As any certified nursing assistant will tell you, CNA salary is heavily-based upon the amount of experience one has, and the type of employer they work for. An equally influential factor that gains far-less attention, however, is the geographic region in which the person is employed. As a matter of fact, in most cases, the state where a CNA works has a greater bearing on the size of their paycheck than any other single variable.
A Look at CNA Salary in All 50 States
It is important to note that there is a multitude of factors that goes into determining why the pay in one state is higher than another but, where certified nursing assistants are concerned, it can safely be assumed that the following play a role:
- Cost of living (e.g. food, transportation, housing, etc.)
- The state’s minimum wages
- The forces of supply and demand in the labor market
Keep these factors in mind when comparing where your state ranks in relation to others. For example, just because a CNA in New York earns a lot more than his or her peer in Mississippi doesn’t necessarily indicate that he or she has more disposable income. Just compare the monthly rents for a one bedroom apartment in both places and you’ll see what we mean…
CNA Salary by State
The following breakdown of CNA salaries by state was compiled using official U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data from 2011. Please note that the numbers presented represent the median salary for all certified nursing assistants in each state.
1. Alaska – $34,700
With a severe shortage of not just certified nursing assistants, but all nurses in Alaska, it should come as no surprise that CNA salaries in the state are by far the highest of anywhere in the U.S. In fact, at over $34,000-per-year, it’s not even close.
2. New York – $31,830
A high cost of living coupled plus high demand for CNAs equals one of the nation’s highest rates of pay for certified nursing assistants in New York City. It should be pointed out, however, that the high salaries paid in NYC tend to skew the overall state number significantly. In other words, if you’re working as a CNA in New York State, expect to earn several thousand dollars per year less.
3. Nevada – $31,610
With a comparatively large percentage of the state’s population made-up by senior citizens, Nevada’s high need for home health and assisted living community personnel equates to the highest median CNA salary of any western state.
4. Connecticut – $31,010
With a large retired population in the state’s southern half and shortages at many healthcare facilities in both Hartford and New Haven, Connecticut ranks well above the national average in median CNA salary at $31,010.
5. Hawaii – $30,090
Certified nursing assistants in Hawaii not only have the opportunity to live and work in one of the world’s most beautiful locales, but also enjoy one of its highest wages for healthcare support professionals. Of course, it should be noted that the cost of living in Hawaii is also among the highest in the U.S.
6. Massachusetts – $29,450
When Massachusetts implemented universal healthcare several years ago, it created a massive need for additional nursing professionals at the state’s hospitals and clinics. Naturally, certified nursing assistants have benefitted tremendously from this growth and are among the nation’s highest-paid.
7. Washington, D.C. – $29,170
The District of Columbia boasts some of the country’s finest hospitals, but its healthcare system as a whole continues to struggle with personnel shortages. Those interested in becoming a CNA in the Nation’s Capital can expect to be compensated well above the national average as a result.
8. New Hampshire – $29,050
The total number of CNA jobs available in New Hampshire may be relatively small but, for those who do secure employment in the state, the median wage is quite good. As is the case in much of western New England, however, the above-average salary is largely attributable to the region’s comparatively-high cost of living.
9. California – $28,890
The nation’s most-populous state not only offers more job opportunities for certified nursing assistants than any other part of the country, but also the ninth-best CNA salary at $28,890. It goes without saying, however, that this median figure is greatly influenced by the extremely-high wages paid to CNAs in major cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego.
10. Maryland – $28,410
For those CNAs employed in and around the Baltimore area, it is not at all unheard of to make well over $30,000 per year. The median for Maryland’s more rural areas is significantly lower, but still strong enough to place the state in the nation’s top 10.
11. Rhode Island – $28,310
As is the case with its neighbors in Massachusetts and Connecticut, Rhode Island boasts one of the nation’s highest salaries for certified nursing assistants. In the case of the nation’s smallest state, this is largely due to a higher cost of living in general coupled with shortages at hospitals and clinics.
12. Washington – $28,080
Although there tends to be a wide disparity in salaries paid to CNAs in Washington’s eastern half as opposed to its more metropolitan coastal region (particularly in and around Seattle), certified professionals in the state are still paid well above the national average as a group.
13. Wyoming – $27,570
The average CNA in Wyoming is paid quite well by national standards, earning over $27,000 per year. Best of all for job seekers, the state’s healthcare facilities are almost always hiring due to the relatively small local labor market’s inability to meet its demand for nursing professionals.
14. Delaware – $27,410
The State of Delaware is facing a projected 25% shortfall in nurses by 2015, meaning that anyone interested in working as a CNA should have little difficulty finding work. The state’s median wage for certified nursing assistants and aides is also comparatively-high as a result.
15. Colorado – $27,370
Traditionally viewed as one of the country’s most-livable states, Colorado features an excellent healthcare system that typically pays its personnel well above the national average. In the case of CNAs, this is certainly the case as nursing assistants earned a median salary of $27,370 in 2011.
16. Pennsylvania – $27,200
Pennsylvania’s competitive job market for nurses has created an environment in recent years wherein the number of jobs available is relatively low. Nonetheless, CNA salaries have remained fairly strong – particularly in the major population centers of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
17. New Jersey – $27,050
While neighboring New York State struggles with nursing shortages, New Jersey’s healthcare facilities have been, for the most part, fully-staffed in recent years. Certified nursing assistants employed in the state continue to enjoy above-average pay for their profession in this competitive market.
18. Arizona – $27,040
Long-regarded as one of the most-popular states for retirees in the U.S., Arizona continues to have a strong demand for experienced nursing professionals to service its population. While CNA salaries in the state remain above the national average, it should be noted that the market for entry-level aides and assistants has become quite competitive in recent years.
19. Minnesota – $26,880
Thanks to the comparatively high pay given to CNAs in the Twin Cities, Minnesota ranks among the best states in the Upper Midwest for certified nursing assistant salary. This environment has led to a boom in the number of young people pursuing nursing career over the last few years.
20. Oregon – $26,470
Residents of Oregon who are interested in becoming CNAs are able to take advantage of a local job market that is starving for their services. With the great demand comes relatively good pay and ample opportunities for advancement with most employers.
21. North Dakota – $26,160
The opportunities for new CNAs are fairly abundant in North Dakota and, unlike many states, are not limited to the major cities. Those who land a certified nursing assistant position are also rewarded with one of the state’s better salaries for jobs that do not require college degrees.
22. Vermont – $25,650
While some of its New England neighbors seem to have become saturated with more nurses than their markets can bear, Vermont’s healthcare facilities still have “Help Wanted” signs in their windows. Certified nursing assistants in the state earn salaries that are roughly at the national average, but generally find it relatively easy to climb up into more advanced nursing roles if they so choose.
23. Wisconsin – $25,490
The job market for nurses in Wisconsin suffered a prolonged slowdown following the 2008 economic crisis, but has shown signs of improvement over the last couple of years. Certified nursing assistants in Milwaukee continue to lead the way in earnings among a state-wide group that ranks around the national average in pay.
24. Michigan – $25,190
Michigan’s CNAs earn a salary that is roughly at the national average, and face a job market that has been difficult at times in this economy. Nonetheless, the recent trend among many healthcare facilities has been to hire certified nursing assistants to fill roles that were once held by other nursing professionals (LPNs in particular) which has led to more opportunities for job seekers.
25. New Mexico – $25,140
The nursing shortage in New Mexico has abated somewhat but the opportunities for certified nursing assistants are still abundant in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. CNA salary in the Land of Enchantment is at the national average but, considering the lower cost of living in the state, represents a very livable wage in this southwest state.
26. Illinois – $24,770
Although this could certainly be said of most states, the expected CNA salary in Illinois can vary tremendously depending upon the city where the person works. While certified nursing assistants in Chicago are typically paid above the national median, those employed throughout the rest of Illinois tend to be below it.
27. Maine – $24,350
While the number of openings for new CNAs has dropped during the recession, the salaries earned by certified nursing assistants in Maine have remained relatively steady. Those who find work in the Portland area can earn upwards of $30,000 per year – well over the state median of $24,350.
28. Iowa – $24,330
Demand for CNAs has remained high in Iowa, and salaries paid to these entry-level nursing professionals has held steady even as wages paid to other healthcare professionals have stagnated. These variables continue to make becoming a certified nursing assistant an attractive option to the state’s residents.
29. Ohio – $24,110
Wages paid to CNAs in major cities like Cleveland and Cincinnati are still quite strong, but the number of new openings have slowed statewide over the last couple of years. Official estimates project that this trend will soon reverse itself, however, as Ohio’s Baby Boomer population begins retiring in greater numbers.
30. Montana – $24,080
Similar to some of the other states on the Great Plains, demand for CNAs in Montana is actually higher in the state’s rural areas than in its major cities. Overall, salaries for certified nursing assistants in Big Sky are just below the national average but, considering the affordable cost of living in Montana, they are actually quite good for the area.
31. Nebraska – $23,980
The fact that Nebraska’s healthcare industry was largely unaffected by the recession, combined with a solid median wage paid to its CNAs, spells good news for anyone thinking about becoming a certified nursing assistant in the state.
32. Virginia – $23,930
Certified nursing assistant salaries in Virginia vary considerably from the state’s northern half to its more rural southern region. Those seeking employment closer to the border with Washington, D.C. are likely to earn salaries comparable to those paid in the Nation’s Capital (just under $30,000), while CNAs elsewhere in the state will make considerably less.
33. Florida – $23,880
While the average CNA salary in Florida may not be the highest in the country, the state does rank near the top in opportunity for certified nursing assistants. Its rapidly growing population, expanding healthcare industry and large number of seniors requiring home care make the Sunshine State an ideal location to pursue an entry-level nursing position.
34. Indiana – $23,430
CNA salary data for Indiana is typical of most states – at or above the national average in major cities like Indianapolis, and slightly below it in the state’s rural areas. With that said, the job market is fairly robust for new nursing professionals in most corners of the state.
35. Idaho – $23,070
Demand for CNAs in Idaho has diminished somewhat in recent years due to the large influx of new nurses that entered the workforce over the past decade. However, there are still opportunities in some parts of the state, and the salaries for these positions remain competitive in comparison to other entry-level allied health positions.
36. South Dakota – $23,060
A fairly-low cost of living and a healthy job market for CNAs make South Dakota one of the better places in the Midwest to get your foot in the door as a nurse. As far as CNA salary is concerned, the $23,060 median wage paid is slightly below average for the nation, but respectable for the region.
37. Kansas – $23,030
The median CNA pay in Kansas is not the highest in the country, but at just over $23,000 per year, it does represent a good living wage for the state. The Kansas City and Wichita areas are where the majority of opportunities for new certified nursing assistants can be found, and pay in these metropolitan areas tends to be higher.
38. Kentucky – $22,920
Viewed as a whole, pay in the State of Kentucky tends to be below the national average, but solid in comparison to its southern neighbors. The highest CNA salaries in the state are typically offered around Louisville and Lexington with jobs in rural areas paying significantly less.
39. Tennessee – $22,790
Although the job market for nurses in Tennessee has tightened significantly over the last few years, opportunities for CNAs continue to abound near Memphis and Nashville. As far as salary is concerned, wages paid to certified nursing assistants are competitive for the region.
40. North Carolina – $22,620
North Carolina has long been a hotbed of opportunity for those in the nursing profession. Although the job market has cooled in recent years due to a saturation of qualified applicants, the decent pay offered in relation to the state’s cost of living still make becoming a CNA an attractive option.
41. Utah – $22,610
The average certified nursing assistant salary in Utah is among the lowest offered anywhere in the west, but is a living wage in this affordable state. Competition for CNA positions is tight, however.
42. Texas – $22,510
The job market in Texas was one of the first to recover from the Great Recession of 2008, with its healthcare industry leading the way. Wages earned by entry-level professionals like CNAs tend to be a little on the low side in comparison to other states, but are actually quite competitive when one considers the affordability of living in the Lone Star State.
43. Missouri – $22,050
The time has never been better for getting into nursing in Missouri. With a booming healthcare industry, competitive wages and tremendous growth projected over the next decade, CNA positions are abundant in most parts of the state.
44. South Carolina – $21,730
Demand for new CNAs has slowed down a bit over the past year in South Carolina, but salaries have held steady. At present, wages and job openings are best near Charleston and Columbia.
45. West Virginia – $21,590
Based on affordability, there are few places in the U.S. where a person can live better on a CNA salary than West Virginia. Employment opportunities are primarily concentrated near Charleston and Huntington.
46. Alabama – $21,570
With regards to both pay and the number of positions available, Birmingham and Mobile are clearly the best places for CNAs in Alabama. While there are plenty of jobs available throughout the state, one can expect wages to be much lower.
47. Georgia – $21,550
The economy may have been slow to rebound in Georgia as a whole over the past few years, but that doesn’t mean that those looking for healthcare jobs have been affected. As a matter of fact, both CNA jobs and wages in the state have steadily increased and figure to remain on an upward trajectory.
48. Oklahoma – $21,270
Low starting pay and an extremely competitive job market for nurses make Oklahoma a challenging place to break into the healthcare industry. For CNAs, however, the picture is brighter as some facilities near Tulsa and Oklahoma City have recently begun hiring again over the past 12 months.
49. Arkansas – $20,890
Salaries offered to certified nursing assistants remain low in Arkansas, but the number of job openings in the state has seen a slight increase of late. This trend figures to continue as experienced nursing professionals leave the workforce and the state’s healthcare system expands to accommodate the growing number of retired citizens.
50. Louisiana – $20,630
Certified nursing assistants in New Orleans usually earn a solid living wage for Louisiana, but those employed elsewhere in the state may be challenged to make ends meet off their CNA salary. On the bright side, the state’s job market for entry-level nurses is stronger than many of its southern neighbors.
51. Mississippi – $19,890
While it is true that Mississippi ranks last in the nation in median CNA salary, this situation may change dramatically in 2013 as employers are forced to raise wages in response to the state’s growing nursing shortage.
State Requirements For Becoming A CNA
The requirements for becoming a CNA in each state will be, for the most part, very similar. However, there may be some differences with regard to minimum ages and whether or not a high school diploma is required.
To find out specific information about the minimum prerequisites, job outlook and additional CNA salary projections for your specific state, please visit our page on finding CNA classes in your state.