Home Health Care Jobs: Career Options and Requirements

Home health care jobs are expected to increase over the next decade. The aging population, improvements in medical care, cost concerns and the desire for people to remain at home when sick or dying are all contributing to this growth. Opportunities and requirements for these jobs depend on the skills and responsibilities expected in diverse home settings.

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Career Options and Requirements for Home Health Care Jobs

Jobs that involve dispensing care to the elderly or sick call for certain characteristics such as compassion, desire to help, honesty and physical strength. The demands of the job - long hours, difficult tasks, emotional stress and low pay - result in high turnover rates. Entry-level jobs, such as aides, often don't require a high school diploma or formal training. Those wishing to become a licensed practical nurse or registered nurse need additional education and certification.

Personal Care Aides

Personal care aides, commonly known as caregivers or companions, are most often found in residential care facilities and private homes. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that personal care aides earned a mean annual salary of $20,830 in 2012, and that employment opportunities in the field would increase 70% between 2010 and 2020 (www.bls.gov).

Requirements for Home Care Aides

Caregivers require few medical skills. They frequently are hired without high school education or formal training, particularly if employed directly by a family. Some agencies require a minimum of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification and passing of a tuberculosis (TB) test. Training is usually on-the-job.

Home Health Aides

The BLS reported in 2012 that home health aides earned a mean salary of $21,830. The BLS also predicted that this fastest growing segment of health care would have a 69% increase in jobs from 2010-2020. As with caregivers, home health aides have limited opportunities for advancement without additional formal training. It is common for those already pursuing medical training in nursing to be employed as caregivers or health aides.

Requirements for Home Health Aides

Home health aides may work privately with no training or certification; however, agencies that receive government reimbursements for medical care must comply with federal regulations. To be eligible for agency employment, home health aides may need CPR training, negative results on their TB test, evidence of current vaccinations and acceptable general health. Some employers also require a current driver's license, use of a vehicle and proof of car insurance.

Nursing Aides

Nursing aides have limited options apart from the kind of setting in which they work. According to the BLS, those aides employed in the home health care industry earned a mean salary of $23,600 in 2012, and demand was expected to increase 20% for all nursing aides, orderlies and attendants between 2010 and 2020.

Requirements for Nursing Aides

Some states require certification for employment as nursing aides; however, there are still opportunities to receive on-the-job training without certification in non-regulated settings. The demands of the job determine the specific skill requirements, but they are similar to those of home health aides.

Licensed Practical Nurses

Licensed practical nurses (LPN) perform more skilled work than aides and may hold supervisory roles. The BLS reported a mean salary of $42,400 in 2012 for LPNs, along with an expected 20% increase in jobs over the 2010-2020 decade. Many LPNs continue training to become registered nurses.

Requirements for Licensed Practical Nurses

LPNs must be licensed to practice, which requires a high school diploma and completion of a state-approved training program. Some states require evidence of continuing education to maintain licensure.

Registered Nurses

Registered nurses (RN) have the greatest salary and career opportunities compared to aides and LPNs. According to the BLS, RNs employed in a home care setting in 2012 earned a mean salary of $65,530, and employment growth between 2010 and 2020 for all RNs was expected to be 26%. RNs can specialize by type of patient or medical area, and with increased training and education, can perform sophisticated tests and exams and prescribe medication. Many RNs are self-employed, and those with experience may open their own home health care businesses.

Requirements for Registered Nurses

RNs must have a degree from a recognized program and pass the national licensing exam. There may be other requirements determined at the state level. A bachelor's or master's degree in nursing may open up opportunities for advancement.

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