Certified Nursing Assistant Salary Guide
Learn more about certified nursing assistant salaries and why CNA pay often varies.
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How Much Do CNAs Make?
With training programs that require only 4-12 weeks, the certified nursing assistant (CNA) role gives prospective healthcare providers quick entry into the nursing field.
CNAs are entry-level nursing staff who provide nurses and patients with basic assistance. CNAs help patients with eating, grooming, and other daily activities, and assist nurses by managing supplies, taking vital signs, and moving patients. Because most states require fewer than 200 hours of training, the CNA average salary is lower than that of a registered nurse (RN).
How much does a CNA make? Drawing from recent data, this page answers some common questions about CNA salaries and factors that influence CNA pay.
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Average Salary for Certified Nursing Assistants
How much do nursing assistants make? According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average CNA salary has increased steadily over the last five years, reaching $32,050 in 2020 in response to growing demand for healthcare workers at all levels. The CNA average salary rose by 4.3% between 2019-20, a level higher than the national inflation rate.
Read on to explore other factors affecting CNA pay.
What Kind of Salary Growth Can Certified Nursing Assistants Expect?
CNA salaries increase as professionals gain experience and take on more responsibilities. For example, experienced CNAs may help onboard new hires or oversee other nursing assistants under an RN's supervision. However, CNAs still earn less than other nurses, and experienced CNAs may consider becoming RNs or relocating to find better opportunities and higher wages.
Average Hourly Salary of CNAs by Experience
Highest and Lowest Paying States for Certified Nursing Assistants in 2020
Earning potential varies considerably by geographical region. Alaska offers the nation's highest certified nursing assistant salary, while the average CNA pay in Louisiana is only $24,300, making it the lowest paying state.
Cost of living strongly impacts how much a CNA makes, and the highest paying states feature above average costs of living. Local demand for healthcare workers, other available career opportunities for individuals without a college degree, and population density also affect CNA salaries.
Highest Paying Metropolitan Areas for Certified Nursing Assistants in 2020
The country's five highest paying metropolitan areas for CNAs are all in California, and overwhelmingly located near Silicon Valley. The average certified nursing assistant salary in the San Francisco metropolitan area is even higher than the average CNA salary in Alaska, reflecting the region's exceptionally high cost of living.
The top paying metropolitan areas for certified nursing assistants are:
|Metropolitan Area||Average Salary|
|San Francisco — Oakland-Hayward, CA||$48,420|
|Santa Cruz — Watsonville, CA||$43,960|
|Vallejo — Fairfield, CA||$42,200|
|San Jose — Sunnyvale — Santa Clara, CA||$41,980|
|Sacramento — Roseville — Arden-Arcade, CA||$41,950|
Highest Paying Workplaces for Certified Nursing Assistants
So, how much do CNAs get paid in different work settings? Wages depend on many factors, including responsibilities, the relative influence of labor unions, and demand for jobs.
CNAs employed at colleges and universities may perform triage for RNs or NPs, demonstrating greater professional experience and more advanced skills. Like their federal counterparts, college support staff are more likely to be union members. Other settings may come with more administrative responsibilities, demanding strong computer and technology skills.
|Workplace Setting||Average Salary|
|Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools||$44,870|
|Federal Executive Branch||$41,210|
|Scientific Research and Development Services||$39,630|
|Outpatient Care Centers||$38,420|
How Do Certified Nursing Assistant Salaries Compare to Other Nurses?
Training, education, and workplace responsibilities and risks influence all healthcare workers' salaries. For example, nurse anesthetists often hold a DNP and take considerable responsibility for patients' surgical outcomes.
CNAs complete relatively brief training programs and take on few independent responsibilities. As a result, the average CNA salary is comparatively low. Many RNs begin their careers as CNAs, increasing their responsibilities and earning power as they gain education, credentials, and experience.
Ways to Increase Pay As a Certified Nursing Assistant
CNA pay varies considerably, with the lowest paid professionals making $22,750 annually and top earners bringing in an average of $42,110 a year. While education and training, professional experience, workplace policies, and location all influence wages, there are some ways CNAs can increase their earning potential.
1. Complete Additional Training or Certification
- CNAs can earn certification in skills like basic life support or advanced cardiovascular life support.
- CNAs with advanced nursing certifications can train to become a licensed practical nurse (LPN), while individuals with an ADN or BSN may pursue RN licensure.
2. Learn New Skills
- Healthcare professionals often perform administrative tasks like documentation. CNAs who can master the necessary software and administrative processes may face better salary prospects.
- According to PayScale, skills like typing and mastering Excel can increase a CNA's earning potential.
3. Pursue a Specialization
- Salaries vary according to specialty in addition to individual workplace, job duties, and experience.
- CNA pay may be higher in intensive care units, obstetrics, telemetry, or operating room settings. However, these positions are often stressful, with less predictable schedules.
4. Work Higher Paying Shifts
- Individuals who work during less popular hours like night shifts often enjoy higher wages.
- CNAs who are eligible for overtime may earn more during peak hours.
- If benefits are not an issue, hourly temporary CNA pay can be higher than the hourly equivalent for full-time workers.
5. Relocate to a Higher Paying Region
- Certified nursing assistant salaries vary significantly by location.
- Although wages are usually highest in areas with higher costs of living, CNAs sometimes earn more in rural areas with high demand for healthcare workers and a low cost of living.
Frequently Asked Questions: Certified Nursing Assistant Salaries
What is the most a CNA can make in an hour?
According to BLS data, the top 10% of CNAs earn $20.25 an hour or more. Depending on location, experience, and specialty, professionals may be able to make even more by earning bonuses or overtime pay.
Can you live off of a CNA salary?
That depends on your expenses, including cost of living and any dependents you may support, and whether you receive overtime pay and benefits in addition to a salary. According to this study, 19% of CNAs work a second job.
What is the highest paying state for CNA?
While Alaska boasts the highest average salary for CNAs, the state also maintains a high cost of living, as do other top states, including New York, California, Hawaii, and Massachusetts. The cities that offer the highest CNA salaries are all located in California.
Who gets paid more between CNAs and HHAs?
As of May 2020, home health aides (HHAs) earn a mean annual wage of $28,060. In contrast, the average CNA salary is $32,050 a year.
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