A photo of three Certified Nursing Assistants talking to each other while walking down a hallway of a medical facility


A Key Member of the Healthcare Team

The huge demand for nurses means that Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA) are more important now than ever. Students will learn key aspects of the nursing profession before applying for certification. The job of a certified nursing assistant can lead to a rewarding career, but can also be a jumping off point to higher positions in healthcare, like the Vocational Nursing (VN) Program and the Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN-RN) Program at Southwestern College.

Under the supervision of Registered Nurses, a Certified Nursing Assistant is key to completing and fulfilling patient needs and care. 

Information Sessions

Learn about our programs and how to apply by attending a virtual Information Session on Zoom. Please see the Information Session Flyer (PDF) for details and to RSVP for a session. 

Information Session Flyer (PDF)

Learn More. Earn More.

This program is designed for students interested in a career in nursing. Completion of the Certified Nursing Assistant Program confers eligibility to take the State exam. CNA certification is highly recommended and has the highest points allotted for entrance into the Associate Degree in Nursing Program and is required for the Vocational Nursing Program.

Certified Nursing Assistants are employed by hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and other health care agencies. The course content includes fundamental procedures to meet the basic needs of patients, gathering data about the patients, communicating appropriately and other content required by State regulations for nurse assistant certification.

The lab portion of the course includes skills required for nurse assistant certification such as fundamental procedures to meet basic human needs, gathering data about the patient and communicating appropriately. Information about the health care system and how it functions is also included.

CNA Program Information

The CNA Program is an 8.5-unit course and consists of CNA-20 (5.5 units of lecture) and CNA-20L (3 units of lab). Students attend class, skills lab and complete clinical work for 9-weeks (if enrolled for spring or summer) or 18-weeks (if enrolled for fall).

Update: English Learner Support for CNA Students!

CNA Students in Spring II and Fall 2024 classes will get extra English language support from an English as a Second Language (ESL) professor. Students will have support from the ESL professor DURING the CNA class and can meet with the ESL professor outside of CNA class times for extra help. The CNA class will continue to be taught in English as usual but will have an ESL professor present during lectures as a resource at no cost (free for students enrolled in CNA class). A minimum level of intermediate English is required to be successful in the CNA Program.   

The CNA Program is offered every semester in January, March, June, and August:

  • Spring I, CNA (January): 9-week session
    • Spring I, CNA meets on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; eight-hours per day.
    • Class is January - March
  • Spring II, CNA (March): 9-week session
    • Spring II, CNA meets on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; eight-hours per day.
    • Class is March - May
  • Summer CNA (June): 9-week session 
    • Summer CNA meets on Monday-Thursday; eight-hours per day.
    • Class is June - August
  • Fall CNA (August): 18-week session 
    • Fall CNA meets on Thursday and Friday; eight-hours per day.
    • Class is August - December

The CNA class is repeatable only once and attendance to all class meeting days is mandatory.

Class Schedule

Class meets: 8am - 4:30pm (CNA-20: 5.5 UNITS). Lecture and lab will be held on campus at SWC Higher Education Center, Otay Mesa (HECOM) during these hours each day for the first half of the semester.
Clinical work: 7am - 3:30pm (CNA-20L: 3 UNIT). After completing lecture and lab on campus, students will go to clinical sites (assigned nursing homes) during these hours for the second half of the semester. 

*Schedule may slightly adjust due to COVID and holidays

Please note: If a student fails out of ANY nursing program for unsafe clinical practice or a violation of professional, legal, or unethical conduct, that student may be ineligible for admission to any Southwestern College Nursing or Health Occupation Program.


Priority enrollment/acceptance is given to students who apply during the designated application period. Submit a complete application packet based on the checklist provided. The application packet must include the physical exam and immunization forms filled out by your healthcare provider. The forms and copies of immunization records and/or titer (blood test) results are required for clinical placement in the program.

CNA application packets can be submitted in person or by U.S. Mail.
If submitting by mail, CNA application packet must be postmarked by the deadline to be considered.

The CNA program accepts 30-40 students for each class. We will accept additional students as alternates (in case potential students from the accepted group are unable to participate). All accepted students are expected to meet on the first day at 8 a.m. Students who fail to meet the class will have to re-apply for the next available course.

Application Periods

Submit your CNA Program application packet during the dates listed:

Application Period Program Start
September 9, 2024 - November 1, 2024 SPRING I, 2025 (January)
November 18, 2024 - February 10, 2025 SPRING II, 2025 (March)
February 24, 2025 - March 28, 2025 SUMMER 2025 (June)
May 5, 2025 - June 5, 2025 FALL 2025 (August)

Note: Submitting an application does not guarantee entry into the program. The application period can end sooner if an overwhelming number of applications are received, or it can be extended if/when spots are available for a class.

Application Documents & Instructions

Before filling out the application, review the CNA Program checklist to gather all required documents and forms. Click the link below for a copy of the checklist (PDF). 

Download, print and fill out the physical exam and immunization forms (pages 1-7). Pages 1-2 are filled out by you. Your healthcare provider/doctor will fill out pages 3-4 (physical exam) and pages 5-7 (immunizations, TB test results, and flu shot form).

Submit the physical exam and immunization forms (pages 1-7) filled out; and a copy of your immunization records and/or titers (lab work) for MMR, Hep B, Varicella, TDAP, COVID-19, flu shot, and TB test results with your CNA application packet.

Important note: Give yourself and your doctor/healthcare provider ample time to complete the physical exam/immunization forms. Most of the work in applying for the CNA Program involves getting these forms filled out and providing copies of your records.

Update related to CoVid-19 vaccine: All major Healthcare Systems in San Diego County require students and faculty to be fully vaccinated for CoVid-19. Applicants to any Nursing and Health Occupations (ADN, VN-Step-up, VN, CNA, Acute Care CNA, Surgical Technology, Central Service Technician, and Operating Room Nurse) programs will be required to submit proof of vaccine status at time of application (Rev. 04-24-23).

State Certification

After successful completion of the nursing assistant training program, you are eligible to apply for the California Department of Health Services, Licensing and Certification exam. The exam is administered on campus and the current fee is $120.00 (subject to change).


Degrees/Certificates Available

Cesar Chavez Building

Career Center Counseling Appointment

Get help choosing your classes, developing your Student Education Plan (SEP), or polishing your resume

Current Catalog

Get the specifics

Related Occupations

Learn more.