6 Ways to Get Child Care Job Experience
How to find great experience working with kids to help get a real job in the child care industry.
Care.com is a great way to find a job as a nanny, babysitter or day care worker, but what if you are just starting out in this field? Many families and companies are looking for someone who has a certain amount of child care experience and references to back them up.
So how can you get experience when you need “previous experience” to get the job in the first place? Here are six great options to get you started.
- Reach Out to Friends and Family
One of the easiest ways you can gain experience caring for kids is by helping out friends and family. Offer to babysit for free or ask to work as a mother’s helper (basically a junior babysitter in training) -- this is an especially great way to gain experience with younger kids.
Catherine Nelson, a former college nanny, told us, “I started out as a mother’s helper for one of my neighbors. Once I was looking for my first nanny job, I was able to use her as a great reference -- she helped me get my first job!”
- Look for Tutoring Opportunities
Many schools have before- or after-school tutoring programs. They are usually staffed by volunteers and are a great way to gain experience. Spending time as a tutor can also boost your child care resume in general, as many parents are looking for a caregiver who can act as a homework helper, assisting school-aged kids with assignments and studying.
- Volunteer at a Non-Profit Day Care
Many local religious groups have free or inexpensive child care for their members during services. These centers are typically run by volunteers and offer some great experience with infants and toddlers in a supervised setting. This method can help you find references to back up your experience and show parents that you’re great with their kids. It might even inspire them to hire you as a babysitter!
- Get an Early Childhood Education Degree
If you want to pursue a more formal job in child care, look to the community colleges in your area to see if they offer an Early Childhood Education degree. These are usually shorter programs (two years or less) and give you specialized experience working in a child development role. They also typically offer hands-on training, which is a great way to beef up your child care resume.
Jennifer Larson, who works at a preschool in St. Paul, Minnesota, says, “Once I knew I wanted to work with kids long term, I knew I had to get a degree. I found a good program that took me about a year and a half to graduate from. It gave me the right experience to work with preschoolers, which is what I do today.”
- Use the Government
The government is encouraging everyone to start volunteering more in our local communities. It's working with a service called All for Good, where you can sign up to help out through government programs in your area -- including assisting with child care. Type in the type of volunteer role you’re looking for (in this case, child care) and your zip code to pull up opportunities near you. You could end up caring for kids while their parents work or take college classes. Not only will you find jobs to help build your resume, you’ll be helping your neighborhood at the same time!
- Work as an Au Pair
It may seem a little extreme, but spending a year abroad as an au pair is a great way to get paid child care experience. Most programs will find you a great family to work with -- and they’ll also provide you with a network of other au pairs in the area to connect with outside of your job. Check out this list of au pair agencies from the International Au Pair Association (IAPA), then reach out to ones in the country where you want to work to find out about requirements. Building your resume while exploring the world is a great way to expand your future child care job opportunities! Read this article about au au pairs to learn more.
Depending on your ultimate goal -- babysitter, nanny or day care worker -- choosing one or two of these options can give you the right kind of experience to get a great job working with kids. And no matter which option you choose, one thing’s for sure: there are a ton of different ways to get the right experience for the job you want!
How did you gain experience working with kids? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Cortney Galster is the mom of one super cute toddler and two adorable, slobbering dogs. She spends her days as a freelance writer and marketing consultant and chronicles her life at The Mommyhood Project.