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 registration. 

Information Session Flyer (PDF)

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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).

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

  • Spring I: 9-week session. Class begins in January.
    • Spring I CNA meets on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, eight-hours per day.
  • Spring II: 9-week session. Class begins in March. 
    • Spring II CNA meets on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, eight-hours per day.
  • Summer: 9-week session. Class begins in June.
    • Summer CNA meets on Monday-Thursday, eight-hours per day.
  • Fall: 18-week session. Class starts in August.
    • Fall CNA meets on Thursday and Friday, eight-hours per day.

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)
Clinical work: 7am - 3:30pm (CNA-20L: 3 UNIT)
*Schedule may slightly adjust due to COVID and holidays

Reading 56 or higher is recommended preparation for this course.

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. 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 by mail, CNA application packet must be postmarked by the deadline to be considered.

  • Download and review the CNA Program Checklist & Application (PDF) and Physical Exam/Immunization forms (PDF) for details on all that is needed to apply.
  • Letters of acceptance will be emailed to SWC email accounts after the application deadline and after all applications have been reviewed. Notifications will not be sent to personal email accounts. Applicants who are accepted into the program will NOT be able to postpone their acceptance and will need to reapply, if they defer.

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 Period

Submit your CNA Program application packet during the dates listed below.

  • Spring I, 2024
    Monday, September 11, 2023, through Wednesday, November, 1, 2023. (Class starts January 2024).
  • Spring II, 2024
    Tuesday, November 28, 2023, through Friday, February, 2, 2024. (Class starts March 2024).  
  • Summer 2024
    Monday, February 26, 2024, through Thursday, April, 4, 2024. (Class starts June 2024).
  • Fall 2024
    Monday, May 6, 2024, through Thursday, June 6, 2024. (Class starts August 2024). 

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).


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