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Certified Nursing Assistant Salary and Career Outlook

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Certified nursing assistants work under the supervision of registered nurses to provide patients with the help they need in mobility, safety, grooming, keeping a clean environment, and more.

Considered an entry-level role, certified nursing assistants go home with a reasonable salary every year. Thanks to the platform it provides for individuals to test the healthcare waters and move on to a different field, becoming a CNA can be an attractive prospect.

But how much can you look to earn for your effort? Below is a detailed guide containing everything you need about certified nursing assistants’ salaries, career outlook, and various factors affecting these figures.

Certified Nursing Assistant Salary Overview

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the median annual salary for a certified nursing assistant is around $30,310. The bottom ten percent of earners in the field make around $23,880, while the top ten percent take home more than $44,420.

The above are the median figures, which is the midpoint of all CNA salaries. The mean annual wage, however, the average for all professionals in the field, was found by the BLS to be around $32,050.

As we’ll see below, quite a few factors determine how much a CNA will earn and what categories of earners they’ll fall into.

CNA Salary by State

One of the most critical factors determining how much a CNA earns is what state they’re practicing in. Some states pay CNAs more than others, but other internal factors, such as the cost of living, can reveal the actual earnings after all is said and done.

According to the BLS data, Alaska remains the highest-paying state for CNAs, with an annual average salary of $42,500. At the same time, New York, California, and Hawaii follow with an average yearly salary of $40,620, $39,280, and $38,650, respectively.

At the bottom, CNAs earn the least in Louisiana, with an annual average salary of $24,300. Alabama follows closely with $25,600.

CNA Salary by Location

Not only does CNA salary vary by state, but they also vary depending on specific cities and metropolitan areas in a state. One of the reasons for this is that while demand for CNAs tends to be higher in big cities, the cost of living is also consequently higher.

That said, New York City remains America’s highest-paying city for CNAs. Nursing assistants here take home $40,520 in average salary every year. Los Angeles follows closely, with an average annual wage of $38,030.

Chicago and Philadelphia are not far behind with an average salary of $32,330 and $32,910, respectively, while Boston wraps up the top 5 with $38,150 in average annual CNA salary.

Other Factors Affecting CNA Salary

Location is a huge factor in determining how much a CNA earns yearly, but it is not the only one. Below are some other equally important factors that decide how much you get to take home as a certified nursing assistant.


Not all medical establishments/industries pay the same. This is as true for CNAs as it is for most fields in healthcare. For instance, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nursing assistants who work for the government earned the highest salary in 2021, taking home an average of $37,310.

Those who worked in state, local, and private hospitals followed with $35,870, followed by CNAs in nursing care facilities.


Experience is always a factor when it comes to salary. Again, this is as true for CNAs as it is for any other field in healthcare. According to data released by PayScale, while CNAs with 1 - 4 years of experience earn an average of $12.7 per hour, those with 5 - 9 years’ experience earn $13.38.

Staying up to 10 years in the job should scale the salary to about $13.97, while those with more than 20 years’ experience earn $14.60 per hour.


To Become a certified nursing assistant, aspiring candidates must obtain training from a state-approved program and become certified. Those who pay little attention to these steps may find it hard to secure employment, or if they manage to find a job, they may earn less than they would have otherwise.

Another way education can impact earning is through pursuing a higher degree, like an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, to move on to a more advanced role and thus earn more money.


Shift differential is a term used to highlight the difference in earnings that comes with different shifts. Certified nursing assistants can optimize their shift differentials to make more money.

For example, while regular day shifts in some care homes pay around $15 per hour, moving to an evening or weekend shift pays up to $16.5. Working night shifts pay even higher at about $17.5 per hour.

Alternative Opportunities

Lastly, CNAs can try something different than the regular employment arrangement to earn more money. For instance, they may choose to work as per diem nursing assistants and make as much as $45 per hour.

Other options in this regard include working for private clients providing nursing assistant services at home and working as travel CNAs.

CNA Career Outlook & Projection

The career outlook for Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) is generally positive, with strong projected job growth in the healthcare industry. It’s important to note that the job outlook and projections may vary depending on geographical location, local healthcare trends, and specific industry developments.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the employment of nursing assistants will increase by 5% between 2021 and 2031. This is slightly below the National average of 7% for all occupations.

This projection should see about 220,000 new openings every year within that period. The openings will arise due to replacing old workers who retire or move on to different fields and an increased aging population who will require additional care.