CNA Certification in California

California CNA information

The state of California is an excellent place to begin your career in the healthcare industry. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics from May 2013, there were almost 98,000 nursing assistants in California with their CNA certification and the mean wage was $29,910. If you are looking to eventually one day increase your income or advance your career and become a registered nurse (RN), starting out as a CNA will give you great experience so that one day you will be able to transition into that position. Needless to say, you will have excellent job prospects if you get your CNA Certification in California, so lets talk about what you need to do to get certified!

Prerequisites for CNA Certification in California

The state of California does not have a minimum age requirement for CNA candidates, but most training programs will require that candidate to be at least 16 years of age. The state of California does require background checks in order to get your CNA Certification, and there is a list of penal codes that will automatically disqualify you from being able to get your certificate. The offenses that will disqualify you are serious offences; so do not be alarmed if all you have on your record is a speeding ticket or some other non-violent misdemeanor. However, you should check the “Disqualifying Penal Code Sections” at to confirm that you are capable of becoming a certified nursing assistant and a previous conviction will not disqualify you.

A high school diploma or GED is also not a requirement from California, but check with the training program you would like to enroll in to make sure they do not require it. Also, it would help if you have taken a basic biology class in high school so that you will be familiar with some of the material before starting your training program. This certainly is not a requirement, but it will help you hit the ground running when you begin your CNA training program! 

CNA Certification in California Requirements

Training Requirements

In California, the Training Program Review Unit (TRPU) is responsible for overseeing the training requirements and approval of CNA training. It is their responsibility to make sure that the program you train at is meeting both California and federal standards regarding CNA training. There are hundreds of training programs that you can enroll at in California and they vary with regards to class size, cost and location. If you want to become CNA certified in California, you should not have a difficult time finding an adequate training program.

The minimum number of hours required for training in California is 150 hours, but some popular courses like the Red Cross CNA training program offer 160 hours. One of the requirements of your training program is that they must include clinical lessons in their training program. You will be working with real people when you become CNA certified so this is a very important part of your training program!

Testing Procedure for California CNA Exam

After you have completed your California approved training program, you will then need to take the state exam to get your certification. The state of California has contracted out the test to a private company. Pearson VUE is the company that administers the test. Additionally, there are select community colleges throughout California that have been selected as the testing locations. Your CNA training program should be able to provide you with the information you need as to where you can test in your area. Your training program should be an excellent resource for scheduling your state CNA exam, and if they do not offer this service, you may want to find another CNA training program.

The California CNA Exam

In California, the state CNA exam has two parts: 1) written/oral exam 2) skills evaluation. You must pass both tests if you want to be placed on the California Nursing Assistant Registry. The fee to take the written exam and oral evaluation is $90 while the fee for the oral exam and skills evaluation is $105. Once you have completed your state-approved training program, you will have 24 months to pass both exams so that you can be certified on the state registry. If you do not pass the tests within 2 years, you will have to complete another training program and pass the exams again to become certified.

The written exam has 70 multiple-choice questions and covers topics including physical care skills, psychosocial care skills and the role of the nurse aide. You will have 2 hours to complete the written exam. You should be well prepared for the written exam after completing your training program, but there are practice tests available online if you would like to prepare further.

If you are able to take the oral exam instead of the written exam, it is composed of two parts of multiple-choice questions that you will listen to on an audio device. The first part of the oral exam has 60 questions that pertain to CNA skills. The second part of the oral exam is 10 questions and they test your ability to recognize English words that are commonly used by a CNA. You will have 2 hours to complete the oral exam and you must pass both parts.

Once you have completed either the written or oral exam, you will then move on to the skills evaluation. During the skills evaluation, you will have to complete 5 tasks on a person that will be role-playing as a patient. Of the 5 skills, one of the 5 will always be hand washing but the other 4 will be selected randomly. You will also know ahead of time that one of the 4 randomly selected tasks will be a measurement task. Examples of measurement tasks include measuring blood pressure, respirations or weight. In order to pass the skills evaluation, you must successfully pass all 5 tasks. However, this does not mean that you must execute them perfectly. In fact, you are able to correct mistakes during the skills evaluation as long as it is not a major mistake (example: forgetting to put on gloves) and you verbalize to the tester what the mistake was and you correct it before moving on to the next task.

Once you have completed both the written/oral exam and the skills evaluation, the Nursing Assistant Evaluator will fax in your exams. An official score report will then be faxed back to your evaluator indicating whether or not you passed the exams. While it may be disappointing if you find out that you have failed the exam, remain positive in the fact that you have two remaining attempts to pass the exam before having to repeat a CNA training program. You should study the material again or practice the skills evaluation and come back next time with the attitude that you are going to pass! You must successfully pass both the written/oral exam and skills evaluation within 3 attempts and 24 months of completing your training program in order to become CNA certified in California.

California State Nurse Aide Registry: Verifying Your Certification

After you have successfully passed both the written/oral exam and skills evaluation, your name will be added to the California Nursing Assistant Registry. You should then receive your certification from the state of California within 6 weeks later and your certification will be valid for 24 months. Congratulations! You can verify your CNA certification status with the state of California at the following website:

Renewing CNA Certification in California

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) is in charge of overseeing CNA certification renewals. Therefore, it is very important that you keep them informed of any address or name changes you have, otherwise you may jeopardize your certification status. There are two requirements if you want to renew your certification in California: 1) you must have worked as a paid nursing assistant for at least 8 consecutive hours during the past 24 months and 2) you must submit evidence 48 hours of continuing education or in-service training. If you do not receive your renewal notice in the mail, contact the CDPH prior to your certification expiring.

How to Transfer CNA Certification from Another State to California

If you are currently a certified nursing assistant in another state and will be moving to California, you will be able to transfer your certification. However, your previous certification must be in agreement with the competency evaluation requirements of 1987 OBRA and you must be in active good standing on your previous state’s nurse aide registry. If you meet both these requirements, you should be able to transfer your certification to California. However, you should still contact the California Department of Public Health and make sure there are no further training or certification requirements you must meet. You will then have to fill out an application and provide documents verifying your certification.

CNA Contact Information in California


Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 997416, MS 3301
Sacramento, CA 95899-7377