States With High-Paying CNA Jobs (Plus Career Outlook)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published November 30, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Being a certified nursing assistant (CNA) can be a rewarding career option for those who enjoy working alongside medical professionals in health care settings. CNAs help nurses perform their duties by assisting them and caring for patients. Learning about the job of a CNA and where CNAs earn the highest salaries can help you plan your career path. In this article, we list the states with the highest paid CNA positions and answer some common questions about CNAs such as what they do, how much they earn on average and what the job outlook is like for this position.

What do CNAs do?

CNAs are medical support professionals who assist nurses, doctors and patients. They often work directly with patients to care for their needs, such as by helping them with their tasks of daily living like grooming, eating and exercising. CNAs may also provide medical care by administering medications, changing wound dressings and helping patients perform mobility exercises. These professionals typically work as part of a health care team that includes other CNAs, nurses, doctors, social workers and health care administrators. They have an important role that provides support for medical professionals and offers direct, individualized care.

Related: How To Become a CNA (And Choose the Right State for You)

What skills do CNAs need?

CNAs need a combination of interpersonal and technical skills to succeed in their careers. Here are some important skills for CNAs:


Communication is an essential skill for CNAs because they work directly with patients and other members of the health care team. They often work alongside other medical professionals like doctors and nurses to support them in their roles. Having good communication helps CNAs understand the needs of their team members and how to care for patients under the guidance of senior medical professionals. Additionally, good communication skills help CNAs work well with their patients. CNAs can use their communication abilities to support the emotional needs of their patients, explain procedures and educate them about health conditions.


CNAs use empathy to build meaningful connections with their patients. Patients experiencing medical problems may feel distressed and uncertain. When health care professionals show compassion for their patients, it can put patients at ease and help them form trust in their CNAs. It's important to develop good relationships with patients because patients may feel more comfortable expressing their needs to you when they trust your professionalism. For example, they may feel more comfortable telling you about any symptoms they experience. Additionally, they may ask more questions that can help you explain conditions, medications and treatments effectively.

Clinical knowledge

As medical professionals, CNAs need good clinical knowledge to perform in their roles. CNAs typically spend one to two years completing their CNA degrees. Through their training, they learn skills related to providing medical support, grooming care and professional bedside service. Their clinical skills include knowledge of common medical conditions and treatments, daily living support tasks, infection prevention techniques and emotional support methods. Gaining these clinical skills helps them meet their patients' physical and emotional needs while assisting nurses and doctors. Clinical knowledge also helps CNAs communicate well with other members of the medical team.

Related: CNA Skills: Definition and Examples

Emergency medical knowledge

In addition to knowing how to perform standard medical procedures like inserting IVs and administering medications, CNAs also need proficient emergency medical skills. CNAs need to know how to intervene in case of a medical emergency, such as a heart attack or stroke. Many employers require CNAs to have CPR certifications, and earning additional emergency medical intervention certifications can improve your employment prospects. For example, earning a certification in stroke management can show that you have the needed skills to intervene if a patient has a stroke while in your care.

Critical thinking skills

Medical professionals often need to make quick decisions on the job. Intervening in a medical crisis requires good critical thinking skills. CNAs use their analytical skills to assess situations, gather information about a medical emergency, draw conclusions and take action to intervene. Critical thinking skills help CNAs effectively evaluate situations and make decisions that either prevent emergencies or can stabilize a patient experiencing a health crisis. When CNAs apply their critical thinking skills at work, it helps them make effective decisions that assist their team and help their patients.

Physical ability

CNAs spend many hours of their day working on their feet. They may need to lift or move patients to position them, so having the physical ability to lift people is important in this role. CNAs can improve their physical abilities by practicing good self-care skills. They can take care of their physical health by eating well, exercising regularly and getting enough rest. By caring for their physical health, CNAs can ensure they have the stamina needed to perform their responsibilities. Additionally, CNAs may reduce the likelihood of experiencing a workplace injury when they care for their physical health.

How much do CNAs earn?

The average salary for nursing assistants is $32,752 per year. This salary average can vary based on your geographic location, setting of employment, level of education and years of experience. For example, CNAs who pursue training in a specialty may earn a higher average salary than those who only work as standard CNAs. Those working in nuclear medicine, surgery, psychiatry and dialysis tend to earn higher salaries than those in other CNA positions. Since CNAs in these specialties need additional education and certification to qualify for their positions, they typically earn more.

Related: CNA Certification Requirements and Highest-Paying States

What is the job outlook for CNAs?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an 8% increase in the employment outlook for CNAs between 2020 and 2030. This increase may reflect the growing demand for qualified medical professionals because of the aging population of the U.S. Since aging citizens are more likely to experience medical conditions as they get older, the demand for health care professionals to meet their needs may also increase. Additionally, there may be an increase in the number of people seeking health care. Due to technological advances, health care may become more accessible, increasing the number of people who seek care.

Related: Understanding CNA Certifications and How To Obtain Them

States with the highest-paid CNA jobs

Here are the states with the highest-paid CNA jobs. Please note that these jobs are high-paying compared to the national average salary for this position. For the most up-to-date salaries, please click on the links below:

  • South Dakota: $49,603 per year

  • Alaska: $44,127 per year

  • California: $42,663 per year

  • Washington: $42,564 per year

  • Oregon: $42,256 per year

  • North Dakota: $42,027 per year

  • New York: $41,649 per year

  • Massachusetts: $41,539 per year

  • Vermont: $41,057 per year

  • Minnesota: $40,670 per year

  • Pennsylvania: $40,563 per year

  • Nebraska: $39,646 per year

  • New Jersey: $39,441 per year

  • Maine: $39,380 per year

  • Wyoming: $39,272 per year

  • Hawaii: $39,255 per year

  • Colorado: $39,160 per year

  • Nevada: $39,124 per year

  • New Hampshire: $38,663 per year

Explore more articles