FAQ: What Qualifications Do You Need To Become a Health Care Assistant?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 17 January 2023

Published 27 September 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Becoming a health care assistant (HCA) requires a strong work ethic and dedication to medical service. Individuals who enjoy helping others resolve their health care needs and conducting administrative tasks may find exciting opportunities on this career path. By reviewing some fundamental information about this profession, you can better determine whether it's a career you may want to pursue. In this article, we answer common inquiries like "What qualifications do you need to become a health care assistant" and provide steps for how to find a job in this position.

Related: How to Create a Health Care Administrator Resume in 6 Steps

What qualifications do you need to become a health care assistant?

Qualifications for an HCA may vary depending on a medical organisation's requirements, but these positions often share a few commonalities. Here are some key criteria:

Certifications

To apply for an HCA position, you're often required to complete a certification course in a vocational school. For example, the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) offers part-time and full-time courses that offer accreditation in a variety of medical assistant specialisations. Some job positions may also require you to complete the Singapore-Cambridge General Certification of Education at either the Normal Level (N-Level) or Ordinary Level (O-Level), while others require you to finish the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE).

Related: What Does a Medical Assistant Do? (Duties, Skills and Tips)

Here are some examples of health care certifications you can earn:

  • ITE Skills Certificate in Health Care: ITE offers both classroom and online courses in home care and hospital skills, which last between six to 12 months.

  • WSQ Certificate in Healthcare Support: Offered by SkillsFuture Singapore, the Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) programme teaches participants fundamental skills for different medical support positions.

  • Certificate in Community Care: Provided by the HMI Institute of Health Sciences, this course offers instructions on how to provide care for patients in a long-term medical facility, such as a nursing home.

Training

Many hospitals and clinics provide on-the-job training to new HCAs, meaning you can find positions either directly after completing your secondary school examinations or a relevant certification course. You can also receive on-the-job training through an ITE traineeship, including how to help patients manage a chronic illness or provide care for elderly individuals. Some hospitals may offer an internal training course to help you learn how to complete tasks in a certain medical environment, such as how to collect fluid samples or monitor a patient's heart health.

Related: On-the-Job Training: Definition, Types and Examples

Skills

Here are some critical skills for an HCA:

  • Communication: An HCA needs to understand how to convey medical information to both patients and other health care professionals. This skill includes explaining complicated subjects simply and having great active listening abilities.

  • Teamwork and collaboration: Patients often have several medical professionals attending to their care, so it's essential to understand effective strategies for working alongside others in a clinical setting.

  • Observation skills: This capability involves analysing a situation or environment to learn new facts and make decisions. It's helpful for HCAs to know how to perceive a patient's condition accurately so they can provide resources.

  • Adaptability: As a patient's medical condition may change unexpectedly throughout their visit, HCAs often know how to adjust their protocols quickly to resolve issues.

  • Organisation skills: HCAs typically conduct tasks that require a high level of organisation to complete accurately, including storing patient files or lab specimens. These skills also involve time management, multi-tasking abilities and self-motivation.

  • Empathy: It's important for HCAs to offer emotional support and comfort to their patients, particularly as they assist with any personal care routines. Being positive or having a sense of humour may be appreciated by patients.

  • Computer skills: Maintaining a medical database or another record-keeping system often requires basic computer skills, like how to navigate applications and use a word processor.

  • Dexterity: HCA positions often require the ability to operate medical tools, which usually have many small mechanisms. It's helpful for HCAs to have dexterity so they can remain efficient when using this equipment.

  • Procedural skills: Medical assistants typically follow a series of protocols on a day-to-day basis, so it's important they know how to process directions from their supervisors and implement them accurately.

  • Bilingual language skills: It's helpful for HCAs to know multiple languages, as they often serve a diverse clientele. Some examples may include Mandarin, Malay, or Tamil.

Related: Top Transferable Skills To Include in Your CV

What does a health care assistant do?

Health care assistants (HCAs) typically help doctors and other medical professionals address the needs of patients. Depending on a clinic's needs, this individual may provide support during medical procedures or complete a series of critical administrative tasks. They can have varied specialisations, such as elderly care or radiology. Here are some common duties for an HCA:

  • measuring patient vital signs and monitoring their health status

  • managing a patient database, including scheduling appointments and recording personal information

  • assessing the emotional needs of patients to help them feel comfortable during procedures

  • transporting patients between rooms or facilities according to protocols

  • cleaning offices between appointments and sterilising all medical tools

  • collecting and processing medical samples for diagnostic processes

Related: What Is Health Service Management? Definition and Career Guide

How do you become a health care assistant?

Follow these steps to find a health care assistant position:

1. Pass your N-Level or O-Level exams

If you're sitting for either exam, be sure to study for your math and English sections sufficiently, as vocational schools and job positions may value passes in these subjects. Learning the required concepts can also help you prepare for a certification course or another training opportunity, as they engage your critical thinking abilities. To enhance your study regime, consider meeting with teachers for additional tutoring or studying alongside other peers.

2. Reflect on your medical interests

To select coursework or a training track, it's important to determine which specialisation might intrigue you. For example, you may prefer to help a certain age population or work in a particular health care setting. It may be helpful to ask a trusted mentor to help you narrow your options. You can also connect with a working professional to discuss their working conditions, including their day-to-day responsibilities.

3. Complete a certification course

Finish at least one certification course to enhance your qualifications for an HCA job position. It may be helpful to complete a general course in medical aid from either the ITE or SkillsFuture, as many hiring managers note basic certification as a preferred qualification in job descriptions. To select your options, reflect on how long you prefer to spend in a course and which format best supports your learning style.

4. Become a trainee

Some job positions require certain amount of experience as a health care assistant instead of other qualifications, so it may be helpful to complete a traineeship. These courses allow you to apply your medical knowledge and learn some critical hospital skills, including how to manage a database. Traineeships can also provide important networking opportunities for the future.

5. Search for an HCA position

Research online and through local job boards for available HCA positions. Be sure to prepare a high-quality resume so you can emphasise your skill sets and dedication to the field. It may be helpful to find opportunities that align with your capabilities to increase your chance of receiving an offer.

Related: CV Templates: How To Use Different Types for Successful Job Applications

What is the salary for a health care assistant?

The average salary of a health care assistant is $25,589 per year in Singapore according to Indeed Salaries. This number may change depending on your experience level and how many hours you work, including whether it's a contract, part-time or full-time position. As organisations may classify health care assistants differently, here are some more potential salary figures:

  • Care assistant: $25,512 per year

  • Home care worker: $27,781 per year

  • Support worker: $33,458 per year

  • Community care worker: $54,867 per year

Related: What Does a Home Carer Do? Key Responsibilities and Skills

Who might benefit from a career as a health care assistant?

Individuals with an interest in medical terminology and patient care might find fulfilment in this career. HCAs often have the opportunity to improve a patient's quality of life, particularly if they're in a long-term facility or require additional support. They also use their medical knowledge to assess optimal care options.

What is the work environment for a health care assistant?

The work environment for an HCA often changes depending on their type of workplace and responsibilities. For example, a full-time hospital position may be fast-paced and require longer hours, while a long-term facility may have more consistent scheduling options. Most HCAs work both weekdays and weekends, and some may work overnight. HCAs also conduct many physical tasks on a day-to-day basis, such as moving equipment, transporting patients or walking between different clinic locations frequently.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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