How to Become a CNA in New Jersey

How to Become a CNA in New Jersey

If you’re wondering how to become a nurse, the first thing you should figure out is what type you want to be — and deciding to be a CNA is an excellent choice.

The path to being a CNA in New Jersey might not be as complicated as getting your RN or LPN licence, but it will still require time and energy. 

Besides, steps vary between states, so it’s easy to get confused. Fortunately, we’ve looked into it and created a comprehensive guide on how to become a CNA in New Jersey. 

Today, we’ll go through five distinct steps — each plays a crucial part in your journey. But, in broad strokes, here’s how we’ll break it down:

  • Know Your Options for Certification
  • Find Your Ideal NATCEP Provider
  • Meet Enrollment Requirements
  • Complete an Approved Nurse Aide Program
  • Undergo the Certification Exam

Interesting, huh? So let’s not waste time — let’s start!

How to Become a CNA in New Jersey in 5 Steps

The state exam determines whether or not you get your certificate. But to get there, you’ll first have to put in quite a lot of effort in the steps leading up to it. 

But that’s why we’re here!

Below we’ve mapped out the 5 steps to becoming a CNA. We’ve also listed all the options you have, allowing you to make the best decisions for your career.

Let’s examine these further.

Step #1: Know Your Options for Certification

The first step is to know your options for certification. 

There are three different ways to obtain your New Jersey CNA certification:

  • When you don’t need to attend training or the exam
  • When you only need to pass the exam (waiver process), and
  • When you need to attend training and pass the exam

When you DON’T NEED to attend training or the exam

If you already have a CNA certification from another state (and you don’t have any criminal convictions), you can skip the required training program and competency exam if you apply based on Continuing Education units. It’s also essential that your state’s nurse registry has no findings of abuse, neglect, or misappropriation.

You must have completed 24 hours of Continuing Education to qualify for this reciprocity route. Twelve out of the 24 must be about providing care for residents with dementia-related diseases, like Alzheimer’s. The other 12 must be on the following subjects:

  • Misappropriation of residents’ property, abuse, and neglect
  • Resident rights
  • Pharmacy 

When you only need to pass the CNA examination (The Waiver Process)

The following situations may qualify you for a waiver, which means you don’t need to take an approved nurse aide training program.

Look and see whether any of these scenarios apply to you:

  • You have an active CNA license in another state or U.S. territory, have a clean criminal and professional record, and are applying based on employment.

NOTE: You must have worked as a CNA in a licensed nursing home for the last two years, full-time (defined as at least 35 hours a week)

  • You are a nursing student or graduate who has completed the fundamentals of nursing course. You must submit documentation to prove this. This also applies to a foreign-licensed nurse.
  • You gathered experience in the military and completed training within the last 12 months.
  • You were certified as a nurse aide in New Jersey within the last five years but did not renew it.
  • You’re NOT a certified HHA but have completed the following courses:
    • Long-Term Care Module of the Core Curriculum for Unlicensed Assistive Personnel
    • Core Curriculum for Unlicensed Assistive Personnel
  • If you checked any of these boxes, go straight to Step 5.

When you need to attend training and pass the CAN examination

The two scenarios that require you to undergo both the approved training program and the certification exam are as follows:

  • You’re a new nurse aide. 
  • You were a licensed CNA in New Jersey more than five years ago, and your certification has expired. 

It’s the longest route to getting your certificate. However, we’ll be with you for the entire journey.

Your next step? Step 2.

Step #2: Find Your Ideal NATCEP Provider

Now that you know you need to take the required training, it’s time to choose your provider.

Remember, everything you learn stems from this. If you choose a provider with an approach that doesn’t match your preferences, you may not have the best experience.

However, you can’t go around asking for the best NATCEP provider in New Jersey. Everyone’s definition of the best is different, so you must decide what works for you.

Here are several areas you should consider before choosing:

  • State-Approved: Before anything else, ensure the provider delivers an approved program. The worst thing that can happen is that the Board won’t recognize your training. Don’t worry, though. New Jersey’s Department of Health has a list of approved providers arranged by county.
  • Program Length: Durations vary depending on the provider. Some run longer than others. At the very least, the program must meet the education requirement for CNAs in New Jersey. Remember, the longer the program, the more costly it tends to be.
  • Tuition: Cost is a factor you cannot NOT consider. Rates vary between providers, so it’s best to compare fees before selecting your school. 
  • Student Support Programs: Some providers have ties to health facilities. That might come in handy once you have your certificate. Another area to explore is whether or not you qualify for financial aid.
  • Learning Options: Check if you can take some program parts online. A self-paced segment can provide flexibility that a traditional classroom setup can’t. Another factor is the schedule. If you have other obligations and can’t attend the entire day, every day, a provider with more flexible schedules may work out better for you.

Step #3: Meet Enrollment Requirements

Once you know where you want to go, it’s time to see enrollment requirements. These vary between providers, so it’s best to check.

However, at the very least, you must meet the following:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have a high school diploma or a GED
  • Have a Social Security Number
  • Pass a 2-step PPD and a 9-panel drug test
  • Provide proof of immunizations
  • Pass a health screening and a criminal background check
  • Obtain supplies, materials, textbooks, and uniforms: other items your tuition fee doesn’t cover

Step #4: Complete an Approved Nurse Aide Program

Gathering the enrollment requirements is one thing. Undergoing, finishing, and passing the program is another.

New Jersey requires all aspiring CNAs to have at least 90 hours of training. The NATCEP (Nurse Aide in Long Term Care Facilities Training and Competency Evaluation Program) fulfills this and has two segments. 

The first segment is classroom instruction for 50 hours. Some providers allow you to take this online. However, the remainder of the program must be done in person.

The remaining 40 hours are for clinical practice.

Don’t take NATCEP for granted. Remember, you’re about to take the certification exam. And the best thing that’ll help you pass is taking advantage of everything your program offers.

Step #5: Undergo the Certification Exam

Like other states, the certification exam in New Jersey has two portions: a skills evaluation and a written exam. The first step is submitting your application and paying the $76 testing fee, which covers both parts of the exam.

Once you apply, you have two years to pass the written and skills tests. We suggest that you don’t proceed with these immediately. Instead, take care of your Criminal Background Investigation (CBI) first.


All CNA candidates must complete a CBI application and a fingerprint appointment. If you’re a new nurse aide, your program provider will give you the CBI application form.

CNAs applying through reciprocity will find a copy of the application form in their packet. Those going through the waiver process will receive it once the Department of Health gets your request.

It’s best to read all the instructions and follow them to the letter. If you miss out on any steps, you may experience a delay or, worse, the denial of your certification.

The Skills Evaluation

Unlike other states, you’ll begin with the skills portion of the examination. The RN Test evaluator will ask you to complete five tasks, each requiring you to demonstrate a skill.

One of these will be handwashing. The evaluator chooses the remaining four randomly.

You must score an 80% on each of your assigned tasks, so listen intently when your RN evaluator is giving instructions, and don’t hesitate to clarify items. Once you begin your test, you can no longer ask questions.

You must receive a passing score on all tasks. You will receive the results of your skills evaluation within ten days of your testing date.

You get three chances to clear this portion of the certification exam. Otherwise, you must retake a nurse aide program before scheduling another test.

The Written Examination

After passing the skills evaluation, you must contact PSI to schedule your written exam. You can call their registrar or find an exam schedule on their website

Ensure you arrive half an hour before your schedule and bring two IDs. One of these must be government-issued.

You’ll have a semi-private testing station where you can access a computer. This computer provides a short tutorial so you’ll understand how to navigate the system.

PSI releases the results immediately after the examination. If you pass and you’ve completed all your requirements, you’ll go home with your certificate in hand. If you haven’t completed your CBI, they’ll take your photo and advise you to call them once you’ve finished the background check and fingerprint appointment.

However, if you fail, you’ll receive a report highlighting your areas of strengths and those for development. Like the skills evaluation, you have three attempts to pass. Otherwise, you must retake the nurse aide program before trying again.

Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a CNA in New Jersey

What’s the composition of the written portion of the certification exam?

Knowing the covered topics in the written portion can give you an advantage. The New Jersey CNA written test covers 12 areas. 

The number of questions per topic is as follows:

Basic Nursing Skills11
Personal Care6
CommunicationRole / ResponsibilityCare ImpairedAging Process / Restorative Care5 each
SafetyInfection ControlData CollectionDisease ProcessMental Health4 each
Resident Rights3

How long does my New Jersey CNA certification remain active?

You must renew your certificate biennially (every two years). New Jersey does not require CNAs to complete continuing education to qualify for renewal.

However, you must comply with the following:

  • Have a valid nurse aide certificate (and was not revoked or suspended)
  • Worked for at least seven hours as a CNA in a licensed health care facility in the 24 hours directly before your renewal date
  • Received compensation for your services
  • Completed a criminal background before your certificate expired

How much do CNAs in New Jersey earn?

Nursing assistants have a mean annual salary of $33,250 as of May 2021. CNAs working in New Jersey have a mean wage of $31,620 per year. 

Remember that several factors may affect your rate. These include your location, experience, and industry.

The Wrap Up

Well, that was pretty exhaustive, wouldn’t you say? But now you have everything you need to become a CNA in New Jersey.

All you need to do is begin. Good luck!

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