You might think entering the healthcare field requires years of schooling, substantial student debt, and little to no income at the beginning of your career — but there is another way.

Certified Nursing Assistants (or CNAs) spend just six to 12 weeks studying before starting full-time healthcare careers, earning $32,050 on average, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

CNAs are a vital part of any healthcare team. Working under the direct supervision of a nurse, a CNA assists in tasks like:

While exact duties vary by setting, a CNA's primary responsibility always remains the same: To ensure patients are safe and well-cared for throughout their treatment.

How Much Does a CNA Make in the United States?

As of May 2020, the median CNA salary was more than $30,000 or $14.82 per hour. This is below the median wage across all professions, which, according to the BLS, is about $42,000.

Individuals who pursue this career path often do so because they genuinely want to make a difference in others' lives. The work may be hard and, as is often the case with healthcare jobs, underappreciated, but it can be the difference between an awful and isolating hospital stay or a pleasant one.

Salary Changes Throughout the Career Path

Earnings can look vastly different at various points in a CNA's career, based on the education it takes to get to a certain level and the experience one has at that level. Using PayScale, we've broken down nursing assistant salary changes below:

According to PayScale, the average entry-level CNA salary in the United States is $13.39, or $27,851 per year (based on a 40 hour work week and 52 weeks of work per year). The bottom 10% of CNAs earn about $10 per hour, while the top 10% earn upwards of $17 per hour.

It's important to remember that almost all CNAs work on an hourly basis, so there are usually opportunities to pick up more hours by covering shifts for coworkers on vacation or sick leave.

An advanced CNA pursues specialized training on top of their GED and basic certification, enabling them to perform more complex patient care skills like phlebotomies, bladder scans, EKGs, catheter removals, etc. As a result, the advanced certified nursing assistant salary is higher — at $35,125 per year, on average.

Nursing assistant instructors or CNA instructors earn significantly more than their counterparts at $26 per hour or $53,816 per year. The major jump in pay accounts for the higher level of education required for the job. To be a CNA instructor, you need an associate or bachelor's degree in nursing, an RN certification or license, and experience working on the floor.

Licensed Practical Nurse

LPNs provide basic medical and personal care to patients, completing tasks like inserting catheters and helping them bathe. LPNs report to doctors and RNs and must complete a one-year accredited practical nursing program and pass a licensure exam.

Registered Nurse

RNs coordinate patient care, from administering medications and treatment to running tests and instructing patients on managing illnesses and injuries. To work as an RN, you need a bachelor's degree in nursing or a two to three-year associate degree and a state license.

Pay Difference By Location

State

Career Opportunities and Job Growth for CNAs

If you're considering becoming a CNA, there's good news. The BLS projects nursing assistant roles to grow by 8% between 2019 and 2029. The COVID-19 pandemic has only increased the need for qualified healthcare workers, and many states are more desperate for CNAs than they were two years ago.

The BLS reports that the states with the highest employment levels for CNAs are:

Additionally, the metropolitan areas with the highest nursing assistant employment levels are:

Other Benefits of Becoming a CNA

Aside from the decent CNA pay, other benefits might include:

Be sure to check with the company for their benefits before accepting a position.

How Much Does it Cost to Become a CNA?

We've covered in some detail how much you can earn as a CNA, but how much does it cost to become one? While that answer varies, we've compiled a list of necessary expenses, from education to equipment.

Education
High school diploma or GED, and a diploma from an approved nursing assistant program. On average, these short programs cost $1,300, though costs can be between $500 and $1,000 for those pursuing an advanced diploma.
State license exam costs
The average cost for this exam is about $125. After passing the test, most states require an additional payment of $50 to register with the state board and obtain proof of your certification.
Equipment
CNAs who choose to work in hospitals, nursing care facilities, or community facilities aren't typically required to provide any of their own equipment aside from non-slip shoes and scrubs. These costs can be as low or high as you choose to make them.

Salaries for Related Jobs

Licensed Practical Nurse

  • Salary: $20.47/hour or $48,820/year
  • Cost to become: LPN program ranging $10,000-$30,000. An LPN licensure exam runs about $150, and there is typically a $50 fee to register with the state.

Registered Nurse

  • Salary: $36.22/hour or $75,300/year
  • Cost to become: RN's who pursue the associate's degree route spend about $31,000 on their schooling, while RN's who obtain a bachelor's degree can spend up to $100,000. Licensure exams for RNs cost $200 and an additional $50 registration fee.

Home Health Aide

  • Salary: $13.02/hour or $27,080/year
  • Cost to become: A typical home health aide education program costs about $500, though they can reach up to $1,000. You also must pass the $50 certification exam.

Become Team
Madison Troyer
Contributing Writer

Latest Posts