Personal Care Aides

Career, Salary and Education Information

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What Personal Care Aides Do[About this section] [To Top]

Personal care aides help clients with self-care and everyday tasks. They also provide social supports and assistance that enable clients to participate in their communities.

Duties of Personal Care Aides

Personal care aides typically do the following:

  • Care for and assist clients with cognitive impairments, such as Alzheimer’s or mental illness
  • Engage clients by talking to or playing games with them, or by taking them for walks
  • Help clients with hygiene-related tasks, such as bathing, brushing teeth, and going to the bathroom
  • Transfer clients to and from a bed or a wheelchair
  • Complete housekeeping tasks, such as changing bed linens, washing dishes, and cleaning living areas
  • Help prepare and plan meals
  • Assist with organizing a client’s schedule and schedule appointments
  • Arrange transportation to and from doctors’ offices or the store
  • Help clients pay bills or manage money
  • Shop for personal items and groceries
  • Assist clients in going to work and participating in their communities

Personal care aides—also called caregivers and personal attendants—help clients with self-care and daily activities. Personal care aides perform tasks that are similar to those of home health aides. However, personal care aides cannot provide any medical services, whereas home health aides may provide basic medical services.

Direct support professionals work with people who have developmental or intellectual disabilities. They may help create a behavior plan and teach self-care skills, such as doing laundry or cooking meals. They may also provide other personal assistance services.

Work Environment for Personal Care Aides[About this section] [To Top]

Personal care aides hold about 1.8 million jobs. The industries that employ the most personal care aides are as follows:

Services for the elderly and persons with disabilities 43%
Home healthcare services 17
Residential intellectual and developmental disability, mental health, and substance abuse facilities 9

Most personal care aides work in clients’ homes; others work in small group homes or larger care communities. Some are hired directly by the client or the client's family, but many are employed by organizations or agencies that provide in-home services or support.

Some aides work in many facilities or homes during the day, whereas others may work with a single client. Personal care aides may help people in hospice and day service programs or may help people with disabilities go to work and stay engaged in their communities.

Personal Care Aide Work Schedules

Most personal care aides work full time, although 2 out of 5 work part time. They may be required to work evening and weekend hours to attend to their clients’ needs.

Injuries and Illnesses

Personal care aides have a higher rate of injuries and illnesses than the national average. Work as an aide can be physically and emotionally demanding. Aides may become injured when lifting clients or transferring them into and out of beds or wheelchairs. Aides often work with clients who have mental health issues or cognitive impairments and who may become difficult or violent at times. There are also dangers when working with clients who have communicable diseases or infections. Personal care aides can guard against many injuries and illnesses by following proper procedures.

How to Become a Personal Care Aide[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Personal Care Aides near you!

Most personal care aides are trained on the job. There are no formal education requirements for personal care aides, but most aides have a high school diploma.

Personal Care Aide Education

Although there are no formal education requirements for personal care aides, employers may prefer candidates with a high school diploma.

Personal Care Aide Training

Aides may be trained on the job by registered nurses, other personal care aides, or their direct employer. They are trained in specific tasks, such as how to work with a client who has a cognitive impairment and how to assist a client in preparing meals.

Most employers require aides to have training or certification in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Important Qualities for Personal Care Aides

Detail oriented. Personal care aides must follow specific rules and protocols to help take care of clients. They must pay close attention to a client’s medical condition, quickly noting any changes that may require assistance from medical personnel.

Integrity. Personal care aides should make clients feel comfortable when the aides tend to personal activities, such as helping a client bathe. In addition, personal care aides must be dependable and trustworthy so that clients and their families can rely on them.

Interpersonal skills. Sometimes clients are in extreme pain or distress, and aides must be sensitive to their emotions. Aides must be compassionate, and they must enjoy helping people.

Physical stamina. Personal care aides should be comfortable performing physical tasks. They often need to lift or turn clients who have a disability.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Personal care aides may be required to complete a formal training program depending on the state where they work, and state laws vary widely in terms of the requirements that must be met. Some states and organizations may conduct background checks on prospective aides. A competency evaluation also may be required to ensure that the aide can perform certain tasks.

There are no federal training requirements for personal care aides. For specific state requirements, contact the state’s health board.

Personal Care Aide Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for personal care aides is $20,980. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $16,910, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $28,620.

The median annual wages for personal care aides in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Residential intellectual and developmental disability, mental health, and substance abuse facilities $22,150
Services for the elderly and persons with disabilities 21,070
Home healthcare services 19,130

Most personal care aides work full time, although 2 out of 5 work part time. They may be required to work evening and weekend hours to attend to their clients’ needs.

Job Outlook for Personal Care Aides[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of personal care aides is projected to grow 26 percent over the next ten years, much faster than the average for all occupations.

As the baby-boom population ages, there will be an increase in the number of clients requiring assistance. As clients age, they often develop health or mobility problems and require assistance with daily tasks. The demand for the services that personal care aides provide will continue to rise.

Elderly clients and people with disabilities who do not require medical care are increasingly choosing home care instead of entering nursing homes or hospitals. Home care is often a less expensive and more comfortable experience for the client. Moreover, studies have found that home care is frequently more effective than care in a nursing home or hospital. Because personal care aides do not provide any medical services, they are a less expensive option for families or clients who seek someone to help clients with daily activities or perform light household chores.

Personal Care Aides Job Prospects

Job prospects for personal care aides are expected to be excellent. The occupation is large and is projected to grow quickly, adding many jobs. In addition, the low pay and high emotional demands cause many workers to leave the occupation, and they will have to be replaced.

Employment projections data for Personal Care Aides, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Personal care aides 1,768,400 2,226,500 26 458,100

*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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