The average CNA salary in the USA was $24,400 per year in 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Now, in 2014, this is closer to $26,000 annually. This translates to somewhere around $12 hourly. The annual median wage in the US on the other hand is slowly declining with every passing year, with an estimate of $26,364 in 2010 – the lowest it’s been since 1999. When you also take into consideration that the number of job openings as a certified nursing assistant will rise to just under 500,000 in the following decade, it’s safe to say that working as a CNA can be very rewarding – both emotionally and financially.

Certified Nursing Assistants (or CNAs) are on the front line of patient care. They work in hospitals, nursing care facilities, senior centres or even directly at a patient’s home, helping them with basic comfort issues, medication and transport, as well as monitoring their status. They report to either a certified nurse or to a physician, basically acting as their eyes and ears while the more trained medical staff can see to their duties. CNAs have less responsibility and prerogatives when it comes to patient care, but they also require only a few months of training to earn a state issued license and start practicing. As far as jobs that do not require a college degree go, working as CNA is one of the better payed ones – and far more fulfilling than most, for the compassionate and caring.

salaryWhile the average annual CNA salary is around $26,000, those in the top tenth of the pay bracket earn over $10,000 more per year, or as much as $17 hourly. On the other hand, someone at the beginning of their career can expect to earn around $9 pe hour – between $18,000 and $20,000 anually. Most practicing CNAs agree that this is enough to live on, especially when alone or with a working partner, and no kids. A large part of medical students and of those wishing to go to medical school later on in their lives think that working as a CNA for a time can be very helpful, as gaining practical experience is invaluable. Sometimes, the training you receive as a CNA can be used for extra points when studying for a related healthcare degree, which is a definite bonus.

But why do salaries differ so much from the low end of the pay scale to the high end – from $18,000 for an entry level job to over $36,000? Well, there are four main factors that influence how much you earn when working as a certified nursing assistant:

  1. Experience: While this is the case with most professions, it is even more so when it comes to CNAs. Ove the course of the first 4 years, a CNA salary increases constantly. Starting with the 5th year on the job, the pay levels out. The difference between a 1 year CNA and a 3rd year one is far bigger than that between a 4rd year a 7th year, for example. This is mostly because there are some skills – people skills – that can only be learned by practice, on the job, over the course of a few years.
  2. Location: CNA salaries differ greatly from state to state. The percentage of retirees and population density are both important factors when it comes to this: Alaska, New York and the Tri-State area, as well as Connecticut and Hawaii are all at the top of the list. But while New York may have an average CNA salary of $32,500, it is also far more expensive to live there than in Honolulu, Hawaii, where the average salary is only around $30,000 – something worth considering if you have choice between several cities.
  3. Place of employment: Working as a CNA in a hospital pays better than working in a nursing home or at a patient’s house by almost $3000 per year, on average. At the same time, working in the Federal Executive Branch, or in research and development can pay substantially better – special skills are required for such positions though, skills that can only be earned with experience and extra training.
  4. Certifications: Having additional certifications can significantly increase you attractivnes to potential employers, as well as raising your salary once you find a job. The most common such certifications include: Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), Certified Home Health Aide (CHHA) and Certified Nursing Assistant – Advanced (CNA-A).

In today’s economy, finding work can be very difficult – but not in every industry: it is estimated that there will be around 1,2 million new job openings in healthcare alone, over the following decade. Almost half of these will be positions for CNAs. And with a rising percentage of pensioners, job security and advancement opportunities seem very high for those who find work as certified nurse assistants. If caring for those in need is something you would enjoy doing, then life on a could be a very pleasant experience indeed.