Certified Nursing Assistant Career and Degree Guide

Salary Guide for CNAs

Find out what certified nursing assistants earn and the opportunities that await with this rewarding career path.

certified nursing assistant with elderly patient

A certified nursing assistant (CNA) is an in-demand position that can offer job stability and scheduling flexibility for individuals interested in the field of patient care. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for a CNA is $30,310.

Median Annual Salary for Certified Nursing Assistants

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2021

Actual salaries may vary based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience, and a variety of other factors. The top 10% of nursing assistants earn more than $44,240, according to the BLS.

Entry-level CNA positions require four to 12 weeks of training, depending on the program. Positions that pay a minimum hourly wage can account for salary differences among geographic areas. While employers must pay the federal minimum wage, 29 states and Washington, D.C., had minimum wages higher than the federal rate in early 2020.

Many CNAs find their work to be emotionally rewarding since their patient care and support touch the daily lives of people who need their help. While starting positions involve providing basic care and assisting patients with daily activities such as bathing and grooming, opportunities for specialization allow you to expand your skills and potentially increase your salary.

While entry-level positions involve providing basic care, opportunities for specialization allow you to expand your skills and potentially increase your salary.

What’s My Earning Potential?

Another factor that can influence your salary is where you work, as this chart shows.


Average CNA Salary

General Medical and Surgical Hospitals
Work under the direction of a nurse to provide personal care and perform tasks for a varied population of patients with a wide range of needs.


Nursing Care Facilities (Skilled Nursing Facilities)
Provide daily personal care to residents, often for the same people over an extended period of time. 


Home Health Care Services
Visit patients in their homes to provide assistance with daily tasks and basic medical care such as taking vital signs.


Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021

You’ll also have opportunities to earn extra income as a CNA by working overtime. Federal law categorizes positions that require an advanced degree as “exempt learned professionals,” who aren’t entitled to overtime. Since CNAs don’t need an advanced degree, federal law says they must be paid 1.5 times their hourly wage for all hours over 40 in a work week.

Keep in mind that if you want to expand your skills and take on more responsibilities, you can always enroll in an education program to become a licensed practical or licensed vocational nurse (LPN/LVN) or a registered nurse (RN).

How Do CNA Salaries Compare?

This chart illustrates varying salaries for other healthcare workers with entry-level education.

Career Median Annual Salary
Nursing Assistants $30,310
Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses $48,070
Registered Nurses $77,600
Medical Assistants $37,190
Physical Therapist Assistants $61,180

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, 2021

Is There Demand for This Career?

The BLS anticipates employment for CNAs to grow 8% through 2030, as fast as the average for other jobs. Demand could translate into more job opportunities for certified nursing assistants in hospitals and clinics.

However, CNA jobs may sometimes be a bit more difficult to find in nursing homes, the BLS says, because many rely on funding from the government. It’s not uncommon for funding to increase at a slower rate than the cost of patient care, a situation that could leave a nursing home with less money to hire healthcare workers.

The BLS anticipates employment for CNAs to grow 8% through 2030, as fast as average for all other jobs.

Because of the nursing shortage in the U.S., careers in nursing in general are quite stable. This means that if you work as a CNA and decide later to advance in your nursing career, your job prospects could be promising.

Is There Competition for Jobs?

Hospitals, nursing homes and long-term care facilities operate 24/7, which means a CNA may be required to work nights, weekends, or holidays. If you face competition and you’re flexible about your hours, make this one of the first things you tell a potential employer. It might help you stand out in a field of job candidates.

Where Do Most CNAs Work?

According to the BLS, the following industries employ the largest number of CNAs:

IndustryNumber of CNAs
Nursing Care Facilities (Skilled Nursing Facilities)471,160
General and Medical Surgical Hospitals386,510
Continuing Care Retirement Communities and Assisted Living Facilities for the Elderly140,850

How Do I Advance in My Career?

In most fields, furthering your education can help propel you to the next phase of your career. The same applies to CNAs. For example, you can train to become an LPN, the next nursing role up from a certified nursing assistant. In this position, you may supervise CNAs and have added responsibility.

Look for CNA-to-LPN bridge programs that will allow you to apply some of your CNA education and/or experience toward LPN program requirements.

You may increase your earning potential by qualifying for one of the specialty certifications available to CNAs who want to expand their roles.

“There are many certifications, such as bathing aides, oral care aides, restorative aides, and oncology aides, all of which offer advancement at the bedside without changing to another career,” says Genevieve Gipson, RN, MEd, RNC, and director of the National Network of Career Nursing Assistants and Career Nurse Assistants Program Inc.

Each certification is awarded by a different professional organization, which sets standards for the experience and education necessary to earn the credential. Here are some common certifications.

Specialty Certification

Certifying Group


Offered by some state boards to CNAs with specified advanced training and/or experience

Certified Alzheimer Caregiver

Certified Hospice and Palliative Nursing Assistant

Certified Wound Care Associate

Medication Aide Certification

Another option is to get certified as a medical assistant (CMA) through a CNA-to-CMA bridge program. The pay is slightly higher and most medical assistants work in physicians’ offices, where the hours are more regular.

anna giorgi

Written and reported by:

Anna Giorgi

Contributing Writer

With professional insight from:

Genevieve Gipson RN MEd RNC

Director, National Network of Career Nursing Assistants and Career Nurse Assistants Program