Personal Care Attendant: Career Info & Requirements

Little education is usually required to become a personal care attendant. Read ahead to get career information, such as job growth and salary potential, along with descriptions of similar careers.

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Job Description for Personal Care Attendants

Personal care attendants, also referred to as home aides or caretakers, help the mentally ill, elderly, disabled, and people recovering from surgery to live in their own homes or residential facilities instead of institutions or health care facilities. Personal care attendants may also work with families who need help caring for an ill or elderly relative. Typical duties of personal care attendants include cleaning clients' homes; shopping for and preparing meals; changing bed linens; doing laundry; assisting patients with grooming, dressing, and bathing; and advising on diet, hygiene, and cleanliness.

Education High school diploma and on-the-job training; optional certification
Job Duties Cleaning patients' homes, preparing meals, assisting patients with hygiene
Median Salary (2015)* $20,980 (personal care aides)
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 26% (personal care aides)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Requirements

While there are few states that have any educational or licensing requirements for personal care attendants, having a high school diploma or optional certification will improve your employment prospects. Usually, only on-the-job training or a short course at a technical school or vocational college is necessary to become a personal care attendant; training includes hygiene best practices, managing patients with dietary restrictions, emergency and first aid training, and basic safety techniques. An optional, 75-hour certification course is offered by the National Association for Home Care and Hospice (NAHC).

Job Skills Required

Personal care attendants represent a vital link to the outside world, information, and services for patients; as such, personal care attendants should be diligent in their work, attentive, and responsive to their patients' needs. Because of the nature of their work, personal care attendants should also be prepared to work unusual or irregular hours.

Career and Economic Outlook

Employment prospects for personal care attendants and the wider field of personal care aides is excellent; the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is projecting an employment growth of 26% among personal care aides from 2014 to 2024. Because of the low skill requirements and rapid turnover of the labor force, there are many openings, but the pay for personal care aides is also low. Median annual earnings in May 2015 were $20,980.

Alternative Career Options

Similar career options in this field include:

Medical Assistant

In 2015, the median annual income for medical assistants was $30,590, and the number of jobs was expected to increase by 23% from 2014 to 2024, according to the BLS. Medical assistants perform a number of tasks, such as maintaining records, taking patients' vital signs, and making appointments. The training for medical assistants varies by state, but a high school diploma is usually the minimum education.

Nursing Assistant

Nursing assistants work more intimately with patients and are responsible for duties like bathing and dressing patients, serving meals, and taking vital signs. There are several postsecondary certificate programs for nursing assistants, which is an educational requirement to work. An 18% job growth was projected for nursing assistants from 2014 to 2024, as reported by the BLS. Nursing assistants made a median annual wage of $25,710 in 2015.

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