Child Care Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of a career in child care? Get real job descriptions and career and education requirements to see if a career in child care is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career in Child Care

Child care careers can cover a range of disciplines, from working as a nanny in a home to teaching at a preschool or directing a child care center. Here is some basic information about these positions.

Child care worker Preschool teacher Preschool or child care center director
Career Overview Child care workers may watch over children and coordinate activities at homes or preschools; they monitor progress and maintain schedules for young children. Preschool teachers take care of young children and prepare them for kindergarten in a number of subjects. Preschool or child care center directors design budgets, manage staff and oversee the day-to-day activities of early childhood education programs.
Education Requirements High school diploma or GED Associate's degree or bachelor's degree Associate's degree or bachelor's degree
Program Length About two years for an associate's degree About two years for an associate's degree and four years for a bachelor's degree About two years for an associate's degree and four years for a bachelor's degree
Certification and Licensing National certification is required in numerous states and by many employers National certification is required in numerous states and by many employers National certification is required in numerous states and by many employers
Experience Requirement Employers often request one year of working with children Employers often request two years of teaching children Varies widely among employers; 2-7 years of teaching and administration may be required
Job Outlook for 2012-22 Average growth (14%) compared to all occupations* Faster than average growth (17%) compared to all occupations* Faster than average growth (17%) compared to all occupations *
Mean Annual Salary (2014) About $21,000* About $32,000* About $52,000*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Child Care Workers

Child care workers are typically in charge of the safety and everyday activities of young children. They can work in a variety of settings, like day cares, schools and homes. Sometimes, the job simply means that you will be there when a parent can't. You might take care of children's hygiene, eating schedules and play activities. In many other instances, it can be your responsibility to prepare children for kindergarten personally, educationally and socially. If you work in a home, you might have some responsibilities for helping older children, like assisting with homework. You could work full-time or part-time, and hours may be irregular.

Requirements

In order to become a child care center worker, you'll often only need a high school diploma or a GED for entry-level positions. While certain jobs may require some higher education, you'll typically be able to enter the field without it. Starting in 2013, if you want to work for a Head Start facility, you'll need to earn an associate's degree. Some states and employers may request that you gain licensure or certification. You could earn the Child Care Professional (CCP) designation from the National Child Care Association or the Child Development Associate (CDA) certification through the Council for Professional Recognition, a child development organization. In many cases, work experience can be as or even more important than degrees.

In September of 2012, a few employers who posted online job listings for child care workers were seeking the following:

  • A nanny company in New Jersey advertised for child care workers to provide child care and education within family homes. At least a high school diploma was required, though individuals with teaching credentials and daycare experience were encouraged to apply.
  • A family center in New York sought a child care worker to coordinate various activities, like reading nursery rhymes, creating artwork and organizing playtime. The worker would fill out evaluations and report to a family development specialist. At least a high school diploma and one year of experience were required.
  • A day care management company in New York was seeking university and grad students to work with babies. A background in childhood psychology or early childhood development was desirable.

Standing Out

Employers will be more inclined to hire you if you can prove that you're patient, understanding and flexible; that you have high energy and a high tolerance for stress; and that you're able to accomplish several tasks at once. In addition to these personal qualities, completing some post secondary courses in early childhood care or even a degree can boost your resume.

Preschool Teachers

Preschool teachers typically take care of and educate children between the ages of three and five. As a preschool teacher, you'll be expected to teach a number of subjects ranging from math and science to reading and writing. You use games and other fun activities to catch children's interest. There are many locations you'll be able to work in, ranging from public and private preschools to child care centers and community learning facilities.

Requirements

Becoming a preschool teacher may require more time and education than becoming a child care center worker. For many positions, including those at Head Start centers, you may be required to hold at least an associate's degree in early childhood education or a related field, although there are exceptions. Some positions require a bachelor's degree and a CCP or CDA credential. You'll most likely need to get your state preschool teaching certification, as well.

The following are a handful of online job listings from September of 2012, to give you a snapshot of what some employers were seeking:

  • An academy in New Jersey was seeking creative and enthusiastic teachers for toddlers and preschool-aged children. Individuals who have two or more years of experience teaching kids were encouraged to apply.
  • A housing community in New York needed a teacher for children aged three to five. An applicant would need at least a bachelor's degree, state teaching certification, two years of head teacher experience and strong communication abilities. A master's degree could boost one's application.
  • A Nebraska preschool advertised for a creative, energetic teacher who could develop and teach curriculums. An associate's or bachelor's degree was required.

Standing Out

Becoming fluent in another language, like Spanish, may open up additional jobs in urban areas. This will allow you to communicate with a wider variety of students and parents. Strong computer literacy may also help you beat the competition.

Preschool or Child Care Center Directors

Preschool and child care center directors typically have a variety of duties. These include, but aren't limited to, budgeting and finance, curriculum development, staff regulation and daily operations. This is typically a full-time job in which you can expect to work directly with parents and faculty to set the educational, budgetary and disciplinary standards of a school or learning facility. Your job can differ greatly depending on whether you direct a private, local child care center or one connected to a national franchise or education chain.

Requirements

Although a high school diploma or a GED will suffice in some schools and states, it's more common to be required to complete an associate's or a bachelor's degree to enter this field. As is the case for preschool teachers, a common major is early childhood education. Licensure and/or CDA or CCP certification may also be necessary depending on your location and place of business.

Here's what some employers were looking for in September 2012, summarized from online job postings:

  • A preschool in Virginia was seeking a principal. At least an associate's degree in early childhood education was required, but a bachelor's degree was preferred. In addition to this, one year of teaching and four years in education and business administration were required.
  • A New York preschool serving autistic children sought a director with solid interpersonal skills. A master's degree in special education, experience with autism and 2-3 years of leadership experience were required.
  • A California preschool looked for a director. Applicants would need a bachelor's degree in early childhood education or development, state licensure, ability to uphold state codes and at least seven years of experience.

Standing Out

Consider gaining principal or assistant principal certification from your state; employers may prefer individuals with this designation. Gaining expertise in certain areas of child care may open additional job opportunities. For example, you could learn about how to teach children with autism or other disabilities and special needs. The Quality Services for the Autism Community (QSAC) offers trainings and educational services that you might find useful.

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Purdue University Global

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Johns Hopkins University

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Saint Leo University

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  • AA: Liberal Arts

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Grand Canyon University

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Colorado State University Global

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Regent University

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Sacred Heart University

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