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How to Become a Daycare Worker: A Complete Guide

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The smallest among us, our children, need caregivers to see to their needs while their parents work. Daycare workers fill that need. A daycare worker is one of the earliest influences that many children encounter. Becoming a daycare worker is for those who want to make a difference in helping to shape our future leaders. Read on to find out how to become a daycare worker.

“A person’s a person, no matter how small.”
— Dr. Seuss

Who Is A Daycare Worker?

A daycare worker, also known as a childcare provider, provides basic care for children when their parents or guardians are absent. Daycare workers oversee the well-being of children. Duties usually involve enforcing schedules like feeding, playtime, nap time, and cleaning.

The daycare provider contributes the building blocks for children’s intellectual, physical, and social growth. On a larger scale, the childcare worker plays an essential role in the development of society as they help establish routines and habits which strengthen higher levels of learning.

Additionally, daycare workers expose babies and toddlers to simple concepts through play and reading aloud to them. For instance, they can introduce children to the idea of sharing via games that include taking turns.

Duties Of A Daycare Worker

A daycare worker attends to the needs of toddlers and infants. The role goes beyond just preparing meals and changing diapers. They also set or maintain an already established schedule for children. Some of the everyday duties of a daycare worker include:

  • Preparing meals and scheduling snacks and mealtimes for children
  • Maintaining good hygiene practices with children
  • Organizing fun activities
  • Create routines and schedules that foster growth and stability for children
  • Record children’s routines, interests, and progress
  • Observe any developmental or emotional problems and report them to the parents
  • Ensure the safety of every child under their custody
  • Nurture the children’s interests

Steps To Become A Daycare Worker

There is no hard and fast career path to become a daycare worker. The training and education requirements largely depend on the state, employer, and setting. Notwithstanding, we have curated an all-encompassing guide on the steps you need to become a daycare provider.

  1. Education
  2. Certification and/or Licensing
  3. Training
  4. Work Experience

Education for Daycare Providers

In some states, to qualify as a childcare worker, you must possess at least a high school diploma. In other states, there are no requirements for entry-level roles. However, to be on the safe side, a high school diploma can make you more competitive among other candidates. With that in mind, a daycare worker with an early childhood education certificate or a post-secondary education is more likely to be considered for higher-level roles.

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While not required, a Bachelor of Science degree in fields such as psychology, education, or family and consumer sciences can further your career.

Certification and/or Licensure

In most states, you need a license to operate a daycare center, including in private homes. Staff must possess comprehensive immunization records, pass a background check, and attain the minimum training requirement set by the state to gain this license. Some states require a certificate in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Occasionally, employers require daycare workers to possess a certification that is recognized nationwide. The most commonly recognized national credential is the Child Development Associate (CDA) certificate.

The Council for Professional Development awards the Child Development Associate (CDA) credential. It is one of the most widely recognized credentials among early childhood education professionals. A CDA certificate shows you have the needed knowledge of best practices to instruct and care for young children.

Alternatively, you can obtain accreditation from other bodies such as the National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC).

Training for Daycare Workers

To keep abreast of the latest trends and best practices for daycare workers, you need to engage in training on a regular basis. Training increases your chances of landing lucrative jobs as well as sharpens your skills for the health and safety of the children under your care. Parents and staffing agencies will trust your abilities over your contemporaries who do not have training.

Some areas that require updated knowledge through ongoing training include safety, discipline, activity planning.

Safety

Safety is essential, especially when dealing with babies, toddlers, and young children. Updated safety methods can help you properly safeguard the children entrusted to you. It is vital to learn CPR and first aid before you begin as a daycare provider. Other safety training includes sanitation, emergencies, and escape plans.

Disipline

One of the most challenging issues for daycare workers is discipline. When children are placed together in the same environment, there is the tendency that they will fight, bite, hit or argue amongst themselves. Some children might even have a hard time following instructions. Training to learn how to handle such issues can provide you with vital classroom management skills that will help minimize disruptions.

Activity Planning

Activity planning training sessions can familiarize daycare workers with the essentials of organizing schedules and activities to help young children develop skills. These training sessions teach how to manage activities and reveal the benefits of different games or lessons. Additionally, it is important to learn the milestones for different age ranges and what skills to work on at a specific stage of growth and development.

Work Experience

Before you dive into applying for an actual daycare job, volunteering with children can give you real-world experience and an edge in your job search. You can offer to babysit for family and friends for an hourly rate or for free. Such experience allows you to work with children in different age ranges and can help you decide which group you are most comfortable working with.

Alternatively, you can volunteer at a summer camp, after-school programs, non-profits, or local churches. Such experience allows you to work with groups of children and observe the role of professionals in this field.

Types Of Daycare Workers

You might be interested in pursuing a career in daycare and would love to know what positions are available. Below is a breakdown of some of the more common roles of daycare workers.

Preschool Teacher

A preschool teacher requires strong communication skills. Instruction in reading, writing, and science is a top priority. Additionally, a preschool teacher supervises teachers’ assistants and prepares children’s activities. The minimum requirement for a preschool teacher is a high school diploma. However, some states require a certificate in early childhood education and a college degree.

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Teacher’s Assistant

A teacher’s assistant helps preschool teachers at childcare centers. The role requires someone who is watchful and attentive. The job of a teacher’s assistant includes taking attendance, organizing educational activities, and observing the child’s behavior. In many states, you must have a degree in education to qualify as a teacher’s assistant. Some employers require certification in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

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Administrative Assistant

Administrative assistants in childcare centers handle the day-to-day clerical duties. Assistants maintain files, schedule appointments, answer phone calls, and update parent contact details. Employers may require experience in an office setting.

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Daycare Director

Daycare directors supervise programs and staff in the daycare center. The director’s responsibilities include preparing budgets, training staff, and meeting with parents to discuss their child’s progress. Typically, daycare directors have an early childhood education degree and a lot of experience with children. In most states, you need certification to operate a daycare center.

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Where Do Daycare Providers Work?

Daycare workers find employment in various places such as government or privately owned facilities. Workplaces include hospitals, nurseries, childcare settings, kindergartens, residential homes, and women’s shelters. In addition, child caregivers might offer their services in their own homes. Here, they designate a portion of their home to provide care for the children.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 992,400 childcare worker jobs in 2020. The information provided by BLS also shows that child daycare services were the highest employers of daycare workers with a sizeable 28% of the total jobs. Self-employed workers come up next with around 23%, while private households employed 20% and schools nine percent.

The Work-Life of a Daycare Worker

The work environment for daycare providers varies from place to place. Daycare facilities are typically open throughout the year. The role demands long hours when parents drop off their wards while heading to work and pick them up after work. Many childcare centers employ part-time and full-time staff who work in staggered shifts throughout the day.

Similarly, daycare providers in private homes usually work irregular hours to align with parents’ schedules. Family childcare workers also offer their services during evenings and even overnight in special cases. Additional responsibilities for daycare workers: help with homework, run errands for groceries and supplies, clean the house, and maintain records.

Top Skills You Need To Become A Daycare Worker

Daycare workers are tasked with different responsibilities and face divergent/non-streamlined work scenarios daily. As a result, every daycare worker must possess various core soft skills to succeed in the role. Here’s a breakdown of some vital skills every childcare worker needs.

Physical Stamina

Working with young children can be physically demanding, irrespective of the work environment. Most daycare workers will have to be on their feet for lengthy periods while monitoring children or engaging them in physical activities. The size of the class is also a factor. The larger the number of children and the larger the space for work determine the level of physical activity. You need to be up for the role’s physical demands to succeed as a daycare worker.

Decision Making

Daycare workers have to make a lot of mundane and necessary choices daily. These decisions can include anything from selecting activities, picking a curriculum, and responding to emergency scenarios. Childcare workers must be able to make sound and quick decisions at all times.

Communication Skills

One of the vital skills for every daycare worker is communication. In this role, verbal communication is a strong point, as you’ll need it to interact with children, parents, and staff members. However, there is more to a daycare role than verbal communication. Written communication skills and non-verbal cues are also necessary to effectively carry out your responsibilities. Additionally, communicating clearly paves the path to building solid relationships with parents, coworkers, and the children.

Creative Thinking

Some of your core responsibilities include organizing events and planning fun activities for children. Games help keep the children engaged and motivated. To keep children interested takes a great deal of creativity. You have to search for ways to build your creative thinking skills to succeed as a daycare worker.

Problem Solving

Before diving into a daycare worker role, you should understand that challenges are a constant factor in the job. For instance, you can run out of supplies or have to deal with a child in a bad mood. You need strong problem-solving skills to handle these situations and many more that will arise in your job.

Patience And Compassion

The daycare worker often takes on the role of teacher, caretaker, mentor, and guidance counselor. As such, childcare workers need a lot of empathy, compassion, and patience to cope with children and their families. Also, in cases where a child has a bad day or is not feeling well, the daycare provider needs the patience to provide adequate support without ignoring other children in their care.

Leadership Skills

Daycare workers require strong leadership skills to direct children daily. Leadership skills include classroom management, discipline, and organization among children. The daycare worker must take charge and be responsible for all under their care.

Salary and Job Outlook for Daycare Workers

According to the BLS, the median hourly salary for childcare workers in May 2020 was $12.24. Half the daycare worker population earned above that amount, and the other half earned below it. Daycare workers at the top of the range earned up to $18.13, while the lowest 10% made $8.84 per hour.

The data further breaks down the median hourly wages according to the sectors where daycare providers worked. At local secondary and elementary schools, childcare workers earned the highest median hourly wage of $13.72. In contrast, those working with professional, civic, religious, and similar organizations made an average of $12 hourly. At the bottom of the ladder, daycare providers at childcare centers took home $11.57 per hour.

The wages for daycare workers depend on the work environment and education level. Self-employed workers earn based on the number of hours they put in and the number of children in their care. Daycare workers with more education and those in a formal setting typically go home with larger paychecks.

Recently, there has been a shortage of daycare workers. According to BLS, there’ll be 150,300 new jobs yearly for childcare workers between 2020 and 2030. So if you were looking to kickstart your childcare career, this is a great time as you’ll be meeting a need and following your passion simultaneously.

Related Resource: 14 Highest Paying Jobs in Education

Changing Careers to Become a Daycare Worker

This is a relatively easy career to switch to since demand for employees is high, and the education hurdles are relatively low. Suppose you already hold an associate or bachelor’s degree in another career area. In that case, 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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Challenges of Being a Daycare Worker

There are undeniable advantages of working in a daycare facility; however, there are certain issues as in every other job designation. Let’s address the challenges you might face as a daycare provider:

High Levels Of Concentration Needed

Dealing with young children requires extraordinary concentration levels to ensure the safety of the children. When children are left unattended for even short periods, they can disrupt the environment or even harm themselves or others. A daycare worker must stay aware at all times.

Compensation Levels

As with other careers that require care and compassion, the pay for daycare workers is below average. The perks to this work come in the satisfaction of making a difference for children, a flexible schedule, and monetary savings when it comes to daycare for your own children.

Coping With Special Needs

Identification of most abnormalities in children occurs at the early stages of development. Sometimes, it falls on the daycare worker to identify children with special needs and give them the needed support. Childcare workers may also encounter children with behavioral issues or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In cases like this, the worker has to devise a means to provide adequate support.

Physical Exhaustion

Young children have an unlimited tank filled with energy, coupled with their curious minds. The effect is that daycare workers are constantly on their toes to prevent any mishap and keep order. The physical nature of this work can be challenging.

Advantages Of Being a Daycare Worker

Equipping children with the skills they need in life can be satisfying. Watching them grow and develop their skills is quite the satisfying experience. But outside the fulfillment and satisfaction of this role, here are some unique benefits of working as a daycare provider:

Discounted Childcare

Every working parent knows how expensive childcare can be. With this in mind, some daycare centers offer discounted rates for staff, some as much as 50%. Reduced fees for the care of your children mean that you get to pursue work that you are passionate about while reducing the financial burden on your family at the same time.

Work-Life Balance

There’s no doubt that working as a childcare provider is quite a demanding job. However, daycare workers tend to have a more flexible schedule than other jobs. Many daycare workers work part-time or have standardized work weeks. This means you can have the weekends and holidays to yourself as parents generally spend that time at home with their offspring.

You Gain Multi-Tasking Skills

As a daycare worker, you automatically become a nurse, confidant, teacher, and the list is endless. While doing all of these, you pick up invaluable skills such as multitasking, goal-setting, and organizational skills. In the long run, these skills make you a more well-rounded person.

You Develop Healthy Habits

Daycare workers have to instill healthy habits in the children in their care. These habits include daily reading, wholesome eating and intake of water, physical activity, and proper sleep. To pass on these habits, you have to be a role model, giving you a platform to stay healthy and fit.

You Build Interpersonal Skills

Attending to one or two children can be demanding. Yet many daycare workers watch over ten or more children. Skills required for daycare work include exceptional patience, active listening, communication skills, and high emotional intelligence. After working in a daycare for a while, you will take your interpersonal skills to new heights.

Begin Your Career & Shape the Future as a DayCare Worker

The pros of being a daycare worker far outweigh the cons. If you are interested in shaping future leaders, you could make a great career as a daycare worker. Check out the GetEducated educational resources to access more information about other opportunities in early childhood education.

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