How to Become a Childcare Worker

Become a child care worker

Education and training requirements vary by setting, state, and employer. They range from no formal education to a certification in early childhood education.

Education

Childcare workers’ education requirements vary. Some states require these workers to have a high school diploma or equivalent, but others do not have any education requirements for entry-level positions. Employers often prefer to hire workers who have at least a high school diploma. However, workers with postsecondary education or an early childhood education credential may qualify for higher level positions.

Childcare workers in Head Start and Early Head Start programs must meet specific education and certification requirements, which vary by work setting and job title.

States do not regulate educational requirements for nannies. However, some employers may prefer to hire workers with at least some formal instruction in childhood education or a related field, particularly when they will be hired as full-time nannies.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Many states require childcare centers, including those in private homes, to be licensed. To qualify for licensure, staff often must pass a background check, have a complete record of immunizations, and meet a minimum training requirement. Some states require staff to have certifications in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and first aid.

Some states and employers require childcare workers to have a nationally recognized credential. Most often, states require the Child Development Associate (CDA) credential offered by the Council for Professional Recognition. Obtaining the CDA credential requires coursework, experience in the field, and a period during which the applicant is observed while working with children. The CDA credential must be renewed every 3 years.

Other organizations, such as The National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC) may also offer optional accreditation.

Training

Many states and employers require providers to complete some training before beginning work. Also, many states require staff in childcare centers to complete a minimum number of training hours annually. Training may include information about topics such as safe sleep practices for infants.

Advancement

With a couple of years of experience and a bachelor’s degree, childcare workers may advance to become a preschool or childcare center director.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Childcare workers need good speaking skills to provide direction or information effectively and good listening skills to understand parents’ instructions.

Decision-making skills. Good judgment is necessary for childcare workers so they can respond to emergencies or difficult situations.

Interpersonal skills. Childcare workers need to work well with people in order to develop good relationships with parents, children, and colleagues.

Patience. Childcare workers need to be able to respond calmly to overwhelming and difficult situations.

Physical stamina. Working with children can be physically demanding, so childcare workers should have a lot of energy.

Pay

The median hourly wage for childcare workers was $11.65 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $8.65, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $17.21.

In May 2019, the median hourly wages for childcare workers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Elementary and secondary schools; local$13.03
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations11.31
Child day care services11.12

Pay varies with the worker’s education level and work setting. Those in formal childcare settings and those with more education usually earn higher wages. Pay for self-employed workers is based on the number of hours they work and the number and ages of children in their care.

Childcare workers’ schedules vary, and part-time work is common.

Childcare centers usually are open year round, with long hours so that parents or guardians can drop off and pick up their children before and after work. Some centers employ full-time and part-time staff with staggered shifts to cover the entire day.

Family childcare providers may work long or irregular hours to fit parents’ work schedules. In some cases, these childcare providers may offer evening and overnight care to meet the needs of families. After the children go home, childcare providers often have more responsibilities, such as shopping for food or supplies, keeping records, and cleaning.

Nannies work either full or part time. Full-time nannies may work more than 40 hours a week to cover parents’ commuting time to and from work.

Work Environment

Childcare workers held about 1.1 million jobs in 2019. The largest employers of childcare workers were as follows:

Child day care services27%
Self-employed workers23
Private households20
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations8
Elementary and secondary schools; local8

Family childcare workers care for children in their own homes. They may convert a portion of their living space into a dedicated space for the children. Nannies usually work in their employers’ homes.

Many states limit the number of children that each staff member is responsible for by regulating the ratio of staff to children. Ratios vary with the age of the children. Childcare workers are responsible for relatively few babies and toddlers. However, workers may be responsible for greater numbers of older children.

Work Schedules

Childcare workers’ schedules vary, and part-time work is common.

Childcare centers usually are open year round, with long hours so that parents or guardians can drop off and pick up their children before and after work. Some centers employ full-time and part-time staff with staggered shifts to cover the entire day.

Family childcare providers may work long or irregular hours to fit parents’ work schedules. In some cases, these childcare providers offer evening and overnight care to meet the needs of families. After the children go home, family childcare providers often have more responsibilities, such as shopping for food or supplies, keeping records, and cleaning.

Nannies work either full or part time. Full-time nannies may work more than 40 hours a week to cover parents’ time commuting to and from work.

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