As the population ages, there are increasing opportunities for those interested in a career in the home health care field. They can choose to pursue a career as a personal care aide, home health aide, nursing aide, licensed practical nurse, or registered nurse.
Home health care jobs are expected to increase over the next decade. The aging population, improvements in medical care, cost concerns and the desire for people to remain at home when sick or dying are all contributing to this growth. Opportunities and requirements for these jobs depend on the skills and responsibilities expected in diverse home settings. Education, certification and licensing requirements vary by job title and are summarized in the following table and detailed in the paragraphs below.
|Personal Care Aide||Home Health Aide||Nursing Aide||Licensed Practical Nurse||Registered Nurse|
|Required Education||None mandatory, on-the-job training provided||None mandatory, on-the-job training provided||None mandatory, on-the-job training provided||Diploma in practical nursing||Associate's, bachelor's and master's degrees available|
|Certification and Licensing||Voluntary||Voluntary||Voluntary||Mandatory||Mandatory|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||26%||38%||18% for nursing assistants||16%||16%|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$20,980||$21,920||$25,710 for nursing assistants||$43,170||$67,490|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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Career Options and Requirements for Home Health Care Jobs
Jobs that involve dispensing care to the elderly or sick call for certain characteristics such as compassion, desire to help, honesty and physical strength. The demands of the job - long hours, difficult tasks, emotional stress and low pay - result in high turnover rates. Entry-level jobs, such as aides, often don't require a high school diploma or formal training. Those wishing to become a licensed practical nurse or registered nurse need additional education and certification.
Personal Care Aides
Personal care aides, commonly known as caregivers or companions, are most often found in residential care facilities and private homes. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that personal care aides earned a median annual salary of $20,980 in May 2015, and that employment opportunities in the field would increase 26% between 2014 and 2024.
Requirements for Home Care Aides
Caregivers require few medical skills. They frequently are hired without high school education or formal training, particularly if employed directly by a family. Some agencies require a minimum of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification and passing of a tuberculosis (TB) test. Training is usually on-the-job.
Home Health Aides
The BLS reported in 2015 that home health aides earned a median salary of $21,920. The BLS also predicted that this fast-growing segment of health care would have a 38% increase in jobs from 2014-2024. As with caregivers, home health aides have limited opportunities for advancement without additional formal training. It is common for those already pursuing medical training in nursing to be employed as caregivers or health aides.
Requirements for Home Health Aides
Home health aides may work privately with no training or certification; however, agencies that receive government reimbursements for medical care must comply with federal regulations. To be eligible for agency employment, home health aides may need CPR training, negative results on their TB test, evidence of current vaccinations and acceptable general health. Some employers also require a current driver's license, use of a vehicle and proof of car insurance.
Nursing aides have limited options apart from the kind of setting in which they work. According to the BLS, those nursing assistants employed in the home health care industry earned a median salary of $25,710 in May 2015, and demand was expected to increase 18% for all nursing assistants between 2014 and 2024.
Requirements for Nursing Aides
Some states require certification for employment as nursing aides; however, there are still opportunities to receive on-the-job training without certification in non-regulated settings. The demands of the job determine the specific skill requirements, but they are similar to those of home health aides.
Licensed Practical Nurses
Licensed practical nurses (LPN) perform more skilled work than aides and may hold supervisory roles. The BLS reported a median salary of $43,170 in 2015 for LPNs, along with an expected 16% increase in jobs over the 2014-2024 decade. Many LPNs continue training to become registered nurses.
Requirements for Licensed Practical Nurses
LPNs must be licensed to practice, which requires a high school diploma and completion of a state-approved training program. Some states require evidence of continuing education to maintain licensure.
Registered nurses (RN) have the greatest salary and career opportunities compared to aides and LPNs. According to the BLS, RNs employed in a home care setting in 2015 earned a median salary of $67,490, and employment growth between 2014 and 2024 for all RNs was expected to be 16%. RNs can specialize by type of patient or medical area; with increased training and education, they can perform sophisticated tests and exams and prescribe medication. Many RNs are self-employed, and those with experience may open their own home health care businesses.
Requirements for Registered Nurses
RNs must have a degree from a recognized program and pass the national licensing exam. There may be other requirements determined at the state level. A bachelor's or master's degree in nursing may open up opportunities for advancement.
The requirements to work in the home health care field vary based on the specific career. Personal care aides do not need a high school diploma or any prior training before entering the field; by comparison, registered nurses are required to have a degree in nursing and must be licensed. From 2014-2024, the job growth rates in all these home health care fields are expected to be much faster than average when compared to all occupations.