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Become a Home Health Aide: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a home health aide. Research the job description, education, and certification requirements and find out how to start a career in the health care field. View article »

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  • 0:03 Career Info
  • 1:14 Complete Training
  • 2:04 Get Entry-Level Employment
  • 2:26 Consider Earning Credentials
  • 3:03 Pursue Continuing Education

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Video Transcript

Career Info

Degree Level Most aides have a high school diploma, postsecondary certificate programs available
Training On-the-job training typically offered; competency exam available in lieu of training
Licensure/Certification Some employers prefer certified candidates
Key Skills Strong attention to detail, time management and interpersonal skills; physical stamina
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 38% growth
Median Annual Salary (2015) $21,920

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Home health aides typically work in the homes of their clients. Some may also provide services in small group homes or larger medical facilities. They're responsible for visiting patients, providing medical and personal care services, assessing patients' conditions, and reporting this information to their employers. These aides may provide their services to the ill, elderly, or disabled. Common duties include assisting patients with household chores and personal care, cooking meals, and providing companionship. This occupation can be physically and emotionally demanding, with aides sometimes needing to lift or move clients.

Home health aids should have strong attention to detail, time management and interpersonal skills, and physical stamina. In May 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that home health aides in the United States earned a median annual pay of $21,920 per year. Job growth in the field is expected to grow at a much higher than average rate of 38% over the 2014 to 2024 decade.

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Complete Career Training

Many home health aides receive on-the-job training provided by other aides, nurses, or their supervisors. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, home health aides employed by certified home health or hospices agencies as well as companies that receive reimbursement from Medicare or Medicaid are legally required to complete formal training and pass a state-mandated exam or competency evaluation. Formal training for aspiring home health aides is available through employers, trade schools, and the American Red Cross. Programs employ applied and theoretical courses to teach students about physical therapy, patient assessment, nutrition, and mental health. Students enrolled in home health aide programs can benefit by completing clinical work under the supervision of their instructor.

Get Entry-Level Employment

Many home health aides work for the company they receive training from. They might also find employment with facilities that provide long-term medical care, such as hospices, nursing homes, or psychiatric treatment centers. Home health aides normally visit patients' homes independently, but entry-level employees may be shadowed by nurses or other supervisory medical professionals.

Consider Earning Credentials

As of 2012, the National Association of Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) no longer offers certification for home health aides. In lieu of this, home health aides should consider becoming a certified nursing assistant (CNA). A CNA credential is a common prerequisite for some formal training programs. Aides who work for employers that don't require formal training, should still consider becoming CNA certified to advance in their careers. Organizations, such as the American Red Cross offers nursing assistant training programs that prepare graduates to take their state's licensing exam.

Pursue Continuing Education

After gaining some work experience, many home health aides pursue an associate or bachelor's degree program in nursing with the intention of becoming practical, psychiatric, or registered nurses. Additionally, home health aides who become licensed as a CNA might be required to take continuing education courses.

Most home health aides are required to complete on-the-job training, though certificate and diploma programs are available in this field. Those who are interested in moving up in the nursing industry should pursue advanced education and certification.

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