In 2016 there were over 1.5 million people in the United States employed as certified nursing assistants (CNA or sometimes referred to as a Home Health Aide). With an aging population, expected growth for these positions is expected to be strong, with another 177,700 jobs expected to be added for these positions by the year 2026. Certified Nursing Assistants provide valuable healthcare services, typically to elderly or disabled patients at long-term-care facilities while working under the supervision of a registered nurse or other licensed medical professional. CNAs assist patients with many day to day resident tasks such as feeding, grooming, monitoring vital signs, bathing, and more. For some people, this is the first step in a career in nursing or the healthcare field, while many others are more than happy to continue working as a CNA. A CNA salary or the hourly rate that CNAs get paid is dependent on a wide range of factors, and we’ll go into more detail on each of them below.
What Is the Average CNA Salary? How Much Does a CNA Make an Hour?
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the median pay for a nursing assistant in 2017 was $13.23 per hour, and the national average for CNA salary was $27,510.
Three major job websites reported the average salaries and hourly pay for CNAs and Home Health Aides as follows:
|Website||Average Annual Salary||Average Hourly Pay|
CNA Salary By State – How Location Impacts CNA Pay
One of the biggest factors in how much a CNA gets paid is which state they work in. The difference in CNA salaries varies greatly from state to state. The highest paying state is Alaska at $18.24 per hour while Louisiana pays the least, coming in at $10.52. Metro areas also tend to pay more as there are more hospitals and nursing homes, meaning the demand for workers is higher. Of course, most metro areas also have a much higher cost of living, so you’ll need to take that into account as well. The table below shows the CNA average salary for each state.
|Rank||State||Hourly mean wage||Annual mean wage|
|4||District of Columbia||$16.43||$34,170|
Source: Bureau of Labor and Statistics May 2017
Other Factors That Impact How Much a CNA Makes
While location is one of the biggest factors in how much a CNA gets paid, it’s certainly not the only one.
Some Industries Pay More Than Others
Many new CNAs make the mistake of taking the first job offer they get. This can be a costly mistake. While there are many available jobs at nursing homes and long and short-term care facilities, there may be higher paying jobs at more specialized facilities. As you can see in the table below, the difference in annual salary from a retirement community to government jobs or positions in research facilities can be $10,000 or more.
|Rank||Industry||Hourly mean wage||Annual mean wage|
|1||Federal Executive Branch (OES Designation)||$18.43||$38,340|
|2||Facilities Support Services||$17.88||$37,180|
|3||Scientific Research and Development Services||$17.42||$36,240|
|4||Educational Support Services||$17.13||$35,630|
|5||Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools||$16.49||$34,290|
|7||General Medical and Surgical Hospitals||$14.73||$30,640|
|9||Nursing Care Facilities (Skilled Nursing Facilities)||$13.20||$27,470|
|10||Home Health Care Services||$13.08||$27,210|
|11||Continuous Care & Assisted Living Facilities||$12.84||$26,700|
Source: Bureau of Labor and Statistics May 2017
More Experience and Education Equals More Pay
As with most jobs, the more experience and education a person has can lead to higher wages. This holds true for nursing assistants. According to data from Payscale, experience has a pretty direct impact on how much CNAs are paid. Salary data from over 19,000 CNAs shows the following increases:
- 5-10 years of experience: 8.6% higher than starting salary
- 10-20 years of experience: 13% higher than starting salary
- 20+ years of experience: 21.7% higher than starting salary
While it can take years of experience to see big increases in pay, to see big increases in pay from gaining experience, a quicker route for CNAs to improve their average pay is through education and specialization. A number of popular specializations that can help CNAs command more job opportunities and higher salaries. A few of the more popular CNA specializations include:
- Pediatrics Aide
- Geriatrics Aide
- Cardiology Aide
- Psychiatry Aide
Some of these positions may require special certifications. Others may only need relevant experience in a facility catering to a certain type of patient. CNAs early in their career would be wise to gain extra certifications and specialized experience to improve their long-term job prospects.
How Quickly Can I start Earning a CNA Salary?
One of the best parts of becoming a CNA is how quickly someone can become certified and start getting paid. While applicants must have a high school diploma or GED equivalent, no college degree is required. There are a number of paths someone can take to become a CNA, but on average it takes 75 hours of classroom and clinical training. Most people can complete the necessary classroom time and complete the CNA exam in 4-12 weeks. In some cases, employers may pay for an aspiring CNA’s training if they make an agreement to work for them once they’ve gained their certification. In these cases, it is possible to begin earning a CNA salary even before passing the CNA exam.
How Does A CNA Make Compared To Other Medical Jobs like RNs or LPNs?
There are many different jobs and job titles in the healthcare world that make for interesting salary comparisons for CNAs. Registered Nurses (RNs) and Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) require much more formal education and certification for their positions. Therefore, it’s not surprising that they tend to make a fair bit more than CNAs. As a point of comparison, the list below covers average salaries for some other healthcare positions according to Payscale.com.
- Personal/Home Care Aide – $24,210
- Medical Assistant – $30,569
- Phlebotomist – $30,806
- Dental Assistant – $31,232
- Dialysis Technician – $33,109
- Licensed Practical Nurse – $40,811
- X-Ray Technician – $43,736
- Occupational Therapy Assistant – $46,444
- Physical Therapist Assistant – $48,635
- Registered Nurse – $62,085
- Occupational Therapist – $64,805
- Physical Therapists – $69,315
Common Career Paths: The CNA Career Ladder
Many CNAs may stay in the role for a decade or more. Other CNAs use their position and their experience in patient care as a way to transition to other healthcare jobs. With the increased pay scale for other nursing roles, many CNAs use their position as a starting point to become RNs and LPNs. (You can follow these links to learn more about becoming an LPN and becoming an RN).
The most popular careers that CNAs eventually move into include:
- Registered Nurse
- Family Nurse Practitioner (NP)
- Licensed Practical Nurse
- Medical Assistant
- Certified Medical Assistant
- Certified Nurse’s Aide
- Nursing Home Administrator
- Geriatric Care Manager
Additional Compensation and Job Benefits for CNAs
While a steady paycheck is nice, many CNA jobs come with additional benefits. These benefits can make a major difference in total compensation, too. In some cases, benefit packages can increase pay by up to 25 percent. Full-time CNA positions come with a benefits package that can include holidays, paid vacation, vision, dental, and health insurance. Additional perks offered by some employers may include tuition reimbursement and retirement contributions.
Open CNA Job Listings
There are a huge amount of online resources that can help job hunters find CNA job openings. While a Google search may also unearth some opportunities both locally and nationally, the following links provide quick access to current CNA job openings.
Think You Have What It Takes To Become a CNA?
This site provides many resources to help you learn more about what it takes to become a CNA, as well as prepare for the CNA written exam and skills test. Follow the links below to learn more.