Home Health Aide: Starting a Career in Home Health Care

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a home health aide. Get an overview of the requirements - such as job duties, degree programs, licensure requirements and certification information - to see if this is the career for you.

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Becoming a home health aide can serve as an excellent entry ramp into the nursing field. With the demand for home health aides projected to increase much faster than the average for all occupations, there would seem to be a minimum of worry about securing a position.

Essential Information

Home health aides provide health care and personal assistance to persons with disabilities, convalescents and the elderly. These workers must complete a training program, as well as obtain a state license to work in this occupation. Advancement opportunities are limited without further education.

Required Education High school diploma
Other Requirements State license
Certification Options National Association for Home Care and Hospice
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 38%
Median Salary (2015)* $21,920

Source:*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Home Health Aide Career Information

Training Program Information

A program in home health care prepares students for the responsibilities of caring for those who need assistance with daily tasks. These workers typically work for a hospice or home health agency. Training programs can be completed in less than two months, and on-the-job training is typically needed. Students learn important communication and interpersonal skills, government codes, and laws regarding the rights of residents and the operation of health care facilities. They also learn basic health care practices, including infection control and basic nursing care. Common coursework in a home health aide training program includes:

  • Health maintenance
  • Emergency protocols
  • Personal hygiene and grooming
  • Emotional response
  • Mobility techniques
  • Range of motion and positioning
  • Basic nutrition

Licensure and Certification Information

Home health aides who are employed by agencies that place them in home and nursing care centers or hospice facilities require a state license. Federal certification programs are available at technical schools and community colleges. Home health aides must complete 75 hours of training to become eligible for a state license. At least 16 of those training hours must be completed before they are allowed to work with patients.

A voluntary certification exam for home health aides is offered by the National Association for Home Care and Hospice (NAHC). It is not necessary for aides to have been employed prior to examination, but 75 hours of aide training is required. The NAHC's test is administered with a registered nurse and covers 17 different competency home health aide skills.

Career Advancement

Home health aides have few avenues for advancement without additional education and training. These workers may open their own businesses to gain control of their hours and wages. Alternatively, pursuing an undergraduate education in nursing will improve job opportunities. For example, becoming a licensed vocational nurse or registered nurse is possible by completing a certificate, diploma or associate degree in nursing program.

Job Duties

A home health aide is a person trained to administer personal and health care to patients in their homes. Aides are often employed by agencies, and their schedules can differ significantly. They may be required to care for several patients for brief periods or focus on one for a longer period of time. The services provided may include:

  • Provide basic cooking and cleaning
  • Administer oral medications
  • Check pulse, temperature and respiration
  • Assist with simple prescribed exercises
  • Stimulate circulation to help heal injuries
  • Assist with grooming tasks

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

In 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted 38% employment growth for home health aides through 2024, which is much faster than the national average for all occupations. The BLS noted an average annual salary of $21,290 for home health aides in 2015.

A high school diploma can open the door for you so secure a job as a home health aide providing health and personal care to patients. Aides that work in patients' homes, nursing care facilities, or hospices must complete formal training and obtain a state license. The National Association for Home Care and Hospice also offers voluntary certification.

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