Become a Certified Child Care Provider: Certification and Career Info

Learn how to become a certified child care provider. Research the job description, education and licensing requirements, and find out how to start a career in child care.

Should I Become a Certified Child Care Provider?

A certified child care provider cares for children under the age of five during the day, as well as older children before and after school or during vacations. The provider ensures the health and safety of the child at child care centers or at the child's home. Providers who work at child care centers may need to work long hours to accommodate parent pick-up. Those who provide in-home service may be expected to work evening, overnight or unusual shifts. Passing a background check and getting immunized is common in this field.

Career Requirements

Degree Level High school diploma; some employers may require a postsecondary degree
Degree Field Early Childhood Education
Licensure and Certification Licensure required in many states to use private home to provide services; CPR, first aid and a Child Development Associate (CDA) certification required by some states and employers
Experience Work experience or training is typically required
Key Skills Patience, physical stamina, social, instructional, communication and decision-making skills, ability to use scheduling and educational software
Salary $19,730 per year (2014 median salary for all child care providers)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*NET Online

Step 1: Complete State Education Requirements

Depending on the state and the setting in which services are provided, some child care workers may gain employment without a high school diploma, while other professionals must have formal postsecondary education. Education mandates may be satisfied by completing a certificate or degree program in early childhood education. Providers who work at Head Start programs are required to work towards a postsecondary degree or child development credential.

Success Tip:

  • Participate in a training program. States may require child care providers complete training before working with children.

Step 2: Complete the Licensing Process for Home Day Care Providers

The licensing process varies by state, and is often determined by the number of children being cared for. The licensing process typically involves completing forms, paying a license fee, completing an orientation and passing a home inspection. During the home inspection, licensing agents ensure that providers meet state requirements for safety, cleanliness and organization.

Success Tip:

  • Consider Accreditation: The National Association for Family Child Care offers accreditation to family child care providers (private home day cares) who can pass an evaluation. Providers are required to recertify every three years.

Step 3: Earn Certification

The Child Development Associate (CDA) assessment is a nationally recognized certification administered by the Council for Professional Recognition. To qualify for a CDA assessment, candidates must have accumulated 480 hours of experience working with children and 120 hours of formal child care education within the past five years. The application process consists of observations, gathering testimonials from parents, and passing an examination. The Child Care Professional (CCP) certification offered by the National Early Childhood Program Accreditation is recognized by some states. Requirements to obtain the CCP include having a high school diploma, child care work experience and passing an exam.

Success Tip:

  • Maintain certification. CDA credentials are valid for three years. CDA renewal criteria includes documenting work experience, obtaining first aid training, joining a professional organization, completing a letter of recommendation form and earning continuing education units (CEUs).

Step 4: Become a Child Care Director

Once a child care provider has enough experience in the field, he or she may advance and become the director or supervisor of a child care facility. Aside from experience, this position typically requires an education ranging from high school to the postsecondary level, as well as certification.

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