How to Become a Daycare Worker


 

This career is expected to grow 15 percent—faster than average—through 2018, as the number of children under age 5 in households with two working parents or a single working parent is increasing.
 
More parents will hold jobs that require work during weekends, evenings and late nights, fueling demand for programs that can provide care during nontraditional hours. School-aged children are also increasingly being cared for in centers before and after school hours.
 
In 2008, hourly earnings of non-supervisory workers in the child day care services industry averaged $11.32 per hour and $17,440 annually. Administrators in child care and preschool programs earned the most. Those categorized as “child care worker” earned the least.  
Child day care workers fill a few different roles. Preschool teachers teach pupils basic physical, intellectual, and social skills needed to enter primary school.
 
Teacher assistants give teachers more time for teaching by assuming a variety of tasks. For example, they may set up and dismantle equipment or prepare instructional materials.
 
Child care workers feed, diaper, comfort, and play with infants. When dealing with older children, they attend to the children’s basic needs and organize activities that stimulate physical, emotional, intellectual and social development.
 
Education administrators establish overall objectives and standards for their centers, provide day-to-day supervision of their staffs, and bear overall responsibility for program development, as well as for marketing, budgeting, staffing, and all other administrative tasks.
 
Child day care centers also employ a variety of office and administrative support workers, building cleaning workers, cooks, and bus drivers. 

Education

Some states place few or no educational requirements and other restrictions on staff of small or in-home day care providers. However, most states have established minimum education and training requirements for medium-sized and larger providers. Training requirements are most stringent for directors, less so for teachers, and minimal for child care workers and teacher assistants.
 
In many centers, directors must have a college degree, often with experience in child day care and specific training in early childhood development. Teachers must have a high school diploma and, in many cases, a combination of college education and experience. Assistants and child care workers usually need a high school diploma.
 

Licensing

In most states, day care providers caring for more than a few children must be licensed. These licensing requirements can translate to additional demands on staff, such as required training and/or criminal background checks. Some employers prefer to hire workers who have received credentials from a nationally recognized child day care organization.
 

Entering the Field

You can usually begin as a teaching assistant or child care worker with a high school diploma. Your chances at employment—and better pay—will be heightened if you earn a certificate or associate degree in child development, psychology or youth and family human services.
 
The best pay and administrative positions will go to those who hold bachelor’s degrees in human services or psychology. Those with master’s degrees in human and family services or child development psychology may qualify to administer large corporate daycare centers.
 

Career Changers

This is a relatively easy career to switch to, since demand for employees is high and the education hurdles are relatively low. If you already hold an associate or bachelor’s degree in another career area you can easily add a certificate in psychology or family and youth services to your resume. Those who aim for managerial positions will receive the highest pay.
 

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National Association for the Education of Young Children
Center for the Child Care Workforce
National Child Care Information Center
National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care
Council for Professional Recognition

Source for salary and growth data is the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For more information on careers in child day care services, salaries, and job prospects visit: U.S. Department of Labor, Career Guide to Industries, 2010-11 Edition, Child Day Care Services.

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