What Childcare Workers Do
Childcare workers attend to the basic needs of children, such as dressing, feeding, and overseeing play.
Childcare workers typically work in childcare centers, their own home, or private households. Part-time work and irregular hours are common.
How to Become a Childcare Worker
Education and training requirements for childcare workers vary by setting, state, and employer. They range from no formal education to certification in early childhood education.
The median hourly wage for childcare workers was $11.65 in May 2019.
Employment of childcare workers is projected to grow 2 percent from 2019 to 2029, slower than the average for all occupations. Most of the openings projected each year are expected to come from the need to replace workers who leave the occupation permanently.
Childcare workers attend to the basic needs of children, such as dressing, feeding, and overseeing play. They may help younger children prepare for kindergarten or assist older children with homework.
Childcare workers typically do the following:
- Supervise and monitor the safety of children
- Prepare and organize mealtimes and snacks for children
- Help children keep good hygiene
- Change the diapers of infants and toddlers
- Organize activities or implement a curriculum that allows children to learn about the world and explore their interests
- Develop schedules and routines to ensure that children have enough physical activity, rest, and playtime
- Watch for signs of emotional or developmental problems in children and bring potential problems to the attention of parents or guardians
- Keep records of children’s progress, routines, and interests
Childcare workers read and play with babies and toddlers to introduce basic concepts. For example, they teach them how to share and take turns by playing games with other children.
Childcare workers help preschool-age children prepare for kindergarten. Young children learn from playing, questioning, and experimenting. Childcare workers use play and other instructional techniques to help children’s development. For example, they may use storytelling and rhyming games to teach language and vocabulary. They may help improve children’s social skills by having them work together to build something in a sandbox. Or they may teach about numbers by having children count when building with blocks. They also involve children in creative activities, such as art, dance, and music.
Childcare workers may also watch school-age children before and after school. They often help these children with their homework and may take them to afterschool activities, such as sports practices and club meetings.
During the summer, when children are out of school, childcare workers may watch older children as well as younger ones while the parents are at work.
The following are examples of types of childcare workers:
Childcare center workers work in facilities that include programs offering Head Start and Early Head Start. They often take a team-based approach and may work with preschool teachers and teacher assistants to teach children through a structured curriculum. They prepare daily and long-term schedules of activities to stimulate and educate the children in their care. They also monitor and keep records of the children’s progress.
Family childcare providers run a business out of their own homes to care for children during standard working hours. They need to ensure that their homes and all staff they employ meet the regulations for family childcare providers. They also prepare contracts that set rates of pay, when payment can be expected, and the number of hours children can be in care. Furthermore, they establish policies such as whether sick children can be in their care, who can pick children up, and how behavioral issues will be dealt with. Family childcare providers may market their services to prospective families.
Nannies work in the homes of the families whose children they care for. Most often, they work full time for one family. They may be responsible for driving children to school, appointments, or afterschool activities. Some live in the homes of the families employing them.
Childcare workers held about 1.1 million jobs in 2019. The largest employers of childcare workers were as follows:
|Child day care services||27%|
|Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations||8|
|Elementary and secondary schools; local||8|
Family childcare workers care for children in their own homes. They may convert a portion of their living space into a dedicated space for the children. Nannies usually work in their employers’ homes.
Many states limit the number of children that each staff member is responsible for by regulating the ratio of staff to children. Ratios vary with the age of the children. Childcare workers are responsible for relatively few babies and toddlers. However, workers may be responsible for greater numbers of older children.
Childcare workers’ schedules vary, and part-time work is common.
Childcare centers usually are open year round, with long hours so that parents or guardians can drop off and pick up their children before and after work. Some centers employ full-time and part-time staff with staggered shifts to cover the entire day.
Family childcare providers may work long or irregular hours to fit parents’ work schedules. In some cases, these childcare providers offer evening and overnight care to meet the needs of families. After the children go home, family childcare providers often have more responsibilities, such as shopping for food or supplies, keeping records, and cleaning.
Nannies work either full or part time. Full-time nannies may work more than 40 hours a week to cover parents’ time commuting to and from work.
This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of childcare workers.
|Occupation||Job Duties||Entry-Level Education||Median Annual Pay, May 2019|
Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers
Kindergarten and elementary school teachers instruct young students in basic subjects in order to prepare them for future schooling.
Preschool and Childcare Center Directors
Preschool and childcare center directors supervise and lead their staffs, design program plans, oversee daily activities, and prepare budgets.
Preschool teachers educate and care for children younger than age 5 who have not yet entered kindergarten.
Special Education Teachers
Special education teachers work with students who have a wide range of learning, mental, emotional, and physical disabilities.
Teacher assistants work with a licensed teacher to give students additional attention and instruction.
|Some college, no degree||$27,920|
For more information about becoming a childcare provider, visit
For more information about working as a nanny, visit
For more information about family childcare providers, visit
For more information about early childhood education, visit
For more information about professional credentials, visit
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Childcare Workers,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/childcare-workers.htm (visited ).