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CNA Salary in 2021

CNA Salary in 2021

It’s no secret that becoming a certified nurse assistant (CNA) is one of the easiest and fastest ways you can penetrate the diverse field of nursing. The truth is that anyone who aspires to become a licensed practical nurse (LPN) can start on the right foot with CNA certification. 

After all, in 4 to 12 weeks, you can earn the required credentials and apply for a CNA job. Like many, thoughts of what to expect when it comes to compensation are racing through your mind. As with any career, your earning potential as a CNA isn’t black and white. 

An array of factors comes into play. In this guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know about a certified nursing assistant salary and CNA job opportunities. 

Skills That Can Affect CNA Salaries

A certified nurse aide (CNA) requires a wealth of key skills for tremendous success in their nursing career. It’s a no-brainer that some of these skills can boost a CNA resume, help a certified nurse assistant thrive in their job, and earn a higher CNA salary. The highest-paying skills for a CNA to possess are: 

Telemetry 

A certified nurse aide with telemetry skills continuously provides patient care by using different types of medical equipment to monitor their vitals. For instance, a patient with heart failure usually requires round-the-clock monitoring with specialized equipment. Knowing how to read diagnostics and use this equipment puts a certified nursing aide ahead of others with nursing degrees, potentially resulting in a higher salary. 

Intensive Care Unit 

Certified Nursing Assistants who work as trauma nurses in the ICU of a hospital or another nursing care facility must possess the skills that allow them to monitor patients with life-threatening conditions. The ICU environment is traumatic, fast-paced, and stressful, required a qualified nurse assistant to thrive under pressure and use their ICU skills efficiently. A multitude of CNAs who work in the ICU earn a higher CNA salary compared to a registered nurse or licensed practical nurse working in other departments of a hospital. 

Surgical 

A nursing assistant who works in a surgical environment usually has a higher average salary compared to a nurse assistant working elsewhere in a healthcare facility. The surgical skills required to thrive in this setting are working well under pressure and monitoring patients before and after surgery. 

Besides these skills, a certified nurse aide requires interpersonal or soft skills such as compassion and empathy that they cannot learn in a CNA program. A nursing assistant works with struggling and ill people daily. 

In addition to what they learn in a nurse aide training program or CNA program, nursing assistants must have excellent listening and communication skills to effectively interact with patients, putting them at ease. 

Effective communication also means a nursing assistant should have patience with staff members and patients. They should understand how to provide great patient care to those with diseases, infections, and disorders. 

Additionally, a nurse assistant should be comfortable with handling another person’s hygiene. Lastly, given that a CNA works with vulnerable people, they must exude a high standard of ethics, something they certainly won’t be taught in a CNA training program.

Each prospective nurse aide should have a high school diploma under their belt. Beyond that, an aspiring medical assistant must complete a CNA program approved by their state. Organizations such as the Red Cross, vocational schools, community colleges, and high schools offer CNA training. The state licensing board’s website contains each approved nurse aide training program. CNA training includes fundamental nursing skills such as checking vital signs. 

For the most part, a CNA training program requires about 75 hours of theoretical learning and can take anywhere between 1 and 4 months. For an individual who wants to begin their career as CNA before earning their nursing degrees and licensure as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or registered nurse (RN), these programs provide a foundation for further education. In addition to learning theory, a CNA program also requires clinical training. Therefore, a prospective medical assistant learns on the CNA job, with a supervisor closely monitoring their work. 

As with the rest of the requirements to qualify as a nursing assistant, the state comes up with the total duration of required supervision. After prospective nursing assistants complete their training, they need to pass a CNA exam set by the state. 

It’s through passing the CNA exam that an aspiring nurse assistant can receive the much-needed certification to work in different settings such as a nursing home, resulting in higher salaries. Some states include other requirements to become a certified nursing assistant, for instance, drug screening and background checks. 

In some states, a certified nursing assistant can choose to earn additional credentials to become a certified medication assistant (CMA), for instance. Doing so allows a nursing assistant to take on extra responsibilities such as administering medication, which translates to more pay. 

Here are 10 essential qualities of a good CNA that can result in a salary increase. 

1. Empathetic 

A certified nursing assistant has to deal with patients directly, so they must display empathy. You need to show kindness, politeness, and compassion in listening to their medical problems and offering viable solutions. Your willingness to assist patients and your kind nature are mirrored in your behavior and are crucial for their early recovery. 

2. Professionalism

A medical assistant in a hospital and other health care facilities interacts with patients of different conditions and ages. Each has a different mental state, such as depression, frustration, loneliness, and anxiety. In turn, it can be an uphill battle for a direct care worker to handle such patients as they may exude unwillingness to receive treatment or uncooperative behavior. As a CNA, you must maintain composure while remaining concerned and polite when providing patient care. Replacing ethics in medical assisting with your ego can cost you your CNA job. 

3. Hard Working

A qualified nurse assistant must be mentally and physically active as a CNA job duties include taking care of patients’ necessities. Patient care activities include shifting from wheelchair to bed and vice versa, exercising, cleaning, and bathing. These activities call for intense physical labor, requiring you to detail-oriented and diligent throughout the day. 

4. Keen on Detail 

The nurse aide must accurately measure the vital signs of a patient and record the details. The correct dosage of medication must be administered at the ideal time. Changes in the condition and behavior of a patient must be immediately reported to the concerned CNA.

5. Endurance

A certified nursing assistant must be on their toes during the long working hours. They must effectively provide patient care despite being with patients throughout their shifts with short breaks in between. 

6. Communication Skills

A CNA must have excellent interaction skills for effective communication in a nursing care facility with other nurses, doctors, patients, and their loved ones. A certified nursing assistant must be assertive and clear in their communication. 

7. Sound Judgment

As a CNA, you’re supposed to have the ability to make quick and correct judgments, particularly during emergencies. It must be decided that what would be more ideal for a patient in certain scenarios and the action to be taken to make them feel better. 

8. Adaptive Nature

A qualified practical nurse faces many changing circumstances with patients of all age groups suffering from different ailments. With each patient requiring proper care, a nursing assistant must provide the much-needed flexibility to render their CNA job duties 24/7. 

9. Emotional Stability

Certified nursing professionals must exhibit emotional stability regardless of the conditions that may include the death of a patient with whom they had a rapport or the delivery of a baby. They must maintain composure and be equally caring towards all their patients. 

10. Cheerfulness

Dealing with patients can be frustrating at times. Nevertheless, qualified nursing professionals shouldn’t show anxiety or frustration as it may upset the patient. Having a smile on your face coupled with a positive aura can make a patient upbeat. 

CNA Careers and Salary Outlook

The average CNA salary is based on factors such as level of experience, type of employer, and location. According to the BLS, a nursing assistant, including nursing professionals in a pediatric nursing career, can make an average salary of $30,830 per year

New York, California, and Florida typically have the most job openings for a certified nursing assistant. In contrast, a CNA job in Nevada, Alaska, and New York offers the highest salaries for nursing professionals who have completed on-campus or online LPN programs. Additionally, the BLS predicts an 8% growth in the CNA career by 2029, which is faster than average for all occupations. 

The increase in demand for a CNA job stems from an aging baby-boom population that will require care in long-term facilities, hospitals, and nursing homes. Additionally, new job openings for a CNA are created regularly as individuals go back to school to seek higher-paying nursing positions, for instance, a licensed practical nurse or a registered nurse. After all, the average hourly wage for a certified nurse aide is $13.20. 

Median CNA salaries (annually) by career experience are as follows. 

  • Entry Level: $23,440 
  • Early Career: $24,420  
  • Mid Career: $25,710  
  • Experienced: $26,960  
  • Late Career: $28,580 

The highest CNA salaries by location are as follows. 

  • National Average Salary: $27,891 
  • Denver: $28,000 
  • Los Angeles: $34,450 
  • Las Vegas: $32,500 
  • Philadelphia: $33,402 
  • Chicago: $28,000

As an entry-level position, a CNA job may compensate employees an hourly wage. For an aspiring nursing assistant who is curious about the hourly rates, the BLS reports a median hourly wage of $13.20 countrywide. A certified medical assistant in a nursing care facility can expect to earn anywhere between $10.24 and $19.02 per hour. 

What Do CNAs Do?

A CNA helps a healthcare practitioner deal with patient needs under the supervision of a licensed practical nurse or registered nurse. A nursing assistant may also be referred to as a patient care assistant, medical assistant, or nurse aide. It’s a role that calls for intensive training and a strong work ethic. 

While a multitude of CNAs receives closely similar training as other nursing professionals, they cannot carry out some procedures and treat patients due to legal restrictions. These assistants serve as liaisons between patients and the nursing team, relaying patient information to nurses and vice versa. 

When it comes to medical assisting, a qualified nursing assistant takes the temperature, pulse, blood pressure, and weight of a patient. Beyond this, the daily duties include helping patients improve their quality of life. Given that mobility for their patients is typically an uphill task, the responsibilities of a certified nursing assistant include repositioning them into bathtubs, beds, wheelchairs, and other locations. 

A CNA also feeds the patient, ensuring they receive all the required nutrients. Their job description includes bathing patients, keeping them hygienic, tidying and sprucing up their rooms by generally keeping a clean environment and changing sheets. 

Where Do CNAs Work?

A CNA works in various healthcare environments. According to the BLS, these nursing professionals usually work in a nursing care facility, administering care for individuals with disabilities or the elderly who cannot care for themselves. A certified nurse assistant can also find a CNA job in assisted living facilities (nursing homes) and continuing care retirement communities. In these scenarios, a CNA usually works under the direction of a direct care worker such as a doctor, a registered nurse, or a licensed practical nurse. 

At times, a certified nurse assistant may work in private houses as a home health aide hired by people who require medical assisting but prefer to remain in the comfort of their home. A CNA career can demand unusual hours that include working through the night and weekends to provide patient care. 

CNA Resources

  1. Red Cross CNA Training

The Red Cross runs a nurse aide training program that prepares an individual to become a qualified CNA. Courses last 4 to 8 weeks, and the Red Cross offers the program locations near public transportation. An aspiring nurse assistant learns the basic skills of taking vital signs, infection control, and administering CPR. The CNA training program prepares them to take the state competency test. 

  1. National Network of Career Nursing Assistants

It’s a group that operates as a professional organization for a nursing aide who wants to participate in programs such as the National Nursing Assistants’ Week. The group also provides a wealth of useful knowledge, for instance, how to choose the best CNA training program and the process of requesting reciprocity if moving to another state. 

  1. National Association of Health Care Assistants

Particularly for a nurse assistant, this professional association hosts the annual CNA festival. It allows nursing assistants to network with other professionals in the field, which is an opportunity to learn from them. Furthermore, the group offers access to members-only publications and a newsletter in addition to educational opportunities. 

  1. Union Test Prep Practice Test for a CNA

An individual preparing to sit for the CNA exam can utilize this resource that offers a practice test. The questions encompass the knowledge and skills that a nursing assistant needs, including the mental and emotional health needs, fundamental nursing skills, restorative skills, client rights, and ethical and legal behavior. 

  1. Mometrix Test Preparation

The site offers a boatload of free study and preparation resources for the CNA exam and other standardized tests. Users can watch an instructional video, learn about the various strategies for passing the exam, and watch a tutorial. 

What Benefits Does a CNA Receive? 

A certified nursing assistant usually qualifies for an array of benefits depending on their place of employment and whether they work on a full-time or part-time basis. Additionally, geographical location may affect the benefits that a CNA can receive. Nonetheless, below are the most common benefits offered to a certified nursing assistant. 

1. Tuition Reimbursement 

It’s when an employer consents to pay some or the entire tuition of their employee’s furthered education. For instance, a company can pay for a staff member to pursue a master’s degree provided that the degree is in a field that relates to the employee’s job. A CNA may qualify for tuition reimbursement programs, particularly if they are training in the healthcare field or advancing their education. 

2. A Referral Program 

It’s when a staff member receives a bonus for referring new hires to their employer. However, a referral program is usually contingent on whether the new hire remains with the company for a set period, such as one year or six months. After this timeframe elapses, the staff member who referred the new hire receives a form of compensation that could be a monetary bonus. 

3. Health Insurance

A certified nursing assistant on a full-time basis usually qualifies for insurance through their employer. The type of health insurance provided will differ based on the size of the medical facility and the type of employer. 

4. Paid Sick Leave 

It’s a benefit that allows a CNA to take time off work when they fall ill and still receive compensation. Most full-time CNAs qualify for this benefit. 

5. 401(k)

 It’s a benefit that some healthcare facilities offer to their certified nurse assistants. The advantage of this tax-advantaged retirement plan is that it allows any certified nursing assistant to channel a percentage of their paycheck towards retirement savings. 

What Factors Affect The Salary of a CNA?

The average CNA salary varies based on the following factors. 

Geographic Location 

Generally, jobs in more populated areas and larger cities offer higher CNA pay compared to rural areas and smaller towns to cater to the high cost of living. Nonetheless, in some cases, if the demand is greater for a hospital CNA, the average CNA salary will lure in new workers. 

Employer

The employer in a healthcare facility a certified nurse assistant works in is a key factor in calculating their average salary. If you don’t select the medical facility carefully, you may end up receiving a lower CNA salary than you deserve. Usually, a certified nursing assistant receives lower compensation compared to a hospital CNA. 

Job Experience 

It’s a no-brainer that a fresher earns a lower income compared to an experienced registered nurse. The years of experience in the medical field can raise the registered nurse salary and CNA pay. A staff member can request higher pay based on their previous work experience and designation in the given field. 

Negotiation

Granted, a certified nurse assistant is an entry-level job with the salary being defined as per the industry standards. However, it’s important to negotiate a good starting salary. Once you complete an advanced nursing program, you can discuss the appraisal with your employer. 

Medical Facilities That Pay CNAs the Most

A certified medical assistant can work in different environments, providing basic patient care such as bathing, feeding, and dressing patients, taking their vitals, and assisting with the day-to-day. They may find employment in local health departments such as a nursing care facility, hospital, assisted living community for the elderly, and government institutions such as the Department of Veteran Affairs. 

According to the BLS, a nursing assistant who works for a government organization takes home more ($3,750) than the average nationwide CNA salary compared to CNAs working for other types of healthcare facilities. 

Below are the average CNA salaries for nursing assistants in the top sectors in which they worked. 

  • Nursing Care Facility: $27,840 
  • Hospital: $30,050 
  • Home healthcare services (a home health aide): $27,290 
  • Government Organization: $33,800 
  • Nursing Homes:  $27,200 

The Difference Between Certified Nursing Assistant and Home Health Aide

Diverse career trajectories and a boatload of job opportunities are available for home health aides (HHAs) and certified nursing assistants (CNAs). While both types of nursing professionals directly deal with patients and have closely similar job duties, a few variations set the two apart regarding their specificities. 

Job Description: HHA vs. CNA

A CNA provides in-depth medical assistance coupled with the credentials to perform an array of limited medical procedures. Contrarily, an HHA delivers fundamental healthcare services, conventionally in the home of the patient receiving care. For patients, both CNAs and HHAs take care of their diet, change beddings, and help with the day-to-day of bathing them, dressing them, assisting them in using the bathroom, and walking. 

Additionally, HHAs help patients by picking up medication, doing their laundry, and picking groceries. These are tasks that CNAs are not expected to do. HHAs usually have different, unique situations as their roles are entirely based on the person they are caring for. In contrast, the roles of CNAs are defined by a supervisor (a registered nurse or physician) and a medical facility. An HHA performs in less standardized capacities as a result of their limited medical requirements and training. 

Work Environment: HHA vs. CNA

By and large, CNAs are best suited to work in an array of healthcare environments. In contrast, HHAs generally work in long-term care institutions such as nursing homes and the homes of their patients. A CNA can work in a residential care facility, hospital, assisted living center, nursing home, clinic, rehabilitation center, and long-term care facility. Although the work dynamic is largely the same between the two types of health aides, the physical setting varies. 

Education Requirements: HHA vs. CNA

A CNA program can be completed in up to 12 weeks. While CNA requirements differ from one state to another, you can complete the program directly at a medical facility, university, or college. However, CNA courses encompass the fundamentals of nursing, such as the standard techniques for bedside care and standardized care, infection control, physiology, anatomy, and nutrition. The program also comprises clinical-based and classroom-based instruction.

Granted, some HHA education programs exist. However, there are no formal educational requirements to become a home health aide. Usually, these programs comprise 75 hours of training that includes body systems and instruction on caring for clients requiring specialized treatment, general bedside care, and common disorders. Additionally, they are offered online by some nursing schools or at the local level. 

Key Features of Accredited CNA Programs

An accredited CNA program is the stepping stone towards a flourishing career in the nursing world. A wealth of universities and colleges in the US offer a CNA program. Nonetheless, it’s not a no-brainer that these programs are accredited. If you pursue a course to become a nurse aide from a non-accredited program, your degree or CNA certification won’t be valid. You also won’t be eligible to sit for the CNA exam. Keep in mind: 

  • An accredited CNA program adheres to the guidelines stipulated by the US Federal Laws and consent to the terms and conditions set up by the nursing board of a particular state.  
  • Nursing schools that offer an approved curriculum include laboratory sessions, classroom learning, and a practical program.  
  • An accredited CNA program uses the highest standards to instruct an aspiring nursing assistant.  
  • The classes to become a CNA take an array of practice tests before the aspirant appears for the certification exam.  
  • The health departments regularly conduct a methodical exam of these approved programs. 

The main advantage of accredited certified nursing programs is that they qualify you for the CNA exam. Learners receive an excellent education as these programs are monitored by the Nurse Aide Registry of the state. 

Furthermore, accredited schools offer assistance for CNA job placement. Lastly, such nursing schools charge nominal fees and offer financial aid to qualified but financially disadvantaged students.

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RNtoBSNProgram.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.