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What is it like to be a childcare worker?

Childcare workers teach and care for children while their parents are away. They make sure children are safe. They might also help them play games, do art, and read books.

Childcare workers need to be energetic, fun, and patient. They help kids gain new skills and learn how to get along with others.

Many childcare workers are babysitters. They bathe, dress, and feed children; watch them while they play; and clean up after them. They might put kids to bed, read to them, and take them to activities. People who are in charge of babies make bottles and change diapers.

Nannies are babysitters who care for children for a long time. They might watch children all day, and they might work with the same family for years. Nannies often clean, cook, and do laundry, too. Some nannies travel to work. Others live with the children they watch.

Childcare workers in schools and daycares take care of groups of children. They greet young children as they arrive and help them find something fun to do. Childcare workers plan daily activities before the children come. Each day usually includes playing, reading, arts and crafts, and rest time.

Childcare workers also make snacks and nutritious meals. They make sure children are healthy and clean.

To help children learn, these workers play educational games. To teach language, they might tell stories, read books, or help kids act out stories. To teach math, they might help kids count blocks or cut out shapes. To teach science, they might mix colors when painting. They might also teach music and dance.

Some workers care for older children before and after school. These workers might help with homework, lead sports and other activities, and keep everyone safe. They might take children on field trips. Some workers also bring kids to and from school.

Childcare workers spend most of their day with children. But they also meet with parents or guardians to talk about how their child is doing. Childcare workers also write notes about what children do. It's important for childcare workers to look for problems children have and to tell their parents or guardians.

Watching children grow and learn can be fun. But the job also can be hard because workers have to run, clean, play outside, and lift up children.

It can also be hard to have patience. Workers need to care for children who have different needs and are sometimes upset.

The work hours of childcare workers vary widely. Workers can decide to work in early morning or late evening. They can work full time or part time. Nannies who live with the children they watch usually work longer hours.

How do you get ready to be a childcare worker?

Most childcare workers can get jobs right after graduating from high school. But workers in daycare centers and schools usually need to get a license from the State where they work. Some States make sure childcare workers know about safety. And some States make sure workers take college classes.

After getting a job, childcare workers learn by watching experienced people. Many workers also take classes where they work.

Having a childcare certificate or college classes makes it easier to get jobs. To get some jobs, people need a two-year college degree called an associate degree. In school, they study early childhood education. They learn health and nutrition and study how children learn and grow.

It also helps to learn about music, art, drama, and storytelling. Childcare workers with their own businesses also need to learn how to manage people and money.

After getting work experience, some childcare workers can become supervisors or start their own daycare centers. Some become preschool teachers in public and private schools. To get these jobs, people often need a bachelor's degree, which usually takes 4 years of college.

How much does this job pay?

The middle half of all childcare workers made between $6.66 and $9.65 an hour in 2002. The lowest-paid 10 percent earned less than $5.91. The highest-paid 10 percent earned more than $11.46. People who worked in elementary and high schools made more than those in daycare centers.

People with certificates or college classes often make more money than other people.

How many jobs are there?

There were about 1.2 million childcare workers in 2002. Many worked part time. Many were babysitters or nannies who worked in people's houses. Childcare workers also worked in daycare centers, government centers, schools, religious centers, amusement parks, and other places.

What about the future?

There will be lots of jobs for childcare workers, especially for people who have training or experience.

Jobs for childcare workers are projected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations between 2002 and 2012. That's because there will be more parents who work and more children to watch.

The number of jobs for childcare workers depends somewhat on the number of government childcare centers and on government programs that help people pay for childcare.

Are there other jobs like this?

  • Teacher assistants
  • Teachers
  • Teachers—special education
Where can you find more information?

More information about childcare workers can be found in the Careers Database

Source: Occupational Outlook Handbook -- U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics

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