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What Is a Child Care Specialist?

Child care specialists require little formal education. Learn about the training, job duties, and certification options to see if this is the right career for you.

Essential Information

A career as a child care specialist can be rewarding for those who love to work with and nurture young children. Child care specialists work in a variety of settings from preschools to family homes. Prerequisites vary by employer, but a high school diploma or equivalent, work experience and undergraduate coursework in early childhood education are required in order to pursue certification, which may lead to increased job opportunities. It takes anywhere from 1-3 years to complete the certification prerequisites following high school.

Required Education High school diploma, though postsecondary education is often preferred or required
Other Requirements Certification available but not always required
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022) 14% for all child care workers*
Average Salary (2014) $21,710 annually for all child care workers*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Definition of a Child Care Specialist

Child care specialists most frequently work with preschool children who have not yet enrolled in kindergarten. They may also work with slightly older children outside of traditional school hours. These workers supervise their young charges and provide a safe, nurturing environment. Part of this supervision involves organizing daily activities and educational experiences to help with a child's development.

Child care specialists may work one-on-one or with small groups of children. In a preschool setting, they often provide assistance to teachers. As caregivers, these workers are expected to look after the emotional and physical well-being of the children placed under their guidance.

Duties of Child Care Specialists

From storytelling to playing with building blocks, child care specialists spend much of their day engaging children in different types of play. They may also prepare drinks and snacks for children, make sure that they are aware of personal hygiene rules and attend to any of their other basic needs. Specialists working with children at or above kindergarten level may provide homework help. Those who work with very young children may need to change, bathe, dress and feed them.

Child care specialists must deal compassionately but firmly with disruptive children. They may also communicate with parents or guardians about their child's advancement. Through targeted activities, such as art projects and field trips, child care specialists try to prepare children for future social interactions.

Child Care Specialist Job Requirements

People interested in working with children must exude a positive influence and genuinely love being around young minds. Licensing and certification requirements vary by state, but employers may favor applicants with child development associate (CDA) or certified child care professional (CCP) credentials.

The CDA credential is available from the Council for Professional Recognition (www.cdacouncil.org), and the CCP credential is earned through the National Child Care Association (www.nccanet.org). Both credentials focus on early childhood education and require previous work experience along with completion of supervised training hours.

Career Information for Child Care Specialists

Child care specialists may work in daycare centers, preschools, their own residences or family households. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported about 30% of child care workers as self-employed in 2012, with most providing services from their homes (www.bls.gov).

According to the BLS, employment of child care workers is expected to increase by 14% between 2012 and 2022, and job opportunities will be favorable due to workers who have left the profession and need to be replaced (www.bls.gov). In 2014, the BLS reported an average annual salary for child care workers of $21,710.

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