One of the benefits of entering the nursing profession as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) is the relatively lower cost of CNA training courses as compared to courses for becoming a licensed practical nurse or a registered nurse. However, paying for a CNA training program can still be a challenge for many students. If you're ready to make your career dreams a reality but are worried about the price tag, we have outlined all of the "hidden" costs associated with becoming a nursing assistant, as well as the various options for offsetting some of those costs.

Find out how to choose a CNA program.

"Hidden" Costs of CNA Training & Certification

Vocational schools, community colleges, the American Red Cross and some medical facilities offer CNA training programs, and tuition may be charged by the credit hour or as a flat program fee. While the tuition cost varies from school to school based on geographic location and other factors, tuition is generally not the only cost of CNA training. In addition to the tuition price, there are other expenses that students need to take into account when budgeting for their education. These costs may include:

Program Supplies

Nursing assistant training programs generally have a list of required supplies that students need to purchase prior to starting classes. These supplies may include a textbook and/or educational DVDs with the program curriculum, uniform scrubs and non-slip tennis shoes, a watch with a second hand, a stethoscope as well as note taking supplies such as notebooks, pens, pencils, highlighters, etc. Be sure to check with your program to determine which of these supplies, if any, are included in your program fees and which you'll be responsible for supplying.

Medical Examination

Prior to beginning work as a CNA, students are often required to complete a physical examination that certifies they are physically fit enough to perform the duties of a nursing assistant. In addition, students will need to pass a TB test and show proof of current immunizations prior to working with patients. The cost of a medical exam and testing varies from person to person and from state to state.

Criminal Background Check

Most states require nursing assistants to undergo a criminal background check prior to beginning work. Some schools or states will pay for these background checks on behalf of the students, and in other cases fingerprinting and background checks cost the students around $20-$40.

Certification Exam Fees

Each state requires nursing assistants pass a certification exam in order to begin working. In some cases, the certification exam fee may be included in your training program cost. The exam fees will vary from state to state, but as an example of cost, in California the NNAAP exam is $90 for the written version of the exam and $105 for the audio version.

Find out more about CNA Certification in your state.

Miscellaneous Program Fees

In addition to tuition some schools may charge additional program fees, such as technology fees, lab fees or application fees. These fees will vary from school to school, so be sure to check with your school of choice for their list of fees associated with the CNA training program.


While not a mandatory fee charged by your school, there are transportation costs associated with getting to and from your CNA classes. How will you commute to class? If you are planning to take public transportation, know the cost of this mode of transportation and factor that into your bottom line. If you are planning to drive, calculate the cost of gas, parking, and auto maintenance for the duration of your program.


If you have children, you'll also need to arrange proper childcare while you are in class and taking the certification exam. Most schools do not provide childcare onsite, and children will not be allowed in clinical locations, so make sure your childcare arrangements are reliable. It's also smart to have a back-up plan in place in case your primary childcare arrangements fall through, so you won't have to miss any classes.

Ways to Pay for CNA Training

Even if paying for CNA training seems daunting, there are many options for payment that can alleviate your stress and put your career as a nursing assistant within reach. The following are ways students may pay for their CNA courses:


Paying cash for school is obviously a great option if a student is able. This option allows for a student go into their first job without any of debt from student loans. Some schools offer payment plans so the cost of training is spread out over weeks or months, which may make it easier for some students to pay for training out of pocket.

Employer-Paid Training

Some hospitals and medical facilities provide paid training programs for aspiring nursing assistants, in which students receive on-the-job training for their CNA certification exam as well as an employment offer for full-time work following certification. This can be a great way to receive a free education and secure a full-time job for the future. One caveat to these programs is that generally a student must agree to work at that institution for a specific timeframe following their training or face expensive penalties to repay the cost of their education.

Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act Grants

The federal Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act (formerly the Workforce Investment Act) is a training and employment program that offers financial assistance for qualifying students and employment training programs. Some CNA programs are eligible for WIA funding. You can check with your school's office of financial aid, or search for eligible programs here.

Medicare/Medicaid Tuition Reimbursement

Facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding are required by law to cover the cost of CNA training for their employees. If you happen to be employed by one of these facilities prior to the completion of your training program, the Medicare/Medicaid facility will cover your tuition costs. In addition, if you are hired by a Medicare/Medicaid facility within 12 months of your program completion, you will be reimbursed for all or a portion of your tuition costs.

Grants & Scholarships

Grants and scholarships are forms of financial assistance that do not need to be repaid by the student. The first place to start when searching for grants and scholarships is your school's office of financial aid. They will have a listing of grants and scholarships for which you might be eligible based on qualifications such as financial need and demographic information such as gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic background.

In order to apply for many grants, such as the popular Pell Grant, you will need to fill out and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which you can submit online at The FAFSA will determine your "Expected Family Contribution," which is how much you may be expected to contribute to your education, and help determine your eligibility for various grants and scholarships.

In addition, there are many "scholarship finder" websites and apps that can help you search for nursing program scholarships. It can be potentially time consuming to apply for various scholarships, as many of them require lengthy applications and personal statements. However, if they can offset the expense of your education, it will be time well spent.

Student Loans

There are many options for student loans offered by the federal government and private financial institutions. While taking on any debt may seem off-putting for some, oftentimes student loans are offered at fixed, lower interest rates than other types of loans, making them easier and faster to pay off. Student loans are a common way to pay for higher education, and are often the quickest way to secure additional funding needed to begin classes. As with scholarships and grants, your school's financial aid officers will be able to assist you with searching for student loans.

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