Nursing is considered a potential and rewarding job. With the development of healthcare services in the US, the demand for nurses is growing rapidly. If you are looking for a nurse career, there are many types of nurses. However, we are going to introduce in this post two popular options, CNA (Certified nursing assistant) and RN (Registered nurse); and how to distinguish between CNA vs RN.

CNA vs RN nclex
What is the difference between CNA vs RN?

1. Overview


1.1. What is CNA?

A certified nursing assistant (CNA) is an individual responsible for aiding nurses in providing basic patient care and making them feel convenient while taking treatment. This is the lowest level of nurses, therefore, their work scope is not as wide open as others. Although CNAs are often working under supervision, their work makes other nursing jobs diminished, allowing for better patient care. 


1.2. What’s RN?

Apart from CNA, registered nurses are nurses who are trained to administer advanced treatments, and provide a high level of patient care. They often work as a team along with doctors or physicians, performing patient assessments, treating injuries and sticking to care plans. 


2. Similarity of CNA and RN


In general, CNA and RN are quite similar

Firstly, they both are nurses who are working in the medical field. They often work in a team and interact with patients every day. They are considered the most people you see when coming to the hospital for any reason.

Secondly, these two types of nurses are in high demand. As mentioned before, healthcare service is one of the most growing fast fields in the US, so you can consider your career path as a nurse. 


3. Difference between CNA vs RN


Although CNA and RN are sometimes misdistinguished, there are 4 ways to tell the difference between CNA vs RN, which are Education, Work environment, Responsibility, and Salary.

rn vs cna nclex
RN vs CNA: What’s the difference?

3.1. CNA vs RN education

Becoming a nursing assistant requires you to complete 2 main programs, which are accredited practical nursing and state-approved nurse’s aide training program, in a very short time. Depending on which program you choose to be trained in, it often takes you 4 to 5 weeks. It is a good way to experience the career and then you can decide whether you want to work as a CNA or not. 

On the other hand, RN is different. Because this is an upper level than CNA, RN requires nurses to have at least 3 or 4 years at a nursing university. Besides, you must pass the NCLEX-RN exam administered by the National Council of State Board of Nursing (NCSBN). 

CNA requirements RN requirements
Practical nursing program

Nurse’s aide training program

Nursing bachelor’s degree


>>See more: NCLEX RN Exam: What Should You Know About It?


3.2. CNA vs RN work environment 

Generally, there is a variety of healthcare places where nurses can work in, such as schools, hospitals and clinics. However, based on their levels, there are distinctions in the work environment between CNA vs RN.

CNA are facilities caretakers that help patients with daily activities such as eating, bathing and moving. Therefore, they often work at:

  • Retirement homes: there are 40% of CNA nurses work in retirement homes. They have to take care of older people and help them do daily tasks.
  • Local hospitals: 61% of CNA nurses work in this environment. Their duties are to assist RNs in transferring patients to beds and wheelchairs and taking physical exercises. In addition, they have to follow doctors’ and RNs’ information to help with patients’ health care plans.
  • In-home assistant: If you do not want to a public place, you can choose to work as a private CNA. There are 18% of nurses who work in the ambulatory care field. Your responsibility is dressing, bathing and maintaining a healthy home environment.

Due to the solid base of 4 years of university and the NCLEX-RN exam, RN has specialised skills and can work in higher-level requirement environments as hospitals, private clinics or schools. There are 4 types of RN that can work in those environments:

  • Neonatology nurses: work with newborn babies, and help with kids’ health problems.
  • Rehabilitation nurses: assist people who suffer from injury or chronic illness
  • Public health nurses: in charge of educating the population on healthcare education. Furthermore, they also are able to diagnose diseases.


CNA workplaces RN workplaces
  • Retirement homes
  • Local hospitals
  • In-home
  • Hospitals
  • Private clinics
  • Schools
  • Gym systems


3.3. CNA vs RN detail responsibilities

You can look at the table below to identify what is the difference between CNA vs. RN

CNA tasks RN tasks
  • Getting medical supplies and equipment ready for patient care
  • Patients’ grooming, washing, and personal attention
  • Taking blood and measuring vitals; communicating with family and medical personnel about patient care and well-being
  • Prioritizing exercise, nutrition, and client well-being
  • Recording and analyzing patient medical data such as vital signs, symptoms, medical history, and more.
  • Providing patients with drugs and therapies
  • collaborating with physician assistants and medical physicians on patient care plans
  • Performing diagnostic tests and interpreting the results
  • Other nursing employees, such as Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs), nursing aides, and home health assistants, are managed or mentored.
  • Assisting patients, families, and carers in making long-term healthcare plans
  • Working with experienced consultants and medical personnel to determine the optimal treatment plan for patients depending on their current health and medical history.


nclex cna vs rn
RN’s salary is twice as higher as CNA

3.4. CNA vs RN salary

The average salary of a CNA is $28.540/year, which means approximately $13.72/hour. However, depending on which state you live in, the number will be changed. For example, Boston metropolitan CNA wage is up to $36.240/year.

Due to the long-term study programs and higher skill demand, RN is twice as higher as CNA. According to some trusted statistics, the RN salary is approximately $73.550/year or $35.36/hour. Besides, if your experience is gained, your salary will be higher.

CNA salary RN salary
$28.540/year $73.550/year

As you can see from our article, there are many options for the nursing career paths that you can choose. We have already provided you with distinguishing between CNA vs RN, the difference in education, workplace, responsibilities and CNA vs RN salary. If you want to have a better salary, you can look for the RN orientation and start with our NCLEX practice test now.