Personal Care Assistant (PCA) License

A personal care assistant is an entry-level job in the healthcare industry. For more information on how to get started in this career, including education, licensing requirements and certification options, continue reading. Schools offering Medical Assisting degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Kind of License Do I Need to Become a Personal Care Assistant?

No states require you to obtain a license to be a personal care assistant. However, if you receive federal payment through Medicare or Medicaid, federal regulations require you to participate in at least 75 hours of training and either pass a proficiency assessment or earn state certification.

To earn certification through your state's Department of Health Services, you might need to provide proof of training or competency through formal education and testing. You could find that your state offers training and skills evaluations online. Although you might not need licensure or certification, states often mandate that you work under the supervision of a registered nurse or licensed healthcare professional.

What Does the Job Entail?

A personal care assistant (PCA) is a home health aide that helps people, like the elderly or the mentally challenged, with everyday tasks that they're unable to do themselves. As a PCA, your can provide a wide range of services, such as grocery shopping, cleaning, bathing and companionship. You could work in the home of a single patient or visit several patients within a day, and each day could be less-than-routine. Becoming a PCA requires you to have flexibility, a high level of compassion and a strong desire to help people.

How Do I Get Started?

The level of education required to become a PCA is typically set by the state in which you live. In most cases, a high school diploma is enough education to gain you employment in the field, with training coming mostly from hands-on experience throughout your career. Personal care assistant certificate programs are available at several career training schools and community colleges. Some programs are offered online by colleges or private organizations, with skills testing performed locally.

You could work on a contract basis through staffing agencies that specialize in home healthcare, or you may be hired directly by a personal services company. You could also participate in specialized training to qualify to work in a certain area, such as elderly or developmental disability care.

What National Certifications Are Available?

National certification is available to you through the National Association for Home Care and Hospice (www.nahc.org). The certification is mandatory if you work for a government-funded program, but it's not restricted to those who work in these agencies. Earning this certification requires 75 hours of training, a skills demonstration and passage of a written test. The association offers conferences, classes and online podcasts to assist you with professional development.

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