A team of nurses standing outside

How to Become a Nursing Assistant

Duties, Responsibilities, Schooling, Requirements, Certifications, Job Outlook, and Salary

A team of nurses standing outside

The moment you earned your Medical Assistant certification, you also opened the door several of job opportunities in the healthcare industry. One of the most important and personally satisfying positions available to an MA is that of a nursing assistant. As a nursing assistant, you play an essential role in your patients’ lives, helping them attend to their daily tasks and monitoring their health.

As you read this career guide, you’ll gain a greater knowledge of the skills required to become a nursing assistant, as well as the educational requirements, projected salaries, and job outlook for this important position.

Not sure if becoming a nursing assistant is right for you? Click here to see the other careers featured on our list of top alternative jobs for medical assistants.

Nursing Assistant Definition

What is a Nursing Assistant?

Nursing assistants are givers. They devote their professional time and efforts to help the elderly, those with special needs, people recovering from extensive injuries or sickness, hospice patients, and many other groups of people in need of help with basic daily tasks. In addition, nursing assistants play a significant, positive role in the lives of those under their care and are often their first point of contact when medical issues arise.

Nursing Assistant: Job Description

What Does a Nursing Assistant Do?

Sometimes referred to as nurses’ aides, nursing assistants work under an RN’s supervision to provide care to those in need of assistance with everyday tasks. Their main tasks include helping patients perform their daily routines, assisting and documenting their medical care, and providing help with their personal needs. Nursing assistants are in a position to monitor the health and well-being of these patients and provide vital updates to the supervising nurse.

As a nursing assistant, you will spend many hours with the same patients and will likely accompany them for much of their care journey. The intimate knowledge you gain as the primary caregiver in these patients’ lives will enable you to provide invaluable knowledge to the supervising nurse and have a significant and lasting impact on their quality of life.

Nursing Assistant Duties

Some of the day-to-day responsibilities of nursing assistants include:

  • Taking and monitoring vital signs
  • Reporting patient condition to the supervising nurse
  • Assisting with exercises that promote range-of-motion
  • Dressing, bathing, and feeding the patient
  • Assisting with toilet use
  • Helping with walkers, canes, and other mobility devices
  • Making beds
  • Transferring wheelchair-bound patients safely
  • Turning and positioning bed-ridden patients regularly

Where Do Nursing Assistants Work?

As a nursing assistant, you can find employment in a number of different settings where people of all ages need professional care on a daily basis. These locations include:

  • Nursing homes
  • In-home care
  • Assisted living facilities
  • Hospice facilities
  • Hospitals
  • Long-term care facilities
  • Correctional institutions

Nursing Assistant Schooling & Certification

How Long Does It Take to Become a Nursing Assistant?

What Degree Do You Need to Be a Nursing Assistant?

Medical assistants looking to change their careers will find that their MA education and experience positions them well for becoming a nursing assistant. While becoming a nursing assistant does not require a college degree, it does require a high school diploma or its equivalent. Additionally, you will need to enroll in a state-approved training program and pass a certification exam in order to receive the required credentials to find work in your state. You can apply most of the training you’ve received in your MA program to your nursing assistant career.

Medical Assistant with a doctor and a patient

Why is Nursing Assistant a Great Alternative Career Path for Medical Assistants?

Those who possess an MA diploma are excellent candidates for nursing assistant positions. For starters, being an MA shows that you already have the compassion in your heart necessary to help those who have difficulty helping themselves. Secondly, your MA diploma shows you have the discipline and skillsets required to make a lifelong career out of this honorable profession.

Additionally, prospective employers will value your MA education and experience, which could give you an advantage when choosing the person they want to hire. Other reasons to choose a career as a nursing assistant include its bright job outlook, plentiful opportunities for advancement, and widespread availability of jobs.

Nursing Assistant Salary

How Much Do Nursing Assistants Make?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual salary* for a nursing assistant is about $32,000, which works out to be just above $15 per hour. Salaries for nursing assistants in the 90th percentile can reach as high as $42,000 or more.

Highest Paying Industries for Nursing Assistants

According to the BLS, these are the industries where you’re most likely to find the top-paying jobs for nursing assistants:

Industry Average Hourly Pay Average Salary
Junior Colleges 23.68 $49,250
Colleges & Universities $21.57 $44,870
Federal Government $19.81 $41,210
Scientific Research & Development $19.05 $39,630
Outpatient Care Centers $18.47 $38,420

Highest Paying States for Nursing Assistants

According to the BLS, nursing assistants earn the highest average wages in the following states:

State Average Hourly Pay Average Salary
Alaska $20.43 $42,500
New York $19.53 $40,620
California $18.89 $39,280
Hawaii $18.58 $38,650
Massachusetts $17.86 $37,160

Highest Paying Cities for Nursing Assistants

According to the BLS, nursing assistants earn the highest annual wages in the following cities:

City Average Hourly Pay Average Salary
San Francisco, CA $23.28 $48,420
Santa Cruz, CA $21.13 $43,960
Vallejo, CA $20.29 $42,200
San Jose, CA $20.18 $41,980
Sacramento, CA $20.17 $41,950
New York, NY $19.48 $40,520
Anchorage, AK $19.45 $40,460
Glen Falls, NY $19.44 $40,420
Napa, CA $19.43 $40,420
Salinas, CA $19.40 $40,350

Nursing Assistant Job Outlook

What is the Job Outlook for Nursing Assistant?

The BLS estimates that the overall employment of nursing assistants will grow 8% by 2029, a rate that is much faster than the average growth across all other jobs during the same time period (4%). As America’s Baby Boomer population ages, it is expected that the need for nursing assistants will be high for some time to come.

Medical students sitting on a staircase

Start Your Career by Earning Your Medical Assistant Diploma

For those who seek a rewarding career with enduring demand levels that build on your Medical Assistant diploma, becoming a nursing assistant could be a great career path for you.

If you’re ready to take the next step towards becoming a nursing assistant, you can start by earning your Medical Assistant diploma in as little as 10 months at Eagle Gate College.

Click here to learn more about our Medical Assistant program.