A Look At CNA Salary

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When you are considering a certified nursing assistant, or CNA, career, your first thought may be of the money involved.  If you are working for minimum wage or at a dissatisfying job, you may find that the pay and atmosphere of a CNA career is a bit better.  Although they don’t get paid as much as their nurse counterparts or nearly what they are worth, you can still expect to earn a few dollars more than minimum wage per hour.

Of course, you shouldn’t consider a certified nurse assisting career if you are just in it for the money.  You may find yourself very frustrated because nursing is a people-oriented job.  Often, these professionals give far more effort than the compensation reflects, but they do it out of love of the patient.  That isn’t to say that CNAs should not be paid what they are worth, but it is a slow developing part of the nursing profession to achieve a fair wage for all levels of nurses.

Entry-Level CNA Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the median annual salary of all nurse aides was $24,010 per year.  This works out to approximately $11.54 per hour.  As you can see, this is significantly more than minimum wage, so you can expect to increase your economic status easily if you choose to pursue this career.  The only problem with generalized numbers is that the wages for CNAs can vary from region to region, with educational background, and with facility of employment.  However, you can expect that most CNA jobs will pay more than minimum wage for an entry-level position.

Experienced CNA Salary

CNA salarySo much of a CNA’s salary is based on their experience.  If you have been working as a certified nursing assistant for a long time or have some other applicable experience, you could earn higher than the wage that is considered average for the profession.  In fact, the top 10 percent of nurse aides earned more than $34,580 per year.  This reflects the salary that experience and time in the field can net you, but you can also get to this level by working in a region where CNAs are in demand or working in facilities that need them desperately.  It isn’t nearly as much as a RN, but it is a great way to become familiar with nursing care.

If you are just starting out, the salary you’ll earn is still better than minimum wage.  At minimum wage, you would earn a wage which hovers around $7 per hour and $15,000 per year, depending on the state.  The lowest 10 percent of CNAs earned $17,790 per year for 2010.  You should also take into account that states with a higher minimum wage often pay all workers more in general, and the pool of available jobs as a CNA is expected to increase by 20 percent.  Not only are you paid more, but more jobs are available to you.

Pay by Region

The state that you work in often determines the amount of money you make per hour.  This is influenced by the minimum wage in your state, the cost of living, and the need for nursing assistant workers.  According to Nursinglink, the best state to work as a CNA in terms of wage is Alaska at $14.36 per hour.  It is followed by New York at $14.63, Connecticut at $13.54, and Massachusetts at $12.77 per hour.  If you worked in Hawaii, you could earn $12.53 per hour, and if you worked in Maryland, you would earn $12.47 per hour.

Some states do not offer as high a wage as most of the Northeastern states offer.  The worst place to be a CNA in terms of wage is Louisiana at $7.57 per hour.  It is followed by Mississippi at $8.16 per hour, Oklahoma at $8.62 per hour, and Arkansas at $8.74 per hour.  If you worked in Alabama, you would earn $8.76 per hour, and if you worked in West Virginia, you would earn $8.78 per hour.  It seems like the southern to Midwestern states offer a lower wage in general for a career as a certified nursing assistant.

Salary by Facility

The facility you choose to work in is almost as important as your region or experience.  CNAs who work in long term care facilities, or nursing homes, can expect to earn around $35,000 per year, according to Indeed.com.  If you work in an assisted living facility that typically requires less help for the patients, you could stand to earn $21,000 per year.  Home health CNAs are paid in the ballpark of $21,000 per year.  If you are able to find a job working in a hospital as a certified nursing assistant, you could earn $23,000 per year.  These numbers will fluctuate depending on your experience, the facility’s need, and the region of the country, as all other salary estimates do.

How to Improve a CNA Salary

You can do a few things to increase your CNA salary, if you are willing to be flexible.  If you work in home health or the hospital, consider switching to a long term care facility.  One of the easiest ways to increase your salary is to work an off shift.  Third shift is typically the shift that pays the most, but the shift with the most need is usually second shift – 3 PM to 11 PM – because it is in the middle of most people’s days.  Many facilities offer shift differentials for both shifts.

You can choose to be a trainer at your facility to earn more money.  Some – but certainly not all – facilities offer as much as a dollar per hour bonus for CNAs who take on new hires.  You can also see if you can become a trainer in things such as blood sugars or the lift to increase your ability to earn in that facility.