Education Requirements to Be a Personal Care Assistant

Explore the educational requirements to become a personal care assistant. Get current information on certification and training requirements, salary, and projected job growth to find out if being a personal care assistant is a job for you. Schools offering Medical Assisting degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career information at a Glance

Personal care assistants help others with activities of daily life, such as shopping, cooking, and transportation. Although no degree is needed, there are common education and training avenues. Check out the quick-glance table below for details about becoming a personal care assistant.

Education Options High school diploma or equivalent; post-secondary non-degree program
Common Training On-the-job training; specialized programs
Key Skills Detail-oriented, ability to adhere to rules and protocols, good decision-making skills, compassionate and caring
Possible Certifications Vary by state, local area or employer; CPR
Job Growth (2016-26) 39% (personal care aides)*
Median Wages (2017) $23,100 (personal care aides)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Does a Personal Care Assistant Do?

A personal care assistant helps the elderly, people who are recovering from illness or injury, and those with physical and mental disabilities perform activities of daily living. Duties include housekeeping chores such as laundry, grocery shopping, making beds, washing dishes, and preparing meals. A personal care assistant might instruct the client on proper hygiene, cleanliness, and nutrition. Some states will allow personal care assistants to administer medications, assist with simple exercises, or take vital signs under the direction of licensed health care professionals. Additionally, depending on area regulations, personal care assistants may be able to provide dressing changes or massages, apply topical creams, assist with medical devices and complete proper cleaning of the instruments. Typically, however, duties for personal care assistants remain in the realm of non-medical services such as cleaning, cooking, and driving.

Where Do Personal Care Assistants Work?

Personal care assistants work in a variety of settings. They can work in nursing homes, client homes, hospitals, group homes, retirement facilities, and day service programs. Personal care assistants may travel to multiple clients in a day, care for one patient a day, or even reside in client homes. Hours and schedules can vary including full-time, part-time, holidays, weekends, evenings, and nights. Typical employers of personal care assistants are agencies dealing with elderly, disabled, home health care, retirement communities, and private residences.

What Types of Skills and Responsibilities Are Typical for Personal Care Assistants?

Personal care assistants are often caring, dependable, trustworthy, empathetic, and compassionate. It is essential that personal care assistants carry themselves professionally, yet make the clients feel comfortable while performing intimate tasks. Duties may include close contact with the patient such as assisting the client in walking, transferring, turning, and lifting. Certain states allow personal care assistants to help with bathing and dressing, as well. If a personal care assistant is authorized to provide care under a health care professional, they may also be responsible for obtaining, recording, and monitoring vital signs, daily hygiene, basic infection control techniques, and proper nutrition.

What Type of Training is Necessary to Become a Personal Care Assistant?

Training or certification requirements vary by location and specific work setting. No professional degree is required to be a personal care assistant. An employer or state may require a personal care assistant to obtain certification before providing care, while some states do not require certification. Typically, training for a personal care assistant is on-the-job or through specific programs. Vocational schools, health care agencies, and community colleges offer non-degree, post-secondary programs for personal care assistants. Some states allow potential personal care assistants to take a competency exam, and with successful completion, individuals might work without taking any additional training. To find out local requirements of working as a personal care assistant, contact your state's board of health for current regulations.

Are Personal Care Assistants in High Demand?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for personal care aides, or assistants, is 39% for 2016-2026. This is much faster than the average growth outlook for all occupations, which is 7%, and also faster than the growth expected for licensed practical nurses, at 12%. The baby-boomers and elderly populations are steadily growing, increasing the need and desire for personal care assistants. The demand is likely to continue as personal care assistants can work in a variety of settings and with diverse populations. Personal care assistants also provide many people with the ability to live in their own homes where they can be comfortable and continue to thrive as individuals and remain active in their social circles.

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