A Certified Nursing Assistant, or a CNA, is a healthcare professional that assists patients in a variety of medical settings. CNAs work under the direct supervision of a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), a Registered Nurse (RN), or other authoritative medical professionals. 

From a broad perspective, a CNA collects relevant patient data by taking vital signs and compassionately interacting with each patient. A CNA typically assists elderly or disabled patients at long-term-care facilities and is responsible for tending to a patient’s hygiene needs. A Certified Nursing Assistant is tasked with the responsibility of helping with the feeding and grooming of the patients in their care. 

Entering the medical personnel workforce as a Certified Nursing Assistant is a great way to get paid to fully grasp if the nursing profession (or the medical field) is the right fit for your interests, skills and career objectives. One’s professional experiences working as a Certified Nursing Assistant are easily applied to a career as a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), a Registered Nurse (RN), or even a Nurse Practitioner (NP).

Every state has been given the authority to determine the scope of – 

  • A Certified Nursing Assistant’s professional responsibilities.
  • The minimum education and continuing education requirements to obtain/maintain a CNA certification. 
  • A Code of Ethics must be adhered to by each Certified Nursing Assistant.

Generally speaking, a CNA possesses more authority than a medical assistant. However, many of each position’s professional responsibilities overlap so they are often mistakenly misidentified.

Why Become a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)?

Unlike related professional nursing positions, a Certified Nursing Assistant does not need to earn a college degree to become gainfully employed. 

Many Certified Nursing Assistants use the CNA certification as a stepping-stone to more advanced positions in the medical industry. As such, the CNA workforce generally has a higher rate of turnover than most other relevant medical positions. This general high-turnover-rate tendency of the CNA workforce creates many entry-level job positions from which to choose - a hidden benefit for those just starting. 

Also, Certified Nursing Assistants are typically in high demand, as their services are always needed in care centers that help patients recover from serious illnesses, chronic conditions or tragic accidents. Of course, CNAs also work closely with the elderly population.

Prudent healthcare managers recognize the importance of quality CNAs that offer outstanding care and abundant compassion.

How Much Does a CNA Make: Annual and Hourly?

Most Certified Nursing Assistants are paid by the hour, not by a set weekly amount or annual salary. As a result, one's salary is directly impacted by how often one works – are you working part-time, per diem or full-time? 

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the following CNA statistics for the calendar year of 2018: 

Mean Annual CNA Salary - $28,530, which translates to $13.72 per hour working full time

Remember though, that as your work experience and education grows; you can reach for the higher limits (90th percentile) of a CNA’s annual salary estimate that nears $40,000. Or, you can pursue an additional related nursing credential like that of a Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) or a Patient Care Technician (PCT) to increase your earnings potential. 

Additionally, if you choose to study for additional credentials or a more advanced medical/nursing degree, your time spent as a CNA just might be applicable towards the required clinical hours; essentially saving you time and money. Most medical facilities are more than willing to accommodate CNAs who need flexibility in their work hours because they are studying for a degree or additional certification. 

Job Location Often Determines a CNA’s Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were nearly 1,451,000 nursing assistants (and orderlies) working in the United States during May 2018. It is noted, however, that for statistical purposes the BLS loosely defines the category of Nursing Assistants to include CNAs, nurse aides, and nursing care attendants.

The bureau’s statistics denote the five states with the highest annual mean salary for Certified Nursing Assistants are as follows – 

State   Yearly Mean Salary 
 Alaska  $39,830 per year
 New York  $37,010 per year
 Hawaii  $35,770 per year
 California  $35,220 per year
 Nevada  $35,130 per year

The bureau’s statistics denote the five states with the highest number of employed Certified Nursing Assistants are as follows – 

State  # Of CNAs Employed 
 California  99,440
 New York  91,400
 Florida  89,860
 Texas  87,750
 Pennsylvania  76,260

CNA Job Outlook

The Population Reference Bureau (PRB)’s Aging in the United States Report (2016) cautions that as the baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) hit 65 years old, or older, this event will likely reshape the country’s elderly population requirements. This report notes that the elderly population will grow to about 24% of the entire country's population, up from 15%.

The reality is the aging baby boomer generation has already begun to create a strong demand for the services a Certified Nursing Assistant offers. This increased demand is revealed in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) job growth outlook through 9% through the year 2028. The CNA’s job growth rate is considered faster than the average of all other jobs in the country.

Additionally, the BLS notes that the number of CNA positions that are anticipated to be created through the year 2028 to be 137,800. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the following states have the highest concentration of nursing assistant jobs based on location quotients.  

 

State   # Of CNAs Employed  Average Annual Wage 
 Rhode Island   10,200  $31,340 per year
 North Dakota  7,080  $33,990 per year
 Kansas  22,290  $26,210 per year
 Maine  9,580  $28,710 per year
 Arkansas  18,060  $25,080 per year

The bottom-line – In a free and open market economy, the higher demand for a Certified Nursing Assistant will lead to a rise in CNA compensation packages. It is simply a basic tenet of macroeconomics.

How does Certified Nursing Assistant Salary Compare to Other Medical Professionals?

The following jobs are often considered by people looking for a career in healthcare.

Healthcare Salaries

If you are considering becoming a CNA, it may be helpful to understand how a CNA's salary compares with other related healthcare careers.  For more information on these related careers, check out the following helpful resources:

How Much Does a Phlebotomist Make?

How Much Does a Pharmacy Technician Make?

How Much Does a Medical Assistant Make?

EMT/Paramedic Salaries

LPN/RN Nursing Resources

Obtaining your CNA certification opens up many career pathways and opportunities that will allow you to reach for your career objectives and more lucrative earnings.  

CNA Certification Requirements

One of the benefits of starting your career as a Certified Nursing Assistant is that the training for the certification is readily offered by community colleges, professional schools, and even by way of distance-learning platforms.

Traditional CNA programs may vary in length but typically last between 6-8 weeks. Additionally, the cost to complete a CNA nursing program is generally affordable, with financial aid available to most students. 

Coursework that has been chosen to be included in a CNA training program has been created to prepare each student to pass the certification examination. A partial list of required classes includes - 

  • Patient Care
  • Vital Signs
  • First Aid Basics 
  • Teamwork and Communication Strategies
  • CPR/AED
  • Safety in the Workplace 

NOTE - Because of the differing requirements each state sets forth to earn a Certified Nursing Assistant certification, CNAs working in one state may need to re-take a course or even re-take the competency exam to work in the new state. It all depends on how different each states' requirements are.

Read Test-Guide.com's guide on How to Become a CNA for more information.

Next, the Certified Nursing Assistant Competency Exam 

When you have completed the required training program, the next step is to sit (and successfully pass) the CNA competency exam. The CAN examination seeks to assess the test-taker’s practical skills and depth of knowledge. In addition, the CNA certification exam is often provided by professional testing centers throughout each state.

The CNA exam is a two-part test. The written part of the CNA exam, which lasts about two hours, covers 70 questions that are all multiple choice. The second part of the CNA exam evaluates test-takers skills. Within 25 - 45 minutes, a certification candidate must successfully perform five nurse assistant skills; as requested by the exam proctor. 

Practice tests and study guides are readily available, take advantage of these practice test as you prepare to ace your Certified Nursing Assistant competency examination.

>>Test-Guide.com's Free CNA Practice Exams

The Certification Exam for Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

While each exam may differ slightly, most states include a multiple-choice portion of the exam and a manual skills test. For the latter half, you’ll be asked to perform a certain number of skills—usually about five—which will be evaluated by a registered nurse. The skills test is “scenario-based” meaning you’ll complete tasks in a logical progression, instead of at random.

It should also be noted that both portions of the CNA exam are taken on the same day.

Continuing Education Requirements

CNA certification holders are required to take continuing education to maintain an active valid license. CNA candidates are advised to check out their state’s licensing board or authority to determine the exact requirements for your situation. 

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