Expand Your Healthcare Career: Extra Training and Certifications Beyond CNA
You’ve been working as a CNA for a year or two, and while you still love healthcare, you’re ready for something new. What are your options if you don’t want to go down the traditional nursing-related CNA career paths but are looking for a new challenge?
Fortunately, with your experience, continuing education, and extra certifications, you can find a variety of healthcare jobs that let you use your CNA training and nursing assistant skills to work in a slightly different field. Check out these jobs for experienced CNAs who want to take the next step.
6 Alternative Job Opportunities for Experienced CNAs
In many cases, a short certification or additional on-the-job training can qualify you for an upgraded job title, bump up your salary, or even set you on a new career path.
Whether you need more money, are looking for a different work environment, or want to learn and utilize new skills, these healthcare careers may be exactly what you’re looking for.
1. Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)
CMAs perform more advanced clinical tasks than CNAs, such as venipuncture and administering medications and injections. They’re also responsible for various administrative tasks—including patient scheduling and medical records management.
While CMA training typically takes 1-2 years of full-time study, experienced certified nursing assistants can enroll in CNA to CMA bridge training programs that significantly shorten the time it takes to move into this career. In fact, with two years of verifiable work experience, CNAs can train to become a CMA in just 12 weeks! Other programs only require 300 hours of CNA experience to enroll in an accelerated training program.
Not only will you learn additional clinical skills as a CMA, but you can make more money and may have more job opportunities due to your advanced skill set. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2021, the average annual salary for medical assistants in the U.S. was $38,190, compared to $33,250 for nursing assistants.
2. Qualified Medication Aide (QMA)
When looking at CNA vs. QMA careers, the difference lies in the ability to deliver medications to patients. Under a nurse’s supervision, QMAs administer prescription and non-prescription medication and monitor patients’ reactions—in addition to performing traditional CNA job responsibilities.
After around 1,000 hours of work, CNAs can undergo 100 additional hours of training to become a QMA, working in a variety of healthcare settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, and long-term care facilities.
Medication aides can make around $40,378 annually, which is more than the average yearly salary for CNAs. Being trained to administer medication on top of providing basic patient care also makes QMAs in-demand healthcare professionals.
3. Anesthesia Technician
Anesthesia technicians clean, sterilize, and set up anesthesia equipment; help monitor, position, and transport patients; and assist with patient airway management.
Although anesthesia technicians don’t usually need specific certification other than Basic Life Support (BLS), most employers look for six months to a year of healthcare experience, such as working as a CNA. If you’re already working as a CNA in a hospital or surgery center environment, you can apply for anesthesia technician roles as they come available and receive specific on-the-job training.
One bonus of this career path is a higher annual salary, with an average of $44,076 nationwide. Plus, if you find you enjoy this career, you can go on to earn your associate degree and become an anesthesia technologist with an even higher wage.
4. Emergency Room Technician
Emergency room technicians (also called ER techs or ED techs) work in hospital emergency rooms assisting patients, taking vitals, stocking supplies, and performing basic medical procedures—like blood draws, EKGs, catheterization, splinting, and wound dressing changes.
Qualifications to work as an ER tech vary by employer, but most hospitals require one year of healthcare experience and either CNA or EMT certification. Some employers provide on-the-job training, and others require completion of short phlebotomy and EKG courses and a CNA license.
CNAs who get tired of working in long-term care may find the challenge of ER work invigorating. Due to the short-term nature of the department, ER techs encounter new patient scenarios every day and are continually learning new skills. And they get to work with and learn from doctors much more often than when working in nursing homes or other similar facilities. The average annual salary for ER techs is $46,381 per year.
5. Rehab Technician
Rehab technicians (also called mobility technicians) help physical and occupational therapists provide functional rehabilitation care to patients. They maintain equipment, transport clients, and assist with treatments to help patients regain mobility, speech, and auditory functions.
For the most part, rehab technicians don’t need any additional training beyond CNA to move into this role. Still, most providers want applicants to have at least one year of healthcare experience or 1,800+ hours of CNA experience.
Salaries for rehab technicians are similar to those for CNAs. While this career path may not come with a pay increase, many CNAs find these roles particularly rewarding, as they get to help patients of all ages recover and heal from injuries, surgeries, and medical issues.
6. Monitor Technician
Also referred to as EKG technicians, monitor technicians track patients’ heart performance and check for abnormalities using EKG tests, stress tests, and other technology. Monitor technicians don’t usually provide treatment, but they interpret test results and report changes to nursing staff.
Job qualifications vary among employers, but most prefer healthcare experience, and many provide on-the-job training. To stand out among other applicants, CNAs can pursue certification, such as Certified Cardiac Technician (CCT), Certified Rhythm Analysis Technician (CRAT), and Certified ECG Technician (CET). Short, online courses that take two to four weeks can prepare students for national certification.
On average, monitor or EKG technicians make $40,300 per year—those with certifications can likely make more. This job may be a good fit for CNAs who want to specialize their skills and step away from some of the more basic patient care responsibilities.