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A career as a Certified Nursing Assistant brings emotional fulfillment, but it won’t make you rich. In its May 2012 report, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates an average yearly wage of $24,420 for nursing assistants and related staff. Ten percent of nurse aides earn less than the reported average with $18,095 per year, and another ten percent of nurse aides earn significantly more with $35,170 per year. That being said, your actual salary will depend on a wide range of factors, including your experience, education, specialized training, employer, and location. New CNAs generally earn wages at the lower end of the pay scale. However, their wages increase with time and experience.
If you can get past the starting salary, you can use your job as a CNA as a valuable opportunity to gain entry into the medical field. Following is a list of factors that affect CNA salaries and a breakdown of the wages by state.
Factors that affect CNA Salary
Education and experience: Experience is possibly the biggest determining factor that influences your earning potential as a CNA. Nurse aides with two to five years’ experience can earn more than $32,000 per year. The CNA’s salary increases exponentially over the first four years before reaching a plateau in the fifth year. The plateau is expected since a CNA’s responsibilities are restricted to approved tasks – to go beyond the designated duties, you’ll need to pursue further education and training.
Industry: Nursing homes and long term care facilities have the greatest demands for new CNAs. Due to the wide availability of jobs at these institutions, many CNAs often overlook the potential to earn more at specialized centers. For instance, research and development centers, the Federal Executive Branch and surgical hospitals are just a few examples of places CNAs can work to earn more. Keep in mind that these employers may require specialized training and experience, so consider getting advanced training to give your salary a boost.
Location: Your location determines your salary as much as any other factor. CNAs, who work in metropolitan areas where there are a large number of retirees, tend to earn more. Those who work in rural areas in the South Eastern parts of the nation earn well below the national average. The average cost of living and demands for nurse aide staff are other variables that determine what a prospective employer will pay. As the following data suggests, CNAs in Alaska, New York, Connecticut, Nevada and Hawaii are among the highest paid.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
The best way to maximize your earning potential – even in states with low pay rates – is to be versatile. You can learn specialized skills where possible and be willing to learn and work unfavorable shifts.
Employers pay more, not only to senior nurse aides, but to those who have demonstrated sound knowledge and good judgment on the job. Your flexibility, versatility, sound judgment and superior skills will always stand out when employers need nurse aide trainers to teach new staff – nurse aide trainers can increase their hourly wage by a few dollars.
Finally, if you’re no longer happy with your CNA salary, you can study to become a licensed practical nurse or registered nurse and double your salary.