How to Become a Caregiver

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Written by Morganne Skinner, BSN, RN Content Writer, IntelyCare
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Reviewed by Larry DeHoyos, CPCS, PESC Director of Credentialing, IntelyCare
Caregiver holding hands with senior patient seated on a couch.

When you arrive at your grandmother’s house for Sunday dinner, you notice someone walking her to the door. They also helped her get dressed, took her to the grocery store, and even helped her remember to take all of her medications. Who is this person? A caregiver.

Caregivers are invaluable to society. They provide physical and social support, offer structure to those facing cognitive decline, and often advocate for their patients.

Are you interested in joining them and learning how to become a caregiver? You’re in the right place. We’ll explain everything you need to know!

What Is a Caregiver?

A caregiver is an unlicensed service worker who provides non-medical care to patients needing assistance, such as those with chronic illnesses, disabilities, or the elderly.

Caregivers can be family members and friends, paid or unpaid, and include healthcare workers who are formally certified. In this article, we’ll focus on certified caregivers.

What Does a Caregiver Do?

One of the caregiver’s most important roles is to enhance a patient’s quality of life. They do this by assisting with personal care, transportation, housekeeping, meal preparation, social connection, and medication schedules.

Examples of caregiver duties include:

  • Giving medication reminders
  • Running errands for patients
  • Assisting with personal care and activities of daily living (ADLs)
  • Offering companionship and support
  • Driving patients to and from activities or appointments

For more insight as to what an employer may require in this position, check out this sample caregiver job description.

Caregiver vs. Patient Care Assistant

Consider the term “caregivers” as an umbrella term, like RNs. It’s a general title that allows caregivers to work in many different areas and perform different roles.

A patient care assistant (PCA) is a specific type of caregiver, in the same way that a pediatric nurse is a specific type of RN. PCAs have defined roles, such as assisting with personal hygiene and performing range of motion (ROM) exercises. Put simply, all PCAs are caregivers, but not all caregivers are PCAs.

How to Become a Certified Caregiver

Achieving certification as a caregiver sets you apart from your peers, establishing you as a respected, competent professional. The path to becoming certified will depend on the state you are working in, as requirements vary from state to state. For example, check out what it takes to become a certified caregiver in Arizona. We’ve simplified the requirements for you here, but be sure to check your regional guidelines if you want to be a state-certified caregiver.

Get Your Caregiver Certification

You will likely find many certification options when researching how to become a caregiver. Depending on your goals, you may prefer one certification type over the other.

Common certification options include:

  1. National Caregiver Certification Course (NCCC)
  • Who it’s for: new caregivers, experienced caregivers, family members
  • Credit hours: 120 hours
  • Cost: $99
  1. Advanced National Caregiver Certification Course
  • Who it’s for: caregivers wanting to further education, satisfy insurance requirements, or fulfill continuing education
  • Credit hours: 200 hours
  • Cost: $149
  1. National Assisted Living Manager Certification Course
  • Who it’s for: experienced caregivers wanting to explore management
  • Credit hours: 80 hours
  • Cost: $119

Certified Caregiver Training: Online or In-Person?

If you are worried about not being able to attend in-person training, you can relax knowing there are several options available online (such as those above). Many caregiver certification programs are self-paced and conducted completely online. This makes receiving certification a convenient option while juggling other obligations.

Is There a Caregiver Certification Test?

There is no nationally recognized caregiver exam like there are for registered nurses or certified nursing assistants. Some caregiver programs may include a simple test to assess your understanding of the material. These can be completed online or in-person.

What Are Some Good Caregiver Skills to Develop?

Caring for another human being requires a good mix of hard and soft skills. Although some personality traits naturally make someone a wonderful caregiver, there are some skills you can hone in order to make yourself the best caregiver you can be.

Examples of common caregivers skills:

  • Patience
  • Empathy
  • Communication
  • Time management
  • Organization
  • Compassion

How Long Does It Take to Become a Certified Caregiver?

You can complete certified caregiver courses as quickly as two days. However, as many of the courses are online and self-paced, the completion time depends on you.

Generally speaking, you don’t have to have experience as a caregiver to become certified. This means you may be able to get started right away.

But remember, requirements vary from state to state. For example, New York requires a 40-hour caregiver training program. In comparison, South Dakota does not have any training requirements for their caregivers. Be sure to check with your state’s guidelines to see how long your certification process will take.

Where Can a Caregiver Work?

As you think about how to become a caregiver, you likely wonder where you can work. Caregivers have seemingly endless options of places to work. They can work for public or private agencies, be self-employed, work full time or part time, or work as a home health aide caregiver. Many times a caregiver works inside the patient’s home, but they can also work in a facility.

Common workplaces include:

  • Private practice (i.e. patient’s home)
  • Convalescent center
  • Long-term care facility
  • Home health agency
  • Acute care center
  • Community center

For more examples, take a look at the caregiver jobs hiring right now on IntelyCare.

What Does a Caregiver Make?

The average certified caregiver salary is $36,180 per year. Depending on your education, certifications, experience, and location, your exact salary may vary.

Start Your Caregiver Career Today

Now that you’ve learned how to become a caregiver, are you ready to start working as one? Join IntelyCare today and create a flexible schedule that gives you the freedom to select your shifts.