How Much Do CNAs Make?

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Updated November 18, 2022

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Examine the earning potential and career outlook of CNAs, the highest-paying states, and ways to increase pay through increased education, certification, or changing work setting.
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Becoming acertified nursing assistant (CNA) is one of the quickest ways to enter the healthcare field. Certification programs last anywhere from 4-12 weeks. While not the highest-paying healthcare role, the ability to enter the field so quickly allows CNAs to gain valuable experience.

Should they choose to pursue advanced nursing roles, CNAs can use their experience to set them apart from nurses who are just starting out in the field.

Explore CNA salary expectations, along with ways they can increase their pay throughout their careers in this guide.

Average Salary for CNAs

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), CNAs earn a median salary of $30,310, which amounts to $14.57 per hour. The lowest 10% make about $23,880, with the top 10% earning $44,240. CNA salaries depend on many factors, like education, certification, and experience.

Pay can also vary depending on geographic location and/or practice setting. The BLS reports that CNAs in Alaska, New York, and California earn the highest salaries in the field.

Those who work for the government, at hospitals, or in nursing care facilities also benefit from higher-than-average yearly salaries.

$31,190
Average Annual Salary
Source: Payscale, November 2022

$14.10
Average Hourly Wage
Source: Payscale, November 2022

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The Highest-Paying States for CNAs

The highest-paying states for CNAs are mainly located either on the East or West Coast of the United States. The high cost of living in these states directly contributes to higher salaries.

According to theMissouri Economic Research and Information Center, one of the most expensive areas to live in is Washington D.C., second only to Hawaii. Alaska, New York, California, and Oregon round out the most expensive states, ranking 47th, 48th, 49th, and 45th, respectively. The higher salary for CNAs corresponds with the high cost of living in these regions.

The states with the highest annual pay for CNAs are:

Highest-Paying States
State Average Salary
Alaska $43,080
New York $40,680
California $39,760
District of Columbia $39,390
Oregon $38,830

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Lowest-Paying States for Certified Nursing Assistants in 2021
State Average Salary
Oklahoma $27,850
Arkansas $27,840
Alabama $26,590
Louisiana $25,840
Mississippi $25,690

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Highest-Paying Metropolitan Areas for Certified Nursing Assistants in 2021
State Average Salary
San Jose — Sunnyvale — Santa Clara, CA $47,690
San Francisco — Oakland — Hayward, CA $47,500
Salinas, CA $44,210
Fairbanks, AK $43,880
Napa, CA $42,310

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Highest-Paying Workplaces for Certified Nursing Assistants
Workplace Setting Average Salary
Junior Colleges $61,310
Scientific Research and Development Services $44,580
Insurance Carriers $42,810
Federal Executive Branch $41,850
Technical and Trade Schools $40,280

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Kind of Salary Growth Can CNAs Expect?

CNA compensation varies due to several factors. Although a college degree is not required, CNAs can increase their salary by earning an associate, bachelor's, or master's degree. They can also expect salary growth by pursuing certification or changing practice settings or clinical focus.

CNAs also earn a higher salary as they spend more time in the field. Gaining experience as a CNA is a simple way to increase average yearly pay.

Salary Growth
0-5 Years Experience 11-15 Years Experience 20+ Years Experience
$28,320 $30,860 $33,540

Source: Payscale (November 2022)

How Do CNA Salaries Compare to Other Nurses or Specialties?

Because of the increased education, training, and licensing requirements, registered nurses (RNs) and nurse practitioners (NPs) earn a higher salary than CNAs. The BLS reports thatRNs earn a median salary of $77, 600 per year, while NPs earn about $120,680.

Certain specialties also reflect how a CNA's salary compares to RNs and NPs. RNs who focus onHIV/AIDS, informatics nursing, or legal consulting earn $97,000, $84,780, and $81,430, respectively, as per Payscale data in November 2022.

Advanced practice nurses who specialize in anesthetics or midwifery can expect to earn $195,610 and $112,830, respectively.

5 Ways to Increase Pay As a CNA

CNAs can pursue several pathways to increase their pay. To increase earning potential and employment opportunities, consider the following options:

1. Pursuing Certifications

There are several certification options available to CNAs. Specialization shows dedication to the field while providing an in-depth understanding of a certain subject area. This often results in higher earning potential.

  • CNA II and III: Not all states offer CNA II or CNA III programs. Those that do provide additional training that increases knowledge, training, and pay. A CNA II can provide certain patient care services under the supervision of an RN. A CNA III can be trained to run certain diagnostic tests and focus on areas such as phlebotomy or acute care.
  • Medication Aide Certification: The National Council of State Boards of Nursing offers theMedication Aide Certification Exam. CNAs who pass the exam are certified to give medications to patients in certain settings. Only a little more than half the states recognize this certification and some categories of medication are restricted.
  • Certified Hospice and Palliative Nursing Assistance: The Hospice and Palliative Nursing Association offers an exam for CNAs interested in hospice and palliative care. CNAs may have opportunities for better-paying positions with this certification.
  • Patient Care Technician: The American Phlebotomy Association offers a patient care technician program, which certifies CNAs to perform tasks such as electrocardiogram administration and blood collection.

2. Increase Your Education Level or Earn Your BSN/MSN

Although CNAs are not required to have a degree, pursuing an associate degree in nursing (ADN), bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), or master of science in nursing (MSN) can increase their earning potential.

Completion of an ADN or a BSN degree and passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) makes CNAs eligible to become licensed RNs, a role that pays a median of$77,600 annually. RNs who complete an MSN-NP program can significantly influence their pay, earning a median of $120,680 per year, with specializations that exceed the average.

3. Gain Experience in Administrative Roles

According to Payscale in November 2022, CNAs with office administration skills earn $15.60 per hour, which is over $1.50 more than nonadministrative CNAs. CNA work often provides a foundation for taking on more administrative roles in various specialties. Options include becoming a medical biller or a certified medical assistant (CMA).

Because of their experience with medical terminology and health conditions, CNAs can transition into the role of a medical billing professional by completing a 4-6 week program and passing a certification exam. The BLS reports that this position has a median pay of $46,660 per year.

CNAs can become CMAs by completing a 10-month program and passing a certification exam. After earning their certification, they can work in administration in clinical settings. Shifting to this more administrative role can result in a $6,000 increase in pay, with CMAs earning $37,190 annually.

4. Work Higher-Paying Shifts

To attract CNAs to work less popular shifts, many employers pay shift differentials in addition to their hourly pay. Those who work late nights, weekends, and holidays may be rewarded with an increased hourly rate. Those who work overtime also benefit from additional compensation. The amount and shift time varies from one employer to the next.

5. Change Practice Setting or Become a Registered Nurse

Switching to a practice setting that is in more demand can help CNAs increase their salary. According to the BLS, junior colleges ($61,310), research labs ($44,580), and insurance carriers ($42,810) are some of the highest-paid roles available to CNAs.

CNAs can also become registered nurses. They would have to earn an ADN or a BSN. The additional education can translate to a significant increase in pay, with travel nurses earning an average yearly salary of $80,970, according to Payscale in November 2022.

Frequently Asked Questions About CNA Salaries


What is the most a CNA can make in an hour?

According to Payscale in November 2022, CNAs can make $19.72 an hour, but only the top 10% of CNAs with over 20 years of experience are reported as earning this hourly wage.

Can you live off of a CNA salary?

The best way to live off of a CNA salary is to take advantage of all of the variables that can increase pay. By getting certification, pursuing a college degree, or searching for a setting that offers higher pay, it is possible to make a comfortable living.

What is the highest-paying state for CNA?

Alaska is the highest-paying state for CNAs, earning $43,080 per year. Because the state has one of the highest costs of living in the country, employers need to provide a higher-than-average salary.

Who gets paid more between CNAs and HHAs?

The BLS reports that the median salary for home health aides (HHAs) is $29,430, which is lower than the salary for a CNA. However, they also project a 25% increase in employment over the next decade, while CNAs can expect a 5% increase.


Page last reviewed October 25, 2022


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