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Certified Nursing Assistant

What they do:

A certified nursing assistant, or CNA, helps patients with their healthcare needs under the supervision of a Registered Nurse (RN) or Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN). The regular responsibilities of a CNA will vary based upon where you work, but can include duties such as:

  • Administer medications or treatments, such as catheterizations, suppositories, irrigations, enemas, massages, or douches, as directed by a physician or nurse.

  • Clean and sanitize patient rooms, bathrooms, examination rooms, or other patient areas.

  • Document or otherwise report observations of patient behavior, complaints, or physical symptoms to nurses.

  • Apply clean dressings, slings, stockings, or support bandages, under direction of nurse or physician.


To become a CAN, a person most often needs to have at least a high school diploma or GED, and at least some form of post-secondary nursing instruction. This can be obtained from a variety of institutions, such as the Red Cross, online schools, community colleges, and trade schools and usually takes 4-6 weeks.

Students are usually required to pass an examination for their certification.

What they make:

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates a median income of $25,090 for CNAs in its 2016-17 Occupational Outlook Handbook. But your earnings will vary according to where you live; the BLS found that the top 10 percent of nursing assistants earned more than $36,000.

Where they work:

  • Nursing homes

  • Hospitals

  • Adult day care centers

  • Personal homes

  • Assisted living facilities


The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that demand for the profession will rise at a rate of 17 percent through 2024—much faster than typical job growth. As the population ages, demand for round-the-clock personal services is on the upswing.



Updated February 2017