Caregiver helping a patient use her walker

How to Become a Home Health Aide

Duties, Responsibilities, Schooling, Requirements, Certifications, Job Outlook, and Salary

Home Health Aide

Home health aides play essential roles in the lives of many patients living at home that still need continuous care. The training medical assistants receive qualifies them to perform routine clinical and healthcare-related tasks and personal tasks that help the patient live as independently as possible. By starting your career as a Medical Assistant (MA), your broad base of skills and knowledge can help you become a highly valued and sought-after home health aide the moment you gain your certification.

If the idea of directing your career toward becoming a home health aide appeals to you, earning your MA diploma could be a great place to begin the journey. Your knowledge and skills gained as an MA can set the stage for successful career as a home health aide.

(Click here to read our comprehensive guide on how to become a Medical Assistant)

Home health aide is one of many healthcare career options for graduates of a qualified Medical Assisting program. Click here to explore our complete list of alternative jobs for Medical Assistants.

Home Health Aide Definition

What is a Home Health Aide?

Home health aides devote their professional time and talent to the care of those suffering from chronic illnesses, serious disabilities, the elderly, and anyone in need of continuous care. They usually work in their patients’ homes but can also provide care in facilities outside the home. Home health aides often form close, personal relationships with those under their care. This closeness enables them to pay close attention to the evolving condition of their patients and report their observations to the physicians in charge of medical care.

Home Health Aide: Job Description

What Does a Home Health Aide Do?

Home health aides help their patients live independent lives by assisting them with daily activities that range from routine healthcare needs and personal tasks. In addition to providing companionship and looking after the patient’s overall well-being, home health aides are the essential key to maintaining a quality of life that patients cannot enjoy in care facilities outside of their home.

Being a home health aide is as demanding a job as it is enriching. You will most likely spend the majority of your time with the same patient and become their constant companion as they navigate a challenging period in their life. Successful home health aides must be trustworthy for their patients to lower their guards and allow them into their lives. With trust established, home health aides can more easily – and accurately – observe the patient’s evolving condition and report those changes to the family as well as the doctors and nurses overseeing the patient’s medical care.

Home Health Aide Duties

Home health aides perform a wide variety of tasks each day. These tasks will vary with the needs of the patient. The typical day-to-day responsibilities of home health aides include:

  • Administering prescribed medications
  • Taking and monitoring vital signs
  • Reporting the patient’s condition to the physician or nurse
  • Assisting the patient with exercises or therapy
  • Preparing patient meals
  • Dressing the patient
  • Bathing the patient
  • Providing first aid for minor injuries
  • Assisting with toilet use
  • Joining patients during doctor’s visits
  • Accompanying the patient during trips outside of the home
  • Performing light housekeeping duties

Smiling nurse with an elderly patient

Home Health Aide Skills

There are several essential skills a home health aide needs to be in order to be successful at their job. A few of the most important skills include:

  • A caring heart. Home health aides are most often caring for people in need of continuous care. With compassion and a big heart, you can help your patients perform life’s essential tasks so they can concentrate on living as independent of a life as possible. You will be with them for much of their day and you also will be providing a great deal of valuable emotional support.
  • Excellent verbal and written communications. When you’re a part of a team responsible for caring for those who cannot care for themselves, strong communication skills are essential. The ability to effectively share information with the patient, the patient’s family, the supervising nurse and the attending physician cannot be overstated.
  • Sharp observational skills. Observing and detecting subtle changes in a patient’s condition is an essential skill for home health aides. As the eyes and ears of the doctor and nurse in charge, the ability to identify subtle changes in the patient’s symptoms and behavior can make a massive difference in the patient’s long-term quality of life.
  • Medical acuity. The education and training you receive as an MA – and during your home health aide training – will go a long way toward providing the elevated levels of care your patients require. Your ability to correctly check vital signs, change wound dressings, administer medications and communicate the patient’s condition, symptoms, and behaviors to medical professionals are vital to improving your patient’s well-being.
  • The condition of some patients can change rapidly and repeatedly. A home health aide needs to be strong enough emotionally to deal with the stresses of what can be an ever-changing situation. Adapting to these changes and exercising good judgment at each turn is the hallmark of an exceptional caregiver.

Where Do Home Health Aides Work?

As the name implies, home health aides work primarily in their clients’ homes, but not always. Other locations where home health aides work include nursing homes, hospices, and assisted living facilities.

Home Health Aide Schooling & Certification

Educational Requirements for Home Health Aides

Medical assistants looking to become home health aides do not need a college degree, but they must have a high school diploma or its equivalent. Typically, entry-level home health aides will need to complete on-the-job training under the supervision of a registered nurse to ensure basic skills competency. These skillsets range from taking vital signs and basic hygiene, to CPR and nutrition. Much of the training you’ve received in your MA program will apply directly to your home health aide career and make you more appealing as a job candidate.

Home Health Aide Certification Requirements

Certification requirements for home health aides differ by state and employer. Some states will require you to enroll in an accredited training program and pass a certification exam before you are able to find work as a nursing assistant in that state. These training programs provide you with the necessary knowledge and skillsets for certification, including the safe transfer of a patient into and out of their bed and the proper documentation of administered prescribed medications.

Home health aides will spend many unsupervised hours in the homes of their patients. They also help their patients perform daily tasks, including payment of bills. To help assure the patient and their family that the home health aide is trustworthy, you will likely undergo an extensive background check.

Patient Care Technician with elderly patient

How Long Does It Take to Become a Home Health Aide?

Generally, employers and state certification boards that require it, call for home health aides to receive 75 hours or more of training under the supervision of a licensed medical professional, usually a registered nurse.

From Medical Assistant to Home Health Aide

There are several career advantages to becoming a home health aide after first completing a Medical Assistant program.

Those with a medical assistant’s diploma are qualified to perform many clinical and administrative tasks required of home health aides. These duties may include taking vital signs, the use of technology, patient interaction, medical documentation, legal documentation, and electronic medical records. The knowledge and training you acquire while earning your MA diploma can increase your appeal to prospective employers. It can also serve as the springboard to greater responsibilities, career advancement, and higher pay.

Home Health Aide Salary

How Much Do Nursing Assistants Make?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual salary* for a home health aide is slightly higher than $28,000, which equates to just above $13 per hour. Salaries for home health aides in the 90th percentile of income can be as high as $36,000 per year or more.

Highest Paying Industries for Home Health Aides

According to the BLS, these are the industries where you’re most likely to find the top-paying jobs for home health aides:

Industry Average Hourly Pay Average Salary
State Government $18.58 $38,640
Educational Support Services $17.41 $36,210
Individual and Family Services $13.69 $28,480
Residential Developmental Facilities $13.40 $27,860
Continuing Care Retirement Communities and Assisted Living $12.89 $26,810

Highest Paying States for Home Health Aides

According to the BLS, home health aides earn the highest average wages in these states:

State Average Hourly Pay Average Salary
Alaska $17.00 $35,360
North Dakota $16.36 $34,020
Massachusetts $16.29 $33,890
Vermont $16.26 $33,810
Washington $15.80 $32,860

Highest Paying Cities for Home Health Aides

According to the BLS, home health aides earn the highest average annual wage in these cities:

City Average Hourly Pay Average Salary
Napa, CA $22.92 $47,670
Fairbanks, AK $16.84 $35,030
San Francisco, CA $16.57 $34,470
Barnstable Town, MA $16.56 $34,430
New Bedford, MA $16.55 $34,430
Norwich, CT $16.40 $34,100
Boston, MA $16.31 $33,910
Bismarck, ND $16.25 $33,810
Seattle, WA $16.24 $33,770
Santa Rosa, CA $16.21 $33,720

Home Health Aide Job Outlook

The BLS estimates that overall employment for home health aides is expected to grow an impressive 34% from 2019 to 2029, a growth rate that is much faster than the average across all other jobs during the same time period (4%). Considering the aging of the American population and increased life expectancies, the demand for help with their daily care is only expected to increase. This growth will continue to drive strong demand for home health aides for the foreseeable future.

Team of medical professionals

About Brookline College

At Brookline College, our mission is to provide you with more than a degree or diploma. Our goal is to help you achieve your dreams for a brighter future. With both online and on-campus programs in Arizona and New Mexico, we offer an exceptional education in nursing and healthcare.

Our Medical Assistant Program can be completed in as little as 9 months and provides the necessary training for entry-level positions as a medical assistant in a healthcare facility such as a clinic, physician’s office, or urgent care facility.

At Brookline College, your future starts now.