Nursing Assistants: Salary Overview
Nursing assistants work under the supervision of licensed practical or vocational nurses and registered nurses and help patients with daily activities.
Their job description typically includes cleaning and bathing patients, helping patients when using the toilet and dressing, recording patients’ health concerns, measuring their vital signs, serving meals, and helping patients eat.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for nursing assistants was $29,660 in May 2019 which means that half of all workers in this profession earned less than this amount while half earned more.
Salaries for this profession vary depending on a wide range of factors, including experience level, education, and industry of employment.
The top 10 percent earned more than $40,620 while the lowest 10 percent earned less than $21,960.
Nursing Assistant Salary by Industry
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nursing assistants held approximately 1.5 million jobs in the United States in 2018, most of them working for nursing care facilities or for hospitals.
The average annual wage reported by nursing assistants who worked in nursing care facilities was $29,650 while those who worked for general medical and surgical hospitals reportedly earned $32,540 per year on average.
Nursing assistants who worked for continuing care retirement communities and assisted living facilities for the elderly reportedly earned $29,100 per year, on average.
The average annual wage was $29,310 for nursing assistants employed in the field of home health care services and $28,070 for those who worked in industrial and family services.
According to the BLS report, the top-paying industries for nursing assistants were scientific research and development services, the federal executive branch, and junior colleges.
Nursing assistants who worked in research reportedly earned $42,210 while those employed in the federal executive branch earned around $39,090 on average.
The average annual wage reported by nursing assistants who worked for junior colleges was $38,970.
Salaries for nursing assistants also vary based on the region and the state of employment.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the highest average annual wage was reported by nursing assistants in Alaska- a state where the mean wage was $40,320.
Other top-paying states for this profession are New York, Hawaii, California, and the District of Columbia- states where average annual wages were above $35,000.
Nursing assistants in Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana earned wages that were below $25,000, on average.
Nursing Assistant Salary by Experience Level and Education
Nursing assistants often need a state-issued license or certification but exact requirements vary by state.
A nursing assistant who holds a certificate is called a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA).
Some states also offer nursing assistants the possibility of becoming a Certified Medication Assistant (CMA).
This additional credential allows them to dispense medication.
Earning additional certifications can improve a nursing assistant’s salary.
Salaries for nursing assistants also vary depending on the experience level.
According to nursejournal.org, entry-level Certified Nursing Assistants earned $23,440 per year while those in their late-career reportedly earned $28,580 per year.
Certified Nursing Assistants in their early career earned $24,420.
Mid-career CNAs reportedly earned $25,710 annually while experienced CNAs earned $26,960 per year, on average.
Employment for nursing assistants is projected to grow 9 percent from 2018 to 2028.
This growth is explained, in part by the fact that the baby boom generation ages and they are more likely to need medical assistance.
Nursing assistants will be needed to care for patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes or heart diseases but also to care for patients in nursing and residential care facilities.
However, this demand is sensitive to fluctuations in government funding.
Many nursing homes rely on such funding and cuts in government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid may affect patients’ ability to pay.
* Based on information from the May 2021 salary report from the BLS. The figures represent accumulated data for all states of employment for Nursing Assistants. BLS data represents averages and medians for workers at all levels of education and experience. This data doesn't represent starting salaries.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.