Updated December 2023
You’ve landed on this page because you’re interested in a career in healthcare. You’re drawn to roles where you can really help people and make a meaningful difference in their lives, but you don’t want to spend years at university earning a degree.
Community support worker (CSW) and health care aide (HCA) are two excellent alternatives. Both are front-line roles with positive impact. Both are in demand. And you can train for either career in 12 months or less.
Which path should you choose? Which role suits you best?
In this post, we’ll walk you through the main differences between community support workers and health care aides. You will learn how training, job responsibilities, skills, and career options vary between these two roles. By the end, you’ll know which path is right for you and exactly how to get started.
CSW versus Health Care Aide: Job Description
When you compare the job description for CSW versus health care aide, you see how different these roles truly are.
Both are healthcare professionals, and both support and care for others—but in very different ways.
Community Support Worker
CSWs assist at-risk people with personal and social problems. Their clients range from children and teens to adults and seniors.
Community support workers help clients access the services and social welfare programs they need to become more stable and achieve life goals.
CSWs support some of our most vulnerable populations, including:
- Homeless youth and adults
- Survivors of violence and domestic abuse
- People with intellectual and mental health disorders
- People suffering from addiction
- Refugees and new Canadians
- At-risk children and youth
- Families in need of special support
CSWs assess the needs of each client. They connect people with available services, such as emergency shelters, affordable housing, detoxification programs, and job training.
Community support workers provide counselling and emotional support and help clients set and achieve life goals. Ultimately, they help people lead healthier, more fulfilling, and independent lives.
Health Care Aide
Health care aides (also known as personal support workers) help people who need assistance with daily living. Clients are usually seniors living in long-term care facilities or people who receive help in their own homes.
Health care aides report to a licensed nurse, but work independently with their clients. They help people with terminal illnesses or debilitating conditions and disabilities who cannot care for themselves.
This includes assisting clients with:
- Personal hygiene
- Nutrition and meal preparation
- Medication reminders
- Therapeutic exercises
- Social activities
- Emotional support and companionship
- End-of-life care
Health care aides help clients live more comfortably, safely, and independently. In many cases, they help seniors stay in their own homes instead of moving into a care home.
They also keep nurses informed of any changes in their client’s condition or behaviour—and ensure they get medical attention right away. They are the “eyes and ears” of the supervising nurse.
CSW versus Health Care Aide: Training Requirements
Community support workers and health care aides have completely different training requirements. Let’s look at how the curriculum varies between these two programs from Herzing.
Community Support Worker Training
- Focuses on psychology, sociology, counselling, and addictions
- Features hands-on training in counselling and assisting at-risk populations
Health Care Aide Training
- Focuses on anatomy, safe client care techniques, observing health changes, and home care
- Features certificates in first aid, CPR, Non-Violent Crisis Intervention, P.I.E.C.E.S, and Safe Resident Handling
CSW versus Health Care Aide: Career Options
Career options are quite different for health care aides and community support workers.
It’s true that a CSW and a health care aide could both work at a group home for people with disabilities. But in most cases, they are employed in different settings.
Community support workers are employed at:
- Women’s shelters
- Homeless shelters
- School boards
- Substance abuse centres
- Group homes
- Youth centres
- Correctional Facilities
- Community service centres
Health care aides are mostly employed by personal care homes and long-term care facilities. They also work in hospitals and for companies that provide care for clients in their own homes.
Getting Started with training
By now, you probably have a clearer idea of which healthcare career is right for you. What’s next? It’s time to learn more about your training options.
Several colleges offer health care aide and community support worker training. Which school should you choose?
Do your research. Look at each website and program description, and if possible, talk to people who attended the college.
You’ll also need to speak with admissions. An admissions advisor can answer specific questions about the CSW or HCA program. Here are some good questions to ask when you’re comparing programs:
- How much professional healthcare experience does the instructor have?
- Is the class schedule flexible? Can you study online?
- How much is tuition?
- When can I start?
- How long is the program?
- What are the admission requirements? (For example, you might need a criminal record check or to complete an admissions test)
Get started right now by exploring the Health Care Aide or Community Support Worker program at Herzing College Winnipeg.
Click below to select the program you're interested in. Get information on courses, career options, graduate employment rates, instructors, and more.
Admissions advisors are available to chat online, answer questions, and offer advice.