Why do you need nanny training? The 2013 Nanny of the Year, Joanne Barrow, says that the courses she took "immediately doubled my salary and opened up a lot of doors."
Whether you're just starting out or are a seasoned pro, there's always more to learn about being a nanny. Luckily, there are lots of certifications, courses and education programs out there to help.
While there is no formal training required for nannies to actually become nannies, these specialized classes will turn you into a more professional and knowledgeable caregiver.
If you're looking for a nanny job, they'll also make you stand out from the crowd as someone who takes this career seriously. In case you need any more convincing, the more trained you are, the more you can charge for your services!
But with so many possibilities, where should you start?
We talked to Becky Kavanagh, co-president of the International Nanny Association (INA), and Lora Brawley, owner of Nanny Biz Reviews, and asked them for the classes they'd recommend. Here are 12 ones that may be a good fit for you.
And if you're a parent looking to hire a nanny, post a job on Care.com and keep an eye out for candidates with these skills and certifications.
If you're a babysitter, check out these 8 Babysitting Training Courses »
CPR and First Aid
Both experts agree that CPR and first aid certifications are the most important certifications a nanny can earn -- many families won't even consider a nanny who doesn't have this training. If you plan on caring for young children, it's also a good idea to take specific classes on infant CPR.
To learn where to sign up, read our article on How to Get First Aid and CPR Training »
Certifications are only valid for about two years, so take these classes at regular intervals to keep your skills current.
If you're working for a family who enjoys the ocean and beach, or has a swimming pool, you should invest in a course on life-guarding. These certifications can be obtained through lessons at a local pool, through the American Red Cross (called Water Safety Education), a local YMCA branch or other local community center.
Caring for infants comes with its own challenges and joys. Newborns require specialized knowledge, and taking a class through a local hospital, parenting center, community college or pediatrician's office will ensure you know how to care for your youngest charges -- especially if you've had limited experience in this area.
Nanny Basic Skills
The INA offers this test, which can give a family peace of mind when interviewing nannies who have passed it. Kavanagh says that it was developed to "provide a credential to those nannies who did not have a degree in a child-related field or to those nannies who wanted to add a nanny-specific credential to their portfolio."
It tests your knowledge of child care (including topics like health, safety, nutrition, professionalism and child development), and, if you pass, you get a certificate saying so.
If you want to take it a step further, sign up for the more intensive INA Nanny Credential Exam. Pass that, and you'll be considered an INA Credentialed Nanny.
Professional Nanny Certification
Although it's not required in order to become a nanny, you can also become a Certified Professional Nanny through nanny schools that have been approved by the American Council of Nanny Schools, such as the English Nanny & Governess School. It shows that you've successfully passed a rigorous training program about how to care for children. These courses are particularly good if you're just starting out and need experience.
Having a valid driver's license -- and a clean driving record -- will afford you the opportunity to do double duty. You can run errands for the family while caring for the kids, or open a whole new world of parks, museums and zoos to visit. If you don't have a license, stop by your local DMV to obtain one or get information on driver's education classes you can take to prepare for the exam.
If you already have a license, sign up for a defensive driving course at the DMV. This course will improve your driving and help you avoid accidents on the road.
Nutrition and Cooking
Any knowledge of nutrition or cooking will make you a more valuable candidate to parents. They want to know that you can keep their kids well-fed and teach them how to eat healthfully. Nutrition and cooking classes are available at local community colleges, culinary schools or even at health food stores.
You can even become a Kid's Nutrition Specialist through a certification from the National Exercise & Sports Trainers Association.
Along with nutrition comes fitness. Parents like knowing that you can help kids stay active and healthy. You can become a Certified Children's Fitness Specialist through a course run by the American Fitness Professionals & Associates.
At Care.com, we frequently hear that parents want caregivers who can help teach kids another language -- it's one of the most sought-after nanny skills. Families want their children exposed to a different language and culture at a young age. If you speak a language in addition to English, mention it in your profile.
If you need to brush up, take some language course through nearby community colleges, adult education programs or online programs like Rosetta Stone.
Early Childhood Education
Learning more about children's development and needs will help you understand your charges and make you a better nanny. "If a caregiver doesn't have a solid understanding of child development, she should get a basic certification that covers all aspects of working with children," Brawley says. "Every state offers a training program geared toward licensed caregivers (e.g. family care providers, day care workers). Nannies are also able to take those programs...Many community colleges also offer basic child care education certifications."
You can find your local agency by entering your ZIP code into Child Care Aware's "Free Child Care Search." And you can check the National Association for the Education of Young Children to see what local schools offer childhood education programs.
Special Needs Care
If your charge is a special needs child, a course preparing you for the role of caregiver is important. There is lots of need-specific medical information to be aware of and general advice on caring for a child with special needs. If you have this knowledge, parents searching for care will be more inclined to hire you. Look for programs and workshops through local colleges and special needs organizations, such as Easter Seals or the Arc.
Brawley created this online course and certification (also available in-person in a few cities) to help nannies learn how to reinforce positive, good habits in children. This child care philosophy focuses on nurturing and helping the child without punishment or berating. Parents will appreciate your ability to prevent discipline issues and help raise happy kids.
Once you figure out what classes you want to take, ask your employers if they would be willing to cover all or some of the fees -- many employers recognize the benefit of nanny classes. This type of job training is also tax deductible, so keep your receipts for April 15th.
After you take any classes, make sure you keep certifications up to date -- it's as important as getting them in the first place. Kavanagh suggests pursuing "yearly continued education" to keep your skills sharp and learn new techniques.
Before diving into any program, she also cautions you to do your homework about it. Ask questions like: What is the reputation of the program, what will be covered, what does the certification involve and how long does it last? Will this be something that can help you at this point in your career? Check references and ask for recommendations from nannies who have taken the course. "If something feels fishy in the program or certification," says Kavanagh, "then it probably is and I'd avoid pursuing it."
But with the right nanny skills, coupled with your experience caring for kids, you'll find the perfect job in no time.
Marcia Hudgel is a writer living in Cleveland, Ohio. Her work can be found here.