Education and Training: None
Salary: Median—$8.12 per hour
Employment Outlook: Excellent
Definition and Nature of the Work
Companions perform homemaking, personal care, social, and business services for people who are elderly, disabled, or recovering from illness. The duties of companions, sometimes referred to as personal and home care aides, vary depending on the needs of their employers. They may read to their employers, talk to them, and play cards or other games with them. Companions may accompany and drive their employers to social events, such as dinners and parties. They may also plan trips and outings for their employers as well as travel with them. Some companions handle their employers' business affairs, which include writing letters, paying bills, and going to the bank.
In attending to their employers' personal needs, companions may give medication and oversee exercise programs. They may plan, prepare, and serve meals and shop for food. They may do light housekeeping, such as dusting, sweeping, and making beds. Sometimes they also take care of washing and ironing clothes. Many companions live in their employers' homes. In some cases companions speak with employers in their employers' native languages.
Education and Training Requirements
Age and educational requirements for companions vary. They are set by individual employers, who usually look for companions with social, cultural, and educational backgrounds similar to their own. In general, most employers prefer high school graduates. Some require companions to have a college education. Courses in family and consumer science, psychology, English, foreign languages, music, and art are good preparation for a career as a companion. Many companions also have a nursing background. However, some of the skills required of companions, such as cooking and cleaning, can be learned informally. Almost all employers require good references. Many prefer to hire those who have had experience in caring for people.
Getting the Job
Interested candidates can get a job as a companion by contacting employment agencies that specialize in placing private household workers. Individuals can also answer newspaper classifieds, check Internet job banks, or place their own ad in the "situation wanted" section of a newspaper's classifieds. New employers often contact experienced workers who have a good reputation as a companion.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Companions advance by moving to a job with an employer who provides better working conditions and higher wages. Employment opportunities in the field are expected to grow faster than average through the year 2014. The number of people employed is not expected to change, because few people are willing to enter and remain in the field due to limited benefits and advancement. However, as the cost of nursing home care rises and the number of elderly people increases, there should be many job openings for companions. Workers in the field should have no problems finding and keeping a job. Those with formal training and good recommendations will have the best opportunities.
Most companions work in pleasant surroundings. Companions who live in their employers' homes generally have comfortable private rooms. Most companions work irregular hours, including nights and weekends. The amount of time off they have varies. Companions for the sick or elderly need patience, understanding, and a pleasant personality.
Where to Go for More Information
National Association for Home Care and Hospice
228 Seventh Ave. SE
Washington, DC 20003
The National Council on the Aging
300 D St. SW, Ste. 801
Washington, DC 20024
Earnings and Benefits
The earnings of companions vary according to their experience and the location and income of the employers. The median wage in 2004 was $8.12, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Earnings vary from $10 per hour in a big city to less than the federal minimum wage—$5.15 per hour. Live-in companions usually earn more than day workers and receive free room and board. Benefits may include paid vacations and medical benefits.
com·pan·ion1 / kəmˈpanyən/ • n. 1. a person or animal with whom one spends a lot of time or with whom one travels. ∎ a person who shares the experiences of another, esp. when these are unpleasant or unwelcome: my companions in misfortune. ∎ a person with similar tastes and interests to one's own and with whom one has a friendly relationship: drinking companions. ∎ a person's long-term sexual partner outside marriage. ∎ a person, esp. an unmarried or widowed woman, employed to live with and assist another. ∎ Astron. a star, galaxy, or other celestial object that is close to or associated with another. 2. one of a pair of things intended to complement or match each other: [as adj.] a companion volume. ∎ [usu. in names] a book that provides information about a particular subject: the Oxford Companion to English Literature. ∎ chiefly Brit., dated a piece of equipment containing objects used in a particular activity: a traveler's companion. 3. (Companion) a member of the lowest grade of certain orders of knighthood. • v. [tr.] formal accompany: he is companioned by a pageboy. com·pan·ion2 • n. Naut. a covering over the hatchway leading below decks. ∎ archaic a raised frame with windows on the quarterdeck of a ship to allow light into the decks below. ∎ short for companionway.
Hence companionable XVII. So company XIII. ME. compainie, -paig- — AN. compainie, OF. compa(i)gnie :- Rom. *compānia, f. *compāniō; see -Y 3.