Becoming a Personal Care Technician: Salary & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a personal care technician career? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming a personal care technician is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Personal Care Technician

Personal care technicians, or home health aides, assist people who are acutely ill, disabled, cognitively-impaired, or elderly. Read on to learn more about the pros and cons of becoming a personal care technician.

Pros of Becoming a Personal Care Technician
High employment growth (expected to increase as much as 49% from 2012-2022)*
Some positions require no certification*
Various shifts available as well as part- and full-time work*
With experience, can lead to other medical careers (nursing, social services) *

Cons of Becoming a Personal Care Technician
Low pay, averaging $10.20 per hour*
Work can be physically demanding when moving and supporting clients*
Possible exposure to diseases*
Tasks may be unpleasant; difficult clients can be stressful*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Information

Job Description

Personal care technicians typically work for a hospice, senior living community or certified home health agency. Government regulations typically require working directly under the supervision of a nurse. You'd keep track of the services that you provide and the progress and condition of your clients. You also might provide support with cleaning, laundry, shopping and cooking. Your other duties might involve helping your clients with bathing, grooming, dressing, eating, running errands and driving them to doctor's appointments. Basic health services such as administering medications and taking temperatures or pulse and respiration rates are also commonly performed. Sometimes home health aides receive special training to work with medical equipment such as ventilators.

Personal and home care aides tend to be more independent. Supervising managers, nurses, or social workers only check in occasionally. However, you'd be told when to visit each client and what to do for him or her during your visit. You might work with one to several clients each day. Sometimes a family does the hiring and assigns your duties.

If you're providing services in clients' homes, transportation is your responsibility, and you may spend a considerable amount of time traveling. You probably won't be paid for that time and will likely pay your own travel costs. Mechanical devices used for lifting clients often aren't as available in homes as they are in facilities. In their absence, you might have to be very careful to protect your back from injury while lifting.

Job Growth and Salary

Personal care aides could see a 49% increase in jobs from 2012-2022, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The aging baby boomers and the increase in the elderly were considerable factors in this growth. As of May 2014, the BLS reported that the national average salary for this occupation was $21,210 or just over $10.00 per hour. Some of the industries that paid above the mean wage at that time included state governments and elementary, secondary and postsecondary schools. States paying the most for these jobs in 2013 were North Dakota, Alaska, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.

What Are the Requirements?

Training

The BLS states that workers in this occupation typically have a high school diploma, although some employers require formal training. For example, the BLS noted that if you want to work for a hospice or certified home health agency that gets reimbursements from Medicaid or Medicare, you'll need some formal training and competency testing for certification. Some employers offer on-the-job training from nurses and supervisors without having to be certified.

Skills

If you're thinking of becoming any type of personal care technician, you'll need to be patient, compassionate, stable and responsible. Considering that you'll likely be moving patients, you should be physically fit. You'll have to prove that you're healthy, pass a criminal background check and show a good driving record.

What Do Employers Look For?

A sampling of job openings revealed that employers are looking for personal care technicians who are reliable, caring and respectful of the elderly. Employers usually seek experienced applicants. Check out the following excerpts from real job postings, in March 2012, to see what else was important to them:

  • A personal care aide/home health aide trained to give personal care to the sick and disabled was desired at a home health agency in Pennsylvania. This agency preferred someone who had completed a formal home health aide or nursing assistant program and had one year's experience. This applicant should also be able to earn a score of at least 75% on the nursing assistant evaluation before employment. In addition, you'd need a valid driver's license and reliable, insured transportation. Yearly completion of at least 12 hours in-service training was also required.
  • An assisted-living facility in Wisconsin was looking for a part-time personal care assistant. This employer preferred a C.N.A. (Certified Nursing Assistant) and health care experience. Although part-time, benefits were a possibility with this position.
  • A New York assisted living facility advertised for a home health aide or personal care aide for various shifts. Certification as a home health aide was required. Experience in the field was preferred. Other requirements included fluent English, a desire to work with the elderly, strong organizational skills and professionalism. Grooming, changing linens and assisting with feeding would be necessary.
  • A home healthcare agency in Nevada was looking for an experienced, full-time or part-time caregiver/personal care assistant. This candidate would help with housekeeping, errands, meals and transportation. Some requirements included a valid driver's license and auto insurance, current cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification, clear criminal record, drug screening and reliable transportation. Applicants should be mature and trustworthy.

How to Stand Out in Your Field

If you provide care in both institutions and homes, you'll gain a wider range of experiences. Additionally, certification could be beneficial when employers are sifting through applications and resumes. To become certified through the National Association for Home Care & Hospice, you'll need at least 75 hours of training that teaches skills such as transferring techniques and taking vital signs as well as nutrition basics and infection control. There is also a written exam.

Other Careers to Consider

Medical Assistant

If you'd like to stay in the health field, but in an office setting, consider becoming a medical assistant. You could still put your high school diploma to good use while earning an even higher salary as a medical assistant. You won't have to physically care for patients, but you'll probably work in a physician's office and perform a variety of administrative and clinical tasks. The BLS projected a 31% increase in job opportunities from 2010-2010. The average annual pay in May 2011 was about $30,000, according to the BLS.

Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN)

If you're willing to get some additional postsecondary training to earn an even higher wage, you might want to consider a career as an LPN or LVN, depending on the state in which you reside. You'd still provide basic nursing care to patients and would usually work under the direct supervision of doctors or registered nurses. Nurses need to complete a formal nursing program, take the National Council Licensure Examination and obtain national licensure by passing an examination. As of 2011, the average salary for this category was $42,000 and they were estimated to see a 22% increase in jobs from 2010-2020.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Master of Science - DNP Executive Leader
      • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
      • Master of Science - DNP Path (Doctor of Nursing Practice)
    Master's
      • Accelerated BSN to MSN
      • Master of Science - DNP Family Nurse Practitioner
      • Master of Science in Nursing - Adult - Gerontology Practitioner
      • M.S. in Nursing - Family Nurse Practitioner
      • MS in Nursing
      • Master of Science - DNP Adult Nurse Practitioner
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelors of Science in Nursing - RN to BSN (RN License Required)
      • Bachelor: Health Science
      • Bachelor: Healthcare Admin
    Certificate
      • Family Nurse Practitioner Graduate Certificate
      • Nurse Educator Graduate Certificate
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Ashford University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS in Nursing (RN to BSN)
      • BA/Gerontology
      • BS/Health Information Management
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
      • Doctor of Nursing Practice with an Emphasis in Educational Leadership
      • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration
    Master's
      • MBA and MS in Nursing: Nursing Leadership in Health Care Systems (dual degree)
      • MS in Nursing: Nursing Leadership in Health Care Systems
      • M.S. in Nursing: Nursing Education
      • MBA: Health Systems Management
      • MS in Health Care Administration
      • MS in Nursing: Nursing Education
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Nursing (Registered Nurse - R.N. to BSN)
      • BS in Health Care Administration
      • BS in Health Sciences: Professional Development & Advanced Patient Care
      • Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Health Science
  • Online Programs Available
    4. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Healthcare Management
      • Master of Business Admin: Healthcare Admin
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Business Admin: Healthcare Management
      • Bachelor of Healthcare Management - HSA Mgt.
      • Bachelor of Healthcare Management
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Management - Health Care Management and Leadership
    Master's
      • MS - Nursing - Nursing Administration
      • MS - Nursing - Nursing Education
      • MS - Healthcare Management
      • Master of Science in Management - Healthcare Management
    Bachelor's
      • BS - Nursing (RN to BSN completion)
      • BS - Business Administration - Health Care Management
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Utica College

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy
    Master's
      • MBA - Health Care Management
      • Masters in Health Care Administration
      • Online Master of Science in Health Care Administration - Acute Care
      • Online Master of Science in Health Care Administration - Long Term Care
      • Online Master of Science in Health Care Administration - Service Organization
    Bachelor's
      • RN to Bachelor of Science
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science - Nursing With a Concentration in Family
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Project Management
    Certificate
      • Diploma: Medical Assisting
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Indiana Wesleyan University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Nursing Practice
    Master's
      • M.S. Nursing - Primary Care
      • M.S. Nursing - Associate to Master's - Nursing Administration
      • M.S. Nursing - Nursing Administration (Post-MBA)
      • M.S. Nursing and Master of Business Administration
      • Master of Business Administration - Health Care Administration
      • M.S. Nursing - Associate to Master's - Nursing Education
    Bachelor's
      • B.S. Nursing - Post Licensure (RN-BSN)
      • B.S. General Studies - Life Sciences
      • B.S. Healthcare Administration
    Associate's
      • A.S. General Studies - Life Sciences
    Certificate
      • Post-Master's Certificate - Primary Care
      • Post-Master's Certificate - Nursing Administration
      • Post-Master's Certificate - Nursing Education
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Graduate Specialization - Healthcare Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    10. University of the Southwest

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA - Healthcare Management

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Master of Science - DNP Executive Leader
  • Accelerated BSN to MSN
  • Bachelors of Science in Nursing - RN to BSN (RN License Required)
  • Family Nurse Practitioner Graduate Certificate

Which subject are you interested in?

Ashford University

  • BS in Nursing (RN to BSN)
  • BA/Gerontology
  • BS/Health Information Management

What is your highest level of education?

Grand Canyon University

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
  • MBA and MS in Nursing: Nursing Leadership in Health Care Systems (dual degree)
  • BS in Nursing (Registered Nurse - R.N. to BSN)

What is your highest level of education?

American InterContinental University

  • Master of Healthcare Management
  • Master of Business Admin: Healthcare Admin
  • Bachelor of Business Admin: Healthcare Management
  • Bachelor of Healthcare Management - HSA Mgt.

Are you a US citizen?

Colorado Technical University

  • Doctor of Management - Health Care Management and Leadership
  • MS - Nursing - Nursing Administration
  • BS - Nursing (RN to BSN completion)

Are you a US citizen?

Utica College

  • Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy
  • MBA - Health Care Management
  • RN to Bachelor of Science

What is your highest level of education completed?

Herzing University

  • Master of Science - Nursing With a Concentration in Family
  • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership
  • Diploma: Medical Assisting

What is your highest level of education?

Indiana Wesleyan University

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice
  • M.S. Nursing - Primary Care
  • B.S. Nursing - Post Licensure (RN-BSN)
  • A.S. General Studies - Life Sciences
  • Post-Master's Certificate - Primary Care

What is your highest level of education?