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How to Become a Childcare Worker

Education and training requirements vary with settings, state regulations, and employer preferences. They range from less than a high school diploma to early childhood education certification.


Childcare workers must meet education and training requirements, which vary with state regulations. Some states require these workers to have a high school diploma, but many states do not have any education requirements.

However, employers often prefer to hire workers with at least a high school diploma and, in some cases, some postsecondary education in early childhood education.

Beginning in 2013, workers in Head Start programs must at least be enrolled in a program in which they will earn an associate’s degree in early childhood education or a child development credential.

Many states require providers to complete some training before beginning work. Often, these requirements can be satisfied by having some college credits or by earning a degree in early childhood education.

States do not regulate educational requirements for nannies and babysitters. However, some employers may prefer to hire workers with at least some formal instruction in education or a related field, particularly when they will be hired as full-time nannies.


Some states and employers require childcare workers to have a nationally recognized certification. Most often, states require the Child Development Associate (CDA) certification offered by the Council for Professional Recognition. CDA certification includes coursework, experience in the field, and a high school diploma.

Some states recognize the Child Care Professional (CCP) designation offered by the National Child Care Association. Candidates for the CCP must have a high school diploma, experience in the field, and continuing education.

Some employers may require certifications in CPR and first aid.


Many states require childcare centers, including those in private homes, to be licensed. To qualify for licensure, staff must pass a background check, have a complete record of immunizations, and meet a minimum training requirement.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Childcare workers must be able to talk with parents and colleagues about the progress of the children in their care. They need both good writing and speaking skills to provide this information effectively.

Instructional skills. Childcare workers need to be able to explain things in terms young children can understand.

Patience. Working with children can be frustrating, so childcare workers need to be able to respond to overwhelming and difficult situations calmly.

People skills. Childcare workers need to work well with people to develop good relationships with parents, children, and colleagues.

Physical stamina. Working with children can be physically taxing, so childcare workers should have a lot of energy.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition