Home health aide salary & career outlook
The combination of aging baby boomers and medical advances that improve life expectancies is contributing to a swell of patients receiving personal care in the comfort of homes rather than in hospitals or other medical facilities. As a home health aide, you can provide these patients with the basic care they need to live comfortably.
Employment projections for home health aides
Demand for home health aides is on the rise, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Projections from the BLS say that the number of positions available to these professionals will grow by an impressive 46 percent in the decade preceding 2018. Furthermore, according to The Washington Post, demand may continue to grow as hospitals and nursing homes try to trim their budgets. This trend coupled with an aging population and increasing life expectancies help ensure that home health aides will enjoy a strong career outlook for years to come.
Home health aides must adapt to the needs of their patients, which do not necessarily comply with the usual 40-hour work week. The BLS reports that many aides work evenings, weekends and holidays. Some work exclusively for one patient while others are employed by home health care and hospice providers. Job duties can vary wildly, too, and may include any of the following tasks:
- The provision of basic health care services
- Support for basic life skills, like bathing and eating
- Transportation services for those with limited mobility
- Light housekeeping, cooking or other errands
Home health aide salaries
Home health aides are generally quick-entry workers with limited training, a fact which can impact earnings. According to the BLS, the median home health aide salary in 2010 was $20,560 with the top 10 percent earning in excess of $29,390. Fortunately, earnings may be improving: According to Salary.com, the median home health aide salary in 2011 was $21,133 at entry level; senior aides earned a slightly more robust $25,965. The BLS notes that psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals and state governments tend to pay the most.
Where you live can also greatly impact your earnings. The BLS reports that the following states offered the highest average home health aide salaries in 2010:
Ames, Iowa, Danbury, Conn., and Waterbury, Conn. were among the highest-paying metropolitan regions for home health aides the same year, all offering mean annual earnings in excess of $31,500.
Baseline salaries are just part of the equation, however, as those living in expensive regions like Alaska and New Jersey may see their earnings offset by higher-than-average living costs. According to information from both the BLS and the Council on Community and Economic Research, the following metropolitan areas were among some of the better-paying areas for home health aides in 2010 relative to cost-of-living:
- Aimes, Iowa ($33,520)
- Casper, Wyo. ($32,060)
- Waco, Texas ($31,280)
Home health aide training: Online and off
Home health aides work under the supervision of other medical professionals, so while they are often required to be certified, they are not required pursue the rigorous training demanded of nurses and other medical personnel. In fact, some employers do not even require a high school diploma. Still, the BLS reports that salary and employment potential tends to improve with training making home health aide schools a worthwhile investment in your future.
While technological advances have made it possible for students to pursue home health aide training online, this is a very hands-on field. As a result, most online programs are hybrids combining both online and face-to-face instruction, either in a traditional classroom or through a local teaching hospital.