How to Become a
Caregiver

Female nurse taking care of an elderly woman

If you’ve been considering entering a career as a Caregiver, then keep reading. This guide contains valuable information such as educational and training requirements, necessary skills, average salaries and more.

What Does a Caregiver Do?

Caregivers are professionals who work to improve the quality of life of their clients, who are typically senior citizens, mentally or physically disabled or suffering from an illness or injury. Caregivers usually work in the homes of their clients, whether they are self-employed or employed by a home care agency.

In addition to performing basic household duties such as preparing meals, organizing clutter and cleaning, Caregivers also assist their clients by helping them to get dressed in the morning and get ready for bed at night, reminding them to take their medications and ensuring that they are as comfortable as possible. Common Caregiver duties and responsibilities include:

  • Helping with daily bathing and grooming

  • Arranging and keeping appointments with doctors

  • Providing or scheduling transportation

  • Providing companionship and emotional support

Caregiver Skills

Since no two clients are the same, Caregivers must be able to adapt to the needs of each individual client quickly and efficiently. They will need to make sure that their methods of assistance are tailored to each client’s specific needs, and that each client receives attention, respect and consideration. And, since every client’s specific medical conditions will require different levels of medication and maintenance, Caregivers also need to familiarize themselves with the basic symptoms, warning signs and treatments of each condition.

Other key Caregiver skills include:

  • Warm, patient and encouraging demeanor

  • Excellent organization and attention to detail

  • Good memory

  • Ability to provide help wherever it is needed without judgment or hesitation

How Do You Become a Caregiver?

Education and Training

According to our analysis of online job postings, most employers are looking for Caregivers who have at least six months of experience as a Caregiver, usually for someone other than a family member. Some employers also accept candidates who have no experience as a Caregiver but who are a RN (Registered Nurse), LVN (Licensed Vocational Nurse), CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) or HHA (Home Health Aide).

Additionally, almost all employers required potential candidates to have a current driver’s license, their own car and valid proof of insurance. If you do not have a current driver’s license, contact your local DMV to learn how to obtain one.

Finally, you may need to fulfill certain pre-service requirements in order to legally serve as a Caregiver depending on which state you live in. Click here for a list of state-by-state Caregiver requirements.

Finding a Job

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for Personal Care Aides, which includes Caregivers, is increasing by a staggering 26 percent, which is expected to result in the opening of 458,100 new positions between 2014 and 2024. This impressive growth rate can be attributed to the aging and continuing retirement of the baby-boomer generation.

Before you begin your job search, you’ll need to have a polished and professional resume on hand. Take a look at JobHero’s library of carefully curated Caregiver resume samples for ideas.

Once you’ve finished your resume, conduct an online job search to find open positions in your area. Before you start sending out applications, however, you’ll want to consider preparing a well-written cover letter. A cover letter can convey your personality, reasons for applying and special areas of expertise to prospective employers. Check out our Caregiver cover letter sample for inspiration.

Insights from a Caregiver

In order to get an insider’s perspective on how to become a Caregiver, we spoke with Veronica Slone, the client care coordinator for SYNERGY Home Care in Northeast Ohio as well as a former Caregiver with nine years of experience.

What is the common career path for Caregivers?

In my experience, caregiving starts at home. Most of the Caregivers I've encountered have started out caring for an ill family member or family friend at a young age. I myself began at age 8. Once they get experience they move on to nursing facilities or home health agencies and more often than not go to school to become a nurse. In other cases, like mine, after caregiving for several years they get promoted with the opportunity to learn the business side of the healthcare field.

What should someone consider before becoming a Caregiver?

Before becoming a Caregiver, I think the most important thing to take into consideration is the fact that these are real people you are working with. You, quite literally, have someone else's life in your hands. You also have to consider your emotional capacities. Everyone tells you to not get attached to the people you are caring for and that, quite simply, is not humanly possible. It's normal to get attached to someone you spend a good amount of time with, but you also have to know your limit. You have to be able to set boundaries between you and the client so as your emotions do not interfere with providing the best care possible.

What type of person excels in this job?

Typically someone who has a nurturing way about them will excel in this field. You have to have the heart to be a Caregiver; being able to empathize with your clients and what they are going through, whether it be mental or physical, is so important. Someone who genuinely cares about people and wants to help make someone's quality of life better, is someone who would make a great Caregiver.

What are some of the most important skills for Caregivers to have?

One of the most important skills needed to be a Caregiver is you have to get to a point where you're able to anticipate your client's needs. You have to be observant, paying attention to detail and you have to be willing to learn. This field, and the clients alike, are always changing. You have to be flexible, not only with your schedule, but also more importantly with the client's schedule and routine. Strength is absolutely important, so you are able to provide the physical duties needed as a Caregiver, whether it be lifting or transferring.

What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of being a Caregiver?

The most rewarding thing about being a Caregiver, to me, is the relationships you build with your client. The job we do is so personal, not many other people can understand or relate to it. You create this bond that only you and your client share and it’s so incredible. Knowing that you helped improve someone's quality of life is an indescribable feeling.

How Much Do Caregivers Get Paid?

Depending on whether they work on a case-by-case basis or are employed full-time by a home care agency, Caregivers can be paid either on an hourly wage basis or an annual wage basis. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median hourly wage for Caregivers is $10.54, with the lowest-paid earning $8.40 per hour and the highest-paid earning $14.40 per hour.

Top Ten States for Caregiver Salary

Caregivers in the following ten states earning the highest median hourly wage in the U.S.

    Alaska

    $14.80

    North Dakota

    $14.13

    Massachusetts

    $13.47

    Wyoming

    $13.18

    Delaware

    $13.06

    Connecticut

    $12.90

    Vermont

    $12.73

    Hawaii

    $12.72

    District of Columbia and New Hampshire

    $12.61

    South Dakota

    $12.60

    Caregiver Resources

    We put together this list of resources to help you keep exploring your career as a Caregiver.

    Professional Groups

    National Alliance for Caregiving
    The NAC was established in 1996 and is focused on improving the lives of Caregivers. It provides research and advocacy, an annual conference, state and local coalitions and a newsletter.

    Family Caregiver Alliance
    The FCA was founded in the 1970s and aims to meet the needs of Caregivers across the country. It provides classes and events, educational webinars, tools for locating Caregiver support services, research and advocacy, a newsletter and Caregiver support groups.

    Caregiver Websites

    Caregiver Action Network
    The CAN provides Caregiver tips and advice, coping strategies, a variety of professional tools and an active discussion forum where Caregivers can connect with one another.

    Aging Care
    Aging Care offers free Caregiver eBooks and guides on a variety of topics, a frequently updated blogs on every aspect of being a Caregiver and a highly active discussion forum.

    Caregiver Books

    The Caregiver’s Toolbox
    This comprehensive manual is packed with essential tools such as checklists, forms, mobile app recommendations and situational advice. It also takes a compassionate approach to guiding Caregivers through the emotional stress of their career.

    The Emotional Survival Guide for Caregivers
    This book uses the author’s personal experience as a Caregiver to provide emotional guidance for Caregivers as well as practical day-to-day advice.