How to Become a Personal Care Attendant in 5 Steps

A personal care attendant assists clients with their daily activities and provides advice on nutrition and personal hygiene. Get information about training and certification requirements for this career. Schools offering Medical Assisting degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Personal Care Attendant Do?

Personal care attendants provide care for elderly, disabled and mentally impaired clients and for those with chronic illnesses. As a personal care attendant, you may provide a variety of personal services for these clients, such as cooking, cleaning, bathing and transportation. Your job duties may also include maintaining records and providing emotional support. To be a personal care attendant, you'll need to be well organized and have good communication skills. Check out this table for more information on this career:

Education Required On-the-job training
Key Responsibilities Care for clients with various disorders, prepare meals, assist clients with paying bills and doing day to day tasks
Licensure Requirements Varies state to state
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 26%
Median Salary (2015)* $20,980

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is a Personal Care Attendant?

Personal care attendants are often employed by home health agencies and work under the supervision of nurses or managers. For most jobs, you'd need to be at 18 years of age with a high school diploma, a valid driver's license, automobile insurance and access to a telephone. In addition, applicants should be in good physical condition, trustworthy, energetic and able to work independently.

Step 1: Research the Career Duties of a Personal Care Attendant

Activities such as housekeeping, bathing, dressing and transporting your clients will be routine in your job as a personal care attendant. If necessary, you'll also help them with eating, doing laundry, shopping and running other errands. Some clients require full-time live-in help, and may even offer free room and board. Your job will require that you keep meticulous records of your patients' condition and progress, including their eating and drinking habits. If you notice any changes, you would immediately report them to your manager.

Step 2: Locate a Training Program

Personal care attendants aren't required to have formal training or even high school diplomas. Training for these positions usually occurs on the job. Supervising nurses will teach you basic housekeeping, cooking and safety techniques, in addition to providing lessons in professionalism. If, however, you'd like to increase your job opportunities, you can enroll in a personal care attendant program. Community colleges, home health agencies and vocational schools offer training programs that can lead to certificates, and these programs often take less than one year to complete.

Step 3: Obtain a Training Certificate

If you opt for formal training, you can expect to take courses in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), clients' rights, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and medical terminology. The personal care aspect of your training might include fall prevention, nutrition, disease management, vital sign checking and management of medication. A certificate of completion may be awarded once assignments and final examinations are successfully passed.

Step 4: Seek Employment

Due to the growing numbers of elderly persons and those with physical and mental disabilities, employment was expected to increase by 26% between 2014-2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). You can seek personal care attendant positions in private or public health care organizations, such as hospitals and assisted living facilities.

Local newspapers and employment websites might have leads for possible job openings. As an alternative, you might send out resumes to local health care agencies. Compensation for personal care attendants is typically hourly and is often paid by the client needing the service.

Step 5: Advance Your Career

Generally, this career has limited growth opportunities. You can attempt to advance by learning as much as you can and taking on more responsibilities. Eventually, you can take additional training to pursue a related position, such as nurse's aide or registered nurse. Another option is becoming self-employed or starting your own home care agency.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Similar careers include home health aides and social and human service assistants. Home health aides perform basic medical services and assistance. Social and human service assistants provide assistance for clients in a variety of fields and settings, including social work and rehabilitation. These careers all require only a high school diploma and some vocational training.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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