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.

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Work Environment

Personal care aides held about 1.2 million jobs in 2012.

Most personal care aides work in clients’ homes; others work in small group homes or larger care communities. Some are hired directly by the client or the client's family, but many are employed by organizations or agencies that provide in-home services or support.

Some aides work in many facilities or homes during the day, whereas others may work with a single client. Personal care aides may help people in hospice and day service programs or may help people with disabilities go to work and stay engaged in their communities.

The industries that employed the most personal care aides in 2012 were as follows:

Services for the elderly and persons with disabilities 30%
Home health care services 25
Residential care facilities 13
Private households 9

About 6 percent of personal care aides were self-employed in 2012.

Work Schedules

About half of all personal care aides worked full time in 2012.

Injuries and Illnesses

Personal care aides have a higher rate of injuries and illnesses than the national average. Work as an aide can be physically and emotionally demanding. Aides may become injured when lifting or transferring clients in and out of beds or wheelchairs. Aides often work with clients who have mental health issues or cognitive impairments and may become difficult or violent at times. There are also dangers when working with clients who have communicable diseases or infections.

Education and Training

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).

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.

Personality and Interests

Personal care aides typically have an interest in the Building, Helping and Organizing interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework.The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things. The Helping interest area indicates a focus on assisting, serving, counseling, or teaching other people. The Organizing interest area indicates a focus on working with information and processes to keep things arranged in orderly systems.

If you are not sure whether you have a Building or Helping or Organizing interest which might fit with a career as a personal care aide, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Personal care aides should also possess the following specific 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.


The median annual wage for personal care aides was $19,910 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $16,330, and the top 10 percent earned more than $27,580.

Most personal care aides work full time.

Job Outlook

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.

For More Information

For information about personal care aides, including state requirements, visit

Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute


Where does this information come from?

The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

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This information is taken directly from the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Truity does not editorialize the information, including changing information that our readers believe is inaccurate, because we consider the BLS to be the authority on occupational information. However, if you would like to correct a typo or other technical error, you can reach us at

I am not sure if this career is right for me. How can I decide?

There are many excellent tools available that will allow you to measure your interests, profile your personality, and match these traits with appropriate careers. We recommend the Career Personality Profiler assessment ($29), the Holland Code assessment ($19), or the Photo Career Quiz (free).

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