Personal care aides

What Personal Care Aides Do

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


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.

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.


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


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.

Job Outlook

Personal Care Aides

Percent change in employment, projected 2012-22

Personal care aides


Personal care and service occupations


Total, all occupations



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]
  Occupation Description Entry-Level Education 2012 Median Pay
Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses

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Postsecondary non-degree award $41,540
Medical assistants Medical assistants

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Postsecondary non-degree award $29,370
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.'

Associate's degree $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.'

Associate's degree $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

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High school diploma or equivalent $28,850

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