Nursing Salaries: How Much Does a Nursing Assistant Make?

Nursing assistants help patients with day-to-day care. Learn the average nursing assistant salary and which states have the highest pay.

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by Hailey Hudson

Published September 9, 2022

Reviewed by Brandy Gleason, MSN, MHA, BC-NC

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Nursing Salaries: How Much Does a Nursing Assistant Make?
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A nursing assistant helps patients complete activities of daily living. To become a nursing assistant, you'll work through a state-approved education program available in high schools and community colleges.

If you get a job as a nursing assistant, you might help patients take a bath, get dressed, and eat their meals. In this nursing career, you'll provide basic medical care to patients, such as monitoring vital signs and administering medication. Learn more about nursing assistant salaries and how you can make more in the field.

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What Is the Average Nursing Assistant Salary?

In May 2021, the median annual wage for nursing assistants was $30,310, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This is much lower than the median annual salary for >other patient care specialties with similar education. These comparable positions include dental assistant, medical assistant, and physical therapy assistant.

Those who work in government facilities and hospitals tend to earn higher salaries than those working in nursing homes and home healthcare agencies. Nursing assistants can make more money by obtaining further credentials, such as certified medication aide (CMA). You can also try to negotiate a higher salary.

How Much Do Nursing Assistants Make in Your State?

The average nursing assistant salary varies across the U.S. Nursing assistants in Alaska, New York, California, the District of Columbia, and Oregon earned the highest average salaries in the United States in 2021, according to the BLS. Top-paying industries in the field include junior colleges and scientific research and development services.

Average Salary for Nursing Assistants by State (2021)

Data sourced from the BLS

The Highest-Paying States for Nursing Assistants (by Mean Salary, 2021)

Data sourced from the BLS

Job Growth for Nursing Assistants

The overall employment of nursing assistants is projected to grow 8% from 2020 to 2030, as per the BLS. This is equal to the average for all occupations. About 192,800 job openings are projected on average each year for nursing assistants and orderlies.

State funding changes are creating more job openings with home health companies in particular. The aging baby-boom population may cause some of the job growth in the field, as more people will need medical care and help with daily activities.

Does More Education Lead to a Higher Nursing Assistant Salary?

BSN Salary

You don't need a bachelor's degree to work as a nursing assistant. If you do decide to earn a BSN, however, a bachelor's degree in nursing can open doors and help you progress in your career. A BSN includes courses in research, leadership, and nursing science.

Once you graduate from a bachelor's program and pass the NCLEX-RN exam, you can collaborate with other medical professionals to provide better patient outcomes. Check out three careers that many BSN graduates pursue.

Registered Nurse

Many BSN graduates work as registered nurses (RNs). You don't need any additional education after passing the NCLEX-RN exam. RNs take care of patients by performing patient assessments, taking care of wounds, and working with physicians to create care plans.

Median Salary (May 2021)
$77,600


Public Health Nurse

A public health nurse is responsible for educating communities about how to keep themselves healthy. This type of nurse might work in a government facility or for a nonprofit. They teach people about disease prevention, how to monitor community health risk factors, and healthcare services available to them.

Average Salary (August 2022)
$64,110


Registered Nurse With Geriatric Skills

Geriatric nurses, or gerontology nurses, work with the senior population. A geriatric nurse cares for elderly patients, helping them retain as much independence as possible while staying in good physical health. This type of nurse might work in hospitals, nursing homes, or patients' homes.

Average Salary (August 2022)
$70,430


MSN Salary

You do not need an MSN to work as a nursing assistant. A master's degree in nursing gives nurses the ability to land high-level nursing positions, with more authority to care for patients or teach other nurses. Many nurses with an MSN work in nonclinical roles. Others go on to receive higher education, such as a doctor of nursing practice degree.

Nurse Educator

Nurse educators are less hands on than other nurses. Nurse educators work in a hospital or an educational institution, teaching nurses and nursing students. Job responsibilities include designing curriculum, teaching patient care, and helping students during clinicals.

Median Salary (May 2021)
$77,440


Nurse Practitioner

Nurse practitioners (NPs) work as independent healthcare clinicians. They have more authority than nurses. They can order diagnostic testing, diagnose conditions, and treat conditions by prescribing medication. Some NPs focus in certain areas, such as gerontology or pediatric health.

Median Salary (May 2021)
$120,680


Certified Nurse Midwife

A nurse midwife cares for women throughout pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. They can perform routine checkups during pregnancy, acting as a primary care provider who can write prescriptions or answer nutritional concerns. They also help women have safe, natural births — sometimes while collaborating with a physician.

Median Salary (May 2021)
$123,780


Frequently Asked Questions About Nursing Assistant Salaries

How hard is it to become a nursing assistant?

Compared to other nursing positions, becoming a nursing assistant is not too difficult. Most nursing assistants don't go to college. Instead, you'll need a high school diploma before enrolling in a state-approved education program. This program is offered at high schools, community colleges, vocational schools, hospitals, and nursing homes.

After completing the program, you likely must pass a competency exam. Then, you will be eligible to work as a nursing assistant in your state. Some states require continuing education. If desired, you can also earn additional credentials, such as the CMA certification.

What challenges do nursing assistants face?

Government funding and budget cuts might constrain the industry's growth. Nursing assistants also face day-to-day challenges, such as powering through the physical demands of the job. For example, lifting patients from a bed to a chair may cause injury or muscle strain.

What's more, this position does not pay as well as other patient care jobs. You also have limited room for advancement in your career — and the shift work schedule can be stressful and demanding.

Are nursing assistants in high demand?

Nursing assistants are not necessarily in high demand. The BLS projects the overall employment of nursing assistants and orderlies to grow 8% from 2020-2030. This is about as fast as the average of 8% for all occupations. This growth rate amounts to a projected 192,800 openings for nursing assistants each year on average throughout the decade. Many of these nurses will care for aging patients in the baby-boom population.

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