Personal Care Aide

What is a Personal Care Aide? 

Personal Care Aides are healthcare workers that assist individuals who need help in managing the activities of daily living. These professional caregivers may also be called Personal Care Assistants, Personal Care Attendants or PCAs in the workplace.

Common Employment Setting for Personal Care Aides

Personal Care Aides work in a variety of settings, including skilled nursing facilities, hospitals, group homes, residential centers, assisted living facilities and private homes. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) about 2 million Personal Care Aides held jobs in 2016 and their largest employers were as follows: 

  • Around 46 percent worked for companies that provided services for the elderly and people with disabilities. 
  • About 15 percent of these workers were employed by home healthcare services. 
  • About 9 percent worked in residential intellectual and developmental disability facilities. 
  • 7 percent are employed in continued care retirement communities and assisted living facilities for senior citizens. 
  • Approximately 7 percent were employed in private households. 

Job Responsibilities of Personal Care Aides

Personal Care Aides assist senior citizens and individuals with disabilities, chronic health problems, cognitive impairments, and a host of other challenging issues. They work under the supervision of nurses and/or other healthcare professionals. Duties these caregivers commonly perform as they fulfill this role include: 

  • Assist clients with daily personal care needs, such as bathing, dressing and grooming. 
  • Handle housekeeping tasks, like vacuuming, dusting, dish washing and laundry, among others. 
  • Shopping for groceries and necessary household items. 
  • Plan and prepare meals consistent with the dietary needs and/or restrictions of clients. 
  • Plan necessary appointments for clients and organize schedules. 
  • Provide or arrange transportation to medical appointments and outings. 
  • Provide companionship and encourage or facilitate social/family engagement. 
  • Keep detailed records regarding the condition and progress of clients, as well as the services provided to them. 

Career Outlook: Personal Care Aides

Employment of home health and personal care aides is projected to grow 22 percent from 2022 to 2032, much faster than the average for all occupations according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  

About 684,600 openings for home health and personal care aides are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.  

The services that home health and personal care aides provide will be in high demand to care for the rising number of older people.  

The locations in which care is offered are affected by both policy changes and lifestyle preferences of older adults and people with disabilities. Long-term care services are increasingly shifting from institutional settings, such as nursing homes, to home- and community-based settings. This shift is expected to create many new jobs for home health and personal care aides.

How to Become a Personal Care Aide

People who wish to pursue Personal Care Aide positions need to hold a high school diploma or equivalent. Those who plan to seek employment in certified home health agencies or hospice organizations typically must complete a formal education program – often non-degree programs offered by many colleges and vocational schools – and pass a competency exam to become certified or licensed as a Personal Care Aide. 

Enrollment in the Medical Assisting associate degree program at Bryant & Stratton College is one path towards becoming qualified to work as a Personal Care Aide. In some states, students working towards a Medical Assisting associate degree may qualify to take the competency exam for Personal Care Aide certification/ licensure based on their studies in that program. Many students take advantage of that opportunity as a means of gaining practical experience in the healthcare field and earning a paycheck as they work to earn their Medical Assistant credentials. 

Personal Care Aide: Additional Training/Requirements

While some states require just a high school diploma and on the job training to become a Personal Care Aide, others require that these workers be state certified or licensed in order to work in the field. You can find out exactly what the requirements are in your state by contacting the state health board. Personal Care Aides who work for agencies or facilities that receive reimbursement from Medicare or Medicaid must be certified. In general, becoming certified or licensed as a Personal Care Aide means meeting minimum training standards and passing an exam. 

Some states and many employers require candidates for Personal Care Aide positions to pass criminal background checks as a condition of employment. Some employers may also require that candidates pass drug screening tests. Many employers require new hires to undergo a period of on the job training as a condition of continued employment. 

Many states and some employers require that applicants for Personal Care Aide positions be certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Becoming certified in CPR means completing a formal training course with the American Red Cross or another certification organization. CPR training may be included in Personal Care Aide education courses. CPR certificates must be renewed periodically – typically every two years – in order to retain certification status. 

For more insights into a career as a Personal Care Aide or in the Medical Assisting field, please visit the Healthcare Degrees section of the Bryant & Stratton College blog. Exploring the blog and our website can provide lots of valuable information and insights on the many career opportunities available in the fast-growing healthcare field, as well as in any other occupational field you may be considering as you develop your best plan for a successful and satisfying future. 

While these projections can help career-minded people evaluate potential employment fields, it is important to note that job market data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Handbook is only intended to provide insight on occupational opportunities. It should not be construed as a guarantee of salary or job title. Neither BLS nor Bryant & Stratton College can guarantee employment in any field.

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