careertrend article image
jacoblund/iStock/GettyImages

How to Become a Caregiver

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

Caregiving: Entering the Field, Developing Opportunities

Many people around the country need assistance in managing their health as well as in accomplishing the tasks of day-to-day living. Caregivers provide crucial services to these individuals, allowing them to live independently, or semi-independently, for as long as possible. If you enjoy caring for others, or perhaps, you’re interested in entering a career in health care, becoming a caregiver may be a good option for you. Many people find caregiving work is personally fulfilling, and flexible scheduling allows working parents to meet both job and family responsibilities.

Job Description

Caregivers provide companionship and assistance to clients who are living with an illness or disability. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that caregivers take on specific roles, depending on the type of work they do:

  • Home health aides: Home health care aides assist clients with managing their health, including taking and recording vital signs, administering medications and, in some cases, helping with medical equipment. A home health aide may also shop for groceries, cook and prepare meals that meet the client’s dietary needs, assist with bathing and toileting, and perform basic housekeeping tasks.
  • Direct support professionals: A direct support professional assists clients with developmental disabilities in a variety of ways, including developing and applying a customized behavior plan.
  • Personal care aides: Personal care aides provide companionship, perform housekeeping tasks, and assist clients with daily errands and activities. They do not provide health care services.

There may be some overlap in a caregiver’s roles and responsibilities because of individual client needs and preferences, as well as the caregiver’s training and competence.

Education Requirements

Caregiving is regulated by state law, although some state regulations are minimal. Many caregivers receive on-the-job training, although some community colleges and vocational schools offer short training courses.

If you wish to work for a home health care or hospice agency that’s certified to accept Medicare payments, you will need to complete an approved training course. Each state sets its own requirements regarding the length of a home health aide training program, but programs require at least 75 hours of coursework. Some states may require home health aides to be certified nursing assistants.

According to the BLS, the median annual wage for home health aides as of May 2016 was $22,600. This means that 50 percent of caregivers made more than $22,600, annually, and the other half made less. The top 10 percent made more than $30,610, and the lowest 10 percent earned less than $17,990.

While your ability to increase your earnings in this field is limited, becoming a caregiver can be a steppingstone to another health care job. If you find that you enjoy hands-on work with clients, you may want to explore careers in other health care professions, including nursing or physical therapy.

Industry

Caregivers primarily work in their client’s homes, usually under the supervision of a nursing, hospice or elder care service provider. In some cases, however, a caregiver may work in a group home, nursing home or rehabilitation center.

As a caregiver, you will likely have the option of working either full- or part-time. Because people need care around the clock, you may be asked to work evening or weekend shifts.

Years of Experience

As caregivers gain more experience, they can expect to receive higher wages, though the potential for increased earnings is minimal. According to a survey by PayScale.com, the correlation between years in the profession and in compensation is as follows:

  • 0–5 years: $21,000 
  • 5–10 years: $23,000 
  • 10–20 years: $24,000
  • 20+ years: $25,000

Job Growth Trend

The BLS estimates that demand for caregivers will grow by 40 percent between 2016 and 2026. This excellent employment outlook is partly due to the aging population in the United States, along with the increased desire of many elderly and disabled people to live independently with the assistance of caregivers and nurses.