Become a Child Care Administrator: Education and Career Roadmap

Research the requirements to become a child care administrator. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career in child care administration.

Should I Become a Child Care Administrator?

Child care administrators direct and lead all operations in a child care facility or day care center. The typical duties of a child care administrator include supervising and managing staff, hiring and training staff, meeting with parents, developing programs and curricula, establishing policies, budgeting programs and complying with state regulations. Daily duties might involve dealing with difficult staff members or parents, in addition to redirecting challenging youngsters.

Career Requirements

Education Required High school diploma, associate's or bachelor's degrees
Degree Field Early childhood education
Licensure and Certification Some states and/or employers require applicants to have certification through a non-profit organization, such as the Council for Professional Recognition or the National Early Childhood Program Accreditation (NECPA)
Experience 1-5 years
Key Skills Excellent leadership and management, communication and interpersonal skills, high energy, enthusiasm, creativity, some computer skills including word processing, spreadsheets, and accounting software
Salary (2014) $45,260 annual median wage for all preschool or childcare center administrators

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ONet OnLine, Employer job postings (December 2012).

Step 1: Earn a Degree in Early Childhood Education

Though some states require only a high school diploma, completing an accredited degree program prepares aspiring child care administrators for state licensure or national certification. An individual with a degree in early childhood education might gain an advantage in the job market by qualifying for better-paying positions or more job selection. Aspiring child care administrators can also consider shorter-term certificate programs for focused career training. Degree programs often include hands-on learning through internships and practicums that take place in the field. In these degree programs, students can expect to cover topics such as curriculum and testing, social issues and family, classroom management, diverse learner needs and learning environment creation.

Success Tips:

  • Build work experience while still in school. Students can take advantage of internships and fieldwork opportunities included in degree programs to gain professional experience while completing their education. Since child care administrator and director positions frequently require previous work experience, accumulating experience while still enrolled in a degree program can be one way to get a head start.
  • Work on customer service and communication skills. Child care administrators and directors work closely with staff members, children and parents and need to have excellent relational, listening and speaking abilities to be effective. A student might choose to take electives in areas designed to improve these abilities, such as public speaking, management, human resources or customer service.

Step 2: Get 1-5 Years of Work Experience

Most child care administrator and director positions require a candidate to have some years of related work experience for consideration. Generally, an aspiring administrator needs to have a minimum of one year of experience working in a licensed child care facility. State and employer requirements for experience can vary from around 1-5 years, and candidates with management experience are typically preferred.

Step 3: Consider Earning National Certification

An individual can consider earning certification to demonstrate commitment and expertise in the field. Some employers may require child care administrators and directors to be certified for job consideration. Certifications typically require an individual to complete educational and experiential requirements, followed by successfully passing an examination. Certification allows an individual to use a professional designation, such as the Child Development Associate (CDA) certification, which is the most common designation required by states.

With national certification, child care administrators can further expand their work experience. Certification increases employment options as many facilities prefer to hire certified individuals. By earning certification credentials and maintaining them through continuing education, child care administrators could work their way up to a position as a director of a child care facility.

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