Careers in senior caregiving offer many benefits and widespread appeal, all with good reasons. Some persons are motivated by altruism and want to help the elderly or infirm. They have a natural inclination toward the “helping” professions. Despite this, perhaps the strongest appeal of a caregiving career is job security.
The health care industry is booming and expected to remain so for many years. A large number of Baby Boomers means an increasing amount of health care support will be needed, especially because most older persons prefer to stay in their own homes and resist institutionalization. Thus, people entering the caregiving field are likely to experience great job security and many caregiving career opportunities.
Entering a Caregiving Career
Some caregiving careers are very easy to enter. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, home health aides need no formal education or prior experience.
It is estimated that there are almost one million home health aide jobs in the United States. And, the field is projected to grow exponentially, by 38% in the next decade, according to some projections. This is substantially above the average rate of growth in most industries.
Although the salary in this caregiving career is only about $21,000 per year or $10 per hour, the field offers many hours. Robust and energetic home health aides can probably add many hours to their workloads, as caregiving is a round-the-clock, 365-days-per-year proposition.
Home health aides are particularly valuable to the elderly. They help with daily activities such as preparing food, dressing, bathing, and transference from beds or chairs and other tasks. This assistance enables elderly persons to remain in their homes longer than had been anticipated, usually.
Personal care aides make a comparable salary to home health aides and perform similar services. Again, there are no formal educational requirements. Personal care aides have the duty, according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, of working to involve seniors in social and community support systems. Personal care aides have had a growth rate of 26%, which is far higher than the average growth in most industries.
Climbing the Professional Ladder in Caregiving Careers
Some home health care or personal care aides strive to be Certified Nursing Assistants. Many nursing aides or assistants work in institutional settings where they assist with daily living activities, as they do when they work in private homes. Their counterparts, orderlies, are often men. Because of their physical strength, these male aides lift patients from chairs and beds and help them onto gurneys. Nursing aides, assistants, and orderlies earn about $26,000 per year. There are more than 1.5 million persons in these occupations now and the field projects a 17% growth rate.
Each state has a designated educational program for nursing aides and assistants, which is often available through community colleges, vocational-technical schools, or directly through health care institutions.
The Nurse’s Route
More specialized caregiving careers include Licensed Practical Nurses or Licensed Vocational Nurses. These caregiving careers pay double or more the salary of home health or personal care aides. Certification, which is often offered by a community college, is required. The certification course usually takes about a year. The salaries on average are about $43,000. This occupation is expected to grow by 16% in the next ten years. There are nearly 1 million workers currently in the field.
Many learning institutions offer an LPN-to-RN program as a way to climb the caregiving career ladder. Registered Nurses make almost $70,000 per year, on average. They need a bachelor’s degree and usually, must pass a rigorous licensure test. There are currently about 3 million RNs and the field is projected to grow by 16% over the next decade.
If the training required to become an RN is too expensive or time-consuming, there are mid-level caregiving career options as well. Occupational Therapy Assistants and Physical Therapy Assistants usually work at facilities but are actively involved in caregiving. Their jobs often involve helping elderly persons regain strength and skills after setbacks from illnesses, falls, or accidents.
Physical therapist assistants must fulfill national, instead of state, requirements. They must attain a two-year associate’s degree from a school accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. And, they must be licensed or certified by passing a National Physical Therapy Exam. This is one of the fastest growing fields with a projected 40% growth rate over the next decade. The average salary is about $43,000 per year.
Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides earn about $54,500 per year. They enjoy a phenomenal 40% growth in their field. Occupational therapy assistants need an associate’s degree from an accredited program. In most states, they must be licensed, usually after the passage of an exam.
Caregiving careers range from those requiring little training with low salaries to specialized training and a higher level of pay. However, job security and the opportunity to provide a necessary, caring service are among the strongest attractions for many in a caregiving career.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition. Available at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/. Visited December 14, 2016.
Jones, Trevor. August 16, 2012. Why Caregiving Jobs Are a Popular Career Path. My CNA Jobs. Available at https://www.mycnajobs.com/blog/why-caregiving-jobs-are-a-popular-career-path/#.WAy1MeArLIU. Visited December 14, 2016.