How to Become a CNA While in Nursing School? (The Complete Guide)

In this article, we will discuss how to find a job and all the positive and negative aspects of working as a CNA while in nursing school. So let’s dive in.

Many nursing students don’t have enough money to support their studies and often wonder whether or not they can work as CNAs. Many colleges or facilities allow nursing students to work as CNAs alongside their studies. CNAs have a very tough schedule, and it can be challenging for nursing students to carry studies alongside. But it also offers many benefits for students.

In this article, we will discuss how to find a job and all the positive and negative aspects of working as a CNA while in nursing school. So let’s dive in.

Can A Nursing Student Work as A CNA?

Yes, a nursing student can work as a CNA. For this, you must complete your CNA training program & then clear the CNA exam. Indeed, many nursing students prefer to work as certified nursing assistants while completing their nursing education.

Some nursing programs require or encourage to do the CNA job as it gives hands-on experience and networking opportunities, while other institutes don’t allow students to work. For nursing students working as CNAs, many benefits are limited compared to full-time staff, but still, it may include:

  • Health insurance
  • Paid holidays/vacations
  • Vision & dental insurance

Nursing students working as CNAs can also get funding opportunities like tuition waivers, reimbursement, or scholarship programs.

The experience gained during your job will come in handy to land your dream CNA job after graduation, and you’ll earn higher compared to other beginners in the healthcare field.

Four Steps to Become A CNA (while Being a Nursing Student)

How to Become a CNA While in Nursing School

Becoming a CNA is simple and fast compared to other medical professions. It takes less than a year to become a CNA. So it’s the most appealing option for those wanting to enter the healthcare industry without a degree. Here are steps to take to become a CNA while in nursing school.

Earn Your GED/High School Diploma

In almost all states, GED/high school diploma is the only requirement for entering a nursing assistant training program. If you have a GED/high school diploma, you’re qualified to register for CNA classes. However, if you don’t have these credentials or are completing your high school, get these first to enroll in CNA program.

Complete the CNA program (State Approved)

Although the length of CNA training programs varies in different states, most training programs need not less than 75 hours of classroom instruction. It also includes time spent shadowing a nurse caregiver. You may be asked to take different assessments to show your skills and knowledge during training. Classroom learning involves topics like physiology, anatomy, medical terminology, pharmacology, etc.

CNA programs include an introduction to different healthcare aspects with a primary focus on nursing care aspects like dressing, bathing, patient feeding, etc. CNA training will enable you to effectively interact and communicate with nurses and doctors to deliver essential medical treatment appropriately.

Complete In-Person Clinical Training

After completing the training program, complete a clinical training session at a healthcare facility or hospital before taking the certification exam. According to federal laws minimum of 16 hours of clinical experience is mandatory. Clinical training will verify your knowledge and ability to handle the job.

During clinical training, a CNA or a nurse will supervise you to perform different tasks like taking vital signs, cleaning the catheter, etc.

Clear CNA Certification Exam

After completing clinical training, you can undertake the CNA certification exam that evaluates your knowledge & skills to verify your credibility for the job. The certification exam is divided into written & clinical tests. Pass the certification exam to get your license to work as a CNA.

Ways to Find A CNA Job

Most nursing students wonder where to start looking for a CNA job. Here are some things you can try to get a CNA job.

Search online

Firstly, you should search online for a CNA job. Check out websites such as Craigslist, Simply Hired, and indeed. These sites enable you to search for CNA jobs by industry, location, and salary range. Using social media sites such as Twitter & Facebook to look for local CNA job providers is also a good idea.

Call other facilities

Call other facilities and ask them if they have any CNA vacancies available at their facility. You can also ask them if they know of other facilities having CNA vacancies.

Sign up with an agency

You can also directly sign up with an agency. There are many agencies now hiring CNAs without the help of staffing agencies. Ask this when applying for CNA jobs in-person or online at a facility/healthcare agency seeking additional staff.

Visit your local community college

Visit your local college; they can help you as they offer certified nursing assistant programs. The career services department of community colleges can assist you in finding a CNA job in your area. They can also help you contact a healthcare agency with an opening.

Visit nursing homes or hospitals

Visit local nursing homes or hospitals personally if you know they are hiring CNAs. Visit personally & speak with their HR department/division about open positions and the requirements for those positions.

What Are the Benefits for Nursing Students Working as CNAs

Many students wonder whether or not it’s a good idea to work as CNAs while studying. There are many benefits of doing a CNA job, such as you’ll earn while gaining valuable hands-on experience in your field.

Practical Experience

It will help you to get valuable hands-on experience working with residents daily, helping you to prepare for your future RN (registered nurse) career.

Earn Money While You’re Studying

Another benefit of working as a CNA is earning money in your student life. Furthermore, you can quickly pay off student loans and fulfill your fundamental needs while at nursing school. The median annual salary for nursing students working as CNAs is approximately $26000.It’s not an insufficient amount for a part-timer.


Networking is another important thing you’ll get by entering your field. Most staff members and hiring managers will get to know you and recognize your efforts. Entering your field while in nursing school will help you quickly get a job after graduation due to your experience in a clinic, hospital, or another facility.

Learn Basic Knowledge Helpful for Exams

You will learn many things in your part-time job like CRP & other life-saving procedures to perform in emergencies. The experience and knowledge gained during the career will be helpful during the exam.

What Are the Drawbacks for Nursing Students Working as CNAs

There are some drawbacks of working as a CNA while in nursing school, which you should consider before applying for a job.

Being A CNA Is Demanding

CNA’s job is physically demanding, lifting patients and moving them around. If you don’t have enough stamina and energy, this job might not be for you. After work, you also have to focus on your studies and self-care, making it challenging to get some rest.

Too much responsibility for a CNA job can burnout you and damage your inspiration to continue schooling. It can also harm your academic performance.

Low Wages

Nursing students doing CNA jobs (part-time) earn less compared to full-time CNAs (having less education). Another reason is facilities pay more to experienced CNAs. $26000 is a low salary compared to the fast-paced and demanding nature of the field.

You Should Be Emotionally Strong

Sometimes you will have to deal with unpleasant patients. As a CNA, you’ll have more exposure to negative patients compared to the average hospital staff. Some sick or injured patients are very demanding and rude. So you must be emotionally intense if you aspire to be a CNA.

Tough to Balance School & Work Schedule

One big drawback is that of time. If you work 12-hour duty, it will be challenging to get time for sleep. You have to adjust the time for your study, work, and rest. You’ll get minimum time for study and rest after starting a job, affecting your health and academic performance.

What You Observe During Work Can Contradict Your Textbooks

What you’ll observe during work can be quite different from your textbooks. There are many reasons for this:

  • Your textbook has more latest evidence-based practices & techniques compared to the facility you work in.
  • Maybe your facility is more advance.
  • You skip a crucial detail.
  • At work, you’ll have patients having different diseases at the same time requiring various interventions, unlike your book, where residents never have comorbidities.
  • You have poor providers.

Indeed, there are some negative points to being a CNA, but the advantages overwhelm them. It is an excellent opportunity for all nursing students to enter the nursing industry. If you are pursuing a nursing degree, you can gain valuable experience by becoming a CNA; when applying for a CNA job, you must be aware of the challenges you’ll face during your work period.

A general idea of all the positive and negative points will help you be mentally prepared for all the challenges.

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