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Personal Care Aide: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Personal care aides require little formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and optional certifications to see if this is the right career for you.

Essential Information

Personal care aides work with physically or mentally challenged individuals who need help with daily tasks and chores, working in places such as residential care facilities, hospices and clients' homes. Typically, there are no education or licensure requirements for becoming a personal care aide, although optional certification programs are available.

Required Education none
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)* 49%
Median Salary (2014)* $20,440

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description

Personal care aides, also known as caregivers, personal attendants, homemakers, or companions, assist with the daily tasks of elderly, mentally disabled, chronically ill, or physically challenged clients, as well as hospice patients and those in various stages of rehabilitation or recovery. Aides might work at clients' homes, residential care or hospice facilities, adult day care centers, or senior centers. They might visit several clients a day or be assigned to one specific client. Shifts can vary, but most personal care aides are expected to work nights, weekends, and holidays.

It's important to note that personal care aide and home health aide are different vocations. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), home health aides work for certified, federally-funded agencies and can be trained to perform tasks such as changing dressings or dispensing prescribed medications. In contrast, personal care aides work for public and private agencies or are hired directly by clients' families. They generally are supervised by licensed medical personnel, such as nurses, or social workers and perform less medically-oriented duties than home health aides.

Duties

Personal care aides generally are responsible for light cleaning, cooking, running errands, and doing laundry, as well as assisting clients with bathing, showering, grooming, and other personal hygiene tasks. They also engage clients in activities like reading, talking, and playing games. Additionally, personal care aides might consult with a client's family members to address their concerns regarding the client's health, nutrition, and overall well-being.

Requirements

Personal care aides typically don't need a high school diploma, license or certification, but they might need to meet some requirements set by their state or employer. For example, an aide might need to learn basic emergency and safety techniques, or he or she might be asked to cook with specific dietary restrictions in mind. As a general rule, personal care aides should be in good physical condition, have access to a reliable mode of transportation and, perhaps most of all, enjoy helping those in need.

The National Association of Home Care and Hospice (www.nahc.org) offers a voluntary certification program for personal care aides. Candidates for certification must go through a 75-hour training process, demonstrate the skills they've acquired, and pass a written exam.

Salary Info and Job Outlook

The employment of personal care aides is expected to increase by about 49% between 2012 and 2022, making personal care one of the fastest growing industries in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov). The BLS reported that the median annual salary earned by personal care aides was $20,440 in May 2014; those aides employed by state governments earned the most money, averaging $35,930 a year.

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