How to Become a Personal Care Assistant (A Career Guide)

By Indeed Editorial Team

12 November 2021

A personal care assistant (PCA) is a professional whose main responsibilities are to support and care for clients in their day-to-day tasks in their homes, hospitals, aged care facilities or other health care facilities. To become a personal care assistant, employers usually require you to complete a relevant qualification. If you have a passion for helping people you may want to consider a career as a PCA. In this article, we discuss how to become a personal care assistant with a step-by-step guide and answer some frequently asked questions.

How to become a personal care assistant

If you're interested in the health care field, you may be interested in learning how to become a personal care assistant. PCA's often require a qualification to do their job effectively. A qualification can give you the skills and knowledge to successfully support your clients. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to become a personal care assistant:

1. Obtain a qualification

Personal care assistants normally complete a qualification before they can begin supporting and caring for clients. Some qualifications can allow you to specialise in a particular field and certain qualifications require you to complete a work placement. Here are some courses you may consider taking to become a personal care assistant:

  • Certificate III in Individual Support

  • Certificate III in Individual Support (Ageing)

  • Certificate IV in Ageing Support

  • Certificate III in Individual Support (Disability)

  • Certificate III in Individual Support (Home and Community Care)

  • Certificate III in Community Services

  • Certificate IV in Community Services

You also have the opportunity to complete a traineeship under a registered nurse or senior personal care assistant. You then can earn money while you learn. You can complete a traineeship through a registered training organisation, such as TAFE. It may also be a requirement that you obtain a senior first aid certificate before or during your chosen qualification.

2. Gain experience

Many, but not all personal care assistants start by volunteering in aged care or disability services to gain industry-relevant experience. Aged and disability carers are in high demand so they often need volunteers to help workers in this field. Employers often look favourably on volunteer work, so it can be a great place to start. You can gain more in-depth experience through work placements or traineeships during your formal education.

3. Apply for the role

It can be important to consider what setting you may like to work in before pursuing a job as a personal care assistant. You can choose to work in a hospital, aged care centre or clients homes. The environment you work in can affect who your clients are, how many clients you help and the general atmosphere of your workplace. For example, you can choose to apply for jobs as a disability carer working one-on-one with clients in their homes or as a PCA in a hospital working with many clients in different wards.

Once you obtain your qualifications and experience, you can begin searching for PCA jobs. It can be a good idea to make sure your resume lists all your relevant experience and skills. Try to use keywords that relate to the job description of the role you're interested in.

What does a personal care assistant do?

Personal care assistants are health care professionals who help elderly or disabled individuals. They do this by providing basic care and social support. Also known as caregivers, PCAs often work closely with nurses and other PCA's to deliver quality care to clients. The typical duties of a personal care assistant may include:

  • providing quality care according to care plans

  • aiding in basic hygiene, such as bathing, dressing and brushing teeth

  • preparing meals and feeding

  • organising recreational activities

  • cleaning and tidying of a client's residential space

  • administering medication

  • transporting clients to appointments

  • accompanying clients on errands, such as shopping

  • monitoring medical conditions

  • providing social support, such as accompanying clients on outings

  • maintaining reports and providing updates to other medical professionals

  • documenting progress and helping with personal goals

  • adhering to physiotherapy plans such as aiding with rehabilitation exercises

  • following health and safety guidelines

Skills required of a personal care assistant

To work as a personal care assistant a skill set consisting of hard and soft skills can be helpful. You can find some beneficial skills for a PCA below:

Communication skills

Working as a PCA often requires communication with many people. Generally speaking, this includes clients, their families and other staff. As a personal care assistant, it can be helpful to listen actively and communicate clearly. Working on your volume and clarity and giving and receiving feedback can help your communication skills improve. Using empathy and patience can also help in communicating effectively.

Related: Communication Skills: Definitions and Examples

Teamwork skills

Teamwork skills can be paramount when working as a PCA as this field of work can often involve working with a variety of different clients and team members. A workplace whereby the staff show great teamwork skills is often a cohesive and effective workplace. Practising communication and empathy can enhance your teamwork skills.

Related: 14 Reasons Why Teamwork Is Important in the Workplace

Being detail-orientated

Personal care assistants tend to have good attention to detail. Occasionally working with medication and care plans for clients, PCAs tend to work carefully, ensuring they don't make any errors. Detail orientation can be important as it saves a facility time and resources and helps ensure clients feel like they're in good care. Maintaining a routine and taking breaks can lead to good detail orientation.

Related: How to Develop Detail-Oriented Skills

Conflict resolution skills

A personal care assistant may be present when a client has a dispute with staff or other people. Disputes between clients and others can occur in hospitals or out in the community. PCAs may often need to help mediate situations and take the best course of action for resolution. Trying to understand the conflict and identifying possible outcomes can help in agreeing on a solution.

Related: What is Conflict Resolution?

Organisational skills

Personal care assistants can oversee many clients in a day or at once, so they tend to have great organisational skills. PCAs often manage all aspects of a client's daily activities, regularly keeping clients occupied with a range of activities and outings. Planning and documenting activities and jobs can help you maintain organisation.

Related: Top Organisational Skills For Your Resume and Workplace

Time management skills

Personal care assistants often spend set hours with clients, so being on time and reliable can be important. PCAs often take clients out into the community and are to have them home at the correct time. If working in a hospital, personal care assistants often look after different areas at specific times, so good time management skills can be useful. Setting goals, delegating tasks and time blocking your schedule can help with time management.

Related: Time Management Skills: The Importance of Including Them in Your Resume

Creative thinking skills

Being a personal care assistant takes a certain level of creative thinking. Thinking creatively allows personal care assistants to come up with activities for their clients, solve problems and care for clients effectively. Doing research and deciding carefully on the most feasible solutions are examples of creative thinking.

Related: Creative Thinking: How to Start Thinking Creatively

Salary

If undergoing a traineeship to become a personal care assistant your pay may depend on where your placement is and what the current government rates are.

The average salary of a personal care assistant is $56,924 per year. This may vary depending on which setting a personal care assistant is working in and where they live.

The average salary may differ by city:

  • Melbourne Victoria: $53,266 per year

  • Sydney New South Wales: $62,140 per year

  • Adelaide South Australia: $59,080 per year

  • Darwin Northern Territory: $63,603 per year

  • Hobart Tasmania: $60,366 per year

  • Perth Western Australia: $58,407 per year

  • Canberra Australian Capital Territory: $49,927 per year

  • Brisbane Queensland: $60,238 per year

Frequently asked questions

Here are some frequently asked questions about personal care assistants:

What is the difference between an assistant in nursing and a personal care assistant?

Although the terms are often used interchangeably, a personal care assistant is different to an assistant in nursing. The most distinct difference between the two is that assistants in nursing almost exclusively work in clinical settings. PCAs operate in clinical settings and community settings. Both roles undertake similar education and training but have somewhat different duties. Assistants in nursing work closely with registered nurses to deliver care, whereas PCAs can work more autonomously. Personal care assistants generally have more involvement in the life of their clients, including building working relationships with their families.

Is being a personal care assistant a good career?

Beginning your career as a personal care assistant can be rewarding. The job shows steady future growth and high levels of support and good relationships. Personal care assistants are in high demand, specifically in the aged care and disability industries.

The role also has options to progress to senior care assistant or team leader by displaying your dedication and experience as a PCA. If you're working in community services, you have the opportunity to further your career as an outreach officer, welfare support worker or caseworker.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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