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Well once you pass your states test your certificate can come pretty fast. I think I waited only a week and a half and I had it in my hand. I think one thing you could do is start to look around and get maybe some ideas where you would like to put in your application and who is looking, and maybe some places will be happy to talk to you. But I do not think that they would give you a job untill after you have your certificate.
Ladii T - it depends on the State that you live in. Some states allow CNA grads to "register" and work under a temporary permit/license until they take the exam. Some states it takes a loooong time to schedule the exam, so registering and working as a NA-R instead of a NA-C is possible. Find out what your state does and how long it takes and plan accordingly. Ask people at your CNA school. Depending on the demand and employment rates in your location, you might get someone to hire you when you graduate. Good luck.
Here in AZ you have to wait till you officially have your license. I applied to several places after boards and got lots of calls and offers but couldn't hire me because I didn't have my official CNA license.
Like MierKat said, it depends on your state. My state allows someone to practice up to 180 days and then you will be required to take your CNA exam. If your state is like mine I would go ahead and apply for jobs. Most jobs take around a month anyway to get background check, drug test, etc. done.
I started to apply for jobs online two weeks before my class ended, and I was hired before I took my state test. When I finished my test they gave me a paper that said that I had passed the test that I gave to my employer. I had several places that said they hired contingent upon you passing your state exam. I think it is a good idea to apply as early as possible. Good Luck!