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 must meet education and training requirements, which vary by state. Some states require these workers to have a high school diploma or equivalent, but many states do not have any education requirements for entry-level positions. However, workers with postsecondary education or an early childhood education credential may be qualified for higher level positions.
Employers often prefer to hire workers with at least a high school diploma and, in some cases, postsecondary education in early childhood education.
Workers in Head Start programs must at least be enrolled in a program in which they will earn a postsecondary degree in early childhood education or a child development credential.
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 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 is valid for 3 years and requires renewal.
The National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC) offers a nationally recognized accreditation for family childcare providers. This accreditation requires training and experience in the field, as well as a period during which the applicant is observed while working with children.
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 hours of training annually. Training may include information about basic care of babies, such as how to warm a bottle, and customer-service skills.
Childcare workers may advance to become a preschool or childcare center director with a couple years of experience and a bachelor’s degree.
Communication skills. Childcare workers must be able to talk with parents and colleagues about the progress of the children in their care. They need good speaking skills to provide this information effectively and good listening skills to understand parents’ instructions.
Decisionmaking skills. Good judgment is necessary for childcare workers so they can respond to emergencies or difficult situations.
Instructional skills. Childcare workers need to be able to explain things in terms young children can understand.
Interpersonal skills. Childcare workers need to work well with people in order to develop good relationships with parents, children, and colleagues.
Patience. Working with children can be frustrating, so childcare workers need to be able to respond calmly to overwhelming and difficult situations.
Physical stamina. Working with children can be physically taxing, so childcare workers should have a lot of energy.