Education and Training: None
Salary: Median—$16,900 per year
Employment Outlook: Good
Definition and Nature of the Work
Housekeepers clean private homes, buy food, cook and serve meals, and do laundry for family members. Some housekeepers work for several households, spending one or two days a week with each one. These housekeepers are called day workers. Other housekeepers work full time for one family. Some full-time workers are live-in housekeepers, who live with the family for whom they work. In some cases housekeepers work through social service agencies to housekeep for families with absent or ill parents.
The duties of individual domestic housekeepers vary widely. Some housekeepers have complete responsibility and authority to plan and carry out many household duties. Others are given very specific duties and are closely supervised. Housekeepers may plan, cook, and serve meals and clean up after food is eaten. They may buy food and household supplies. Sometimes they care for children, helping them to eat, dress, and bathe. They may also be responsible for disciplining children and entertaining them by reading to them or playing games with them.
Domestic housekeepers may clean floors, windows, furniture, and other areas. They sometimes make beds and change linens. They may wash, iron, and mend clothes and linens. Sometimes housekeepers perform such services as answering the telephone, receiving visitors, and exercising pets.
Education and Training Requirements
There are no specific educational requirements for housekeepers. Some employers prefer people who have a high school education. Experience and skill in caring for a home are generally more important than formal education. Housekeepers should know how to use such appliances as clothes washers, should be familiar with household cleaning products, and should know the basics of good nutrition.
Prospective housekeepers can improve their skills in cooking, child care, and house cleaning by working as a helper to an experienced housekeeper. High school courses in family and consumer science may be helpful. Some community service organizations, social service agencies, vocational schools, and community colleges offer courses in food service, child development, and consumer studies.
Getting the Job
Candidates can get a job as a housekeeper by registering with an employment agency that specializes in finding jobs for household workers. Formal training programs often have placement services that can help. Prospective housekeepers can also apply directly to social service agencies or to firms that provide housekeeping services to families. Job openings are often listed in newspaper classifieds, and individuals can place their own ads in the "situations wanted" section of a newspaper. Once candidates have gained some job experience and a good reputation, they may be contacted by people who want to hire them.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Housekeepers usually advance by getting a raise in salary. They can also take jobs in households that offer better working conditions. Or they can move into a job requiring greater skill, such as a cook or a companion. In a few large households that employ several workers, housekeepers can become head housekeepers, who supervise other workers. Some housekeepers advance by working in day care centers, hotels, or restaurants. Others start their own firms that provide housekeeping services.
The employment outlook for housekeepers is expected to be good through the year 2014. There has been a shortage of qualified household workers for some years, and the situation is expected to persist. As more homemakers work outside the home, there should be more openings for part-time and full-time housekeepers.
Because housekeepers work in private homes, working conditions vary greatly. Those who live in their employers' homes generally have pleasant surroundings and comfortable private rooms, although they may feel cut off from family and friends. Most home housekeepers, however, live in their own homes. They may have a key to the house or apartment and work on their own during the day. Housekeepers who work for social service agencies often work in difficult and unpleasant situations.
Housekeepers who work without direct supervision often have a great deal of responsibility. Some housekeepers must be able to deal with children. They must accept employers' attitudes and values that may differ from their own. Some of the work housekeepers do is physically demanding. They may have to lift and carry heavy objects during cleaning and shopping tasks.
Working hours vary. Day workers may work half-days or only a few days a week. Live-in housekeepers work longer hours. They often begin working before breakfast and do not finish until the children are in bed in the evening. Live-in housekeepers usually have some time off during the week.
Where to Go for More Information
American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences
400 N. Columbus St., Ste. 202
Alexandria, VA 22314
Earnings and Benefits
Earnings for housekeepers vary with experience, location, and hours. Minimum wage laws now apply to most full-time private household workers. Housekeepers earn a median salary of $16,900 per year. They also may receive meals and transportation costs. Live-in housekeepers receive free room and board. A few employers offer benefits, such as paid vacations and health insurance. Employers, by law, must make payments for the worker to the Social Security Administration. Housekeepers who work for social service agencies and housekeeping firms receive standard benefits.