Do Caregivers Need To Be Certified?

Caregivers Need To Be Certified

Do Caregivers Need To Be Certified?

Are you considering being a caregiver? Learn about caregiver responsibilities and how a caregiver certification such as a Home Health Aide or Certified Nurse Aide can expand one’s job responsibilities and enhance their careers.


Are you interested in a career as a caregiver and wondering if you need to be licensed? There are different licenses that cover many types of certifications. The requirements for certification will depend on the care that a particular caregiver provides. Certification requirements also will vary from one state to another. Caregivers who assist patients with day to day tasks such as cooking, companionship, and  personal care, may not necessarily need to be licensed. This is the case in Pennsylvania. Licensing is often required for CNAs (Certified Nursing Assistants), HHAs (Home Health Aides), and other professionals that provide medical care. In Pennsylvania, these particular roles do require certification. 

What does an unlicensed caregiver do?

Caregivers Need To Be Certified

Caregivers, also known in this case as Personal Care Aides or Personal Care Assistants, assist the elderly, people with disabilities, or those recovering from injury or illness with daily living activities. This is usually done at the person’s home or in a care facility. Job duties performed in someone’s home may include housekeeping (making beds, doing laundry, washing dishes) and preparing meals. They can provide assistance at non-residential care facilities. They might advise families, the elderly, convalescents, and persons with disabilities regarding such things as cleanliness, nutrition, or household activities.

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What caregiver skills are necessary for success?

There are some capabilities and skills that are particularly important for caregivers to have in order to best provide for patients. Becoming an effective caregiver requires plenty of skill and patience. For example, a good caregiver will be proficient in controlling the spread of infection. They can manage the occasional difficult behaviors that can come from a patient feeling tired, sick or confused. They can also care for a individuals with varied conditions and ailments. These are true whether or not a caregiver ultimately achieves certification and licensure or not. Some of these skills may come naturally to some. However, other skills for success can be learned. Caregivers will get better both through education and experience learned over time. In general, some of the skills for caregiver success include, but are not limited to:

  • Excellent communication skills
  • Effective observation skills
  • Empathy and compassion
  • Accepting help from others
  • Interpersonal skills or people skills
  • Time management
  • Organization
  • Cleanliness
  • Flexibility
  • Initiative
  • Stamina and strength
  • Patience

Professional helpful caregiver at client’s home. Health visitor and a senior man during home visit. Young caregiver in uniform and elderly man drinking tea

Does a caregiver need to be certified?

Home Health Aides

When discussing caregiver certification, this generally refers to certification as either a Home Health Aide or a Certified Nurse Aide (also known as a Certified Nursing Assistant). HHAs and CNAs do need to attain a certification to work in those specific roles and job functions.

Caregivers and Certified Nurse Aides/Home Health Aides: What’s the difference?

Caregivers versus Home Health Aides

The requirements to work as a Home Health Aide vary by state. In the state of Pennsylvania, Home Health Aides meet the requirements under regulations set forth by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) as listed here

Among other things, the program spells out the number of hours necessary and topics covered. Per federal regulations, the program must involve at least 75 hours of training with 16 of those hours as supervised practical training. 

In many training programs, this means hours will be completed in a laboratory setting. This refers to a training unit or space that resembles the healthcare and home setting. In other cases, this will mean working hands-on with a patient or patients as part of the program. The CareBridge Academy Home Health Aide program, for example, is a 75 hour program that meets CMS regulations by offering 16 hours of practical training. 

A caregiver is an unlicensed position, as opposed to a Home Health Aide. The licensure offers enhanced job responsibilities and scope of work. The job responsibilities of home health aides and personal caregivers are similar. Both roles work in the client’s home or residence and offer support with daily tasks. 

Home health aides are generally trained or qualified to provide simple health services. These offerings might include helping the client perform rehabilitation exercises, helping them take prescribed medication, or giving pain relief services, like a massage. A home health aide may also be licensed to operate or maintain medical equipment such as oxygen. A personal caregiver is not generally allowed to perform such medical tasks or dispense medication.

Caregiver versus Certified Nurse Aide/Certified Nursing Assistant

A Certified Nurse Aide CNA is a licensed position as well, just like a Home Health Aide. The licensure offers enhanced job responsibilities and scope of work as compared to a caregiver. In fact, it also offers enhanced job duties as compared to HHAs as well. One of the main differences between a CNA and an HHA or an unlicensed caregiver is the setting in which they can work. For example, a CNA can work in a variety of settings, including long term care facilities and hospitals. For all intents and purposes, a CNA working in a home setting will have the same responsibilities as an HHA. They just have the capacity to work in a larger variety of settings.

CNA licensing and certification is a bit different than that of a Home Health Aide. It is longer in duration, generally speaking. For example, the CareBridge Academy CNA course runs for 120 hours. It includes 65 hours of classroom and laboratory instruction. An additional 55 hours are spent in a clinical hands on setting. This setting is a long term care facility. The state of Pennsylvania requires a certain number of clinical hours to be completed by prospective CNAs. The CareBridge Academy programs meets and exceeds this state requirement.

Why should I be a certified Home Health Aide or Certified Nurse Aide instead of working as a caregiver? 

An individual could be a caregiver (or personal care aide, homemaker, etc.) instead of a Home Health Aide or Certified Nurse Aide if they want. However, there are some drawbacks to this. Any agency that accepts Medicare must have certified Home Health Aides. As Certified Nurse Aides surpass the training requirements of HHAs, CNAs are also acceptable for these home care and home health agencies. Most agencies do, in fact, take Medicare. 

Accordingly, most places that hire HHAs or CNAs can only hire certified caregivers. Therefore, it is highly recommended that any individual be certified as an HHA or a CNA if they want to maximize their job opportunities. Even if you don’t think you need certification now, that certification could make your future much brighter down the road. It can open up more advancement opportunities for HHA and CNA program graduates. 

Finally, because of the expanded responsibilities, Home Health Aides may find higher starting salaries than caregivers or Personal Care Aides. Certified Nurse Aides definitely have higher overall median salaries than caregivers. 

What’s the difference between being a Certified Nurse Aide (CNA) and an HHA?

We talked a little bit about how a CNA varies from an HHA. A Certified Nurse Aide and a Home Health Aide both require classes and certifications in their respective occupations. Also, they do cover many of the same topics. However, there are some key differences as we discuss here

A Certified Nurse Aide training program is longer and more intensive than a Home Health Aide. For example, the CareBridge Academy Nurse Aide training program is a 120-hour course, versus 75 hours for Home Health Aides. Also, 55 of those hours include training inside a long term care facility (nursing home). 

Accordingly, Certified Nurse Aides can work in a broader variety of settings, generally speaking (including in home healthcare agencies). Home Health Aides naturally work mostly in home-based settings. However, a large percentage of home health aides do work in other medical and healthcare settings as well. That is particularly true for those with experience.

CNA and HHA training program differences

While both very affordable, the CNA program is more expensive as a whole than the HHA program. Naturally, this is due to the program being more intensive and ultimately why it offers more job opportunities (and potentially more starting pay). However, long term care facilities are required to reimburse CNAs for the cost of the program under certain conditions. This can be a major benefit for prospective students because it means they will end up getting the program free of charge under these conditions. Some HHAs are able to get their employers to pay for their programs as well, but this is case by case. 

Finally, certain individuals may qualify for vocational training for free as well under state programs.

Are you required to have a high school diploma or GED to be a home health aide or certified nurse aide?

personal care aide

There is no education requirement that dictates that HHAs or CNAs must have a high school diploma or GED to get certified and maintain certification through a trainng program. The same is true when CNAs or HHAs become hired at a home care agency or healthcare setting.  Some home healthcare and hospice agencies, however, may require a high school diploma. A diploma or GED may be a requirement in order to be able to work at the company that employs the HHA or CNA. 

Therefore, it is often advantageous for prospective caregivers to have a diploma or GED.

Where can I get a certificate to be a Home Health Aide or a Certified Nurse Aide?

home healthcare agencies

To get certified as a home health aide (HHA) or certified nurse aide (CNA), prospective applicants must complete a training program. These programs may be offered by community colleges, private schools or employers (home healthcare agencies) offering jobs in the field. 

CareBridge Academy’s Home Health Aide program, for example, offers regularly scheduled HHA classes for prospective home health aides in the greater Philadelphia area. For more detail on getting certified right here in Pennsylvania, read our article here

In addition, CareBridge Academy also has a Certified Nurse Aide program as well in the same school setting.

I want to ensure stability in my career and future, especially in these difficult times. What is the job outlook for Home Health Aides and Certified Nurse Aides?

In short, being a home health aide or certified nurse aide makes a great career choice. We go into great detail here. We also talk about HHAs, CNAs, and other fast growing medical roles in Pennsylvania as well

Consider these facts that make a career change as a Home Health Aide a solid one.

  • Extraordinary job growth.  The growth in jobs in this field is huge. It’s actually one of the fastest growing careers in all of America over the next ten years. In fact, it’s projected to grow more than SEVEN times faster than all occupations through 2028, according to the BLS
  • In addition to job security and growth prospects, salary is another benefit. First, there are minimal training requirements and no experience needed. Plus, the training itself is very inexpensive. The starting salary as compared to the education and training needed is quite favorable. CNAs have even higher median salaries than HHAs, too. This is due to the expanded healthcare settings that CNAs can work in. 
  • As mentioned, a home health aide does not have extensive training requirements. In fact, CareBridge Academy’s Home Health Aide program can get you certified in only two weeks. They regularly offers classes to fit your schedule and get you into a job and earn a salary quickly. Even the certified nurse aide program can be completed very quickly. Full-time classes can be completed and get you on your way to being licensed in just 4 weeks. 
  • You will get exposure and experience in healthcare. By starting your healthcare career, you are taking a path to a promising future. Plus, home health aides and certified nurse aides often get to work alongside different healthcare roles and specialties. Both HHAs and CNAs take advanced career and educational opportunities and eventually become nurses, doctors, or physical therapists. Besides that, as home health aides gain experience, they are often able to break into other settings outside of the patient’s home such as residential habilitation or adult and individual services. Certified Nurse Aides may have that privilege to work in a variety of healthcare settings right off the bat. Regardless, both roles find opportunities that increase as experience is obtained. 

HHAs and CNAs are important


Home health aides (HHAs) and Certified Nurse Aides (CNAs) are extremely important positions in society. HHAs maintain the health and well-being of the elderly, ill, and disabled.  This role offers variety and experience. You could be changing bandages or distributing medications, and then grocery shopping or helping to pay bills for clients.  

Other healthcare workers are often located in a medical facility. HHAs, on the other hand, enter patient homes. CNAs that work in a home-based role do as well. They have access to the most intimate parts of peoples’ lives. They are often not supervised and may not always have direct support in their roles.  Because of this, it is imperative that HHAs and CNAs are certified, screened, and go through a rigorous training process.

CareBridge Academy offers a caring, supportive, and thorough training program for prospective Home Health Aides and Certified Nurse Aides. Sign up for the Home Health Aide and Certified Nurse Aide training program with CareBridge Academy today. Be prepared for your career to take off when you jump into the medical field!

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