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

July 17, 2020
12 child care training courses and certifications that will boost your career
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While there is no formal training required to become a nanny, taking specialized child care training courses 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, co-president of the International Nanny Association (INA), and Lora Brawley, owner of Nanny Biz Reviews, about which classes they'd recommend. Here are the 12 most beneficial child care training courses and certifications for you to take.

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 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. 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.

Check out these classes that have been approved by the Newborn Care Specialist Association (NCSA) and think about getting certified as a Newborn Care Specialist.

4. Nanny basic skills assessment

The INA offers its Nanny Basic Skills Assessment, 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. 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 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.

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 National Exercise & Sports Trainers Association.

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 Children's Fitness Specialist through a course run by the American Fitness Professionals & Associates.

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

9. Foreign language skills

Parents often want bilingual nannies 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.

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, 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."

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 childhood education programs.

11. Special needs care

If you’re caring for a special needs child, 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 special needs organizations, such as The Care Courses School

12. Positive discipline training

Brawley created the online Connection Centered Discipline Nanny 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.

Tips for taking classes

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 nannies are highlighting on their Care.com 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.

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.

Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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