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What Are Your Options for Child Care Jobs?

How to decide between becoming a babysitter, au pair, day care worker and more.

What Are Your Options for Child Care Jobs?
Image via Stocksy.com/Marko Milovanovic

Once you’re ready to start working with children, it’s time to decide how   you want to work with them. Do you want to provide in-home care ? Do you want this to be your  full-time job , or just do this on a part-time basis? And how many children do you want to care for? These are just a few questions you should be asking yourself because they will help you pick the child care career that's right for you.

To get started, check out these descriptions of the six most common types of child care professions--au pairs, babysitters, day care workers; mother's helpers; nannies; and nursery/preschool teachers--with brief explanations of the experience and/or training you should consider pursuing to stand out as a candidate.

The 6 Most Common Child Care Jobs

1. Babysitters

Babysitters generally watch one or more children for an hourly (rather than salaried or weekly) rate. If they do anything extra, they usually receive more pay. A babysitter can either have a regular schedule, such as every Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., or help out only when needed (e.g. date nights, appointments, etc.).

Babysitters can make a higher hourly rate if they have more experience, but aren't usually long-term child care providers. Most babysitters work for more than one family at a time to fill their schedules, as well. 

According to the Care.com 2017 Babysitter Survey, the national average babysitting rate in 2016 was $13.97 per hour. To find out what babysitters are making in your neighborhood, enter your zip code into the Child Care Rate Calculator.

2. Nannies

A nanny typically cares for the children in one family on a full-time or part-time basis. (Sometimes, families may have a “nanny share,” in which one nanny cares for children from two or more families at a time.) Depending on the particular arrangement she establishes with the parents, a nanny may also be tasked with some household responsibilities in addition to her child care duties. 

The nanny can either live at home with the family, or live outside of the home. If she lives with the family, a nanny usually receives a salary, in addition to room and board. If she's a live-out nanny, she receives a higher salary to compensate for the lack of room and board.

In general, nannies provide more consistent care, are more involved with the development and education of the children, and are highly trusted household employees. Many families typically are willing to pay more for a nanny who's experienced, or who has a degree in childhood development or education. 

According to the Care.com 2017 Cost of Care Survey, nannies who worked 40-hour work weeks in 2016 earned an annual salary of approximately $29,380. To find out what nannies are making in your neighborhood, enter your zip code into our Child Care Rate Calculator.

3. Day Care Workers

Day care workers find jobs in child care centers or family home day cares, where they care for several children at a time. They usually monitor play time, teach social skills, and provide pre-kindergarten lessons and activities for the children. If they're caring for babies and toddlers, day care workers are also responsible for feeding them and changing their diapers.

Day care workers often work more traditional “office hours,” as most day cares are only open during the week. Additionally, they may get more benefits if hired through a facility, such as health care or paid time off. Keep in mind that some day cares do require workers to have a few years’ experience and/or official training or education in childhood development.

4. Mother's Helpers

A mother’s helper is someone who tends to the children while the mother is still at home -- typically right after she's given birth. The ultimate goal of the mother's helper is to make Mom's life a little easier -- whether it's so that she can get other stuff done around the house, or simply give her some time to do self-care. The mother's helper will assist with housework, run errands, or play with the kids while Mom cooks dinner or works from home.

Sometimes, a mother’s helper is a younger “babysitting in training,” which allows the helper to get experience in babysitting without being left alone. Most of the time, though, a mother’s helper is an experienced sitter who supports the mom or family by performing a variety of services.

5. Nursery or Preschool Teachers

Nursery school (or preschool) teachers work with children around 3- to 5-years-old to help prepare them for kindergarten. Specifically, these child care professionals help kids develop the social and cognitive skills through playtime activities and crafts.

These care providers usually need experience in child care, as well as official training in early childhood education or childhood development. Some nursery schools are located inside day care facilities or churches, each of which provides different opportunities for preschool jobs in a given area.

6. Au Pairs

An au pair is a foreign (non-U.S.-based) student who lives with a family for up to a year and helps with child care -- along with any housework related to the child. By law, au pairs are required to work up to 10 hours a day, and up to 45 hours a week -- but no more than that. They're usually between the ages of 18 and 26, and have to be approved for work visas by the U.S. State Department. Au pairs may have the opportunity to continue their education while they reside in the U.S.

According to the State Department's website, host families are required to:

  • Pay au pairs a "weekly stipend," which is tied to the U.S. federal minimum wage;
  • Provide au pairs with their own private room;
  • Feed them three meals a day;
  • Support their au pairs in fulfilling their Educational Component requirement (e.g., helping the au pairs enroll in and attend an accredited post-secondary institution, as well as paying up to $500 towards those classes);
  • Give au pairs one complete weekend off each month, in addition to a  minimum of two weeks' paid vacation for each 12-month exchange term.

Required Experience and Training 

If you’re wondering how to find a child care job, you might be concerned that you don’t have enough experience or education to qualify. Unlike other jobs, there aren’t hard and fast rules for what makes a phenomenal nanny, babysitter, or even preschool teacher. In fact, there are different requirements for each type of child care provider.

That said, here are some general guidelines for each child care profession that should give you a better idea of the type of experience and training you should consider pursuing.

Babysitters

There's no set requirement for the types of certifications and training that a babysitter should have. However, parents typically look for babysitters who've had some kind of previous experience with children (i.e., over a year working with at least one or two kids) and are able to demonstrate that they're responsible and mature. The ideal babysitter is able to be flexible with schedules, ages of children, and location. 

Although babysitters can be any age -- from teens to retired workers -- many parents typically focus on candidates who are 18 or over. That said, many families are open to younger, less-experienced sitters, so just find a family you think would be a good fit and apply.

To make yourself a more competitive candidate for babysitting jobs, make sure that you list your experience with children (even if it’s short). Don't forget to include any types of certifications, training, or child-related education that you currently have under your belt (e.g., First Aid/CPR certification), along with any that you plan on pursuing in the future.

Nannies

Nannies usually have some child care experience, but are not necessarily required to have a college degree. The specific requirements will depend on each family's preferences. Families might ask for a nanny to have CPR/First Aid Certification, more than 2 years’ experience, or a degree in Early Childhood Education.

To make yourself a competitive candidate for nanny jobs, make sure to list any extra qualifications you bring to the table, such as a second language or any training or certifications you've received (along with the course you attended/are attending).

Day Care Workers

Sometimes, these workers only need a high school education, along with a little bit of child care experience. That said, some day cares may require more, including CPR/First Aid Certification or specific training relevant to the facility. Some day cares are run from private homes, which usually means they have enough experience and references to attract families who are seeking private home care.

To make yourself a more competitive candidate for day care jobs, make sure to highlight any experience you have with children, as well as why you’d be an asset to the day care team.

Mother’s Helpers

Much like a babysitter, the requirements for becoming a mother’s helper aren’t exactly clear-cut. You can be a very young, new helper who has no previous child care experience, or you can have many years of experience working directly with parents. Some mother’s helpers may even have newborn experience, or offer housekeeping services, too.

To make yourself a competitive candidate for mother’s helpers jobs, list out the services you’d like to help a mom with, and make sure you share why you think she would benefit from your help.

Nursery or Preschool Teachers

These professionals usually need a college degree and some proof of early childhood continuing education. Some centers require that candidates receive their Child Development Associate (CDA) credentials, and some states require additional training and certifications as well.

If the preschool or nursery is part of a church or other day care facility, they may hire “teacher aides” who only need previous child care experience and a clear background check. This is a good place to start to see if you’d like to pursue a degree and other training.

To make yourself a more competitive candidate for nursery/preschool teaching jobs, make sure to highlight your education and training. If you don’t qualify for a teacher position, look for jobs either as a teacher aide or a day care worker -- these will help you grow your experience and passion for working with kids.

Au Pairs

Because an au pair has to meet international immigration laws, this is a highly-regulated form of child care. To qualify to be an au pair, a person has to have hundreds of hours in child care experience, as well as formal training in their home country in education or child-related services. Keep in mind that every au pair agency has its own requirements to qualify, as well.

To make yourself a more competitive candidate for au pair positions, check with different au pair agencies to see what you need to qualify.

Gut Check: Make Sure That Child Care Is Right for You

If you want to work in child care, it’s important that you’re both good at working with children and are passionate about it. There are plenty of child care jobs available, but many pay less than traditional work options. For this reason, it's crucial that you make sure that this is the kind of work you really want to do.

When working with children, it’s also helpful to have energy and be in relatively good shape so that you can play with, lift, and bend down to help children. If you’re a generally healthy person, child care may be a great way for you to stay active and have fun (and get those steps in each day!).

Providing care for a child can be a highly rewarding experience, but it can also be very trying. To be successful in this line of work, it’s important to be calm, patient, and caring. And keep in mind that a good sense of humor also goes a long way!

Next Steps

Now that you've figured out that you want to work in child care, and you've got a clearer idea of what kind of work you want to do, your next step is to figure out what your rates should be.  

Originally written by Ronnie Friedland. Updated by Latasha Doyle.

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