What is a CNA

Certified nursing assistants (also known as Nursing Aide, Nursing Assistant, Auxiliary Nurse, Patient Care Assistant, and Home Health Aide) are paraprofessionals who helps patients with basic health care needs under the supervision of a registered nurse, licensed practical nurse or other healthcare professionals. While extensive health care training is not required to become a CNA, these individuals often uphold a high level of experience and ability, including interpersonal skills and manual dexterity.

Read About: CNA Job Description

Work Environment

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than half of all nursing assistants works in nursing and residential care facilities and 28% works in hospitals. Others work in home health care services, colleges, universities, research and development services, and state government agencies.

Work Schedule

Certified nursing assistants usually work full time hours and possibly overtime. Since hospitals, nursing homes, and long-term care facilities are opened all day long, nursing assistants may have to work evenings, weekends and even holidays.

How Much Do CNAs Make?

The average annual certified nursing assistant or CNA salary is $26,020. Individuals who fall in the lowest 10% of all certified nursing assistants are expected to earn less than $18,600 each year whereas those with more experience, in the top 10% pay bracket, can expect $35,780 or more.  CNAs who work for insurance carriers are paid particularly well, but so are those who work for the federal government. Top-paying metropolitan areas for this occupation include San Francisco; Oakland, California; and Anchorage, Alaska.

CNA Salary: Quick Summary

2013 Mean Salary$26,020 per year
$12.51 per hour
Top 10% Salary$35,780 per year
$17.20 per hour
Bottom 10% Salary$18,600 per year
$8.94 per hour
Numer of Jobs, 20131,427,830

Average CNA Salary vs. Related Occupations

Compared with the other health care careers, certified nursing assistants fall near the low end of the pay scale. Bringing in only an average salary of $26,020, CNAs earn less than pharmacy technicians ($30,840), licensed practical nurses ($42,910), and registered nurses ($68,910). However, they make more than veterinary assistant ($25,110) and physical therapy aide ($25,990).

Job Outlook

Due to the increasing aging population, certified nursing assistants are in high demand. As a matter of fact, from 2012 to 2022, the number of jobs for these professionals is projected to increase by 21%, or 312,200 new jobs. This means that this profession is growing in line with, if not more quickly than, other medical professions. Individuals who are still pursuing higher training often use this position as a way to gain further experience. Therefore, while students pursue their degree, they can work with their CNA training in any number of medical facilities.

CNA Salary: Factors and Influences

Certified nursing assistants are essential to the operation of any type of care facilities, helping to bathe, feed, medicate, and take care of the other needs of all patients on the premises. Their salaries are often most responsive to a variety of factors, including influences such as experience, industry, and location.

Experience and Certification

Perhaps one of the most prominent factors affecting the pay of a certified nursing assistant is experience. This is especially true within this profession because performing basic duties as a certified nursing assistant is often seen as a way in which to get experience in the healthcare industry while still pursuing higher education. Nursing assistants with years of experience can make well over $34,000 per year.

Certification can also affect a certified nursing assistant’s salary, but only in states where certification is not required to practice. A certified nursing assistant will almost always earn a higher income. Certification is also recommended if you plan on moving to another state and it can help advance you further in your career. Being certified is extremely helpful if you decide to become a licensed practical nurse or registered nurse down the road.


Often times, the less populated industries are those that promise the highest salaries. However, many of the positions require special skills that can only come with experience, including employment at the Federal government, insurance carriers and junior colleges. Fine-tailoring your skills to industry demand can therefore get you out of a nursing care facility in which you earn a mean annual wage of $24,650 and into a better-paying position.


Highest-paying locations throughout the United States tend to be in well-populated areas, although this isn’t always true. There is no consistent state size that translates into higher wages, however Alaska, New York, and Nevada are among the top paying states for this profession. Areas with large numbers of retirees are especially likely to demand a greater need for certified nursing assistants, especially since over 1,427,830 individuals are already employed in this industry and yet, more are still needed.

High paying metropolitan areas are located within these states, meaning that individuals employed in one of these great states can expect to earn anywhere from $34,000 to $42,000 and more. Additionally, there are many nonmetropolitan areas that also employ a select few, well-paid certified nursing assistants, meaning that it is truly the state and its position in relation to the elderly of America that leads to the development of new jobs.

Best Paying Cities for Certified Nursing Assistants

1. San Francisco, California

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The average salary of a CNA working in San Francisco is $41,810.

2. Oakland, California

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The average salary of a CNA working in Oakland is $35,750.

3. Vallejo, California

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The average salary of a CNA working in Vallejo is $35,190.

4. Anchorage, Alaska

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The average salary of a CNA working in Anchorage is $35,190.

5. Nassau, New York State

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The average salary of a CNA working in Nassau is $34,880.