How to Become a CNA in Pennsylvania (A Complete 2023 Guide)

How to Become a CNA in Pennsylvania

Becoming a CNA in Pennsylvania is an excellent career choice. 

Plus, the requirements are so easy compared to, say, RNs or LPNs. 

To make it even easier, this complete guide on how to become a CNA in Pennsylvania will list all the steps for you. More than that, we’ll walk you through each step.

By the end, you’ll know what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. 

So let’s begin right away!

How to Become a CNA in Pennsylvania- You Only Need to Complete 6 Steps!

Here are the 6 steps to becoming a CNA in Pennsylvania:

  1. Understand your options
  2. Find an approved CNA program
  3. Work on your eligibility 
  4. Complete your CNA training
  5. Take and pass the CNA exam
  6. Become a certified nursing assistant! 

Let’s get to the details!

Step #1: Understand Your Options

Yes, we’re all gunning for that certification, but do you know the most efficient way to get there? 

In Pennsylvania, there are 5 distinct paths available — these depend on your situation. 

The table below can help you determine which path you should take.

PathBest ForNext Step
E-0You are applying as a new nurse aide. You will need to complete an approved nurse aide program and take the certification exam.Step #2
E-3You already received your PA certification, but it has expired. Plus, you have not worked in a nursing-related field in the last 24 months.Step #5
(You have one attempt to pass the certification exam. Otherwise, you need to retake a nurse aid program and reapply via Route E-0.)
E-4You already received your certification in another state, but it has expired. Plus, you have not worked in a nursing-related field in the last 24 months.Step #5
(You have one attempt to pass the certification exam. Otherwise, you need to retake a nurse aid program and reapply via Route E-0.)
E-6You are a temporary nurse aide and have filled out a Nurse Aide Attestation Form.Step #5
(Unfortunately, the deadline for this expires on Dec. 21, 2022. This will no longer be available to you)
ReciprocityYou have an active certificate from another state and have a clean record.1. Create an account at Credentia CNA365.
2. Choose “Reciprocity Request” from your home screen.
3. Fill out the necessary fields (the state that issued your certificate, your certification number, and its expiration date)
4. Upload a copy of your current certificate and click submit.
5. You will receive an email once your application is approved.

Step #2: Find an Approved CNA Program 

If you’re taking Path E-0, you must go through a nurse aide program. 

IMPORTANT! The program must be approved in Pennsylvania. 

To be sure, you can find a list of approved CNA program providers in the state here

Now, there’s no lack of programs to choose from. So to help you trim down your options, here are some criteria to consider:

  • Program Length and Class Type: Providers offer programs of varying lengths. Some are as short as 80 hours, while others run for almost 230 hours. You can also choose between completing it at a nursing facility (nursing home) or an educational entity (community college).
  • Flexibility Options: Some programs have rigid schedules, requiring you to attend classes the entire day, 5 days a week. It’s an excellent option if you want to finish sooner. However, if you have other obligations, you may want to choose a provider that offers shorter schedules or night classes.
  • Cost: It’s always a wise idea to check tuition fees. Of course, lengthier programs tend to be more expensive. But if you don’t have the budget, you can get FREE training from a facility in exchange for your service once you’re certified. 
  • Student Support Services: Besides the curriculum, see if your provider can offer additional support, such as financial aid or partnerships with health facilities.

Step #3: Work on Your Eligibility

Once you find the perfect CNA program for you, check if you meet its eligibility requirements. 

Now, the requirements may differ per provider. However, these are usually what they look for: 

  • Be at least 16-18 years old.
  • Pass a Criminal History Record Information from the Pennsylvania State Police. You must complete this within 12 months before enrolling in the program.
  • An FBI report if you only lived in Pennsylvania for less than two years.
  • Pass a physical exam.
  • Test negative for a 2-step Mantoux (tuberculin skin test).
  • Have full use of both hands and can bend, push, and pull.
  • Can lift as much as 40 pounds without asking for help.
  • Be proficient in Math and English.

If you don’t meet the eligibility requirements – don’t worry. You can spend time working towards meeting it. 

Step #4: Complete Your CNA Training

In Pennsylvania, you need to complete a minimum of 80 hours for your CNA training. At least 37.5 of those hours should focus on clinical practice. 

Now, we say that, but most approved programs have more hours for additional learning. You’ll probably have to complete 120 to 150 hours of training, depending on your provider. 

If you ask us, getting more hours is great as it will allow you more chances to pass the CNA exam on your first try. 

Step #5: Take and Pass the CNA Exam

You’re on to the last step!

We’re breaking this down into 5 sections: 

  • How to register for your CNA exam
  • How to schedule your CNA exam
  • What to bring to your CNA exam
  • The written / oral exam
  • The skills test 

How to Register for Your CNA Exam

The CNA exam in Pennsylvania is administered by Credentia. You must register and schedule your CNA exam with them. 

Here are the steps to register: 

  1. Go to the Credentia website and log in. If you don’t have an account yet, you can sign up on the same page.
  1. Go to your dashboard once you activate your account. Select “Start New Application.”
  1. Select which path you’re taking. To review your options, check out Step #1 again.
  1. Confirm your path by marking the box in the instructions pane with a check. 
  1. Click on Start, and you’ll go to the online application form.
  1. You must complete all 4 fields — Training Program Completion, Screening Questions, Accommodations (if necessary), and Registrant Certification.
  1. Click on submit after you’ve finished. Credentia will send you an email regarding your application’s approval.

How to Schedule Your CNA Exam

You can schedule your CNA exam after receiving your application approval. 

Here are the steps to secure a testing date:

  1. Log on to your Credentia account and go to Exam Schedule. Click on Register for Exam to begin the process.
  1. Select which exam you want to schedule — The Written Exam, the Oral Exam in English, the Oral Exam in Spanish, and the Skills Exam.

NOTE: You can only schedule one exam at a time.

  1. For the written/oral exam, you can choose to take it online or at a testing center. 

NOTE: If taken online, you can only use a laptop, desktop, or Chromebook that meets the system requirements. Tablets and smartphones aren’t allowed. Candidates who opt for an oral exam must also have a working headset.

  1. Pay the necessary testing fee. Here are the testing fees in Pennsylvania:
Written Exam and Skills Evaluation$135
Oral Exam and Skills Evaluation$135
Written Exam Only (for re-testers only)$50
Oral Exam Only (for re-testers only)$50
Skills Evaluation Only (for re-testers only)$85

What to Bring to Your CNA Exam

Don’t forget to bring the following:

  • 2 current government-issued IDs with a signature and photo, as well as a name that matches your Credentia registration
  • 3 number 2 pencils with erasers. You won’t be allowed to use pens or a pencil that is too thin or thick. 
  • Watch with a secondhand. 
  • During your skills test, the appropriate attire – flat, closed-toes shoes and a uniform or scrubs. 

The Written / Oral Exam

On the day of your written or oral exam, ensure you check in at least 30 minutes before your schedule. This applies whether you’re taking it online or at a testing center.

Now, candidates who take a written exam must answer 70 multiple-choice questions in 2 hours. Your proctor will let you know when you only have 15 minutes left.

If you chose to take this exam orally, you must complete 60 multiple-choice and 10 reading comprehension questions. You also have 2 hours to complete everything.

You can check your results through your Credentia account.

The Skills Test

Prepare to demonstrate 5 nurse aide skills within 30 minutes. One skill you need to perform is proper handwashing techniques. The nurse aide evaluator selects the other skills randomly.

NOTE: They always include a measurement skill.

You must pass all 5 skills to complete this portion.

Step #6: Become a Certified Nursing Assistant!

Passed both portions of the CNA Exam?

Your time here is done. 

All there’s left to do is wait for Credentia to list your name in the Pennsylvania Nurse Aide Registry. 

And that’s it!

Frequently Asked Questions About CNAs in Pennsylvania

Got some questions? Let’s go over the most frequently asked ones. 

How much do CNAs earn in Pennsylvania? 

As of May 2021, the median annual salary for nursing assistants in the U.S. was $33,250. CNAs in Pennsylvania can potentially earn more. The median wage in the state is $34,190 per year.

This is why becoming CNA is an excellent career choice in the state!

How long does my CNA certificate remain valid in Pennsylvania?

CNAs in Pennsylvania need to renew their certificates biennially. Although you don’t have to earn CE hours, renewal doesn’t happen automatically.

Instead, you must have worked as a nurse aide in a nursing home, hospital, or home health environment within 24 months immediately before your certificate expires. You need a minimum of 8 hours. Plus, you must have received compensation for that work. 

What does the CNA written or oral exam cover?

The CNA exam has three main segments: Physical Care Skills, Psychosocial Care Skills, and the Nurse Aide’s Role. Each of these contains various sections.

The table below shows which topics have more questions compared with others:

SegmentSectionNumber of Questions
Physical Care SkillsDaily Living Activities9
Physical Care SkillsBasic Nursing Skills23
Physical Care SkillsRestorative Skills5
Psychosocial Care SkillsEmotional and Mental Health Needs6
Psychosocial Care SkillsSpiritual and Cultural Needs2
Nurse Aide’s RoleCommunication4
Nurse Aide’s RoleClient Rights4
Nurse Aide’s RoleLegal and Ethical Behavior2
Nurse Aide’s RoleMember of the Health Care Team5

The Wrap Up

And there you have it — all the information you need on how to become a CNA in Pennsylvania. 

Remember, everything begins with knowing which path to take. From there, you’ll determine whether you can sit for a CNA exam right away or need to go through an approved CNA program first. 

Regardless of your path, you have all the steps you need to complete the process. 

Good luck!

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