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Childcare workers.

Childcare Workers

Childcare workers look after young children whose parents cannot, because of work or other reasons. They do for the children many of the things that parents do. Those caring for infants and toddlers feed, bathe, diaper, play with, and comfort them. Those working with older preschoolers plan and carry out programs to stimulate the chil's physical, emotional, and social growth, in addition to taking care of their basic needs.

The duties of childcare workers depend on the setting in which they work. Self-employed childcare workers taking care of a few children in their own homes, a setting often referred to as family daycare, have sole responsibility for those children. In addition to caring for children, self-employed childcare workers are responsible for a safe and clean environment, good nutrition, games, and other activities. Many also handle administrative duties, such as obtaining and renewing a license, hiring help, purchasing supplies, keeping records, mailing out bills, and recruiting children. Childcare workers in a large daycare center are in charge of groups of children under the supervision of a director who develops and administers the program.

Regardless of the children's age or the setting, childcare workers make sure that the childrens' basic physical, psychological, social, and educational needs are met. Typical duties include greeting children as they arrive, helping them remove outer garments, and teaching them how to dress and undress. They may organize and direct indoor and outdoor games and activities or take them on field trips. They select activities that provide self-expression and development trhough arts and crafts, music, and language; these many include painting and drawing, working with clay and wood, singing, reading, and story telling. Other activities provide physical exercise and teach children how to get along with others.

Childcare workers are also concerned with the children's health and nutrition. They serve nutritious meals and snacks and use these as an opportunity to teach the children good eating habits and responsibility for cleaning up after themselves. They also see that the children have proper rest periods. They spot children who may be getting sick or showing signs of emotional or developmental problems. They discuss the child's development with the parents.

Working Conditions

Working conditions vary. Childcare facilities range fraom a single poorly furnished room to a large, fully equipped building. Some facilities accommodate a few children, others a hundred or more. Childcare centers are located in private homes, churches, and on the premises of universities, businesses, and other organizations that provide care for the children of employees. Others are in new or remodeled building used exclusively for childcare.

Self-employed providers of family daycare have great flexibility in their hours of work and daily routine. Because they work in their own home, they are able to handle some housekeeping responsibilities and look after their own children while caring for others.

Childcare centers are open year round. Many are open 12 hours a day. Full-time staff workers usually have 8-hour shifts; however, many work part time or have staggered hours.

Childcare workers spend much of their time standing, walking, bending, stooping, and lifting. They must be constantly alert, anticipate and prevent trouble, deal with disruptive children, and provide fair but firm discipline. This can be physically and emotionally taxing. The work is demanding and sometimes hectic; it requires a great deal of stamina. Rewards, on the other hand, come from seeing young children blossom and grow.


Childcare workers held 575,000 jobs in 1984. Many work part time. Almost two-thirds are self-employed; most care for children in their own homes. More than half of the salaried childcare workers are employed in independent childcare centers and residential childcare institutions. About 20 percent work in centers affiliated with churches or synagogues and in social or welfare agencies. Some are in State and local government agencies, hospitals, and employer-sponsored daycare centers.

Qualifications and Advancement

Entry level positions for childcare workers require little or no experience, for the most part. Although there are no specific educational requirements, employers prefer individuals with a high school diploma. Some employers provide on-the-job training by an experienced worker.

High school students who plan to work with small children should take courses in psychology, sociology, home economics, nutrition, and family living. Courses in art, music, drama, and physical education also provide godd preparation. Volunteer or paid babysitting is helpful.

Formal training or certification is recommended for individuals who wish to advance. Many 2-year and 4-year colleges offer certificate and associate degree programs in childcare and guidance. Subjects include childhood development, child health care, child psychology, and play and educational activities.

The Child Development Associate (CDA) credential program offers an alternative certification. It stresses on-the-job performance and experience. The program is open to anyone 18 years of age or older. A team of childcare professionals conducts the assessment and decides whether the individual qualifies for the credential. The CDA assessment takes several months or longer.

Childcare workers should like working with small children and should be kind and patient. They should be in excellent health because the work requires much energy and stamina. Skills in music, art, drama, and storytelling are also important. Those who work for themselves must have good business sense and management ability. As childcare workers gain experience, they may advance to supervisory or administrative positions in larger centers. Often, however, these positions require additional training. Some set up their own childcare business.

Job Outlook

Job openings for childcare workers are expected to be plentiful through the mid-1990's. Most openings will arise because of the need to replace the high proportion of childcare workers who leave this very large occupation every year. There is considerable movement into and out of the occupation due to the ease of setting up childcare in one's home, limited education and training requirements, abundance of part-time jobs, and low pay.

Employment of childcare workers is expected to grow more slowly than the average for all occupations through the mid-1990's, primarily because of the anticipated slow growth of the number of preschool age children with working mothers. Employment is sensitive to ups and downs in the economy. During recessions, the number of parents who cannot find jobs increases, and parents who are not employed are less likely to need childcare.


In 1984, median annual earnings of full-time childcare workers were $9,200. The middle 50 percent earned between $6,800 and $12,300; the top percent earned at least $15,600.

Wages of childcare workers vary depending on the part of the country and the type of center in which they work. Wages are highest in the West and lowest in the Southeast. Wages tend to be higher in larger centers and lower in church-affiliated centers. Many entry level childcare workers receive only the minimum wage of $3.35 an hour. Earnings of self-employed childcare workers vary even more than those of wage and salary workers, depending on the number and ages of the children and the geographic area.

Related Occupations

Childcare requires a wide variety of aptitudes and skills, including patience, creativity, an ability to motivate, teach, and influence others, and, in some cases, leadership and organizational and administrative abilities. Other occupations that require these aptitudes include teacher aide, children's tutor, foster parent, recreational therapist, social worker, and early childhood program director.

Sources of Additional Information

For general information about childcare workers, contact

National Association for Childcare Management 1255 23rd Street, NW Washington, D.C. 20037 Childcare Employee Project P.O. Box 5603 Berkeley, California 94705

For information on childcare center accreditation standards and program development and resources, contact National Association for the Education of Young Children 1834 Connecticut Avenue, NW Washington, D.C. 20009

For eligibility requirements and a description of the Child Development Associate (CDA) credential, write CDA National Credentiating Program Room 802 Washington, D.C. 20005
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Author:Murphy, Ludmilla
Publication:Occupational Outlook Quarterly
Date:Jun 22, 1986
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