Personal Care Aides

Summary

Home health and personal care aides
Personal care aides provide light housekeeping and homemaking tasks, including planning and preparing meals.
Quick Facts: Personal Care Aides
2012 Median Pay $19,910 per year
$9.57 per hour
Entry-Level Education Less than high school
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Short-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2012 1,190,600
Job Outlook, 2012-22 49% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2012-22 580,800

What Personal Care Aides Do

Personal care aides help clients with self-care and everyday tasks, and provide companionship.

Work Environment

Personal care aides held about 1.2 million jobs in 2012. They work in a variety of settings, including patients’ homes and larger care communities.

How to Become a Personal Care Aide

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.

Pay

The median annual wage for personal care aides was $19,910 in May 2012. About half of all personal care aides work full time.

Job Outlook

Employment of personal care aides is projected to grow 49 percent from 2012 to 2022, 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 or companionship.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of personal care aides with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about personal care aides by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Personal Care Aides Do About this section

personal care aides image
Personal care aides help people in their own homes or in residential facilities.

Personal care aides help clients with self-care and everyday tasks, and provide companionship.

Duties

Personal care aides typically do the following:

  • Care for and assist clients with cognitive impairments, such as Alzheimer’s or mental illness
  • Provide companionship by talking to, playing games with, or going for walks with clients
  • Help clients with tasks related to hygiene, such as bathing, brushing teeth, and going to the bathroom
  • Help transfer clients from a bed to a wheelchair or vice versa
  • Complete housekeeping tasks, such as changing bed linens, washing dishes, and cleaning living areas
  • Help prepare and plan meals
  • Organize a client’s schedule and plan appointments
  • Arrange transportation to doctors’ offices or to the store
  • Help clients pay bills or manage money
  • Shop for personal items and groceries

Personal care aides—also called homemakers, caregivers, companions, and personal attendants—provide clients with companionship and help with daily tasks. They often are hired in addition to healthcare or social workers who may visit a client’s home, such as hospice workers. Personal care aides perform tasks that are similar to those of home health aides. However, personal care aides cannot provide any type of medical service, 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 About this section

personal care aides image
Personal care aides may help clients with daily tasks such as eating or drinking.

Personal care aides held about 1.2 million jobs in 2012.

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.

The industries that employed the most personal care aides in 2012 were as follows:

Services for the elderly and persons with disabilities30%
Home health care services25
Residential care facilities13
Private households9

About 6 percent of personal care aides were self-employed in 2012.

Work Schedules

About half of all personal care aides worked full time in 2012.

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 or transferring clients in and out of beds or wheelchairs. Aides often work with clients who have mental health issues or cognitive impairments and may become difficult or violent at times. There are also dangers when working with clients who have communicable diseases or infections.

How to Become a Personal Care Aide About this section

Home health and personal care aides
Aides may help clients get out of bed, bathe, dress, and groom.

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.

Education

There are no formal education requirements for personal care aides, but most have a high school diploma.

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 deal with a client who has a cognitive impairment and how to assist a client in preparing meals.

Some states require formal education or training programs available from community colleges, vocational schools, elder care programs, and home health care agencies. 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 some required tasks.

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

Important Qualities

Detail oriented. Personal care aides must follow specific rules and protocols to help take care of clients.

Interpersonal skills. Personal care aides must work closely with their clients. Sometimes clients are in extreme pain or mental stress, and aides must be sensitive to their emotions. Aides must be cheerful, compassionate, and emotionally stable. 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.

Time-management skills. Clients and their families rely on personal care aides. It is important that aides follow agreed-upon schedules and arrive on time.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

A few states require aides to have specific training or certification. There are no federal training requirements for personal care aides.

Pay About this section

Personal Care Aides

Median annual wages, May 2012

Total, all occupations

$34,750

Personal care and service occupations

$20,840

Personal care aides

$19,910

 

The median annual wage for personal care aides was $19,910 in May 2012. 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 $16,330, and the top 10 percent earned more than $27,580.

Most personal care aides work full time.

Job Outlook About this section

Personal Care Aides

Percent change in employment, projected 2012-22

Personal care aides

49%

Personal care and service occupations

21%

Total, all occupations

11%

 

Employment of personal care aides is projected to grow 49 percent from 2012 to 2022, 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 or companionship. 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 and disabled clients 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 personal experience for the client. Because personal care aides do not provide any medical services, they are a less expensive option for families or clients who seek someone to perform light household chores or provide companionship.

Clients often prefer to be cared for in their own homes, rather than a home care facility or hospital. Studies have found that home treatment is frequently more effective than care in a nursing home or hospital.          

Job Prospects

Job prospects for personal care aides are excellent. The occupation is large and expected to grow very quickly, thus 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, 2012-22
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2012 Projected Employment, 2022 Change, 2012-22 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Personal care aides

39-9021 1,190,600 1,771,400 49 580,800 [XLS]

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of personal care aides.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2012 MEDIAN PAY Help
home health aides image

Home Health Aides

Home health aides help people who are disabled, chronically ill, or cognitively impaired. They often help older adults who need assistance. In some states, home health aides may be able to give a client medication or check the client’s vital signs under the direction of a nurse or other healthcare practitioner.

Less than high school $20,820
Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses

Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses

Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) provide basic nursing care. They work under the direction of registered nurses and doctors.

Postsecondary non-degree award $41,540
Medical assistants

Medical Assistants

Medical assistants complete administrative and clinical tasks in the offices of physicians, podiatrists, chiropractors, and other health practitioners. Their duties vary with the location, specialty, and size of the practice.

Postsecondary non-degree award $29,370
Nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants

Nursing Assistants and Orderlies

Nursing assistants and orderlies help provide basic care for patients in hospitals and residents of long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes.

See How to Become One $24,400
Occupational therapy assistants and aides

Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides

Occupational therapy assistants and aides help patients develop, recover, and improve the skills needed for daily living and working. Occupational therapy assistants are directly involved in providing therapy to patients, while occupational therapy aides typically perform support activities. Both assistants and aides work under the direction of occupational therapists.

See How to Become One $48,940
Physical therapist assistants and aides

Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides

Physical therapist assistants (sometimes called PTAs) and physical therapist aides work under the direction and supervision of physical therapists. They help patients who are recovering from injuries and illnesses regain movement and manage pain.

See How to Become One $39,430
Radiation therapists

Radiation Therapists

Radiation therapists treat cancer and other diseases in patients by administering radiation treatments.

Associate’s degree $77,560
Social and human service assistants

Social and Human Service Assistants

Social and human service assistants help people get through difficult times or get additional support. They assist other workers, such as social workers, and they help clients find benefits or community services.

High school diploma or equivalent $28,850
Child care workers

Childcare Workers

Childcare workers care for children when parents and other family members are unavailable. They care for children’s basic needs, such as bathing and feeding. In addition, some help children prepare for kindergarten or help older children with homework.

High school diploma or equivalent $19,510
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Personal Care Aides,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/personal-care-aides.htm (visited December 19, 2014).

Publish Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014