Bureau of Labor Statistics

Nursing Assistants and Orderlies

nursing assistants image
Orderlies help transport patients in hospitals or residents in nursing homes.
Quick Facts: Nursing Assistants and Orderlies
2019 Median Pay $29,640 per year
$14.25 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education See How to Become One
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training See How to Become One
Number of Jobs, 2019 1,579,100
Job Outlook, 2019-29 8% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2019-29 119,500

Summary

What Nursing Assistants and Orderlies Do

Nursing assistants provide basic care and help patients with activities of daily living. Orderlies transport patients and clean treatment areas.

Work Environment

Most nursing assistants and orderlies work in nursing and residential care facilities and in hospitals. They are physically active and may need to help lift or move patients.

How to Become a Nursing Assistant or Orderly

Nursing assistants often need to complete a state-approved education program and pass their state’s competency exam to become licensed or certified. Orderlies typically have at least a high school diploma.

Pay

The median annual wage for nursing assistants was $29,660 in May 2019.

The median annual wage for orderlies was $28,980 in May 2019.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of nursing assistants and orderlies is projected to grow 8 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. As the baby-boom population ages, nursing assistants and orderlies will be needed to help care for an increasing number of older patients.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for nursing assistants and orderlies.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of nursing assistants and orderlies with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about nursing assistants and orderlies by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Nursing Assistants and Orderlies Do

Nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants
Nursing assistants help patients with activities of daily living like eating and bathing.

Nursing assistants, sometimes called nursing aides, provide basic care and help patients with activities of daily living. Orderlies transport patients and clean treatment areas.

Duties

Nursing assistants and orderlies work as part of a healthcare team under the supervision of licensed practical or licensed vocational nurses and registered nurses.

Nursing assistants provide basic care and help with activities of daily living. They typically do the following:

  • Clean and bathe patients
  • Help patients use the toilet and dress
  • Turn, reposition, and transfer patients between beds and wheelchairs
  • Listen to and record patients’ health concerns and report that information to nurses
  • Measure patients’ vital signs, such as blood pressure and temperature
  • Serve meals and help patients eat

Depending on their training level and the state in which they work, nursing assistants also may dispense medication.

Nursing assistants are often the principal caregivers in nursing and residential care facilities. Nursing assistants often develop relationships with their patients because some patients stay in these facilities for months or years.

Orderlies typically do the following:

  • Help patients to move around the facility, such as by pushing their wheelchairs
  • Clean equipment and facilities
  • Change linens
  • Stock supplies

Work Environment

Nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants
Orderlies are responsible for keeping hospitals and other facilities clean and tidy.

Nursing assistants held about 1.5 million jobs in 2019. The largest employers of nursing assistants were as follows:

Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities) 37%
Hospitals; state, local, and private 27
Continuing care retirement communities and assisted living facilities for the elderly 11
Home healthcare services 5
Government 4

Orderlies held about 50,600 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of orderlies were as follows:

Hospitals; state, local, and private 78%
Ambulatory healthcare services 5
Government 2

The work of nursing assistants and orderlies may be strenuous. They spend much of their time on their feet as they care for patients.

Injuries and Illnesses

Nursing assistants and orderlies have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. These workers frequently move patients and have other physically demanding tasks. They typically get training in how to properly lift people, which can reduce the risk of injuries.

Work Schedules

Although most nursing assistants and orderlies work full time, some work part time. Because nursing and residential care facilities and hospitals provide care at all hours, nursing assistants and orderlies may need to work nights, weekends, and holidays.

How to Become a Nursing Assistant or Orderly

Nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants
Nursing assistants must be able to communicate effectively to address patients’ or residents’ concerns.

Nursing assistants typically must complete a state-approved education program and pass their state’s competency exam. Orderlies typically have at least a high school diploma or equivalent.

Education and Training

Nursing assistants often need to complete a state-approved education program that includes both instruction on the principles of nursing and supervised clinical work. These programs are available in high schools, community colleges, vocational and technical schools, hospitals, and nursing homes.

In addition, nursing assistants typically complete a brief period of on-the-job training to learn about their specific employer’s policies and procedures.

Orderlies typically have at least a high school diploma or equivalent and receive a short period of on-the-job training.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Specific requirements for nursing assistants vary by state. Nursing assistants often need a state-issued license or certification. After completing an approved education program, nursing assistants often must pass a competency exam, which allows them to use state-specific titles. In some states, a nursing assistant is called a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), but titles vary by state.

Nursing assistants who have passed the competency exam are placed on a state registry. They must be on the state registry to work in a nursing home.

Some states have other requirements as well, such as continuing education and a criminal background check. Check with state boards of nursing or health for more information.

In some states, nursing assistants may earn additional credentials, such as Certified Medication Assistant (CMA). As a CMA, they may dispense medications.

Orderlies do not need a license; however, jobs might require certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or basic life support (BLS).

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Nursing assistants and orderlies must listen and respond to patients’ concerns. They also need to share information with other healthcare workers.

Compassion. Nursing assistants and orderlies help and care for people who are sick, injured, or need aid for other reasons. They need an empathetic attitude to do their work.

Patience. The routine tasks of cleaning, feeding, and bathing patients may be stressful. Nursing assistants and orderlies must be able to complete these tasks with professionalism.

Physical stamina. Nursing assistants and orderlies spend much of their time on their feet. They must be able to perform tasks such as lifting or moving patients.

Pay

Nursing Assistants and Orderlies

Median annual wages, May 2019

Total, all occupations

$39,810

Nursing assistants

$29,660

Nursing assistants and orderlies

$29,640

Orderlies

$28,980

Home health and personal care aides; and nursing assistants, orderlies, and psychiatric aides

$26,380

 

The median annual wage for nursing assistants was $29,660 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $21,960, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $40,620.

The median annual wage for orderlies was $28,980 in May 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $21,590, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $42,860.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for nursing assistants in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Government $35,500
Hospitals; state, local, and private 31,120
Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities) 28,910
Home healthcare services 28,600
Continuing care retirement communities and assisted living facilities for the elderly 28,590

In May 2019, the median annual wages for orderlies in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Ambulatory healthcare services $31,950
Government 30,740
Hospitals; state, local, and private 29,050

Although most nursing assistants and orderlies work full time, some work part time. Because nursing and residential care facilities and hospitals provide care at all hours, nursing aides and orderlies may need to work nights, weekends, and holidays.

Job Outlook

Nursing Assistants and Orderlies

Percent change in employment, projected 2019-29

Home health and personal care aides; and nursing assistants, orderlies, and psychiatric aides

25%

Nursing assistants and orderlies

8%

Nursing assistants

8%

Orderlies

5%

Total, all occupations

4%

 

Employment of nursing assistants is projected to grow 8 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. Employment of orderlies is projected to grow 5 percent from 2019 to 2029, faster as the average for all occupations.

As the baby-boom population ages, nursing assistants and orderlies will be needed to help care for an increasing number of older patients in nursing and residential care facilities. Older people are more likely than younger people to have disorders such as dementia, or to live with chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. More nursing assistants will be needed to care for patients with these conditions.

Demand for nursing assistants may be constrained by the fact that many nursing homes rely on government funding. Cuts to programs such as Medicare and Medicaid may affect patients’ ability to pay for nursing home care. In addition, patient preferences and shifts in federal and state funding are increasing the demand for home and community-based long-term care, which should lead to increased opportunities for nursing assistants working in home health and community rehabilitation services.

Job Prospects

About 174,000 openings for nursing assistants and 5,600 openings for orderlies are projected each year, on average, over the decade.

Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who leave the occupations, often because of their low pay and high emotional and physical demands.

Employment projections data for nursing assistants and orderlies, 2019-29

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Occupational Title

Nursing assistants and orderlies

SOC Code
Employment, 20191,579,100
Projected Employment, 20291,698,600
Percent Change, 2019-298
Numeric Change, 2019-29119,500
Employment by Industry
Occupational Title

Nursing assistants

SOC Code31-1131
Employment, 20191,528,500
Projected Employment, 20291,645,500
Percent Change, 2019-298
Numeric Change, 2019-29116,900
Employment by IndustryGet data
Occupational Title

Orderlies

SOC Code31-1132
Employment, 201950,600
Projected Employment, 202953,100
Percent Change, 2019-295
Numeric Change, 2019-292,500
Employment by IndustryGet data

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of nursing assistants and orderlies.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2019 MEDIAN PAY
home health aides image

Home Health Aides and Personal Care Aides

Home health aides and personal care aides help people with disabilities, chronic illnesses, or cognitive impairment by assisting in their daily living activities.

High school diploma or equivalent $25,280
Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses

Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) provide basic nursing care.

Postsecondary nondegree award $47,480
Medical assistants

Medical Assistants

Medical assistants complete administrative and clinical tasks in hospitals, offices of physicians, and other healthcare facilities.

Postsecondary nondegree award $34,800
Occupational therapy assistants and aides

Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides

Occupational therapy assistants and aides help patients develop, recover, improve, as well as maintain the skills needed for daily living and working.

See How to Become One $59,200
Psychiatric technicians and aides

Psychiatric Technicians and Aides

Psychiatric technicians and aides care for people who have mental illness and developmental disabilities.

See How to Become One $32,020
Physical therapist assistants and aides

Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides

Physical therapist assistants and aides are supervised by physical therapists to help patients regain movement and manage pain after injuries and illnesses.

See How to Become One $48,990
Registered nurses

Registered Nurses

Registered nurses (RNs) provide and coordinate patient care and educate patients and the public about various health conditions.

Bachelor's degree $73,300
Dental assistants

Dental Assistants

Dental assistants provide patient care, take x rays, keep records, and schedule appointments.

Postsecondary nondegree award $40,080
Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers

Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers handle routine animal care and help scientists, veterinarians, and others with their daily tasks.

High school diploma or equivalent $28,590

Contacts for More Info

Last Modified Date: Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Nursing Assistants and Orderlies,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nursing-assistants.htm (visited September 21, 2020).

Telephone: 1-202-691-5700 www.bls.gov/ooh Contact OOH

View this page on regular www.bls.gov

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