Personal Care Aide

Job Duties

Personal care aides, who are also referred to as homemakers, caregivers, companions, and personal attendants, provide help to people who are elderly, disabled, or sick. Their clients usually require a greater amount of care than their family and friends can provide to them. Aides usually travel to the client's home. They work with small children whose parents are incapacitated or discharged hospital patients with short-term needs. They differ from home health aides because they do not provide health-related services, but rather housekeeping and routine personal care. They may clean the house or apartment, do laundry, or change bed sheets. They often cook and plan meals for their clients. They may dress them, and sometimes bath and groom them. Some work with clients outside the home.

Personal care aides give their clients a certain amount of psychological support. They counsel families regarding nutrition, cleanliness, and household tasks. They sometimes toilet train children who are severely mentally handicapped. Sometimes they may sit and listen to clients discuss their everyday challenges and problems. Personal care aides are supervised by registered nurses, physical therapists, or social workers if they work in home healthcare agencies.

Job Skills

Those types of people who tend to succeed in personal care aide jobs generally enjoy helping other people and working hard. They tend to be emotionally stable and responsible. They are passionate about their work and their clients, and they usually have a pleasant and optimistic personality. They also need to be honest, tactful, and discreet.


In 2002, personal care aides earned a median hourly wage of $7.81. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $5.90, to the highest 10%, who earned more than $10.67. The following shows the median hourly wages in the industries employing the largest numbers of personal care aides:

  • Residential retardation, mental health, and substance abuse facilities: $8.63
  • Vocational rehabilitation services: $8.40
  • Community care facilities for the elderly: $8.14
  • Individual and family services: $8.12
  • Home health care services: $6.72

Training and Education

Training for personal care aides varies by State. In some States, no formal training requirements exist and on-the-job training is the standard. In other States, aides are required to have formal training, such as certification by the National Association for Home Care. Certification through this organization is a demonstration that the applicant has met industry standards. Some States also require applicants to have had a physical examination that includes tests for tuberculosis and other communicable diseases. Personal care aides advance by moving from cleaning to personal care duties, but advancement is very limited in this occupation. You can explore more about training for patient care careers by clicking on this link for patient care technician training.


In 2002, personal care aides held about 608,000 jobs.

Job Outlook

Between 2002 and 2012, employment of personal care aides is expected to increase faster than the average. A growing population of elderly people - the population group that most needs personal care aides - will account for much of the rising demand for these workers. More patients in other age groups will also rely more on personal care aides because hospitals are increasingly moving patients out of their facilities and back into homes in order to reduce costs. The occupation also has a high rate of turnover due to the low training requirements, low wages, and high emotional demands of the job.