Nursing, Psychiatric and Home Health Aides

  • In 2008, nursing aides earned a median hourly rate of $11.46. The highest 10 percent earned more than $15.97 an hour.
  • Home health aides earned a median hourly rate of $9.84. The highest 10 percent earned more than $13.93 an hour.
  • Psychiatric aides earned a median hourly rate of $12.77. The highest 10 percent earned more than $18.77 an hour.


Nursing and psychiatric aides help care for physically or mentally ill, injured, disabled or infirm individuals in hospitals, nursing care facilities and mental health settings. Home health care aides have duties that are similar but they work in patients’ homes or residential care facilities.
Nursing aides (also known by many other names, including nurse aides, nursing assistants, orderlies or hospital attendants) help patients to eat, dress, bathe, get into and out of bed, and other activities. They sometimes deliver messages, serve meals, make beds or tidy up rooms. They also sometimes take temperatures, pulse rates, respiration rates or blood pressure.
Home health aides perform similar tasks but in a patient’s home with the goal of helping the patient live in his or her own home instead of a facility.
Psychiatric aides help care for patients, as well as socializing with them and leading them in educational and recreational activities.
Generally, nursing and psychiatric aides must hold a high school diploma. Home health aides usually don’t need to have diplomas. Other requirements vary, depending on the employer, state, or job description. 
Advancement opportunities are limited unless you invest in formal education. Moving up to management or healthcare administration by earning an associate degree is one option.
Another option is to use your experience in direct health care to earn a specialized certificate or degree in nursing, rehabilitation, counseling, gerontology or an applied healthcare technology field such as radiology or emergency services.
The National Association for Home Care and Hospice offers voluntary certification for home health aides. Some states require aides to be licensed. Under federal law, nurse aides who work in nursing care facilities must complete 75 hours of state-approved training and pass a competency evaluation. Aides who complete the program are known as certified nurse assistants (CNAs) and are placed on the state registry of nurse aides.
Entering the Field:
Health aide is an excellent entry-level job for any nursing or direct patient career. In addition to meeting the employer’s and state’s licensing requirements, aides must be in good health and often must pass a criminal background check.
Career Changers:
People often take jobs as health aides or psychiatric aides to help them decide whether to pursue a career in the health care or counseling and psychology fields or to gain a foot in the door in these lucrative employment sectors.

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Source for salary and growth data is the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For more information on careers for nursing, psychiatric, and home health aides, salaries, and job prospects visit: U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition, Nursing and Psychiatric Aides and Home Health Aides and Personal and Home Care Aides.

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