Steps to Become a Childcare Worker

An Early Childcare Worker Guide

Child Care Worker Career Guide

A Child Care Worker spends time with and teaches children younger than the average educator. It is their responsibility to prepare youngsters for kindergarten and elementary school. Daily routines include learning activities along with playtime and even nap time. In addition to teaching students to learn in a controlled environment, these educators are responsible for supervising and meeting basic needs. These duties sometimes include providing nutritious meals and snacks. Instructors must deal with physical and behavioral issues, as well as hygiene and high levels of contact with parents and guardians.

Becoming a Child Care Worker

Like any educator, lesson plans must be created. Unlike most lesson plans, child care workers must create plans that utilize creativity to engage a younger child’s short attention span. With patience and understanding, these teachers must motivate their students to want to learn.

What will you do as a Child Care Teacher?

The younger the child, the more natural the inclination is to live to play. Child care workers must channel this desire to play into strategic lesson plans that lead to learning. Lessons must involve creative activities that grasp the student’s attention while simultaneously teaching new skills and reinforcing previous learning.

Due to the age of students, the child care worker’s job description differs from other educators. Younger students require that daily needs be provided. Teachers may find themselves:

  • providing nutritious meals and snacks
  • performing additional cleaning duties
  • dealing with hygiene and behavioral issues
  • monitoring student development closely
  • communicating more often with parents

Common Degree Requirements

Requirements for child care workers differ by state and facility. In most states, licensure or certification is required. However, there are many entry-level daycare worker positions which require only a high school diploma. To advance in any aspect of child care education, secondary education will be required. A Child Care Professional (CCP) certification is offered by the National Child Care Association for daycare workers. Hands-on classroom experience, as well as continuing education courses, are required to obtain and renew a certificate. A high school diploma or equivalent is required to enter the program.

A Bachelor's Degree is the minimum educational requirement for kindergarten, elementary, and high school teachers. In some states, an associate degree is the minimum acceptable education level to acquire a Child Care Worker’s license. Currently, there is a move toward increasing those requirements to a bachelor’s degree or higher. Preschool teachers require a degree in a relevant field of study, (i.e., Early Childhood Education or Early Childhood Development).

In all U.S. States potential Child Care Workers who want certification must:

  • Meet Education Requirements
  • Pass State Competency Test
  • Acquire the State Board of Education Teacher’s License or Certification
  • In all situations, anyone working in child care requires a working-with-children background check, to make sure the children’s safety will not be at risk with that person

A Child Development Associate (CDA) credential is available from the Council for Professional Recognition, providing licensing in 49 states.

Exams and Licenses

PRAXIS is the most used Teacher Certification Exam in the U.S. and these tests are administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). Candidates for state licensure and/or certification must complete the state’s education prerequisite to be eligible to take required tests. Certification or licensing exams each have a required passing score, also set by the state.

Although educational prerequisites vary by state the most common path is as follows:

Lead Teachers: Early Childhood Education Bachelor’s Degree

  • Coursework in early childhood education and/or development
  • Student Teaching experience

Assistant or Secondary Teachers: Child Development Associate’s Degree

  • Coursework in early childhood education and/or development

Child Care Worker Salaries

As with any occupation, salaries vary by state. Here are some national averages for Child Care Teachers and similar careers:

Yearly Salaries by Position

Position National Average Salary
Child Care Director $39,200
Child Care Assistant $24,000
Child Care Lead Teacher $24,700

Career & Salary Future Outlook

The Child Care Worker career path has shown increased job opportunities for several decades. Current predictions from BLS statistics show a steady increase from 2014 to 2024. Daycare job openings are projected to increase by 5% while Preschool Teaching opportunities are projected to increase by 7%. These job opportunities will grow faster than most careers, according to the BLS data.

Salaries are also slated to increase. The greatest increase will be seen in Child Care Teachers with certification and/or licensure. Although an Associate’s Degree will be an asset in salary negotiations, a Bachelor’s Degree or higher will prove even more lucrative in the future.

Child Care Teachers work in a unique environment. Although the setting is a classroom, they encounter a more diverse student population. The learning environment will be completely new to their students. Structure and social interaction may not be common to children at this age.

Teachers must introduce structure and use play as an educational tool. Each student’s individual development must be taken into consideration. Innovative lessons must be created to improve speech patterns, motor, and social skills. Students must leave preschool with an ability to identify colors and shapes as well as numbers and letters. Preparation for kindergarten will commonly include reinforcing potty training. In a way, preschool instructors teach little kids how to interact in society and how to learn.

Job Duties

A daycare worker position can be mentally and physically demanding. Daily duties include:

  • Supervising all activities and interactions

  • Preparing meals and snacks

  • Changing diapers and reinforcing potty training

  • Scheduling physical and learning activities, meals, and rest

  • Monitoring behavior and progress

  • Recording progress and issues

Childcare workers might also encounter children a bit older, three to five. They must deal with the immaturity of the students and incorporate naptime and snacks into the school day. Daily duties include:

  • Preparing youngsters for kindergarten

  • Creating lesson plans targeting development including speech, motor skills, and socialization

  • Scheduling physical and learning activities, and rest

  • Sometimes planning and preparing meals and snacks

  • Supervising and monitoring behavior and progress

  • Recording progress and issues

Where You’ll Work

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Child Care Workers and Daycare Workers can be found in both urban and rural areas with varying populations. Daycare and Preschool facilities can be:

  • owned and operated by an individual
  • located in public and private elementary schools
  • part of a religious organization

Daycare facilities are increasingly available at private companies, run exclusively for their employees. These companies rarely provide preschool, but sometimes incorporate before and after school programs for older children.

Useful Skills

  • Sensitivity: Preschool-aged children tend to be less socially conscious
  • Patience: Preschoolers are just learning how to express themselves. These are some of the skills they are to learn and reinforce in the classroom and in social encounters. Young children are sometimes loud and more emotional than their older counterparts. Teachers must be the calm, rational presence in the room.
  • Communication: A good communicator, with both students and parents, is invaluable. Reaching the student on their level while being able to share developmental progress with parents can be a difficult balancing act.
  • Creativity: Youngsters have a short attention span. Keeping these students focused requires creative planning. Each day may require a new way to sustain interest and engage their minds for learning.
  • Interpersonal Skills: Child care workers deal with a more emotional student and, many times, more emotionally attached parents. The ability to understand these feelings and convey genuine caring is a great asset when dealing with pre-K children as well as their parents.
  • Organization: Coming back to the short attention span, teachers must be able to keep the entire class on track, eliminating distractions tactfully.

Useful Certifications

  • Early Childhood Development: Knowing the developmental patterns of the human mind and body will help teachers understand and reach their students. Coursework and certification are available.
  • CPR: Due to the age of the children, accidents are more likely. A CPR Certification is always a good idea and can be indispensable in an emergency.

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