Nursing Assistant Salary Guide | 2023

Nursing assistant salary guide

In 2021, healthcare facilities nationwide employed around 1.3 million nursing assistants. You may also know these ancillary healthcare workers by the title certified nursing assistant (CNA), nurse aide, nurse attendant, or patient care assistant. 

Nursing assistants are vital healthcare workers regardless of how you refer to them. Supervised by a registered nurse (RN), they provide close patient care like checking vitals, mobility assistance, feeding, and bathing. Many nurses start out as CNAs because it’s a quick, affordable, and accessible credential to earn.

But before you commit to a nurse aide career, you should know how much you can earn. This article looks at certified nursing assistant salaries by state and other factors that will impact your earning potential. Keep reading this comprehensive salary guide to learn how much you could make as a CNA and how to maximize your CNA income.

The average annual base nursing assistant salary in the United States is $44,509, based on over 440K reports according to Indeed. That works out to around $19.70 an hour, not including overtime.

The lowest 10% of earners make $30,898 or less, while the highest 10% make $64,116 yearly. Your starting salary will likely fall around the average but can fluctuate depending on where you live, your workplace, and your experience.

How much you can earn as a CNA depends a lot on where you live and work. Here’s a list of the average CNA salary by state. 


Annual Salary

Hourly Wage


































District of Columbia




















































































New Hampshire




New Jersey




New Mexico




New York




North Carolina




North Dakota




















Rhode Island




South Carolina




South Dakota




























West Virginia











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Source: Indeed nursing assistant salary data, April 2023

The more experience you earn as a nurse aide, the more you will make. In general, newly certified nursing assistants begin their careers with entry-level salaries. But, healthcare employers often offer annual raises as you develop your skills.

Years of Experience

Annual Salary

Hourly Wage

Less than 1 year



Between 1 to 2 years



Between 3 to 5 years



Between 6 to 9 years



10 years or more



Source: Indeed nursing assistant salary data, April 2023

With more experience, benefits, bonuses, and overtime, you could earn closer to $64,116 or more annually.

Nursing assistant pay may also change depending on where you work. The current average salaries by work setting are as follows:


Industry employment of nursing assistants

Average Hourly Wage

Average Annual Salary

Junior Colleges




Scientific Research and Development




Insurance Carriers




Technical and Trade Schools




Specialty Hospitals




General Medical and Surgical Hospitals




Nursing Care Facilities




Assisted living facilities




Home Health Care Services




Source: BLS data updated May 2021

According to these findings, industries with the highest-paying nursing assistant jobs also have the fewest positions available. You must stand out from other high-qualified and experienced applicants to compete in these industries.

Conversely, the highest concentration of nursing jobs is at nursing care facilities, which employ around 34% of all CNAs. As a state-certified nursing assistant, you’ll find it easier to find a job in this lower-competition industry. Plus, the average pay for these industries is comparable to nationwide averages.

These salary estimates don’t have to define your career. Here are some ways to increase your certified nursing assistant salary:

Some states don’t require nursing assistants to hold a CNA certification. But, many employers will pay less for non-certified nursing assistants. Getting a CNA license is a quick and easy way to get larger wages for your nurse aide job.

Patient care technician (PCT) is another credential you could earn to increase your salary. PCTs perform similar tasks to nursing assistants but have more technical responsibilities like:

You may want to consider improving your clinical skill set to take on more responsibility and make more money as a CNA. In-demand nursing assistant skills that can earn you more money are:

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Another way to earn more money as a certified nursing assistant is through salary negotiations. Salary negotiations are generally easier and more effective if you have a few years of experience. But don’t let that stop you from negotiating a professional, reasonable salary with a potential employer. 

You can use these tips to try to get a better offer:

  • Have a base knowledge of industry-standard pay for your area

  • Hear the employer’s salary offer before disclosing your expected salary

  • Aim slightly higher than your desired salary 

  • Include benefits in your salary negotiations

Travel assignments are another way you can make more money as a nursing assistant. Travel nursing aides take short-term assignments at hospitals and other healthcare facilities to fill staffing gaps.

However, travel pay will differ from your typical healthcare job. Instead of earning a per-hour rate, you would earn a total pay package, which includes:

  • Hourly base pay

  • Housing, food, mileage stipends

  • Sign-on bonuses

  • Travel reimbursements

  • Other job-related expenses

Overtime wages can range per facility, but working them can increase your paycheck quickly.

Nursing assistants in the United States who work over 40 hours per week or stay beyond their scheduled 12-hour shifts are entitled to overtime pay. You could make anywhere from time-and-a-half to two or three times your hourly wage for every hour you work overtime.

Shift differential is extra pay for working alternative hours. These include working weekends, holidays, evenings, or night shifts. Shift differentials usually increase a nursing assistant’s standard hourly wage by two to five dollars per hour.

Bonuses are incentives some new hospitals or medical centers offer to attract talented healthcare workers to their facilities. Bonuses can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars.

But be sure to read the fine print of your bonuses. Some hospitals require that you work full-time for at least two years to keep the bonus. If you leave before that designated period, they may have you pay the bonus back.

As a nursing assistant, you’ll have a few employment options that can impact your income. Understanding how nurse aides work will help you choose a career that maximizes your salary.


Career nursing aides are full or part-time employees of the facility where they work. They often earn an hourly wage or salary plus a benefits package that includes:


Contract nursing assistants sign an agreement to work at a hospital for a specific period, usually between four weeks and six months. After your contract, you can sign another with the same facility or move on to another. 

One of the cost benefits of working as a contract nursing assistant is you will usually have a guaranteed salary during the contract. As a contract CNA, even if your shift gets canceled, you will still get paid for your time.

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Per Diem 

Per diem nursing assistants work by the day. You might prefer working as a per diem CNA if you like flexibility. But you will only get paid for the days you work, unlike a career or contract CNA.

You would also likely earn more working per diem than you would as a career nursing aide. This extra compensation rewards your flexibility and helps compensate for lacking a benefits plan.

Certified nursing assistant requirements and costs vary by state. CNA training programs usually take between 4 and 12 weeks to complete, and you can find them at community colleges or technical schools. CNA job training is a time and money investment, so you should understand the associated costs before taking the plunge.

Fortunately, these programs are relatively affordable. Becoming a nursing assistant usually costs between $1200 to $1500. Other costs you might incur while attending CNA school include:

Depending on your current employer, you could qualify for tuition assistance to pay for your CNA program. Some hospitals may also offer tuition reimbursement after you complete your certification.

Overall, CNA certification isn’t costly, and you can recoup your investment after getting your license. The time and costs associated with becoming a CNA are worth it, considering the skills you gain and your earning potential.

If you’re looking for a fast, entry-level healthcare job, you may also be considering occupations related to nursing assistance. Here is a quick salary review of jobs related to nursing assistance:

Medical assistants are like nursing assistants, but they perform administrative tasks in addition to their clinical duties. However, medical assistant pay is similar to nurse aide pay. 

In 2021, medical assistants earned an average of $37,190. However, Indeed reports that it increased to $42,772 in 2023.

Many CNAs pursue higher education to become licensed practical nurses (LPNs) or licensed vocational nurses (LVN). LPN programs take about a year to complete. But LPNs earn an average annual wage of $60,050, according to 2023 Indeed salary reports.

In 2021, registered nurses earned $77,600 annually or $37.31 per hour, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported. These statistics include nurses with an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) and those with a bachelor’s degree (BSN).

Although associate degree and bachelor-degree-trained RNs generally earn the same salaries, many employers prefer hiring nurses with a BSN. Some employers will not employ ADN-trained nurses or heavily favor BSN-trained nurses in their hiring process. Therefore, having an ADN may limit your career opportunities, affecting your overall earning potential.

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