Child Care Administrator Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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Learn about a child care administrator's job description, salary and education requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of a child care administration career.
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Pros and Cons of a Career in Child Care Administration

Child care administrators supervise preschools or child care centers. Read more about the pros and cons to help you decide if becoming a child care administrator is truly the right career path for you.

Pros of a Child Care Administration Career
Strong job growth (17% predicted from 2012-2022 for all preschool and childcare center directors)*
Minimal education requirements (a high school diploma is necessary, an associate's or bachelor's degree is sometimes required)*
Opportunity to develop and encourage children from a young age*
Fast-paced and active work atmosphere*
Can develop management and leadership skills*

Cons of a Child Care Administration Career
Lower pay than other education administrators ($45,000 median annual wage estimate in 2014, as opposed to $88,000 median wages for elementary and secondary school administrators)*
Some states require certification*
Interacting with staff, parents and children can be stressful*
When working for government-funded facilities, you must ensure that federal guidelines are followed*
Could work more than 40 hours per week*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Information

Job Description

As a child care administrator, you will be the primary person in charge of the day-to-day operations of the child care center you oversee. You'll need to manage the hiring, supervision and development of teachers and workers at your facility, ensuring that they're properly selected, properly trained and held to acceptable standards of conduct and performance. Depending on whether you're working for an independent location, franchise or government-funded facility, you may also be responsible for preparing plans and budgets, maintaining operational costs and selecting which services to offer children and their parents. If you work for a government-funded organization, you'll also have to ensure that your location meets federal guidelines.

While a good deal of your work will be spent planning and organizing, you'll also have the opportunity to engage regularly with children and their parents. You must communicate well with children to understand their needs and make expectations known to them. You'll also need to ensure faculty and parents are relating well with each other, so that children have the greatest possible opportunities for intellectual and emotional growth. Many preschool administrators work a 40-hour workweek, though it's not uncommon for them to work longer hours.

Salary Info and Job Prospects

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic, as of May 2014, preschool and child care center directors earned a median annual income of about $45,000, while the top 10% earned a yearly salary of approximately $87,000 or more, and the bottom 10% earned an annual salary of roughly $29,000 or less. However, the salary for child care administrators was lower than other education administrators; elementary, secondary, and postsecondary administrators earned a median annual salary around $88,000 during the same reporting period.

Job growth was predicted to be strong for child care administrators (17% from 2012-2022, according to the BLS). The growth is largely attributed to an increased need for child care and a better understanding of the importance of early childhood education programs.

Education and Certification Requirements

A high school diploma is the minimum educational requirement for these professionals, but some states require that child care administrators possess an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree in early childhood education or a similar field. In addition, some states or employers may require or strongly encourage certification. The majority of states acknowledge the Child Development Associate (CDA) certification provided by the Council for Professional Recognition. Some states also recognize the Child Care Professional (CCP) designation offered by the National Child Care Association. Both certifications require a high school diploma, work experience in the field and additional coursework.

Additionally, some states require that child care facilities be licensed, which entails that the director meet certain qualifications. These typically include being current on immunizations, completing required training and passing a background check.

Useful Skills

As a child care administrator, you'll often act as supervisor, leader and visionary. To effectively perform your duties and run a successful child care facility, the following skills may be beneficial or required:

  • Strong organizational skills
  • Interpersonal skills (to build relationships with students, parents and other staff members)
  • Communication skills
  • Writing skills (to create student progress reports and maintain records)

Job Postings from Real Employers

Employers often seek candidates who meet experience and educational requirements, which often include coursework in early childhood development. Other desired qualifications may include strong leadership qualities and excellent oral and written communication skills. The following job postings obtained in May 2012 can provide an idea of the qualifications employers may seek and the job duties child care administrators typically perform:

  • A learning center in Maryland is hiring a child care director/administrator with a 4-year degree and at least two years of experience. Additional requirements include excellent communication skills, strong leadership qualities, the ability to lead a successful team and the ability to prioritize and problem solve. Responsibilities include providing feedback, maintaining personnel files, meeting enrollment goals, keeping financial records and supervising field trips.
  • A child care center in New York is seeking a center director with at least one year of management experience in a child care facility and a bachelor's degree or, alternatively, an associate's degree coupled with extensive experience. Your day-to-day responsibilities include assisting teachers with curriculum development, maintaining a safe and supportive environment, making sure licensure standards are followed, developing marketing plans to increase enrollment and managing the financial aspects of the center.
  • A Christian preschool and child care center in Kansas is looking for a center director with least five years of experience, preferably in a setting encouraging Christian principles, demonstrable interpersonal skills and strong leadership abilities. The ideal candidate would also possess a bachelor's degree in education, early childhood education, family studies or a similar area. The job entails managing the center's day-to-day operations, helping to develop the curriculum and programs, maintaining personnel records and interacting with staff, children and parents.

How Can I Stand Out?

Since requirements vary by state and employer, one way to stand out is to meet or exceed the specific requirements of potential employers. As indicated by job postings, employers often seek candidates who hold an associate's or bachelor's degree. Thus, pursuing postsecondary education could increase your job prospects. Gaining experience working with children as a childhood teacher or worker can also provide preparation for the challenges and responsibilities of being an administrator.

Developing your written and verbal communication skills can also make you a more viable candidate. You may want to consider taking public speaking, communication or writing courses, either as part of your undergraduate curriculum or on a stand-alone basis. These skills could also be developed through communication, education, sociology or psychology courses. In addition to developing your communication skills, you may also benefit from honing your financial skills because job postings indicate that accounting or keeping financial records is often part of an administrator's job. By taking finance, business or accounting courses, you may be able to improve your financial abilities.

Alternative Career Paths

Child Care Worker

If you'd like an immediate opportunity to work with young children every day but aren't sure you want to be involved with the responsibility or training that go along with being an administrator, you may want to become a child care worker. These professionals supervise children, help meet their basic needs and monitor their progress. The pay is not high (roughly $19,000 median annual earnings, as of May 2011, according to the BLS), but the job outlook is comparable with that of administrators. Additionally, the BLS predicted 20% job growth between 2010 and 2020.

Elementary or Secondary School Administrator

Individuals interested in working with older children who seek higher pay may be interested in becoming an elementary or secondary school administrator, also known as a principal. Similar to child care administrators, you'll develop policies, training methods and disciplinary procedures to ensure students and teachers are performing well. As of May 2011, the median annual income for elementary and secondary school administrators was approximately $87,000, according to the BLS. However, in most cases, you'll need a master's degree in education and previous teaching experience to pursue this career path.

Postsecondary School Administrator

Postsecondary school administrators have somewhat greater flexibility in the responsibilities of overseeing their schools. They may work in a specific division to increase admissions, promote research, increase academic performance or help students become adjusted to college life. As of May 2011, these professions earned a median annual income of roughly $84,000, according to the BLS. However, a master's or doctoral degree is often required for these positions.