What is a CNA Salary? A Comprehensive Guide to Certified Nursing Assistant Earnings

What is a CNA Salary? A Comprehensive Guide to Certified Nursing Assistant Earnings

What is a CNA Salary? A Comprehensive Guide to Certified Nursing Assistant Earnings

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Are you considering a career as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)? You’re not alone. CNAs play a vital role in the healthcare industry, providing essential patient care in hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare facilities. But what can you expect to earn as a CNA?

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll dive into the world of What is a CNA salary and explore the factors that influence earnings in this rewarding field.

What Is A Cna Salary? A Comprehensive Guide To Certified Nursing Assistant Earnings What Is A Cna Salary

What is a CNA Salary?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for nursing assistants was $33,250 in May 2021. CNA salaries can vary widely depending on factors such as location, experience, and employer. In fact, the top 10% of CNAs earned more than $44,240 per year in 2021

Factors That Influence CNA Salaries

As a certified nursing assistant (CNA), your salary can be influenced by several key factors. Understanding these factors can help you make informed decisions about your career path and maximize your earning potential. Let’s examine the most significant factors that impact CNA salaries.


One of the most significant factors affecting CNA salaries is location. Salaries can vary widely from state to state and even city to city within the same state. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, CNAs in Alaska earned a mean annual wage of $42,500 in 2020, while those in Louisiana earned $24,300. This disparity can be attributed to the cost of living, demand for healthcare services, and state-specific regulations. 

Additionally, nurses working in urban areas earn more than those in rural settings. For example, New York City metropolitan CNAs earned an average annual salary of $40,620 in 2020, while those in the rural areas of upstate New York earned an average of $32,610.


As with most careers, experience is crucial in determining CNA salaries. CNAs with several years of experience often qualify for higher-paying positions or supervisory roles. According to PayScale, CNAs with less than one year of experience earn an average hourly rate of $12.61, while those with 5-9 years of experience earn an average of $13.71 per hour. 

Gaining experience in specialized areas, such as geriatrics, pediatrics, or mental health, can also lead to higher salaries. CNAs who pursue additional certifications or training in these areas can make themselves more valuable to employers and command higher wages.


The type of employer you work for can also significantly impact your salary as a CNA. According to the BLS, CNAs working in government facilities earned a mean annual wage of $37,240 in 2020, while those in nursing care facilities earned $30,120. 

CNAs employed by hospitals, home health care services, and continuing care retirement communities also tend to earn higher salaries than those working in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. It’s important to research potential employers and their compensation packages when considering CNA positions. Some employers may offer higher base salaries, while others provide more comprehensive benefits packages or opportunities for career advancement.

Shift and Overtime

CNAs who work non-traditional shifts, such as evenings, nights, weekends, or holidays, may receive shift differentials that increase their hourly wage. These differentials can add up over time and significantly boost your overall earnings. 

For example, a CNA earning a base hourly rate of $15 may receive an additional $2 per hour for working the night shift, resulting in an hourly rate of $17. Overtime hours can also contribute to higher earnings for CNAs. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, employers must pay non-exempt employees, including CNAs, at least 1.5 times their regular hourly rate for any hours worked over 40 in a workweek. 

Therefore, if you work 50 hours weekly and your regular hourly rate is $15, you earn $15 per hour for the first 40 hours and $22.50 per hour for the additional 10 overtime hours.

Education and Additional Skills

While a high school diploma or GED is typically the minimum educational requirement for CNAs, pursuing further education can lead to higher salaries. CNAs with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing or a related field may qualify for higher-paying positions or have an easier time advancing to roles such as Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) or Registered Nurses (RN). 

Additional skills and certifications can increase your value as a CNA and lead to higher salaries. For example, obtaining certification in wound care, dementia care, or medication administration can make you a more attractive candidate for specialized positions with higher pay.

What Is A Cna Salary? A Comprehensive Guide To Certified Nursing Assistant Earnings What Is A Cna Salary

Maximizing Your CNA Salary: Strategies for Increased Earnings

Pursue Additional Certifications

One of the most effective ways to increase your value as a CNA is to specialize in specific care areas. By obtaining additional certifications, you demonstrate your commitment to professional growth and acquire skills that make you a more attractive candidate for higher-paying positions. Some popular certifications for CNAs include:

Gain Experience and Take on Leadership Roles

As with most careers, experience is key to determining your earning potential as a CNA. The more knowledge you have, the more likely you will qualify for higher-paying positions. Consider the following strategies to gain valuable experience:

  • Volunteer for additional responsibilities: Showing initiative and taking on extra tasks demonstrates your commitment to your job and can lead to promotions or higher-paying positions within your organization.
  • Pursue leadership roles: As you gain experience, consider applying for leadership positions such as a CNA supervisor or team leader. These roles often come with increased responsibilities and higher salaries.

Explore Different Work Settings

The healthcare setting in which you work can significantly impact your CNA salary. While nursing homes and assisted living facilities are common employers of CNAs, exploring other work settings can lead to higher earnings. Consider the following options:

  • Hospitals: CNAs working in hospitals earn more than those in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. Hospitals generally offer competitive salaries, advancement opportunities, and specialized training.
  • Government Facilities: CNAs employed in government facilities, such as Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals or state-run institutions, tend to earn higher salaries than those in private sector facilities.

Consider Travel Nursing

Travel nursing is an increasingly popular option for CNAs looking to boost their earnings and gain diverse experience. As a travel CNA, you work short-term assignments in different locations, often filling in for staff shortages or assisting during peak periods. Some benefits of travel nursing include:

  • Higher Hourly Rates: Travel CNAs often command higher hourly rates than permanent positions, as healthcare facilities are willing to pay a premium for temporary staff.
  • Additional Benefits: Many travel nursing agencies offer housing stipends, travel reimbursements, and health insurance, which can significantly increase your overall compensation package.
  • Diverse Experience: Working in various healthcare settings and locations exposes you to different patient populations, medical conditions, and workplace cultures, enhancing your skills and marketability.

The Bottom Line:

In conclusion, a CNA career can be rewarding and challenging. While salaries may not be the highest in healthcare, there are opportunities for growth, advancement, and personal fulfilment. By understanding the factors that influence CNA earnings and taking steps to increase your value as an employee, you can build a successful and satisfying career in this vital profession.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is the average hourly wage for a CNA?

According to the BLS, the median hourly wage for nursing assistants was $14.82 in May 2020.

Do CNAs receive benefits?

Many employers offer CNAs benefits, including health insurance, paid time off, and retirement plans. Benefits can vary by employer and employment status (full-time vs. part-time)

What is the job outlook for CNAs?

The BLS projects that the employment of nursing assistants will grow 8% from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. As the baby boomer population ages and the demand for long-term care increases, CNAs will continue to play a crucial role in the healthcare system.

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*The information this blog provides is for general informational purposes only and is not intended as financial or professional advice. The information may not reflect current developments and may be changed or updated without notice. Any opinions expressed on this blog are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author’s employer or any other organization. You should not act or rely on any information contained in this blog without first seeking the advice of a professional. No representation or warranty, express or implied, is made as to the accuracy or completeness of the information contained in this blog. The author and affiliated parties assume no liability for any errors or omissions.