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Child Care Practitioner: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

A career as a child care practitioner requires specialized and sometimes formal education. Learn about training and degree programs, job duties, critical skills and other requirements to see if this could be the right career for you.

Essential Information

Child care practitioners provide safe, temporary supervision and care of young children. They engage children in age-appropriate play activities, plan simple lessons, organize outings and teach basic social skills such as discipline and personal hygiene. In more formal settings, they may create a structured environment that includes solitary play, exercises focused on artistic expression, and quiet time. Qualified practitioners may work in state facilities, private day care centers or their own homes.

Required EducationVaries by state, usually high school diploma at minimum plus CPR training
Other Requirements Occasionally, postsecondary degree, bachelor's degree, child development credential and/or state licensure. Background checks also common.
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)14% *
Average Salary (2014)$21,710*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Salary Information

In May 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicated that child care workers throughout the country made an average salary of $21,710 per year. Top-paying states for these workers in 2014 were, in order of average annual wage, the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, New York, Alaska and California. The BLS projected that opportunities for child care workers would increase 14% from 2012 through 2022, roughly as fast as the average across all occupations.

Duties

Daily responsibilities of the child care practitioner vary according to the type of facility the worker chooses. Practitioners who work in a client's home -- often called nannies -- take care of all personal care needs for the child or children. They are expected to feed, clothe and bathe the children. They will organize play dates, conduct outings and accompany children to lessons.

Caregivers who operate a service in their own homes are expected to maintain a safe, clean and stimulating environment. Additionally, they serve nutritious snacks and assist in teaching personal hygiene. Since they may accommodate children of different ages, these caregivers must be prepared to use strategies that create harmony within the group. Effective home day care providers must cater to the needs of all children in their care, offering age-appropriate materials and activities tailored to each child.

Practitioners in child care centers supervise groups of children, usually within a limited age range. These caregivers create lesson plans and organize activities throughout the day. They often supervise indoor and outdoor play, engage with children one-on-one, and teach a variety of basic skills. Frequently, they also organize outings and/or field trips to local establishments or cultural centers.

Requirements

Educational requirements range from a high school diploma to an advanced degree. Some day care centers will hire applicants who only possess on-the-job experience, but most prefer that the applicant have a degree in early childhood education, child development or psychology. Nearly all child care positions require CPR training. Most day care centers also require background checks with fingerprinting.

Licensure

Some states require that candidates obtain a license to engage in work with children. The requirements for licensure vary by state but include a combination of background checks, CPR and safety training. State-facility employees are frequently required to obtain the Child Development Associate credential, which requires over 100 hours of training and 400 hours of experience.

Child care workers who offer care in their own homes are required to be licensed, and must meet state standards of operation. In-home providers are required to attend regular training classes and provide a suitable environment that includes precautionary safety measures such as covered electrical outlets and gated stairways. The number of children the provider may care for is limited by the number of child care workers in the home, as well as the square footage of the space.

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