Personal Care Assistant Certification and Certificate Program Info

Find detailed information about a certificate program for aspiring personal care assistants. Learn about admission requirements, course topics and professional certification in this field. Get career information about personal care assistants, including employment statistics and salary figures.

Essential Information

Personal care assistants (PCAs) provide aid to individuals with disabilities, injuries, or elder-care needs in the privacy of their homes. Prospective students interested in becoming personal care assistants can enroll in a certificate of completion program offered by a number of community colleges throughout the United States. These programs can be taken as non-credit options or as a prerequisite to a nursing or medical assistant program. Toward the close of the program, students complete a clinical internship that provides direct contact with patients in a home healthcare setting.

Graduates of these programs could meet state requirements for the profession and might be eligible to take the Home Care Aide certification examination, offered through the National Association for Home Care and Hospice. Affiliations with some organizations, such as MetLife or Goodwill, could decrease the cost of these programs for eligible students. A certificate can usually be earned in one year or less.

Education Prerequisites

Admittance usually requires a high school diploma or GED certificate. Other requirements include an up-to-date immunization record, tuberculosis test, a drug screening, and criminal background check. Schools might also require CPR or healthcare provider certification, as well as liability insurance prior to being admitted to the clinical phase of the program.

Program Coursework

Coursework covers topics in emergency care, medical terminology, and issues in personal care ethics. Aspiring PCAs learn to assist clients with getting in and out of bed, bathing, dressing, eating, house cleaning, and preparing meals. The curricula consist of sensitivity training, personal care equipment operations (such as stair lifters and wheel chairs), and fundamental coursework in anatomy and physiology. Other topics of discussion might include:

  • Medical terminology
  • First aid
  • Hygiene
  • Dementia
  • Infection control

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), personal and home care assistants held over 1.8 million jobs in the U.S. in 2010. The BLS also reported that the number of jobs in this profession was expected to grow by 70% between 2010 and 2020. Faster-than-average employment growth may be attributed to rising healthcare costs and the aging Baby Boomer generation. The median annual salary of personal care aides in May 2012 was $19,910, per BLS data.

Continuing Education and Certification Information

Graduates of certificate programs could meet eligibility requirements for the National Association for Home Care and Hospice's Home Care Aid certification examination administered by the Home Care University ( Applicants must complete a 75-hour training course, pass a written examination, and provide proof of competency to obtain certification. Certification could meet state requirements for those who receive compensation from government health programs, such as Medicaid and Medicare.

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