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12 child care training courses and certifications that will boost your career

Getting a nanny certification or completing a course can really boost your career. Check out our list of expert-backed options.

12 child care training courses and certifications that will boost your career

While there is no formal training required to become a nanny, taking specialized child care training courses or getting a nanny certification will make you a more professional and knowledgeable caregiver. You’ll also stand out from the crowd as someone who takes their career seriously. But which child care training courses should you take?

To help you narrow down a course list, we talked to Becky Kavanagh, certified parent coach and former co-president of the International Nanny Association (INA), and Lora Brawley, owner of Nanny Care Hub and 30 year nanny veteran, about which classes they’d recommend. Here are the 12 most beneficial child care and nanny certifications and training courses for you to complete.

1. 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 you if you don’t have this nanny certification. If you plan on caring for young children, it’s also a good idea to take specific classes on infant CPR. Certifications are only valid for about two years, so take these classes at regular intervals to keep your skills current.

2. Water-safety certification

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 lifeguarding. These certifications can be obtained through the American Red Cross (called Aquatics & Water Safety Certification Programs) and at some local YMCA branches, pools or community centers.

3. Infant care classes and certification

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 the youngest children, especially if you’ve had limited experience in this area. If you want to dive a little deeper, think about getting certified as a Newborn Care Specialist (NCS).

4. Nanny basic skills assessment

The INA offers its Nanny Basic Skills Assessment (free for members/$25 for non-members), 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 to confirm your expertise.

If you want to take it a step further, sign up for the more intensive INA Nanny Credential Exam ($45 for members/$100 for non-members). Pass that, and you’ll be considered an INA Credentialed Nanny.

5. Professional nanny certification

Although it’s not required to become a nanny, you can also get certified as a Professional Nanny and Childcare Provider (PNCP) through reputable nanny schools. PNCP certification through the US Nanny Association requires training, work experience, passing an exam based on national nanny standards and a background check. It shows that you’ve successfully passed a rigorous training program about how to care for children and demonstrates your commitment to quality child care. These courses can be particularly useful if you’re just starting out and need experience.

Generally, these certifications require a nonrefundable fee. The US Nanny Association certification fee is currently $299 and credentials are valid for three years.

6. Driver’s license

Having a valid driver’s license — and a clean driving record — will afford you the opportunity to do double duty, which can mean higher pay. 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.

7. Nutrition and cooking courses

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 American Fitness Professionals and Associates (AFPA).

8. Fitness education

Along with nutrition comes fitness. Parents like knowing that you can help kids stay active and healthy. You can become a Certified Youth Fitness Specialist through a course run by the AFPA.

Read up on programs like Healthy Kids, Healthy Future that encourage children’s health through activity, and get inspiration from these movement games for kids.

9. Foreign language skills

Bilingual nanny jobs are more and more common because many parents want to hire a caregiver who can also 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.

10. Early childhood education

Learning more about children’s development and needs will help you understand the kids in your care and make you a better nanny.

“If a caregiver doesn’t have a solid understanding of child development, they 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.”

“If a caregiver doesn’t have a solid understanding of child development, they should get a basic certification that covers all aspects of working with children.”

—Lora Brawley, owner, Nanny Care Hub

Find a list of required and ongoing training topics through your local Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) agency via Child Care Aware. You can also check the National Association for the Education of Young Children to see what local schools offer accredited childhood education programs.

11. Special needs care

If you’re caring for a child with special needs, a course preparing you for this unique role is important. There is a lot of need-specific medical information to be aware of and general advice on caring for a child with special needs. Look for programs and workshops through colleges and child care training and special needs organizations, such as The Care Courses School or the ChildCare Education Institute

12. Positive discipline training

Brawley created the online Connection Centered Discipline Nanny Certification 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.

Tips for taking classes and getting a nanny certification

Ask around. Another great way to identify the child care training courses and certifications to take is by finding out what your competition has done. This step will help you do two things. First, it’ll help you ensure that your resume is on par with the other nannies who are applying for the same jobs. Second, it’ll allow you to identify any skills or certifications that your competition doesn’t have that you can pursue yourself. There are a few easy ways to do this, such as asking your nanny friends or doing Google searches. You can also see what professional nannies are highlighting on their child care profiles.

Do your research. Before diving into any program, Kavanagh cautions you do your homework. 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? 

Then check references and ask for recommendations from nannies who have taken the course.

“If something feels fishy in the program or certification, then it probably is and I’d avoid pursuing it,” says Kavanagh.

“If something feels fishy in the program or certification, then it probably is and I’d avoid pursuing it.”

—Becky Kavanagh, former co-president of the International Nanny Association

Ask for reimbursement. 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 tax day.

Stay updated. After you take any class, make sure you keep certifications up to date; it’s as important as getting them in the first place. First-aid certifications are valid for three years, for instance. Kavanagh suggests pursuing “yearly continued education” to keep your skills sharp and learn new techniques.