Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) Salary Guide

6 Min Read Published August 9, 2023
Certified Nurse Assistant Salary Guide | Nurse.org

What is the Average Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Salary?

Thinking about becoming a CNA? Then you’re probably wondering how much they make. Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) earn an average annual salary of $35,740 or $17.18 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).  

However, according to Salary.com, the average certified nurse assistant salary is $35,164, ZipRecruiter reports an average annual salary of $40,170 or $19 an hour. 

Keep reading to learn more about CNA salaries, including how they vary by state, place of work, years of experience, and more.

CNA Salary by State


Annual Salary

Hourly Wage

New Jersey

































New York















Rhode Island






South Dakota



North Dakota



New Mexico



















































South Carolina















New Hampshire















North Carolina






West Virginia



Source: ZipRecruiter.com 

CNA Salary by Years of Experience

 According to Indeed.com, certified nursing assistant salaries increase substantially as they gain more experience. 

  • Less than one year of experience: $18.63 per hour 
  • One to two years of experience: $18.81 per hour 
  • Three to five years of experience: $19.81 per hour 
  • Six to nine years of experience: $20.31 per hour 
  • More than ten years of experience: $22.39 per hour 

Certified Nurse Assistant Salary by Work Setting

The salary paid to CNAs varies based on their work setting.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the highest salaries are paid to those working outside of medical facilities, while within the category of hands-on care facilities, specialty hospitals and general medical and surgical hospitals provide the highest compensation. 

  • Government  - $39,250
  • Hospitals; state, local, and private - $36,480
  • Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities) -  $35,480
  • Continuing care retirement communities and assisted living facilities for the elderly  - $34,600
  • Home healthcare services  -  $31,280

How to Increase Your Salary as a CNA

Certified nurse assistants can boost their salaries in a number of ways, including:  

1. Advance Your Education

The education required to become a CNA takes between four and twelve weeks, and once certified, you can immediately begin to work.  

Any nurse who is interested in earning a higher income can use their CNA certification as a foundation for further education, moving on to take online or in-person classes to become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN). You can even use it to earn an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing (BSN) to become a Registered Nurse

Additionally, CNAs can take continuing education classes required to maintain certification and pursue certifications targeting specialized care skills that make them more valuable to their employer.  

2. Negotiate

Though most CNA positions have pre-established hourly wages, the historic nursing shortage has given skilled candidates greater leverage to negotiate for a higher pay rate. 

If human resources are unable to increase your salary, they may have flexibility on hours or benefits, including tuition reimbursement or commuting expenses.   

3. Seek a Different Practice Setting

Some practice settings are more demanding than others, and as a result, they pay higher wages. You can also leave hands-on care to work in an industry like insurance, which pays certified nurse assistants higher salaries. 

4. Become a Travel CNA

Travel health agencies pay healthcare professionals significantly higher wages than care facilities in exchange for their willingness to relocate to a new setting for an established period of time. 

Traveling certified nurse assistants can receive higher wages, more generous benefits, referral bonuses, and travel and housing stipends.   

5. Change How You Work  

Per Diem

Working per diem means that you are paid by the day based on the employer’s needs and your availability. These positions generally do not provide benefits, but they pay a higher hourly wage. 

Picking up some per diem hours is a great way to make additional income.  


Certified nurse assistant contracts are generally temporary positions for a specific period of time. Like per diem positions, they pay higher salaries than full-time jobs while offering more certainty on hours and duration, as well as generally providing a specific schedule.  

6. Seek Additional Compensation  


No matter what your work setting, if you work more than forty hours in a week, your employer is required to pay you a rate of one-and-a-half of your normal wages.  

Shift Differential

By volunteering to work less desirable shifts, including overnights, holidays, or weekends, certified nurse assistants can qualify for higher wages known as shift differentials.  


Many employers offer certified nurse assistants bonuses meant to either entice new employees or encourage existing employees to continue working with their facility. These can make a substantial difference, with some employers offering sign-on bonuses and referral bonuses.  

Hazard Pay

Hazard pay is an increase in the salary paid for working under hazardous or extremely stressful conditions. 

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Is it Worth it to Become a CNA?

Becoming a certified nurse assistant offers numerous advantages including job stability and a solid salary and benefits. Making the choice of careers even better is the fact that the required education is so affordable. 

CNA Education Cost

Though every program sets its own fees, the average cost of attending a certified nurse assistant program is approximately $1,500. 

This figure includes several hidden costs, including supplies, the expense of a required medical examination and criminal background check, and the cost of the certification test.  

CNA Salary vs Education Costs

With certified nursing assistants being paid an average salary of over $30,000 plus benefits and many being paid sign-on bonuses well over $3,000, it is easy to see that attending a career program is well worth the investment.

As an added incentive, many view becoming a CNA as a stepping stone to a more advanced nursing career, and having the experience of providing hands-on care provides a leg up when it comes to admission to registered nurse programs.   

Patient Care Technician 

 According to Salary.com, the average Patient Care Technician salary in the United States is $34,328. The salary range typically falls between $29,233 and $37,909.   


 The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median annual wage for a Phlebotomist is $38,530, with a range of between $30,250 and $51,610.  

Medical Billing Professional 

 Glassdoor.com reports that Medical Billing Specialists earn a national average salary of $45,590, with most earning between $39,000 and $53,000.  

Emergency Medical Technician 

The BLS reports Emergency Medical Technicians earn a median average salary of $36,680.

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  • How much does a Certified Nurse Assistant make? 

  • Is it easy to become an RN with a CNA certification? 

    • If being a CNA has raised your interest in becoming an RN, you can use many of the classes you’ve already taken toward your Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). Many community colleges offer CNA-to-RN bridge programs that let you complete your degree and take the NCLEX exam in as little as one year. 
  • What do CNAs do? 

    • Though every hospital and facility has its own requirements and responsibilities that they assign to Certified Nurse Assistants, overall CNAs work under the supervision of a nurse to help patients with direct healthcare needs. They keep patients safe, clean, and comfortable, monitor vital signs, and make sure that the nursing staff has what it needs to provide for patient care. 
Terri Heimann Oppenheimer
Terri Heimann Oppenheimer
Nurse.org Contributor

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer is a freelance writer and editor who is driven by details. She loves to dive into research, ensuring that the information she provides educates, engages and illuminates. Before starting her own business she spent years working in advertising and raising three kids. Today she lives in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, where her she and her husband enjoy travel, the Jersey Shore, and spoiling their grandchildren.

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