Is A CNA Worth It? – (Pros VS. Cons)


Written By: Darby Faubion, RN, BSN, MBA

Are you interested in the medical field but are unsure which role is best for you? If you like the idea of providing direct patient care but do not know if you are ready for a nursing program, you could consider becoming a Certified Nurse Assistant. Maybe you have already thought of becoming a CNA but wonder, "Is a CNA course worth it?" or "What will I gain from this job?" If this sounds familiar, you have come to the right place!

In this article, I will tell you 15 reasons why a CNA course is worth it and 5 reasons why it may not be the right course for you. I will share some basic information about the courses you will take, program costs, possible challenges you may face, the pros and cons of becoming a CNA, and requirements for certification. With this information, you can decide whether becoming a CNA is your best option.



How Long Does a CNA Course Take?


While the length of CNA programs varies, most take between four and eight weeks to complete. For example, the programs offered at Nebraska Methodist College and High Desert Medical College take six weeks to complete. Louisiana Delta Community College has an eight-week CNA program.



How Much Does a CNA Course Cost?


The cost of a certified nurse assistant course also varies. Most programs cost between $600-$2000, on average. The CNA programs at Minnesota State College Southeast and Mid-America College of Health Sciences cost $875 and $885, respectively. At Holyoke Community College, the Certified Nursing Assistant program costs $2,880. This price includes tuition, supplies, college fees, and the cost of the Nursing Assistant Registry Exam.



Why is a CNA Course Worth It? – the Pros

(The following are the 15 main reasons why a CNA course is worth it.)


REASON #1: You Learn to Care for Others

One of the top reasons why a CNA course is worth it is because you will learn and develop the skills needed to care for others. From learning about basic needs such as feeding, toileting, and bathing to monitoring vital signs, assessing for signs and symptoms of health decline, and working as part of a multidisciplinary team, you will gain valuable skills to help you step into the role of a direct patient care provider.

As a nurse with more than 25 years of experience, I have seen many instances where alert, dedicated CNAs utilized their knowledge and skills to recognize patient needs and alert nurses and other staff when a patient was in distress. The care you provide for your patients can significantly impact their health outcomes and quality of life!


REASON #2: Becoming a CNA Can Lead You to the Path of Becoming a Nurse

Anyone who has read my previous articles knows that one of the things I love about nursing is that there are so many opportunities to grow and advance your career. In fact, one of the reasons why a CNA course is worth it is because you can use it as your first step on the journey to becoming a nurse. Whether you earn your CNA certification and go on to become an LPN, RN, or Nurse Practitioner, there are endless options for learning and advancing your skills and career path.


REASON #3: There is a Demand for Certified Nursing Assistants

One of the biggest reasons why a CNA course is worth it is because there are many job opportunities. Because there is a nationwide shortage of direct care healthcare professionals, such as CNAs and nurses, nursing assistants are needed in almost every healthcare field. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that overall employment of nursing assistants is projected to grow by four percent between 2022 and 2032.


REASON #4: You Get to Become Part of a Team of Providers

I remember once when I was teaching a CNA program that one of my students commented she felt like she was going to be "insignificant" as a nursing assistant. That statement made me sad for her and drove me to reiterate to all CNA students from that day forward the importance of the role of nursing assistants.

When you become a Certified Nurse Assistant, you become part of a dedicated team of healthcare providers. You will work as an integral part of a team whose primary goal is to provide safe, quality patient care designed to promote good patient outcomes.

Your job title does not make you any less significant. In fact, I always tell nurses and nursing students that the best thing they can do is to realize the value that CNAs bring to the team. As a CNA, you will be one of the main people to provide hands-on care for patients. You may be the first person to recognize a change in a patient’s status, changes in their eating or sleeping habits, their personality, or anything else significant to their care. Do not underestimate your value as part of the team!


REASON #5: You Develop Lifelong Relationships

Another thing that makes a CNA course worth it is that you will develop friendships that last a lifetime. You will learn with classmates who have similar interests and goals, which will be the foundation of the bonds you develop with one another. While there will be some people who graduate from the CNA program that you do not see or hear from again, there will also be people whose friendship you can enjoy for many years to come.


REASON #6: You Can Advocate for Patients

As a Certified Nursing Assistant, you will spend a lot of time providing direct care to patients. As a result, you will develop a heightened understanding of your patient’s health and be able to recognize when changes occur that need to be addressed by the healthcare team.

Because you provide the most hands-on care of anyone on the nursing team, do not be surprised when your patients begin to develop a bond with you and talk more openly about their concerns. As you develop a closer relationship with your patients, you become more aware of their thoughts, feelings, and needs, which puts you in the perfect position to be an advocate for them. You may represent your patient in a team meeting and talk to a charge nurse about your concerns or what the patient has voiced to you. Anything you can do that puts the patient’s needs and desires first is an act of advocacy.


REASON #7: You Can Get Certified in a Short Amount of Time

One of the top reasons becoming a CNA is worth it is that you can complete the program in a short amount of time. In fact, most programs last between four and eight weeks, which means you can complete the program, take your certification exam, and begin working within just a few months. If you want to begin a career path but need to start work sooner, rather than later, becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant is worth it.


REASON #8: You May Find a Flexible Work Schedule

Another great thing that makes a CNA course worth it is there are many types of jobs and schedules to choose from. I once worked as a CNA supervisor, and our facility implemented flexible scheduling options. Some CNAs worked schedules that gave them every other weekend off by working four days, being off three, then working three days, and being off four. Also, most CNA schedules are eight hours. So, you probably have options to work days, evenings, or nights.

Additionally, you may have options to work prn or per diem shifts, which not only allow you to choose when you want to work but also tend to pay higher.


REASON #9: You Can Get a Job with Benefits

Something I believe is extremely important when job searching is to consider whether a potential employer offers benefits aside from your salary. One of the great things about a career in healthcare and one of the biggest reasons why a CNA course is worth it is that you can find good jobs with great benefits.

If you have never had a job that offered a benefits package, there are a few things you should look for. Ask questions about medical, dental, and vision insurance first. Depending on the job, you may be offered retirement plan options. Also, do you earn paid sick time and vacation time? A few other things to ask about are whether the company offers professional development incentives, childcare assistance, or wellness initiatives.


REASON #10: You May Be Able to Become a Travel CNA

One trend that has gained popularity in recent years, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic, is travel nursing, and one of the biggest reasons why a CNA course is worth it is that you can become a traveling Certified Nursing Assistant. As a traveling CNA, you may work in hospitals, nursing homes, or home health agencies (to name a few) to fill positions where there is a shortage of CNA staff.

Your role will be the same as with a traditional CNA job, except you will work in different settings based on your contract. Oh, and did I mention the money is good? If you have to travel outside your local geographic region, the agency you work for may cover housing or offer a housing stipend, and the pay rate is usually much higher than a traditional CNA job!


REASON #11: You Have Lots of Options for Diverse Jobs

Another main reason a CNA course is worth it is because it opens up doors for endless learning and employment opportunities! Even if you do not decide to continue your education path and become a nurse, there are still so many things you can learn and things you can do as a Certified Nursing Assistant. While the most common settings where CNAs work are hospitals and long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes, you are not limited to these settings alone. Some CNAs work for home health agencies, hospices, adult daycare centers, public health organizations, and public or private school systems.


REASON #12: Being a CNA is Emotionally Rewarding

I started my healthcare career by becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant. I wanted to get a feel for what it meant to be a care provider, and some of my friends were taking the CNA class, so I joined in with them. One thing I learned quickly is that the work you do as a CNA can be emotionally rewarding.

Even on the days when work is busy, and patients are challenging, there may be one person who smiles at you for the first time or someone who says thank you, and it can completely light up your world! As a Certified Nursing Assistant, you may be the one person who brings a bit of joy to a patient, and that alone is worth it!


REASON #13: You Can Earn Specialty Certifications

One thing I think is important but that many CNA instructors and faculty fail to mention to students is that you also have the option to earn some specialty certifications. While earning a specialty certificate is not required, anything you can do to demonstrate your knowledge and skills makes you a more competitive candidate when it comes to applying for the jobs you really want. A few examples of certifications you can obtain as a Certified Nursing Assistant include Certified Alzheimer’s Caregiver, Certified Wound Care Associate, Medication Aide Certification, and Certified Hospice and Palliative Nursing Assistant.


REASON#14: CNA Programs Won’t Break the Bank!

One of the main reasons a CNA course is worth it is you can complete a program and earn your certification for a relatively reasonable cost. While the cost of programs varies from one school to the next, most Certified Nursing Assistant programs range between $600 and $2,000. Also, you may qualify for federal grants, low-interest loans, or other types of assistance to help with the cost.


REASON #15: You Can Have a Sense of Pride Because of What You Do

Not only is being a Certified Nursing Assistant emotionally rewarding, but you can also have a true sense of professional pride in what you do. When I taught nursing assistant courses, I always felt it was important to remind my students of the impact their care made on patients. Whether you spend extra time visiting with a nursing home resident who has no visitors, offer to fix someone’s hair, or bring them a fresh cup of coffee, the little things to you are often really big things to your patients.

I remember working in a nursing home years ago and caring for a gentleman who never seemed to respond to anyone with interest. He did not leave his room to go to the dining room for meals and usually kept the door closed to his room. Although it took some time, a few of the CNAs who worked that hall with me and I made an effort to check on him more frequently, encourage him to go for walks with us outside, and have coffee on the deck. At first, he was reluctant, but with time, he began to come out of his shell and become more involved. It made a significant difference in both his physical and emotional health. That, my friend, is something to feel professional pride about!



Why a CNA Course May Not Be Worth It for You? – the Cons

(Now that we have discussed the 15 reasons why a CNA course is worth it, I will share 5 main reasons why a CNA course may not be worth it for you.)


REASON #1: A CNA’s Job Can Be Physically Demanding

As with any career or job, there are both advantages and disadvantages. One of the biggest cons of being a CNA, and something that may make you feel a CNA course is not worth it, is that the job is physically demanding. As a Certified Nursing Assistant, you will move heavy patients and equipment. You may be required to be on your feet most of the day, as CNAs are always busy bathing and feeding patients, monitoring vital signs, making patient beds, and helping with other activities of daily living. If you are looking for a job that is not physically demanding, becoming a CNA may not be the best fit for you.


REASON #2: You May Feel Great Loss When a Patient Dies

Unfortunately, one of the most challenging things about being in the nursing profession is that patients do not live forever. As a CNA, it is your job to care for others, to do what you can to make their lives easier and more comfortable and to bring joy to them when you can. It can be easy to become attached to patients, especially if you work somewhere like a nursing home or assisted living facility where you care for the same patients day in and day out. Let me assure you that there is nothing wrong with developing close relationships with your clients as long as you remember to keep things on a professional level. While developing attachments or caring deeply for your patients can be a good thing, it can also lead to feelings of great loss when your patient dies.

Having been a nurse for many years, I can honestly say that losing patients does not get easier. However, with experience, we realize that death is part of living, and we learn to cope with the loss. So, I encourage you to learn to embrace every moment with your patients. Do not only try to add value to your patients’ lives, but learn from them, listen to them, and soak in the things they share with you. If you do, when times of loss occur, memories of those special moments can help you cope.


REASON #3: There Are Other Healthcare Jobs that Pay Much Better

Let’s be honest for a minute here, okay? I do not know of anyone who ever became a Certified Nursing Assistant because they thought they would become rich working this job. Sure, you can earn a good, steady income as a CNA, but there are other healthcare jobs where you can earn a higher salary. For example, the average CNA's annual salary in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is $36,220. LPNs earn a median annual wage of $55,860. Registered nurses earn an average of $81,220.

Am I discouraging you from becoming a CNA? Absolutely not, but I believe it is important to weigh the pros and cons when choosing a career path, and salary is one of the biggest factors to consider. I suggest thinking about where you want to be in a year, five years, ten years, or longer. Then, think about the paths you can take to get where you want to go.

For instance, you may choose to begin your healthcare career as a CNA and then go back to school to become a nurse, which means an increase in pay. On the other hand, if you want to start work at a job that pays big money, you may feel a CNA course is not worth it.


REASON #4: Some Patients Can Be Difficult!

No matter where you work, you will find there are difficult people everywhere! As a member of the healthcare team providing direct patient care, CNAs often see patients at their worst. There will be days when you have patients who are sad, depressed, worried, afraid, angry, and even combative.

Caring for patients, even when they are difficult to handle, takes patience. One thing I like to remind CNAs and nurses working with me is that we all have bad days, including our patients. Even if they seem rude or difficult to deal with, try to take into account what they are experiencing. While you do not have to accept abuse, sometimes all it takes is to show empathy and compassion to help calm a stressful situation.


REASON #5: You Have A LOT of Responsibility

If you think becoming a CNA is taking the “easy way” when it comes to patient care, you are wrong! Although Certified Nursing Assistants do not have the same scope of practice as licensed nurses, you will still have a great deal of responsibility.

As a CNA, you will be among the caregivers who have the most direct contact with patients. In addition to providing for daily needs such as bathing, dressing, grooming, and feeding, you will also be the eyes and ears of nurses and doctors. If you find yourself struggling when you must accomplish multiple tasks or shuddering at the idea of having a lot of responsibility, I can tell you with 100% certainty that a CNA course is not worth it for you.



What is the Average Salary for CNA Professionals?


The average salary for professional Certified Nursing Assistants is $36,220 per year. This annual pay breaks down to equal $3,020 per month, $697 per week, or $17.41 per hour.

Hourly$17.41
Weekly$697
Monthly$3,020
Annual$36,220
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)



Is The Cost of a CNA Course Worth the Return on Investment (ROI)?


If you want to earn a certification that will give you a quick return on your investment, a CNA course is certainly worth it. When you consider the cost of a CNA program ranges between $600 and $2,000, and the average annual salary of a Certified Nursing Assistant in the U.S. is $36,220, it is clear that the return on investment is well worth the cost. In fact, even if you chose one of the more expensive CNA programs, you could earn more than ten times your investment in the first year of work!



My Final Thoughts


If you are considering a healthcare career but do not want to spend a long time in school or have a lot of money to invest, you may wonder, “Is a CNA course worth it?” I understand the questions and how tough deciding on a college and career path can be. That is why, in this article, I shared 15 reasons why a CNA course is worth it and 5 reasons why it may not be the right course for you.

There are pros and cons to every education and career path, and knowing what to expect can help you decide which path is best to help you achieve your goals. If you want to see what a career in healthcare as a patient care provider is like, I encourage you to consider a CNA course. The nursing industry is full of opportunities, and the Certified Nursing Assistant path is a great place to start!



List Of Sources Used For This Article


1. “Nursing Assistants and Orderlies: Occupational Outlook Handbook: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics”(bls.gov)
2. “The Role of a CNA in Patient Advocacy” https://onlinecnaclasses.com/the-role-of-a-cna-in-patient-advocacy/
3. “What Is a Traveling CNA and How to Become One” (ziprecruiter.com)
4. “11 Places Where CNAs Can Work” (indeed.com)
5. National Certification Board for Alzheimer’s Care
6. American Board of Wound Management
7. National Council of State Boards of Nursing
8. Hospice & Palliative Credentialing Center
9. “Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) Salary- 2024” (nursingprocess.org)


Darby Faubion, RN, BSN, MBA
Darby Faubion is a nurse and allied health instructor with over 20 years of clinical experience. Her work history includes clinical experience in pediatrics, mental health, addiction and behavioral disorders, geriatrics, wound management, and communicable disease. Darby has worked in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and home health and hospice agencies. Darby also has experience as a nursing and allied health educator at both community college and university levels. Her love for nursing and nursing education led to her becoming a test-taking strategist and NCLEX prep coach.