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How to Become a Home Health or Personal Care Aide

There are no formal education requirements for home health and personal care aides, but most aides have a high school diploma. Home health aides working in certified home health or hospice agencies must get formal training and pass a standardized test.

Education and Training

Although a high school diploma or equivalent is not generally required, most aides have one before entering the occupation. They usually are trained on the job by nurses, other aides, or supervisors.

Aides may be trained in housekeeping tasks, such as cooking for clients who have special dietary needs. They learn basic safety techniques, including how to respond in an emergency.

A competency evaluation may be required to ensure that the aide can perform some required tasks. Clients have their own preferences and aides may need time to become comfortable working with them.

In some states, the only requirement for employment is on-the-job training, which employers generally provide.  Other states require formal training, which is available from community colleges, vocational schools, elder care programs, and home health care agencies. In addition, states may conduct background checks on prospective aides.

Without additional training, advancement in this occupation is limited. 

Important Qualities

Detail oriented­. Home health and personal care aides must follow specific rules and protocols to help take care of clients.

Interpersonal skills. Home health and 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. Home health and personal care aides should be comfortable performing physical tasks. They might need to lift or turn clients who have a disability.

Time management skills. Clients and their families rely on home health and personal care aides. Therefore, it is important that aides stick to the agreed-upon schedule and arrive when they are expected.


Home health aides who work for agencies that receive reimbursement from Medicare or Medicaid must get a minimum level of training and pass a competency evaluation or receive state certification. Training includes learning about personal hygiene, reading and recording vital signs, infection control, and basic nutrition. Aides may take a competency exam to become certified without taking any training. These are the minimum requirements by law; additional requirements for certification vary by state.

Aides can be certified by the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC). Although certification is not always required, employers prefer to hire certified aides. Certification requires 75 hours of training, observation and documentation of 17 skills demonstrating competency, and passing a written exam.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition