Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

A certified nursing assistant (CNA) provides varying levels of care and support to physically and/or mentally disabled individuals who are unable to care for themselves. CNAs care for patients of all ages in hospitals, inpatient mental health facilities, and clinics. Some certified nurse assistants are employed by a patient’s family and make in-home visits, where they physically care for the patient and provide companionship. Many CNAs are employed at nursing homes and assisted living facilities for the elderly.

A certified nurse assistant has an important and necessary role to fill in society. Without the help of CNAs, many patients would not receive the physical and mental care they deserve. A career as a certified nursing assistant is both challenging and rewarding. As the baby boomer generation ages, CNAS will be in greater demand, and the job outlook is projected to increase 11% from 2016 to 2026. The median CNA salary is $27,510, and certified nurse assistants employed by the government earn $32,860 a year or more on average.

What Does a Certified Nursing Assistant Do?

A certified nursing assistant helps both the patient and his or her family cope with the daily stressors of living by providing medical attention and care that may otherwise be unfeasible. CNAs help elderly patients transition into roles of dependence and often provide critical support to family members of dying patients. They are responsible for duties that range from helping patients bathe and dress to dispensing medication and recording vital signs.

CNAs communicate with nurses and doctors on behalf of the patients in their care, and may also prepare meals for patients, change bed linens, and assist with medical procedures.

Those employed at nursing home facilities typically reposition bedridden patients, feed patients, attend to patients’ hygienic needs, and administer medication. A CNA making house visits may provide companionship for elderly patients. The place of employment influences a CNA’s salary and job responsibilities.

Potential Work Settings

  • Hospital
  • In-home care
  • Nursing home
  • Assisted living community
  • Hospice facility
  • Urgent care clinic
  • Correctional facility
  • Inpatient mental health facility

What Does It Take to Become a Certified Nursing Assistant?


Detailed and Organized

A certified nursing assistant must pay attention to details and stay organized, particularly when administering medication. A CNA keeps track of each patient’s dosage and frequency, as well as any changes in medication. CNAs often provide meals for patients and may be required to document how much a client eats, drinks, and sleeps.


Certified nursing assistants care for sick, elderly, and mentally or physically disabled individuals. The emotionally demanding nature of a CNA’s job requires compassion, patience, and empathy. A certified nursing assistant relies on compassion when working with challenging patients and their families in order to understand their worldviews and provide the best service possible.

Mental and Physical Strength

CNAs spends large quantities of time standing; they may be required to move a patient, change bedding, and give a patient a bath. Mental strength is important for certified nursing assistants as well. Patients may be stubborn and disagreeable, especially as diseases like dementia impact cognition. It is important for a certified nurse assistant to have mental fortitude, especially when working with dying patients.

Effective Communicator

A certified nurse assistant must effectively communicate with patients and their families, co-workers, and other medical and support staff. A CNA communicates the needs of patients to family members who provide financial support and to doctors who prescribe medication and determine courses of treatment. A certified nursing assistant can influence treatment interventions through recommendations and observations.


A certified nursing assistant must have strong ethics, especially when working with patients who cannot advocate for themselves. CNAs may come in contact with addictive medications, and responsible handling of medication is necessary. A CNA must also advocate for the ethical treatment of patients and adhere to ethical guidelines designed to protect both the CNA and the patient.

Certified Nursing Assistant Salary Information and Job Outlook

How much do certified nursing assistants make?

$20,500+ $24,650+ $28,790+ $32,940+
Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA): Average Salary by State This map presents average annual salary for the occupation Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) in each state in the U.S. Average Annual Salary in HI: $33,440 HI Average Annual Salary in AK: $37,950 AK Average Annual Salary in FL: $25,930 FL Average Annual Salary in NH: $31,000 NH Average Annual Salary in MI: $29,200 MI Average Annual Salary in VT: $29,720 VT Average Annual Salary in ME: $27,250 ME Average Annual Salary in RI: $30,540 RI Average Annual Salary in NY: $35,080 NY Average Annual Salary in PA: $30,010 PA Average Annual Salary in NJ: $29,400 NJ Average Annual Salary in DE: $29,740 DE Average Annual Salary in MD: $30,470 MD Average Annual Salary in VA: $27,920 VA Average Annual Salary in WV: $25,990 WV Average Annual Salary in OH: $26,740 OH Average Annual Salary in IN: $26,070 IN Average Annual Salary in IL: $27,770 IL Average Annual Salary in CT: $32,970 CT Average Annual Salary in WI: $28,830 WI Average Annual Salary in NC: $24,680 NC Average Annual Salary in MA: $32,340 MA Average Annual Salary in TN: $25,090 TN Average Annual Salary in AR: $23,970 AR Average Annual Salary in MO: $25,360 MO Average Annual Salary in GA: $24,840 GA Average Annual Salary in SC: $24,810 SC Average Annual Salary in KY: $25,920 KY Average Annual Salary in AL: $23,050 AL Average Annual Salary in LA: $21,880 LA Average Annual Salary in MS: $22,790 MS Average Annual Salary in IA: $28,300 IA Average Annual Salary in MN: $32,560 MN Average Annual Salary in OK: $24,770 OK Average Annual Salary in TX: $26,390 TX Average Annual Salary in NM: $27,050 NM Average Annual Salary in KS: $25,290 KS Average Annual Salary in NE: $27,650 NE Average Annual Salary in SD: $25,970 SD Average Annual Salary in ND: $32,880 ND Average Annual Salary in WY: $29,970 WY Average Annual Salary in MT: $27,070 MT Average Annual Salary in CO: $32,040 CO Average Annual Salary in ID: $26,450 ID Average Annual Salary in UT: $26,150 UT Average Annual Salary in AZ: $30,470 AZ Average Annual Salary in NV: $34,480 NV Average Annual Salary in OR: $32,190 OR Average Annual Salary in WA: $30,410 WA Average Annual Salary in CA: $33,560 CA

  • Median Hourly Wage: $13.72
  • Mean Salary: $28,540

Source: Data taken from Payscale and The Bureau of Labor Statistics . Accessed: July 2018.

Employment of Nurse Assistants

Industries With the Highest Levels of Employment for Nurse Assistants

Industry Employment Percent of Industry Employment Annual Mean Wage
Nursing Care Facilities (Skilled Nursing Facilities) 594,460 36.66 $27,470
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals 365,360 6.64 $30,640
Continuing Care Retirement Communities and Assisted Living Facilities for the Elderly 164,580 18.03 $26,700
Home Health Care Services 78,940 5.65 $27,210
Employment Services 39,300 1.09 $28,870
Source: BLS, 2017

Industries With the Highest Concentration of Employment for Nurse Assistants

Industry Employment Percent of Industry Employment Annual Mean Wage
Nursing Care Facilities (Skilled Nursing Facilities) 594,460 36.66 $27,470
Continuing Care Retirement Communities and Assisted Living Facilities for the Elderly 164,580 18.03 $26,700
Specialty (Except Psychiatric and Substance Abuse) Hospitals 26,530 10.21 $31,120
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals 365,360 6.64 $30,640
Home Health Care Services 78,940 5.65 $27,210
Source: BLS, 2017

Meet a Certified Nursing Assistant

Additional Resources

Certified Nursing Assistant Career Resources

Certified Nursing Assistant Blogs

Certification Resources for Certified Nursing Assistants

Certified Nursing Assistant Training/Teaching Resources

Online Certified Nursing Assistant Programs

Some certified nursing assistant programs are offered online , although they require some face-to-face training. The American Red Cross specifically addresses the importance of experiential learning for those interested in becoming certified nurse assistants. Thus, no fully online certified nursing assistant programs at not-for-profit universities are currently available.

The CNA classes online that are available through for-profit universities prepare individuals seeking certification for the theoretical portion of the certification exam. Once enough coursework and clinical hours have been completed, individuals pursuing nursing assistant certification are then tested on their theoretical knowledge and practical experience. The certified nursing certification exam can be taken at a regional testing center .

Exam preparation courses and training material are available online and are often included in CNA program coursework. Dozens of free continuing education classes are available online for CNAs, and in some instances, these courses can count toward initial certification. Individuals interested in pursuing CNA classes online can register here to find courses that meet their needs.

If you are an accredited, not-for-profit institution that offers an online certified nursing assistant program and that isn’t listed, please contact us with details about your program, a link to your program page and proof of accreditation.

Certified Nursing Assistant Programs

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