CNA Facts

Being a CNA presents a stable and fulfilling career option.
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Fashion changes and retail trends come and go, and the real estate market has its ups and downs, but people will always need health care. Working as a CNA -- a certified nursing assistant -- offers an entry-level way to make a living in a fast-growing field that gives you the opportunity to help people as you help yourself. Facts vary a bit per state and employer, but national statistics paint a fairly consistent portrait of the job.


    The “C” in CNA is not to be taken lightly. In addition to a post-secondary certificate from a college or vocational school, you'll of course need certification to become a CNA. The process and job title vary by state, but in any case, you'll need to take a competency exam -- usually a written test -- to get on your state's CNA registry. Additional requirements range from a background check to continuing education, so check in with your state's board of health or nursing for more information. Some states offer advanced credentials, including CMA, or certified medication assistant.


    For the most part, CNAs provide basic care for patients in hospitals, homes and nursing homes -- typically nursing and residential care facilities, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Responsibilities run far and wide, including reporting patient information to nurses, cleaning and bathing patients, relaying messages, cleaning up rooms, measuring vital signs, serving meals, transferring and escorting patients and even helping them use the bathroom. CMAs are qualified to give medicine to patients.

Pay and Job Outlook

    As of 2013, the most up-to-date BLS statistics -- recorded in 2010 and reported in 2012 -- put the median yearly wage for nursing aides, attendants and orderlies at $24,010, with the bottom 10 percent reporting $17,790 annually and the top of the heap reporting more than $34,580 per year. The BLS estimates 20 percent job growth from 2010 to 2020, a figure that is faster than the average for all occupations. As of 2010, the U.S. was home to 1,505,300 nursing aides, attendants and orderlies.

Fun Facts

    CNAs trace their history all the way back to World War I, when the American Red Cross created the Volunteer Nurses Aide Service, a group that helped wartime nurses. In June of every year, National Nursing Assistants Week honors the profession, and has done so since 1977. According to, Michigan is your best bet for finding work as a CNA -- as of 2010, the Great Lakes State had a higher demand for certified nurse assistants than any other state in the country.

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