In California, certified nursing assistants, or CNAs, qualify for the job by completing state-approved training and passing certification exams. Their names are then added to the state registry of nursing assistants. Registration as a CNA is for a limited term, however, and you must complete at least 48 hours of continuing education before you can renew your California license.

Understanding Unit Requirements

In general, the CNA licensing period in California is two years. The initial term varies depending on your birthday, but it's at least two years. During each licensing period, CNAs must complete at least 48 hours of continuing education units or in-service training, with a minimum of 12 units each year. Continuing education units, or CEUs, are supplemental training outside of work hours, such as college classes, while in-service training is provided through your employer during work hours. You may also count up to 24 hours of online training.

Finding Approved Programs

Continuing education providers must have approval from the state Department of Public Health. Approved providers include the American Red Cross, state colleges, community colleges, hospitals, adult education programs, regional occupational education programs and home health agencies. Any continuing education program approved by the state nursing board is also acceptable. Additionally, CNAs who enroll in training for licensed psychiatric technician, licensed vocational nurse or registered nurse receive 15 CEUs for each semester unit and 10 CEUs for each quarter unit. The California Department of Public Health website provides links to lists of qualifying programs.

Choosing Approved Topics

The state health department also provides a partial list of study topics that can count toward renewal of your CNA license. Subjects directly related to nursing and health care qualify, including biology, chemistry, math, anatomy, physiology, nutrition, pharmacology and first aid. You can also count coursework on subjects helpful for interpersonal relations, including language, anthropology, sociology, communication and psychology. Other approved subjects relate to alternative methods of treatment, such as holistic medicine, therapeutic physical training, therapeutic massage and stress management.

Getting Credit for Renewal

Approximately four months before your license expires, you should receive a renewal application and a form for listing your courses. If you don't receive these forms, find them on the state website. Complete both forms, and include signatures from training instructors and transcripts from postsecondary classes. The mailing address and fax number for submitting the paperwork appear on the application form.

Renewing an Expired License

If your CNA license has expired within the last two years, you can renew it without repeating your training if you meet certain requirements. You must have completed the 48 hours or units of state-approved training and must have worked at least one day as a CNA during the licensing term. If you have let your license lapse for more than two years, you'll have to repeat your training to renew.