good listener: CNAs should be open-minded as patients talk about symptoms, pain and other concerns.

Positive attitude: An upbeat outlook is helpful when things get hectic or when patients are feeling down.

Good communicator: Being able to clearly explain instructions to a patient or client is essential.

Flexible: Things won’t always go as planned. CNAs need to be able to adjust to changes flawlessly.

What Can You Do with CNA Classes?

At their core, CNA classes train you to become a caregiver in the health care field. Once you complete your coursework and become licensed, you will be able to work in hospitals, nursing facilities, home health care and residential care facilities.

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Decide on a Career Path
CNA classes can also serve another purpose. If you’re thinking about becoming a registered nurse in the future, CNA classes set you up with a good knowledge base. In some cases, ADN or BSN programs may waive certain classes if you have work experience or completed prior coursework.

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Earn More Money
While being a CNA won’t make you rich, it can be a career path that offers a slightly higher salary than other jobs that don’t require a degree. For example, the median hourly wage for a CNA is $12.06 whereas retail sales workers earn a median income of $10.42. Food service workers bring in about $8.92 an hour.

What to Expect After CNA Classes

Everyone dreams of the last day of school. Once you complete your CNA classes, you might wonder what comes next. Here’s what you can expect.

Competency Exam

CNAs can’t work unless they have a valid license in their state. This means you’ll have to pass a state competency exam to demonstrate your knowledge and skill set.

You’ll be asked a wide range of questions that may cover the following topics:

  • What health problems wrinkled bedsheets can cause
  • What tactics to employ when helping a patient out of bed
  • How to handle visits from a patient’s family
  • Where to take a pulse
  • Client rights
  • What constitutes verbal abuse toward a patient
  • When to notify a charge nurse
  • Where a cane should be used
  • How to handle mood and behavior changes in clients

CNA Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for nursing assistants and orderlies is $26,590.

This figure will depend on what type of facility you work in and the state you live in. The lowest salaries tend to be in the south while the highest paid CNAs are in the northeast and west coast.

According to the BLS, nursing assistants are predominantly found in the following industries:

Continuing Education


Health care is a field where having the most up-to-date knowledge is essential. This is why certified nursing assistants (along with other types of nurses) are required to complete continuing education in order to renew their license.

In these classes, you’ll learn new information and expand on what you already know. Here’s a quick look at what types of courses you’ll encounter:

HIV/AIDS for CNAs, Elderly patient care, Resident rights, Bloodborne pathogens/ infection control, Domestic Violence, Preventing medical errors

Continuing education for certified nurses is one instance where online learning is available. Because each state has different requirements, check with your state board to find out how many hours of online training is permitted. You may still be required to take courses in a classroom as well.

Sources: National Council of State Boards of Nursing; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Nevada State Board of Nursing; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2018-19, Nursing Assistants and Orderlies, Retail Sales Workers, Food and Beverage Serving and Related Workers.

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