Personal Care Aide: What It Is and How to Become One

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Explore the steps required to become a personal care aide. From certifications, salary, and job descriptions, learn what you should know before taking the first step to become a personal care aide.

[Featured Image]:  A personal care aide attends to the needs of a patient in his home.

Personal care aides help elderly patients do their daily tasks, such as preparing meals and getting dressed. They tend to work in nursing homes, hospitals, or in patients' homes. This job is in high demand because there is a need to replace workers who switch jobs or retire. It is also rising because there is a trend shifting from institutions like nursing homes toward home- or community-based care. The cultural shift is expected to create jobs for home health and personal care aides.

Read on to learn more about what it is and how to become one.

What is a personal care aide?

A personal care aide supports and assists people with physical disabilities, mental impairments, and chronic diseases in managing daily tasks, from preparing meals to getting dressed to everyday self-care activities. Many personal care aides work with elderly patients, either in a nursing home, hospital setting, or their homes. Working as a personal care aide can be a rewarding career with excellent on-the-job training and options for career growth. U.S. News & World Report ranks it as the 2nd best job without a college degree in 2022 [1].

Read more: What Is a Home Health Aide? A Career Guide

Salary and career outlook

According to Glassdoor the average personal care aide's salary is $34,541 [2]. The career outlook is excellent, with the industry expected to grow by 25 percent between 2021 and 2031, which is much faster than average [3].

Career progression opportunities are good, with a personal care aide position providing the experience for moving onto more senior positions, such as senior caregiver and care manager.

Educational requirements

For this role, specific requirements may may across states and different positions. Most training takes place on the job, but most employers expect a high school diploma or GED as a minimum requirement. This isn’t the case for all positions though, as the right skills and qualities are considered very valuable in this field. 

Still, earning an associate or bachelor's degree can demonstrate your knowledge and education level. It'll be especially helpful if you want to enter senior-level roles in the future.

On-the-job training

When you're hired, you'll typically receive on-the-job training from registered nurses, employers, and supervisors. Training covers many subjects, including health and safety, cooking for dietary restrictions, responding to emergencies, infection control, basic nutrition, and general best practices. 

Formal training

Some states require formal training instead of (or in addition to) on-the-job training, especially for those working in certified home health or hospice agencies. This may include getting a license or certification and passing a background check and competency exam. 


Depending on the employer, various personal care aide certifications may or may not be part of the requirements, but they will always be an advantage. Keeping up to date with professional development and looking for ways to stay ahead of other candidates is an excellent strategy for securing a job. 

  • CPR certification: Working with people with health conditions means that first aid and even resuscitation may be something you have to administer. Some states require certification in this area, but no matter what, CPR training will be an advantage when applying for jobs. 

  • First aid certification: First aid is likely to play a part in the role of a personal care aide, given the nature of the job, so seek out training. Some employers will require official external certification. You can take courses in first aid before applying to get ahead.

Skills needed

You'll need both interpersonal skills and technical skills as a personal care aide. Here's a few of each to understand what skills to build upon.

  • Patience

  • Empathy

  • Relationship building 

  • Interpersonal and communication skills

  • Integrity

  • Time management

  • Organization

  • Physical stamina

Technical skills 

  • Housekeeping

  • Cooking

  • Basic hygiene

  • Scheduling and planning

  • Medical knowledge, including first aid and CPR

Where you will work

Personal care aides work in various settings, making options plentiful and easy to move to new positions to gain a more comprehensive level of experience. 

Personal care home: Many personal care aides work in care homes, hospices, or large group care settings. You will give hospice care when a patient has been given six months or less to live by their doctor.

Read more: Your Guide to Getting a Home Health Aide Certification

Small group setting: Some personal care aides work in small groups, supporting clients in daycare centers. Some work specifically with individual clients, and others work with groups on a shift rotation.

Individual homes: Some personal care aide roles, particularly in rural communities, occur in the patient’s home. This may be with a single patient or, most likely, with several patients, they visit throughout the day.

Brush up on your skills

To start your career as a personal care aide, consider getting certified in first aid and CPR. Enroll in relevant courses to maximize your chances of being offered a position, such as Foundations for Assisting in Home Care offered by the State University of New York.

Article sources


US News & World Report, “Best Jobs Without a College Degree: 2022," Accessed January 23, 2023.

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