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Resident Assistant: Job Description & Career Info

See what being a resident assistant entails. Find out what the education and training requirements are. Read on for career prospects and earning potential. Use this information to determine if this career field is right for you.

Career Definition for a Resident Assistant

Resident assistants serve the needs of people living in long-term care and retirement facilities. They typically work under the supervision of licensed nurses and directly with residents. Their usual duties include assisting with the feeding, bathing, and transportation of residents, in addition to housekeeping duties such as changing linens and light cleaning. Resident assistants are also called nursing assistants and orderlies.

Required Education High school diploma or equivalent, plus state-approved training and hands-on training at work
Job Duties Feeding, bathing, transporting residents, housekeeping duties such as light cleaning
Median Salary (2015) $25,710 (nursing assistants and orderlies)
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 17% (nursing assistants and orderlies)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Resident assistants are typically high school graduates. They go through state-approved training offered through a variety of schools and healthcare facilities, and then take a competency exam. On-the-job training is also required.

Skills Required

This is often a physical job, requiring lifting, kneeling, and long shifts of standing and walking. Resident assistants are generally patient, compassionate, and comfortable working as part of a team with other assistants and nursing staff. Resident assisting involves taking direction well and respectfully responding to the needs of others.

Career and Economic Outlook

Positions for resident assistants are expected to grow greatly over the next decade as the elderly population increases and as former resident assistants leave the field for other opportunities. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the employment of nursing assistants and orderlies to grow by about 17% from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). Pay for a resident assistant tends to be fairly low: the BLS estimates the median annual salary of nursing assistants and orderlies at $25,710 in 2015.

Alternate Career Options

Home Health Aide

Home health aides work closely with clients who may be affected by disability, age or chronic conditions that necessitate help with daily personal care tasks, light housekeeping and meal prep, and medical care, like blood pressure checks and administration of prescribed medications. Home health aides typically work with clients in their own homes and under the supervision of a nurse. Some employers, depending on the type, require home health aides to complete specialized training and take a competency test for state certification. In other cases, the only training required takes place on the job. There are no formal education requirements for this job. Professional certification through the National Association for Home Care and Hospice, while not required, could make a candidate more desirable. The BLS predicts that jobs for home health aides will increase 38% from 2014-2024; the agency also reported that home health aides earned median pay of $21,920 in 2015.

Licensed Practical Nurse

A licensed practical nurse (LPN) has completed a diploma or certificate program and passed a national licensing exam. Duties include provision of basic healthcare services like measuring vital signs and replacing bandages. LPNs work under the supervision of a doctor or RN. LPNs also handle daily care tasks for patients like helping with eating and dressing. In some states, LPNs are also called licensed vocational nurses. Employment growth is reported to be 16% from 2014-2024, per the BLS, and LPNs earned median pay of $43,170 in 2015.

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