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Nursing, Psychiatric, and Home Health Aides

Nursing, Psychiatric, and Home Health Aides

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Outlook

Excellent job opportunities for nursing, psychiatric, and home health aides will arise from a combination of rapid employment growth and the need to replace the many workers who leave the occupation each year.

Employment change. Overall employment of nursing, psychiatric, and home health aides is projected to grow 28 percent between 2006 and 2016, much faster than the average for all occupations. However, growth will vary for the individual occupations. Home health aides are expected to gain jobs faster than other aides as a result of growing demand for home services from an aging population and efforts to contain costs by moving patients out of hospitals and nursing care facilities as quickly as possible. Consumer preference for care in the home and improvements in medical technologies for in-home treatment also will contribute to much-faster-than-average employment growth for home health aides.

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Nursing aide employment will not grow as fast as home health aide employment, largely because nursing aides are concentrated in relatively slower-growing industries. Employment of nursing aides is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2016, in response to the long-term care needs of an increasing elderly population. Financial pressures on hospitals to discharge patients as soon as possible should boost admissions to nursing care facilities. As a result, job openings will be more numerous in nursing and residential care facilities than in hospitals. Modern medical technology also will drive demand for nursing aides because as the technology saves and extends more lives, it increases the need for long-term care provided by aides.

Little or no change is expected in employment of psychiatric aides—the smallest of the three occupations. Most psychiatric aides currently work in hospitals, but the industries most likely to see growth will be residential facilities for people with developmental disabilities, mental illness, and substance abuse problems. There is a long-term trend toward treating psychiatric patients outside of hospitals because it is more cost effective and allows patients to live more independent lives. Demand for psychiatric aides in residential facilities will rise in response to the increase in the number of older persons, many of whom will require mental health services. Growing demand for these workers also rests on an increasing number of mentally disabled adults who were formerly cared for by their elderly parents and who will continue to need care. Job growth also could be affected by changes in government funding of programs for the mentally ill.

Job prospects. High replacement needs for nursing, psychiatric, and home health aides reflect modest entry requirements, low pay, high physical and emotional demands, and limited opportunities for advancement within the occupation. For these same reasons, the number of people looking to enter the occupation will be limited. Many aides leave the occupation to attend training programs for other health care occupations. Therefore, people who are interested in, and suited for, this work should have excellent job opportunities.


Median hourly earnings of nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants were $10.67 in May 2006. The middle 50 percent earned between $9.09 and $12.80 an hour. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $7.78, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $14.99 an hour. Median hourly earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants in May 2006 were:

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