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How to Become a Caregiver: All You Need to Know and Decide

Being a caregiver is an excellent gig for anyone who wants to utilize their compassion and companionship while connecting on a personal level.

However, as a highly underrated side hustle, not many people know how to become a caregiver or whether it’s suitable for them.

Luckily, this guide has got you covered with everything you need to know about the job and its requirements to help you make an educated decision.

An Overview of Caregiver: A Primer

A caregiver is a person that provides assistance to individuals who have a hard time performing daily activities on their own. 

Those individuals are typically older adults and senior citizens. Yet, it can also extend to physically and mentally impaired patients who require assisted living and long-term care.

One thing that you should know is that caregivers exist in various types depending on the roles of their job. For instance, paid caregivers are usually responsible for aspects like:

  • Assisting with personal care, such as grooming, toileting, dressing up, etc.
  • Providing emotional support through companionship
  • Taking care of the household, including performing household chores and preparing meals.
  • Running errands, such as buying groceries or pickup up mail
  • Providing basic medical assistance, including medication scheduling and administration
  • Assisting with transportations

Caregivers that provide advanced medical care are typically known as “certified nursing assistants”. 

Paid caregivers are different from volunteering family members providing care for a family member, which are informal caregivers.

How Much Do Caregivers Make?

The salary of a caregiver depends heavily on the roles and responsibilities they need to carry out. 

According to a recent report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average median salary of professional caregivers ranges from $30,930 to $32,140 ($14.87 to $15.45 per hour)

Other aspects like geographical locations and demand levels can also affect a caregiver’s hourly wage and median salary.

Keep in mind that not all caregivers get paid for their services. For instance, volunteers and family caregivers technically don’t earn money for their services. 

However, they can still get paid to care for parents and family members through local Medicaid programs, personal care agreements, or indirectly through other methods like tax deductions.

What You’ll Need to Become a Caregiver [& Associated Costs]

The requirements for a caregiver can vary depending on the type of caregiver you want to be. In this section, we’ll take a quick look at the different requirements you should consider to be a caregiver:

A young happy caregiver bonding with her patient on the couch in her home
  • High School Diploma or Equivalent: Being a caregiver doesn’t require a special education or higher education degree. However, many states require caregivers to complete their high school education or GED to work as a caregiver. This can be free or cost as little as $180 for the exam (state-dependent).
  • License and Certification: You typically don’t need any special license to work as a caregiver. This is because caregivers only provide help with daily tasks with little to no medical intervention.
  • Medical Training: For caregivers providing basic medical services, medical training courses like first aid and CPR might be necessary. These can cost as little as $15.
  • Caregiver Training: Specialized caregiver training is usually not a requirement but is a great way to boost your resume and employment opportunities.

How Much Does it Cost to Become a Caregiver?

One of the main advantages of becoming a caregiver is that it practically doesn’t cost any money. This makes it one of the easiest gigs for anyone with no initial capital.

That being said, some types of caregivers may require some form of affordable education or training. 

Becoming a certified caregiver can cost you as little as $300 to $500 in total, including taking necessary tests and training courses.

Is it Hard to Become a Caregiver?

The answer to this question depends heavily on how you define the difficulty of a job. For example, you can easily become a caregiver because you don’t need any special education or training to carry out the roles of the job.

Additionally, the high demand for caregivers offers a variety of work opportunities, which increase your odds of landing better benefits and salary.

On the other hand, leading a career as a caregiver can be quite challenging because of the job demands. 

Caregivers need to perform plenty of exhausting tasks and duties throughout the day. They also need to stay patient and positive while dealing with the care recipient. For that reason, while highly rewarding on a personal level, being a caregiver isn’t for everyone.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Caregiver?

The time necessary to become a certified caregiver varies depending on several aspects. As you now know, there are different types of caregivers.

If you’re planning to become a caregiver with a medical background (certified nursing assistant), you’ll need to complete basic training that may take anywhere between 8 to 85 hours in some states. 

This requirement ranges from optional to mandatory depending on the state where you want to work as a caregiver. 

Here’s a helpful guide that shows you the time/training requirements for each state as a caregiver.

Close-up of a Caregiver holding an old woman's hands

How to Become a Caregiver in 4 Simple Steps

If you want to lead a career as a caregiver, this guide will walk you through all the necessary steps to help you get started.

1. Research the Different Types of Caregivers

Your route as a caregiver can vary significantly depending on the type of caregiver you want to be. 

For example, providing basic assistance to care recipients without any medical involvement usually doesn’t need special training or education. 

However, as you might’ve expected, being a certified caregiver with medical training can get you better jobs and higher pay.

On the other hand, if you want to become a caregiver for a family member, you’ll need to research local Medicaid programs to earn money for your services.

Take your time while assessing the advantages and drawbacks of every route to save your time and start working as quickly as possible.

2. Pass the Local Requirements to Become a Professional Caregiver

Every state will have unique requirements to provide companion care. In most states, these requirements will be easy to meet. You may also need to pay extra fees to submit an application for certification.

The best way to go ahead here is to check with the local government and inquire about the necessary requirements for the type of caregiver you want to be.

3. Enroll in State-Approved Caregiver Certification Course If Necessary

Every state will have a caregiver resource center with a list of approved caregiver training courses that you can take. Some of these courses can be online while others require physical attendance.

The cost of these courses will also vary depending on the material they teach and how long they are. 

Courses with basic medical training are usually more expensive and take longer to complete. However, they’re the best if you’re targeting high-end certification.

Of course, some states may not require any certification to work as a caregiver. However, having such credentials can be a requirement to apply for some jobs.

4. Apply for Suitable Jobs

Now that you are qualified and ready to work as a caregiver, you should apply for jobs. Luckily, there are plenty of employment options as a professional caregiver, including:

  • Working in an agency that provides new clients regularly
  • Working in a care home (usually requires medical background certifications)
  • Working independently and starting your own business

The choice here depends on your personal preference as well as your short and long-term financial goals.

A male caregiver checking the blood pressure of a senior patient in a living room

Reasons to Consider Becoming a Caregiver

Being a caregiver comes with a wide range of advantages in many aspects. In this section, we’ll check out some of the most popular ones.

  • Transferable Skills: Caregivers provide many skills that you can use while working in other gigs/jobs. This includes communication, resource management, monitoring data, problem-solving, etc.
  • High Demand: Although flexibility may vary from one client to another, the job itself is always in high demand. This allows you to pick the gigs that suit you and create a convenient schedule.
  • Managing Your Own Business: Besides working for an agency, you can also start a home care business. This allows you to increase your income and enjoy a sense of financial independence.
  • Medical Field Experience: As a caregiver, you may work with nurses and doctors. This can provide you with plenty of medical experience. This can prove valuable if you’re pursuing a career in the medical field.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here’s a quick look at some of the most common questions that new caregivers might have in mind.

What is the Highest Caregiver Salary?

Many aspects can affect the salary of a caregiver. This includes their location and the services they provide.

Ideally, live-in caregivers with medical backgrounds earn the highest salary. According to a recent ZipRecruiter report, the highest average annual salary of a caregiver is $57,925 in Washington state.

What is the Key Qualification of Caregivers?

Ideally, you don’t need special education or training to provide caregiver support. Yet, some special qualifications make you highly qualified for the job.

These include interpersonal skills like communication and empathy. Being a caregiver also requires patience, positivity, alertness, and the ability to work overnight (especially for live-in assistance).

Similar Gigs to Check Out

Being a paid caregiver shares a lot of similarities with other jobs in the human services sector. If you’re looking for alternatives, here are other gigs you might want to consider.

  • How to Become a House Sitter: A house sitter is a simple gig where homeowners entrust their households to a sitter while they’re away. It requires personal contact while doing chores like light cleaning.
  • How to Become a Caregiver For a Family Member: a family caregiver describes a person providing respite care to a loved one or a family member. You can get payments for these services through a local family caregiver support program and other methods.
  • How to Become a Nanny: A nanny provides personal care services by helping parents while taking care of their children.

Wrapping Up

Being a certified caregiver is a lucrative side job for those who value personal communication and companionship. 

Keep in mind that being a caregiver can be both professional and informal, and both of them have their advantages.

It’s also an excellent choice if you’re looking for a job that doesn’t require special education to practice. 

With that being said, you should still check the local requirements for caregivers where you live, as they may vary from one place to another. 

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