How to Become a Childcare Worker
Childcare workers typically need a high school degree or equivalent.
Education and training requirements vary by setting, state, and employer. They range from no formal education to a certification in early childhood 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.
Although it is not required, bachelor's degree study in fields such as education, psychology, or family and consumer sciences may be helpful.
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.
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.
With a couple of years of experience and a bachelor’s degree, childcare workers may advance to become a preschool or childcare center director.
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.