How To Become A Certified Nursing Assistant

How To Become A Certified Nursing Assistant

Certified nursing assistants, also known as CNAs, provide direct care for patients. They assist patients with their daily living activities. As a certified nursing assistant, you will work inside of nursing homes, hospitals, residential care centers, and other venues, helping patients on a long-term basis and developing relationships with patients.

This is a great stepping stone towards a larger nursing career. In order to become a certified nursing assistant, you will need to complete a training program and become certified.

Why Become A Certified Nursing Assistant

In facilities such as nursing homes, hospices, or assisted living communities, certified nursing assistants (CNAs) are the members of the staff that patients have the most contact with. Patients often spend many years inside of these facilities, and CNAs form a tight-knit relationship with the patients that they work with.

As a certified nursing assistant, you are responsible for helping your patients with their daily living activities. This is important because many of them are unable to perform these tasks themselves. You will have to help your patients get dressed, take their medications, serving meals and feeding them their meals, changing bed sheets, bathing them, and helping them go to the bathroom.

Certified nursing assistants also take vital signs of their patients. They juggle multiple patients at once, so this job requires a high level of organization.

Certified nursing assistants are considered an entry-level job. This is a great career choice for somebody who wants to explore the world of nursing before moving farther up the healthcare ladder. This is a good fit for people who enjoy working directly with patients, are compassionate, and want to work with the elderly population.

Certified Nursing Assistants should possess the following qualities and skills

Certified Nursing Assistant Work Environment

Certified nursing assistants work directly with patients. They provide basic care and assist patients with their daily living needs. They mainly work with the elderly population, who due to old age or chronic illness are no longer able to take care of themselves. Some places certified nursing assistants are employed include hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities.

Being a certified nursing assistant is physically demanding work. CNAs perform duties such as lifting patients, placing them in their wheelchairs or in bed, twisting, repositioning, and performing many daily living activities. A CNA needs to be prepared for the high level of physical activity that comes with this job.

Certified Nursing Assistant Salary

The median annual wage for certified nursing assistants was $26,590 in May 2016, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.

There are many facilities that a CNA can work in, and this can be a factor in determining salary. Some of the venues that a CNA works in pay a higher salary than others. For example, some CNAs work for the federal government, and the median annual salary for them was $32,000 in 2016. On the other hand, those who worked in retirement homes made on average $24,000 in 2016. Nursing assistants who have several years of experience and education may be able to earn a higher salary in their field.

Average Certified Nursing Assistant Annual Salary

$27,650

The average annual salary for certified nursing assistants is $27,650 a year. Salaries start at $20,040 a year and go up to $37,900 a year.

Average Certified Nursing Assistant Hourly Wage

$13.29

The average hourly wage for a certified nursing assistant is $13.29. Hourly wages were between $9.64 and $18.22 an hour.

Stats were based out of 1,443,150 employed certified nursing assistants in the United States.

Does Your Pay Depend On Your Experience?

Executive Certified Nursing Assistant

$37,900/year $18.22/hour

(Top 10% of Certified Nursing Assistants)


Senior Certified Nursing Assistant

$31,370/year $15.08/hour

(Top 25% of Certified Nursing Assistants)


Mid Level Certified Nursing Assistant

$26,590/year $12.78/hour

(Median)


Junior Certified Nursing Assistant

$22,470/year $10.80/hour

(Bottom 25% of Certified Nursing Assistants)


Entry Level Certified Nursing Assistant

$20,040/year $9.64/hour

(Bottom 10% of Certified Nursing Assistants)


Certified Nursing Assistant Average Salary Comparison

Psychiatric Aides
$28k / year
$13 / hour
Orderlies
$28k / year
$13 / hour
Nursing Assistants
$27k / year
$13 / hour
Home Health Aides
$23k / year
$11 / hour

Top 10 Highest Paying States For Certified Nursing Assistants

Top 10 Highest Paying Cities For Certified Nursing Assistants

Certified Nursing Assistant Salary By State

Rank State Hourly Rate Annual Salary
#1 Alaska $18.04 $37,520
#2 New York $16.49 $34,300
#3 Nevada $16.18 $33,650
#4 District of Columbia $16.05 $33,380
#5 California $15.76 $32,770
#6 Connecticut $15.45 $32,140
#7 Hawaii $15.38 $31,990
#8 Oregon $15.22 $31,660
#9 North Dakota $15.19 $31,600
#10 Massachusetts $14.88 $30,960
#11 Minnesota $14.72 $30,610
#12 New Hampshire $14.61 $30,390
#13 Washington $14.50 $30,150
#14 Colorado $14.49 $30,150
#15 Arizona $14.32 $29,790
#16 Maryland $14.28 $29,700
#17 Rhode Island $14.21 $29,560
#18 Pennsylvania $14.03 $29,190
#19 Wyoming $13.95 $29,010
#20 Delaware $13.94 $29,000
#21 New Jersey $13.93 $28,980
#22 Michigan $13.82 $28,750
#23 Vermont $13.76 $28,620
#24 Wisconsin $13.45 $27,980
#25 Iowa $13.13 $27,310
#26 New Mexico $13.12 $27,280
#27 Virgin Islands $13.08 $27,210
#28 Illinois $12.90 $26,830
#29 Nebraska $12.63 $26,260
#30 Maine $12.60 $26,220
#31 Virginia $12.52 $26,040
#32 Montana $12.48 $25,950
#33 Ohio $12.43 $25,850
#34 Idaho $12.32 $25,630
#35 Guam $12.26 $25,510
#36 Texas $12.21 $25,410
#37 Florida $12.13 $25,230
#38 West Virginia $12.12 $25,210
#39 Kentucky $12.10 $25,160
#40 Indiana $12.02 $25,000
#41 South Dakota $12.00 $24,960
#42 Utah $11.98 $24,910
#43 Missouri $11.87 $24,690
#44 South Carolina $11.82 $24,590
#45 Kansas $11.79 $24,530
#46 Oklahoma $11.56 $24,050
#47 Tennessee $11.46 $23,850
#48 North Carolina $11.36 $23,630
#49 Georgia $11.32 $23,530
#50 Arkansas $10.94 $22,760
#51 Alabama $10.91 $22,690
#52 Mississippi $10.40 $21,640
#53 Louisiana $10.39 $21,610
#54 Puerto Rico $9.59 $19,950

Data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Certified Nursing Assistant Career Outlook

Employment for certified nursing assistants is expected to grow by 11 percent from 2016 to 2026, which is much faster than other occupations within the United States. Like other nursing positions, this is a career that is in demand.

People are living longer than ever before. This is due in part to advances in science and medical technology. As we age, our bodies become more susceptible to illnesses and injuries. The elderly often have chronic illnesses that need the long-term care of physicians.

Certified nursing assistants are needed to care for the aging population. Often there is high turnover for certified nursing assistants compared to other nursing positions, as they leave their careers for ones higher up the ladder.

Certified Nursing Assistant Degree

Unlike other types of nurses, such as registered nurses (RNs), certified nursing assistants do not need to attend college and earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing. This makes it a great career choice for people who want to start working right out of high school, or who want to test out the field of nursing before moving into a higher position.

Step 1: Training. The first step to becoming a CNA is to attend a nursing assistant training program. Many places offer these, including community colleges, vocational and technical schools, and even hospitals and nursing homes. Training lasts for several months. During the training you will take coursework such as basic nursing, diet, nutrition, health science, and more. You will learn everything necessary to become a nursing assistant.

Step 2: Exams. At the completion of your training, you must complete and pass a state examination. The test will consist of questions regarding working as a nurse, legal behaviors, communication and listening skills, patient rights, daily living, and more. Once you pass the exam, you are placed on a state registry. If you chose a training program at a hospital or nursing home, they may hire you directly from the program.

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