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Home Health Aide: Career Training to Become a Home Health Aide

Becoming a home health aide requires little formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and certification options to see if this is the right career for you.

Home health aides assist people with serious illnesses, disabilities, or mental impairments with daily living activities. At a minimum, an entry-level position will require a high school diploma, and some employers may require more formal training through a post-secondary vocational program. Learn about the educational requirements and job outlook information for home health aides.

Essential Information

While there are no formal training requirements to become a home health aide beyond a high school diploma or its equivalent, some employers prefer candidates who have pursued formal training. This job is a good fit for those who have the compassion and flexibility to care for the needs of patients who are elderly, disabled, or ill, which can include dressing wounds, bathing and grooming patients, and updating other medical professionals regarding the patient.

Required Education Some employers require formal training (typically 2-6 week vocational programs)
Licensure & Certification Certification requirements vary by state and employer
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 38%*
Average Salary (2015) $22,870 annually*
$11.00 hourly*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Training

Although a high school diploma or GED is not required for a job as a home health aide, some specialized training is necessary to pursue this occupation. Home health aide programs are taught in vocational schools or through health organizations. Programs typically can be completed in 2-6 weeks. Once training or education has been completed, some home health aide agencies require that individuals complete an evaluation. Health aide training topics include:

  • Nutrition
  • Anatomy
  • Home care skills
  • Communication
  • Personal care skills

Home health aides must also understand the basics of working for the elderly, disabled or ill. They should be prepared for typical healthcare field hazards such as exposure to communicable diseases and an above average risk of infection. Health aides also must be able to work independently, be caring and sympathetic, as well as be able to handle a flexible schedule.

Certification Options

Home health aides are typically employed by hospice or home care centers that receive government funding. Due to compliance issues related to this funding, many home health aides must be certified for home care work. Personal aides and home care aides, who are similar to home health aides, usually do not need to be certified.

To receive certification, home health aides must complete a training program, which is usually offered by community colleges or vocational schools. At a minimum, aides must complete 16 hours of training prior to working with any patients. Agencies who receive Medicaid or Medicare require 75 hours of training in order to receive home health aide licensure. Because certification requirements vary by state, home health aides may need to satisfy additional requirements if they move out of state.

Home health aides may also elect to complete voluntary certification through the National Association for Home Care and Hospice (NAHC), which can improve their chances for advancement. The NAHC tests home health aides on 17 competency skills, overseen by a registered nurse. Previous employment as a health aide is not required; however, certification does require the completion of 75 hours of home health aide training.

Career Advancement

Career advancement opportunities in the home health aide field are limited. Therefore, home health aides often choose to continue their education in the health care field. Many pursue nursing education to become nursing aides, while some opt to become licensed as a practical or vocational nurse. Alternately, some home health aides may run their own personal care business or work independently.

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

The demand for home health aides will be very high in the coming years; according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs in the profession are expected to increase 38% from 2014-2024. The primary reason for this significant employment growth is the expanding population of older people requiring home health care services. As of May 2015, home health aides made an average salary of $22,870 annually, per the BLS.

Working under the direct supervision of medical professionals, home health aides perform basic care responsibilities, but they also need to be aware of potential workplace hazards and exercise compassion toward patients. While a high school diploma is a minimum requirement, many employers require some certification through a post-secondary training program, normally available through a community college or vocational-technical school. Additional training may lead to higher healthcare careers.

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