CNA vs RN: A Comprehension Guide

CNA vs. RN: A Comprehension Guide

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If you’re considering a career in the healthcare field, you may be thinking about the role of a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) vs a Registered Nurse (RN). Both of these positions play a critical role in healthcare, but the job responsibilities, educational requirements, and career paths vary significantly. This article will provide an overview of the key differences between these two positions, as well as their respective career paths.

What Is an RN?

RNs coordinate and deliver patient care. Additionally, they educate patients and the general public about disorders, diseases, and other factors that affect health. They collaborate with patients, doctors, and other healthcare workers as licensed medical professionals.

RNs are able to give patients a high level of direct care, whereas other nurses, such as licensed practical nurses, are more concerned with supporting RNs or doctors. RNs are important in coordinating patient care and making sure that everything runs well in general.

What Do RNs Do?

Depending on where they work and the patients they are caring for, registered nurses may be needed to do a wide range of tasks. In light of this, the work typically entails:

  • Collecting of medical samples (blood, urine, stool, etc.)
  • Surgical wound care
  • Infection control and prevention

However, through completing patient evaluations, logging medical histories, developing care plans for patients, and other tasks, RNs are also needed to add a layer of critical thinking and healthcare strategy to the duties of their work.

Although they can be found anywhere, there is a need for nurses, such as in schools and prisons, registered nurses (RNs) are most frequently employed in hospitals, clinics, long-term care institutions, and private practice.

What Is a CNA?

A CNA may also be known as a nurse’s aide, a patient care assistant (PCA), or a nursing assistant. A CNA (certified nursing assistant) is a healthcare professional who has been trained to give patients personal care in a variety of situations. Under the direct supervision of a Registered Nurse (RN) or Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) assists patients with daily living activities and other healthcare needs (LPN).

What Do CNAs Do?

Depending on their place of employment, a certified nursing assistant (CNA) is supervised by an RN or a licensed practical nurse (LPN). They carry out a variety of tasks connected to the ongoing care of their patients. This can involve undertaking things like:

  • Collecting vital signs.
  • Serving food to patients.
  • Helping patients get dressed and bathed.
  • Bringing patients to a facility for treatment or testing.
  • Sanitizing rooms.

CNAs frequently serve as a point of contact between patients and other nurses on the nursing staff. It is the CNA’s duty to communicate any patient complaints regarding pain or discomfort to their supervisor, so they may make sure the issue is resolved. Patients may also ask questions about their treatment or express concerns.

The Difference Between a CNA and an RN

The following is the difference between a CNA and an RN:

Difference between a CNA and an RN
Difference between a CNA and an RN


In most cases, you must have a high school graduation or GED in order to work as a CNA. In order to play a hands-on role in your patient’s care, you will then often need to finish a CNA certification program. Many community colleges, technical schools, and organizations, like the American Red Cross, frequently offer CNA training.

You must pass a state-approved CNA certification exam in the state where you desire to work. State-specific requirements for certification will differ greatly, but they often involve things like completing an approximate number of hours of training or going through some sort of background check.

The major difference between a CNA and an RN is the requirement for a college degree to become a registered nurse. The level of education needed will vary depending on the state in which you want to practice. While some states simply demand an associate’s degree in nursing, others demand at least a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN).

It’s essential to remember that employers can set their own standards, and many will only accept candidates who have finished their bachelor’s degree, even if your state does not mandate that you hold a bachelor’s degree.


The majority of the work done by CNAs is related to providing patients with routine care. Typically, either an LPN or an RN is in charge of this. On the other hand, registered nurses typically have more duties than their CNA counterparts and are frequently in charge of creating healthcare plans for their patients and examining symptoms.


60% of registered nurses (RNs) work in hospitals, while 18% are employed by ambulatory care facilities, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The remaining registered nurses work for the government, in education, or in residential homes.

CNA graduates may work in a wider range of environments. 34% of nursing assistants and orderlies, including CNAs, work in nursing homes, 32% in hospitals, and 1% in retirement communities, according to the BLS. Others who are CNAs work for the government or in-home nursing.


RNs frequently make more money than CNAs since RN courses are longer and more comprehensive. The BLS reports the median annual salary for RNs in 2021 was $77,600, while the median annual salary for CNAs was $30,290. In both situations, pay varies according to industry, region, and experience.

The BLS anticipates growth in both industries as the demand for healthcare professionals rises. Between 2016 and 2026, the agency predicts an 11% increase in the employment of nursing aides and a 15% increase in the employment of RNs, both of which are greater than the average for all occupations (7%).

Wrapping Up

If you are focusing on entering the medical field and nursing is your choice of career, being an RN or a CNA may be a good fit for you. CNA vs. RN differences lies in minor responsibilities distributed across different job locations.

Each has a distinct benefit over the other. You must spend a lot of time and effort on each career if you want to be a part of it. To ace, your CNA exam, practice with our free practice test.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


The following are the states that have high earning potential, and pay well for the CNAs:

  • Alaska – $44,420
  • District of Columbia – $43,820
  • California – $43,570
  • New York – $43,450
  • Oregon – $42,960


The following are the states that have high earning potential, and pay well for the RNs:

  • California – $133,340
  • Hawaii – $113,220
  • Oregon – $106,610
  • Massachusetts – $104,150
  • Alaska – $103,310

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