Child Care Workers
Education and Training Requirements
You should take courses in early childhood development when available. Many family and consumer science courses include units in parenting and child care. English courses will help you to develop communication skills important in dealing with children and their parents. In teaching children, you should be able to draw from a wide base of education and interests, so take courses in art, music, science, and physical education.
A high school diploma and some child-care experience is usually all that's required to get a job as a child care worker, but requirements vary among employers. Some employers prefer to hire workers who have taken college courses or hold bachelor's degrees; they may also pay better wages to those with some college education. Child care workers in Head Start (a federal program that provides education and other services to low-income children and their families) 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.
A college program should include course work in a variety of liberal arts subjects, including English, history, and science, as well as nutrition, child development, psychology of the young child, and sociology. Some employers offer on-the-job training.
Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements
Certification or Licensing
National certification isn’t required of child care workers, but some organizations do offer it. The Council for Professional Recognition offers the child development associate (CDA) national credentialing program. To complete the program and receive the CDA credential, you must do a certain amount of field and course work, and pass a final evaluation. The National Child Care Association offers the certified child-care professional credential, which is geared toward teachers who have not completed a college degree or who have a degree in a field that is unrelated to child care.
Licensing requirements for child care workers vary from state to state. Each state sets its own licensing requirements for child care workers. Some states require that you complete a certain number of continuing education hours every year; these hours may include college courses or research into the subject of child care. CPR training is also often required.
Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits
Experience working at a day care center or caring for younger siblings is highly recommended for aspiring child care workers.
To be a successful child care worker, you should have love and respect for children and a genuine interest in their well-being. You'll also need a great deal of patience and the ability to understand the needs of preschool-aged children in all stages of development. A sense of humor is also important.
A competent child care worker also requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude with colleagues and supervisors. In addition, a child care worker must also display a willingness to lead, take charge, and offer opinions and direction to children seeking guidance and instruction.