What is Certification?

CNA Certification Program

“Certification really gives that extra knowledge that makes a difference in your nursing care.”

Read what certified nurses say about the value of their credential.

If you are not a CNA member, join CNA and save on certification renewal! Please note you will need to renew your certification first as a non-member. Once membership registration opens, join CNA and email us. We will refund your member exclusive savings.

What is certification?

CNA certification [PDF, 1.5 MB] is a nationally recognized nursing specialty credential for nurses. The CNA Certification Program consists of 22 nursing practice specialties — check out the list.

Care to Be the Best

The first certification exam, offered in 1991, was in neuroscience nursing. Today, more than 15,000 nurses are CNA certified (see breakdown by specialty and province/territory).

Certified nurses are…

  • Recognized nationally for their practice excellence and commitment to lifelong learning
  • Valued by employers, because their certification demonstrates specialized knowledge and brings many benefits to organizations
  • Viewed as having enhanced professional credibility

To become certified, you must pass a rigorous computer-based exam. There are two exam windows annually (see important dates). Your exam preparation will be unique, depending on what you already know in your specialty. We offer many exam preparation resources, as do many nursing specialty associations.

If you become certified, your credential will be valid for a five-year term. At the end of five years, you can renew by submitting a record of continuous learning hours or rewriting the exam.

New requirements to make certification more accessible

We want certification to be more accessible to nurses while maintaining our established high quality and credibility. We’ve heard from you that the CNA Certification Program must evolve to match changes in nursing curriculums and practice. That’s why the eligibility specialty experience hours required for nurses to apply for certification will be reduced. There are two options:

  1. 1,950 hours of experience in your nursing specialty within the last five years (formerly 3,900 hours).
  2. 1,000 hours of experience in your nursing specialty within the last five years plus 300 hours of formal education, which can be a specialty post-basic course or program at a college/university (as opposed to the former 2,925 hours of specialty experience plus education).

For more details, see the application process.

Recently added exams

Some of our newest certifications include:

  • Medical-surgical and gerontology for licensed practical nurses and registered practical nurses
  • Gerontology as well as psychiatric and mental health for registered psychiatric nurses
  • Pediatrics for registered nurses and nurse practitioners

The CNA Certification Program consists of 22 nursing practice specialties.

Interested in applying?

Read our important dates to learn when you can apply for and renew your specialty certification. A promotional poster is also available for download. If you’re ready to apply for or renew your certification, sign in to your CNA account. Before doing so, you may want to learn more about the application process or renewal requirements.

Missed your renewal? Please contact the certification team to discuss your options.

CNA members receive significant savings on their certification application fee. Visit our membership webpage for fees, benefits and instructions on how to join.