Certified Nursing Assistant – State Licensure

Certified nursing assistants are intimately involved in the treatment and rehabilitation of patients. Therefore, these professionals are required to undergo standardized training and examination. Although most states do not require CNAs to hold a license, almost all states, including Maine and Maryland require these professionals to hold a state-accredited certification before working in this field. While imperative for the success of a CNA, what’s the difference between a certificate and a license? Moreover, what steps are necessary to gain appropriate certification?

License vs Certification

Aspiring certified nursing assistants oftentimes become confused in regards to what paperwork is necessary to legally work in this field. While similar in function, as both reflect a certain level of experience and expertise, there is a stark difference between a license and a certification. According to the National Healthcare Association, a license is a government mandated regulation document to clearly define and outline the scope of a professional. A certification, on the other hand, is proof an individual has met specific standards and abilities to successfully perform a certain function.

While both seem similar, licensure requires in-depth education and a substantial amount of practical hours to earn when compared to certification. Due to the scope and nature of CNAs, licensure is not an appropriate skill measurement tool.

That being noted, certifications are often necessary to qualify for future licenses. For example, a certified nursing assistant may wish to expand her career by advancing to a registered nurse. While CNA certification is not necessary to progress to this level, being certified provides a solid foundation to build further knowledge. Moreover, a valid CNA certification may make you a more attractive option for prospective employers.

Obtaining CNA Certification – A Brief Overview

Unfortunately, there are many false CNA certification examinations available to the public. Certain organizations provide “certifications,” but don’t be fooled. Unless the certificate is accredited and sponsored by your state’s nursing board and professional licensing board, it is not a working certification.

The first step to obtain your CNA certification is to review a copy of your states Nursing Assistant Candidate Handbook. Within these pages are state-specific information regarding educational requirements, examination outline and other vital information.

Once you’ve taken all the required CNA certification classes, you may register to take the CNA examination. Successful completion of the written and clinical application portions of the exam qualifies you to register with your state’s board of nursing as a Certified Nursing Assistant.