The Best Online Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Programs

Exponentially increasing computer power and widely available high-speed internet has increased the immersiveness of online classrooms many times over the past decade. It is now possible to participate in real time videoconferences with dozens of people, as well as asynchronous message boards and file exchanges, which all accumulates to allow a powerful and complete education experience almost entirely online. Web-based training programs exist for Certified Nursing Assistants as well as other medical and medical support degrees and certificates. The best of these programs still require some clinical experience, because medical professions rely so heavily on interpersonal interaction, but much of the requisite knowledge and skill can be obtained through online courses.

It has been shown over and over that getting education increases lifetime employment and earnings, so whichever degree you choose to pursue, online or on campus, know that it is very likely to be a good financial choice. The U.S. Census Bureau measured the increase in salary at different degree levels, and the stark results they came up with are displayed in the chart below.

CNA Program Accreditation

Any CNA training program worth your time and money will be accredited. The Higher Learning Commission accredits many online schools with diverse programming, and there are also accreditors that specialize in vetting programs concentrating on nursing and nurse assisting. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education is an independent accrediting body, recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education, which accredits nursing and nursing education programs. Since nurse aide certification does not require a college degree, the CCNE does not accredit nurse aide programs, but other nursing related information is available at their site.

CNA Training: The Online Component

The things you’ll learn in online CNA classes will largely be aimed at helping you pass the written portion of the certification exam. The test is multiple choice, comprising fifty questions that test both your knowledge and intuition about what to do in different situations that CNAs are likely to encounter in the line of duty. Some hypothetical situations you may be tested on include:

  • A nursing home resident’s eating habits have changed in response to a personal loss, such as the death of a spouse. You are afraid that the resident may not be getting enough nutrition. What do you do?
  • A resident becomes angry and violent in a public situation, such as the dining hall or other shared space in the facility. What do you do?
  • What are the first things a nurse’s aide should do at the beginning of any shift?
  • If a nurse’s aide hears an alarm from another room while giving a bedbath to a resident, what is the proper response?

The above scenarios are paraphrased from a CNA practice exam, and are actual examples of the type of knowledge you’ll learn in online CNA training, and be tested on when you try for certification. The test will also include a practical portion, in which you will be required to demonstrate three to five nurse assisting skills on the fly.

Next Steps for CNAs

Online education can help you become a CNA, but if you’re already there, and looking to advance, online schools can also help you go further without having to quit your job. CNAs who want to become physician’s assistants or even nurses themselves can finish a large percentage of the necessary education online without quitting their CNA jobs. The following are a few programs that CNAs might consider getting into when looking for online education options:

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing Programs (BSN): Getting a BSN can allow a CNA to stop assisting nurses and become one. These programs take three to four years, but the 100%-150% increase in pay is a nice reward for the effort.
  • Associate of Science in Health Service Administration: If working with patients isn’t exactly your thing, but the medical field still appeals, getting an AS in health service administration can help you transition into a more administrative role in a medical facility. This degree will teach you to manage schedules, medical information, and logistics for different sizes of medical facilities.
  • Physician Assisting Programs: Physician assistanceship pays extremely well, on par with nurse practitioner salaries, and involves many of the same responsibilities of actual doctors. Physician’s assistants always work under the supervision of doctors, but have the authority to perform many procedures that CNAs and medical assistants cannot.

The above degrees can all be completed either partially or fully online through recognized, accredited institutions. If you aren’t quite sure how you’d learn all you need to know online, here are a few examples of how learning can be transmitted electronically.

  • Discussion Boards: Most online courses use this asynchronous form of communication between students and professors. Assignments may be posted here, and comments or questions can be left for whomever to answer. Since anything posted on a discussion board remains there indefinitely, they are handy for reviewing material from past units.
  • Video Chats: Students and professors can log into a video chat room to talk face to face for a more immersive lecture experience. Using multiple senses, in this case sight and hearing, in learning activities has been proven to increase your ability to remember what you learn.
  • Online Exams: Timed exams whose results can be delivered instantly are available online, so that you know exactly how well you did very quickly after finishing the test, and you can get right down to working on weak spots in your knowledge.

The strategies used in online education are grouped into two broad categories, synchronous and asynchronous. Synchronous learning is the most like traditional classroom learning, as it involves interacting in real time with professors and fellow students. Video or text chats are considered synchronous learning. Asynchronous options include discussion boards or educational file-sharing services like CourseKit and Blackboard, which provide online environments for the exchange of classroom materials, assignment submission, and discussions.

Some online schools may be less expensive than traditional schools, but you can’t assume they will be. The real benefit of online programs is that they give you near total control of your schedule. You can do your classwork when you need to, and make your school schedule fit around the other necessities in your life, such as working for money or taking care of your family. That said, online colleges can definitely be more affordable than traditional colleges if you seek out the right financial aid. A few financial aid options available for people attending online colleges for nurse assistant training or other programs include:

  • Federal Loans: The U.S. Government offers various student loans with fair interest rates and flexible repayment schedules which are easily available to students at both online and on-campus universities.
  • Grants: The government offers Pell grants to students who can demonstrate financial need, and at upwards of $5,000 per school year, these grants can significantly relieve the financial burden of paying for college.
  • Scholarships: Your school’s financial aid office can probably alert you of scholarships that are offered in your field of study, but searching online can also yield results.
  • Friends and Family: Borrowing from friends and family to finance your education might sting your pride a little bit, but it shouldn’t. Having a supportive circle who is invested in your education is a sure way to keep you accountable and on-task in your studies.

Finding and Enrolling in an Online Program

With the vast number of available online education programs it can be hard to sort out the high quality options from the ones that just want your money. Accreditation is one way to tell whether a program is a serious contender or not. Other ways that you can vet a school are by talking to graduates of the school, or looking at a few independently produced rankings to see how the school stacks up. The links below can give you more information about accredited programs that we’ve determined to be high quality and of great interest to prospective students. If you’re ready to start your journey toward being a CNA or other medical support professional, get started researching schools by clicking a few of the links below and asking them to tell you more about themselves.

Top Online Medical Assisting Programs

Kaplan University Kaplan University — Kaplan University is an accredited university, offering 170 degrees and programs. Kaplan University's Associate of Applied Science in Medical Assisting and Nursing prepare students to pursue entry-level positions in the ambulatory medical field and for entry-level positions in health information management. Financial aid is available for those who apply and qualify. Click Here
Keiser University Keiser University — Keiser University is an accredited university offering over 80 programs. Keiser University's Associate of Science degree in Medical Assisting prepares you for a fulfilling career in health care, shaping you to be an essential part of a physician's office, clinic or other medical environments. The Associate of Science degree in Health Services program prepares students in both business and health service administration. Click Here
Sanford Brown College Sanford Brown College — Sanford Brown College offers more than 20 unique associate and bachelor's degree programs. The Associate of Applied Science in Nursing program prepares students for entry-level nursing in a private practice, hospital, clinic or government agency. Financial aid is available for those who apply and qualify. Click Here
National American University National American University — National American University is an accredited institution and offers more than 20 accelerated certificate and Associate of Science degree programs in the business, medical and technical fields. The AS in Nursing program at NAU offers comprehensive back office training to provide support to physicians and direct patient care in a variety of medical settings. Click Here

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