What’s a typical CNA salary?

Interested in becoming a certified nursing assistant (CNA)? It can be beneficial to first consider how CNAs compare to other medical providers when it comes to salary. While average annual salary is not the only important factor to consider, it is important to understand how income can be affected based on things like location and experience levels.

Annual Pay vs. Hourly Pay

Before you invest your time and money into a certified nursing assistant (CNA) program, it can be helpful to research the average annual salary, as well as how you can expect to be paid. Some CNA students may wonder if they will receive an annual salary or hourly pay. This depends on where you work, as well as your type of position.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual salary of a CNA is $29,640 per year or $14.25 per hour. However, there are many things that affect your salary.

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and registered nurses (RNs) are more likely to work full-time, thus earning an annual salary. Certified nurses may work part or full-time, or in some cases, on a contract basis. Many CNAs will work 40 hours a week, and overtime may or may not be an option, depending on your contract.

The fact that medical care is needed around-the-clock and facilities are open 24/7, demand for CNAs and other medical professions is often high, whether they receive an annual salary or hourly wage. 

This also means that CNAs need to cover non-traditional work shifts, including evenings, overnights, weekends, and holidays. CNAs may qualify for overtime, whereas those with higher degrees are usually not eligible to do so. The great thing about the flexible work schedule that comes with being a CNA is that you can usually find a schedule that works best for you, including the number of hours worked. 

CNAs have a good job outlook. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates an 8% increase in jobs from now until 2029, which is much faster than average.

Which States Are Highest Paying as a CNA Salary

Location is one of the biggest influences on a CNA salary. The highest paying states for CNAs include:

  •         Alaska: Average annual salary of $40,320
  •       New York: Average annual salary of $38,810
  •       Hawaii: Average annual salary of $37,710
  •         California: Average annual salary of $36,630
  •         District of Columbia (D.C.): Average annual salary of $35,320

There are many reasons why location can impact your expected average salary. For one, the cost of living is higher in some states, often earning you a higher salary. Additionally, the demand for CNAs is higher in some states.

On average, the midwest tends to have a lower cost of living, which can translate to a lower average salary. The west and east coasts have higher costs of living, meaning the average CNA salaries are more. While you may earn more in these states, you may end up paying most of the increase to living expenses.

The east coast, or the New England district, has the highest metropolitan employment levels in the U.S., with an estimated 93,850 people currently employed. This is followed by the Los Angeles and Long Beach metropolitan area, with an estimated 41,150 employed CNAs.

Some cities also tend to have higher average salaries for CNAs than when compared to other locations. Some of the highest-paid CNAs by cities include the following:

  •     Denver, Colorado
  •       Los Angeles, California
  •     Las Vegas, Nevada
  •     Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  •       Chicago, Illinois

These cities tend to have higher earnings because of the highest cost of living in each one and the increased demand for senior care, based on larger populations.

Fortunately, some states follow reciprocity agreements, meaning you can transfer your license with minimal requirements, should you decide to move to a state with higher demand or salary.

You may be required to take the CNA exam again or additional CNA classes, but requirements vary from state to state.

How Does CNA’s Salary Measure Up Against Other Medical Professionals?

CNAs are not the only medical professionals that provide care to senior or hospitalized residents. Other similar positions include a licensed practical nurse (LPN), a medical assistant (MA), and a registered nurse (RN). Understanding how certified nurses compare to these other medical positions in regards to expected salary earning can help you make the right career choice for you.

Medical assistants are sometimes involved in the direct care duties of a patient. They may also conduct medical tasks, like taking and reporting vitals and drawing blood samples. Administrative support is also an important aspect of the medical assistant role. A medical assistant earns an average annual salary of $34,800 per year or $16.73 per hourly wage.

LPNs are also involved in direct patient care, similar to CNAs. However, an LPN’s responsibilities often include more medical tasks. They may help with medications or prepping a patient for a medical procedure. An LPN earns an average annual salary of $47,480 per year or $$22.83 per hour.

A registered nurse’s duties are primarily medical-orientated. They may administer medications or complete medical assessments. RNs also often oversee other medical professionals, including CNAs, LPNs, and MAs. Because of the responsibility of taking on additional medical roles, the education and training to become an RN is much longer than the other options. An RN earns an average annual salary of $73,300 per year or $35.24 per hour.

While some form of formal education is required for each medical career, the path toward becoming a CNA is shorter than other options. Because of this, CNAs tend to make less than compared to other types of medical professionals.

Job Outlook of CNAs Compared to Other Medical Professionals

It can also be helpful to look at the anticipated job outlooks for each type of career. You can compare the estimated increase in demand of 8% for CNAs to other medical professionals. For example, MAs increase on demand is 19%, LPNs with a demand of 9%, and RNs with a demand of 7%.

Some states also have higher demand with a better job outlook. This is mostly due to a higher population of seniors in the state or government programs that encourage and assist seniors with care. 

Currently, the states with the highest number of employed CNAs include:

  •         California: 100,190 CNAs
  •         Florida: 87,840 CNAs
  •         New York: 85,090 CNAs
  •         Texas: 80,110 CNAs
  •       Pennsylvania: 75,090 CNAs

Studies also show that states like Ohio, North Carolina, Illinois, New Jersey, and Michigan have increased demand for CNAs.

Job Benefits

Considering job benefits is important because available benefits can significantly add to your compensation package. Full-time CNAs may enjoy work benefits like dental, vision, and health insurance, as well as contributions to a pension fund or retirement account. Some employees may also receive paid vacation time and days off.

BLS estimates that working in a private sector gets you the highest value of benefits, sometimes adding as much as 30.4% to your salary, or up to $8,594.Some CNAs may work at a facility that offers bonuses. This is usually in the form of a sign-on bonus, which you can collect once you have worked in the position for a certain amount of time.

Depending on your employer or CNA program, reimbursement of your CNA training may also be an available perk. Some Medicare/Medicaid facilities offer reimbursement to students.

Other job benefits relate to a CNA’s work environment and the opportunity to develop important medical skills. CNAs tend to enjoy good job stability, a flexible work schedule, and the ability to work in different environments. The day can be fast-paced, meaning work hours can go by quickly. If your goal is to further your career in the medical industry, working as a CNA can be a good opportunity to network with other medical professionals.

Many CNAs find that their careers are emotionally rewarding. Many develop deep relationships with their patients and have the chance to make a difference in a patient or their family’s life. The experience gained while working as a CNA can also make you a more competitive candidate when applying for nursing programs. If you complete the training to work as a CNA and find that you don’t enjoy it, you can always use your CNA training and experience to enter other medical fields.

Some CNAs enter the field to gain experience while working toward some of these other medical professional careers. The opportunity for a full-time salary with the chance of hands-on experience is a good choice for many. A common career path is to move from working as a CNA to an LPN.

Finally, the path to becoming a CNA is short and affordable, making it a good choice for those who don’t want to take out student loans or spend years completing a traditional education. Your CNA experience can be advantageous and make up for an entry-level employee’s lower than average salary.

Different Facilities Means Higher Pay

The facility in which you work will have a significant effect on your income. Depending on the area of care you work in, and any additional certification you have can dictate your average earnings.

The biggest employer of CNAs is nursing homes. CNAs who work in a nursing home earn an average hourly rate of $10-$13 per hour. Some CNAs may find employment in a community care facility. Residents in these communities tend to be more independent and need less patient care, so hourly rates can be slightly less. CNAs in this position tend to earn an average of $9-$12 per hour.

There is also demand for CNAs in hospital settings, especially as seniors recover from surgery. Some CNAs may also work with other populations outside of the senior generation. Working in a hospital generally requires more training, depending on the department where you work, but will usually earn you a higher average salary of $11-$15 per hour.

Some CNAs may provide direct care duties to patients in the patient’s home. These duties tend to be similar to working in a nursing home, except CNAs may develop a stronger relationship because their time is often committed to one person. Home healthcare CNAs earn an average of $8-$11 per hour.

According to BLS, about 35% of CNAs work in nursing care facilities, followed by 16.6% of CNAs employed by continuing care retirement communities and assisted living facilities. Less than 10% of CNAs work for general medical and surgical hospitals, home health care services, and individual or family service programs.

Optional CNA Certifications or Specializations

While the path to a CNA career can be completed in a year or less, you may also choose to receive additional education, leading to a higher salary. Some certifications can also make you eligible for positions that require specialized skills. Here are a few optional CNA certifications that you might consider:

  •       CNA II or CNA III: These additional CNA certifications make you eligible to conduct additional duties, making you a more competitive candidate.
  •       ICU CNA: Working in an intensive care unit (ICU) as a CNA requires more specialized skills, like the ability to take and interpret vitals fast.
  •       OR assistant: CNAs are also needed in the operating room to care for patients during and after surgery. This requires specialized skills and training as an OR assistant.
  •       Emergency room: Some CNAs may work in the emergency room of a local hospital. This position is often high-paced and may be stressful. CNAs will need skills in multitasking and problem-solving, as well as a nursing diploma. LPN programs may offer credit to CNAs who have completed their CNA program and have earned hands-on skills.

CNAs may pursue other specializations, including pediatric care, certified Alzheimer’s caregiver, or certified wound care associate. CNAs may also take additional training in areas to become bathing aides and oral care aides.

Highest Paid CNA Salaries

Some CNA jobs tend to pay higher than others. CNAs who work in a federal government position are more likely to earn the highest average salary. Working in a specialized care unit of a hospital or with a private agency can also pay above average.

The highest-paid CNA positions include:

  •         Federal branches: Average annual salary of $38,340 or $18.43 per hour
  •         Privately owned businesses or colleges: Average annual salary of $38,060 or $18.30 per hour
  •         Research and development: Average annual salary of $36,240 or $17.42 per hour
  •         Colleges, universities, or state government-owned homes: Average annual salary of $32,640 or $15.69 per hour

Other top-paying facilities include private doctor’s offices and general surgical care. Other facilities in which you might work include the psychiatric department, substance abuse center in a hospital, or a pediatric unit. These types of jobs often require additional specialized skills or certifications and tend to be more competitive.

CNA Income Based on Experience Levels

Other factors, like your experience level, can also affect your earnings.CNAs with more experience can earn a higher average salary. The percentage of increase will vary, depending on how many years you have worked in the industry.

  •       5-10 years of work experience: An average increase of 8.6% annually
  •       10-20 years of work experience: An average increase of 13% annually
  •       20+ years of experience: An average increase of 21.7% annually

Some states require ongoing education and training, so the longer you work as a CNA, the more training you will have. In some cases, you may be able to increase your starting salary, even as an entry-level CNA, by earning work experience in a volunteer position. It is important to note that many people do move to other positions, and with over 20 years of experience, it may include a new job title.

Where to Find CNA Employment

Fortunately, whichever type of facility you choose to work in as a CNA, you are likely to find that your training prepares you well. CNAs are often in demand, regardless of the type of facility.

Once you complete the necessary training, CNA class and CNA exam, there are many places where you can find employment. You can search online, or you might visit the local hospital or nursing home in your area. Sometimes, the location where you complete your training will also provide you with the necessary resources. Some training programs also require that you complete an internship to gain hands-on experience, which can help you transition into a full-time job.

The demand for CNAs is currently high and is expected to increase as the baby boomer generation gets older. Whichever role you choose to fill in the medical industry can provide you with a rewarding career that is always in demand. Becoming a CNA is a good first step to becoming a medical provider.