Becoming a Child Care Worker: Job Description & Salary Information

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A child care worker's median annual salary is around $19,730. See real job descriptions and get the truth about the career outlook and job options to find out if becoming a child care worker is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career as a Child Care Worker

If hanging out on the playground, building sand castles or creating art projects sounds fun, a career as a child care worker might be right for you. While helping children learn can be rewarding, it's important to know what to expect before you make your career decision.

Pros of a Child Care Worker Career
Get to help children grow and learn**
Opportunity to create new activities*
Some positions require minimal preparation*
Could work full- or part-time*

Cons of a Child Care Worker Career
Break times could be short or non-existent*
Long hours*
Low pay ($9.48 median hourly wage in 2014)*
Limited adult contact**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **The Princeton Review.

Career Options and Job Description

If you are serious about caring for children while their parents are at work, you can find many employment opportunities to start your career as a child care worker. According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), child care workers can find employment in Head Start programs, after school programs, pre-kindergarten programs and nursery schools.

Child care workers walk a fine line between setting an example for children and engaging in playtime activities. These workers spend most of their time on caregiving tasks, such as comforting and holding infants, changing diapers, feeding children and creating a safe environment. They play games with children or make sure that children take regular naps. Child care workers stimulate a child's social and intellectual growth through singing, reading aloud, play-acting and painting. Nannies assist school-age children with homework, provide transportation to play dates or school, prepare meals and perform general housekeeping duties.

Career Salary and Requirements

Salary and Outlook

Child care workers can expect to work long hours. You need to be ready to look after children when their parents drop them off, and you can't go home until the parents return. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that, as of May 2014, these workers earned a median annual salary of $19,730. The lowest paid workers earned less than $17,000, while the highest paid workers earned a little over $30,000 during that time period.

Job Skills and Requirements

The requirements for this career path vary greatly and could be dependent on the state in which you work. Some child care centers may hire individuals who are 18 years of age or older, even if the applicant doesn't have a high school diploma. Child care providers in some states might require applicants to be certified or have some college-level education, such as an associate's degree in early childhood education or a related field. The NAEYC indicates that child care workers need on-the-job training and should be supervised by teachers or other professionals.

Useful Skills

To work in this field, you'll first want to make sure you enjoy working with children. Also, the BLS and child care organizations, like the National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education, indicate that you need some of the following skills:

  • Strong communication skills
  • Enthusiasm and energy
  • Ability to perform routine activities
  • Patience
  • Knowledge of child development stages
  • CPR certification

Job Postings from Actual Employers

Job postings on Monster.com ranged from jobs at non-profit organizations to positions in residential programs. Most recent job postings required applicants to have a driver's license and two years of experience. Here are some profiles of employers looking for child care workers in January 2012:

  • A non-profit organization in Columbus, Ohio, is seeking a child care worker who can work evenings and weekends. This company seeks an individual with strong communication and conflict resolution skills; they would also like someone with experience as an athletic coach.
  • A learning center in Austin, TX, wants flexible employees who can work full-time or as substitutes. They are requesting at least two years of experience or a CDA credential.
  • A children's center in Willoughby, Ohio, is looking for energetic individuals who can work with infants and toddlers full-time. They prefer applicants with CPR and First Aid certification.

How Can I Stand out?

Because this field requires minimal education, earning a credential or taking courses in child development could help you stand out among applicants. The Council for Professional Recognition (CPR) offers a Child Development Associate credential, which could be preferred by employers. To earn this credential from CPR, you'll need to decide if you want to be certified for a preschool setting, infant/toddler setting, family child care setting or home visitor setting.

Get Specialized

Once you've made the decision to work as a child care provider, you'll want to acquire skills that can help you succeed in this field. Taking courses that will prepare you to work with special needs children may be beneficial. You could also study methods for encouraging children to eat healthy foods or incorporating physical activity into child care programs. To gain experience in the field, you could volunteer at summer camps, day camps or children's hospitals.

Alternative Careers

If you want to work with children, you could become a kindergarten or elementary school teacher. In this position, you will plan lessons, educate students and grade papers. In addition to preparing students for higher grade levels, you will also monitor their behavior and help them overcome any learning problems they are having. You will need to earn a bachelor's degree and licensure to work as a teacher. As of 2011, the BLS reports that kindergarten and elementary teachers earned a median annual wage of $53,000 per year.

With a bachelor's degree in child development, you could find employment in a hospital as a child life specialist. In this position, you could create coping strategies for hospitalized children. Your role might include training hospital staff on how to help children living with different conditions and providing guidance to parents and other caregivers. Professionals in this field earned a median salary of $44,000 in February 2012, according to Salary.com.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Human Services
      • MSHUS - Family and Community Services
      • MSHUS - Organizational and Social Services
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor: Human Services/Child and Family Welfare
      • BS in Human Services
      • BS in Liberal Studies Leadership
    Certificate
      • Certificate in Human Services
      • Human Services Certificates in Child and Family Services
      • Adult Gerontology Practitioner Certificate
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Johns Hopkins University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Liberal Arts
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Penn Foster Career School

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Career Diploma - Child Care Professional
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS - Human Services
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Baker College Online

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • General Studies - Bachelor
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • PhD in Psychology - Gerontology
    Master's
      • MS - Child & Adolescent Developmental Psychology (MSPSYCAD)
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.S. in Professional Counseling with an Emphasis in Childhood and Adolescence Disorders
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Health Science with an Emphasis in Family Dynamics
      • Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Health Science with an Emphasis in Childhood and Adolescence Disorders
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Argosy University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Human Services (MS)
    Bachelor's
      • Liberal Arts (BA)
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Sacred Heart University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Social Work - Clinical Specialization
      • Master of Social Work - Community Specialization
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Penn Foster High School

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • High School with Child Care Professional Pathway
    High School Diploma
      • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
      • HS Diploma

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • MS in Human Services
  • Bachelor: Human Services/Child and Family Welfare
  • Certificate in Human Services

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Johns Hopkins University

  • Master of Liberal Arts

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Penn Foster Career School

  • Career Diploma - Child Care Professional

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Colorado State University Global

  • BS - Human Services

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Baker College Online

  • General Studies - Bachelor

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Northcentral University

  • PhD in Psychology - Gerontology
  • MS - Child & Adolescent Developmental Psychology (MSPSYCAD)

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Grand Canyon University

  • M.S. in Professional Counseling with an Emphasis in Childhood and Adolescence Disorders
  • Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Health Science with an Emphasis in Family Dynamics
  • Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Health Science with an Emphasis in Childhood and Adolescence Disorders

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Argosy University

  • Human Services (MS)
  • Liberal Arts (BA)

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