February 20, 2023

Prepare for Your Dream Job: How to Become a Child Care Worker

By B&SC Blog Team

Prepare for Your Dream Job: How to Become a Child Care Worker

Nothing quite compares to the joy that comes from working with children. Yes, small children present caregivers with their fair share of challenges, but for every temper tantrum or potty-training struggle, you’ll enjoy ten times as many whimsical, irreverent, and downright cute moments. What’s more, the inherent challenges of child care are far more manageable when you know why little kids engage in certain behaviors and what it takes to ease their greatest struggles.

Many people enter the child care profession ill-equipped for the complications this field involves. What is at the heart of this lack of preparation? Most often it is the unfortunate misconceptions about what early childhood education looks like today. While some skeptics derisively refer to it as babysitting, this job is far more complex than outsiders realize.

From lesson planning to emotional nurturing to first aid, child care workers must possess an in-depth understanding of what it takes to shape healthy, happy, and resilient children. Yes, this knowledge can be gained over time simply by being in the presence of young children – but essential child care skills are best obtained through focused education and training. Below, we break down the process of gaining competency in this field.

How to Become a Child Care Worker

Before we dive in with the steps to becoming a child care worker, it’s worth noting this process can look different from one professional to the next.

Some aspiring child care providers may already have extensive experience with young children. Others may be completely new to working with babies, toddlers, and preschool kids. Differences also occur depending on where and in what capacity these professionals hope to work.

Despite all this, a few key patterns tend to emerge as aspiring child care workers begin the journey toward their dream careers. We’ve highlighted a few of the most common steps for becoming a child care worker below.

1. Learn More About the Field of Child Care

A career in child care requires a great deal of commitment. Be prepared for long, tiring days surrounded by young children – and that’s only the beginning. As a child care worker, you’ll also need to collaborate with early childhood educators, administrative professionals, and, of course, parents. Do your research well in advance to ensure you’re prepared for all the challenges that lie ahead.

2. Enroll in a Diploma or Degree Program

Timing for educational training can vary from one child care worker to the next, but earlier is always better. Graduation from these programs could also provide a significant boost in pay.

What is another advantage of enrolling? A post-secondary diploma or degree makes it easier to gain the wide range of skills and knowledge required to work successfully with young children. Relevant programs delve into valuable topics such as child psychology, classroom management, and curriculum planning.

3. Get Hands-On Experience

You could dedicate years to reading textbooks, examining research journals, and attending class, but you still won’t understand the realities of child care until you apply your newfound knowledge in a relevant setting. A college-oriented internship program can provide support and guidance as you obtain hands-on experience in a child care facility.

4. Obtain the Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential

The Council for Professional Recognition offers a valuable credential opportunity known as the Child Development Associate (CDA). This verifies that aspiring child care workers are thoroughly prepared to handle the rigors of their profession.

An associate degree should fulfill the strict educational requirements for the CDA credential. Additionally, you’ll need 480 hours of work experience in eligible settings. This is a great opportunity to develop your professional portfolio, which is also a CDA requirement.

The process for obtaining a CDA credential includes a verification visit conducted by a professional development specialist. During this visit, your work with children will be observed and scrutinized. You will receive extensive feedback about your current strengths as a child care worker, along with potential areas for improvement.

In addition to impressing the specialist during your verification visit, you’ll need to pass the rigorous CDA exam. Your associate degree will have prepared you for the wide array of concepts covered in this test. The exam encompasses best practices for early childhood education, as identified by the Council for Professional Recognition.

5. Start Searching for Your Dream Job

Equipped with the right degrees, diplomas, and credentials, you should be thoroughly prepared to land a job you will love. Maintain a strong professional network of former instructors or fellow graduates who can provide valuable leads. Don’t be afraid to ask for references from previous supervisors. Make the most of the professional portfolio you created while applying for your CDA credential.

Requirements for Child Care Workers

If the steps highlighted above are any indication, today’s child care workers need to jump through several hoops to demonstrate that they’re up to the task of shaping the futures of a promising new generation of young children. Key requirements include:


First and foremost, a high school diploma (or equivalent) is essential. While requirements for degrees differ between states and employers, completing high school is nearly always the absolute minimum required to work in the child care field.

Educational attainment should not end with high school. Yes, some employers will take on workers who lack college credentials, but a postsecondary diploma or an associate degree has largely replaced high school graduation as the minimum requirement for entry. Without some level of postsecondary training, you’ll be ineligible for many promising positions. An associate degree may also prove necessary for gaining the certificates and credentials discussed below.


As mentioned previously, the CDA credential is required for many child care workers. Some employers may also request that workers obtain other certificates, such as the Certified Child Care Worker (CCCW) from the National Career Certification Board.

Child Care Skills

Vital child care skills should be gained through a blend of academic programs, training initiatives, and job placements. Either way, you’ll quickly find that day-to-day life in the child care world is far easier when you’ve acquired the following abilities:

Empathy. This soft skill is crucial for understanding young children – and for getting them to understand you. The best child care workers recognize how children feel in various situations, why they may struggle, and which gentle strategies will help them achieve key milestones.

Communication. In the child care world, effective communication looks a bit different than in conventional corporate positions. Tone of voice and body language are key. Keep in mind, however, you’ll also need to master written and adult-oriented verbal communication so you can discuss child care concerns with parents and fellow professionals.

First aid. What happens if the children for whom you are responsible are injured? While some situations call for skilled care from medical professionals, everyday scrapes can be handled by child care workers who are adept in basic first aid. It’s also important to understand when and how to escalate to emergency care.

Behavior management. Redirection guidance and other approved intervention methods promote effective social-emotional learning while also helping young children discover how to behave within a classroom environment. With this in mind, child care workers must master a variety of research-backed behavior management strategies.

Creativity. Play-based learning is central to success in modern child care. Aspiring professionals should learn to think creatively, both while interacting with children and when planning lessons or activities.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Child Care Worker?

Your timeline to becoming a child care worker largely depends on your preferred approach to training and education. It’s possible to work in a child care facility even if your experience is limited, but the best jobs are reserved for graduates with relevant credentials.

As discussed earlier, you may be able to enter the child care field after obtaining a relevant diploma. With just 36 credits required, a diploma can get you into this occupation without requiring years of intensive study. You’ll gain the skills you need to succeed as a child care worker, and you can continue to build on them as you work directly with young children.

If you’re able to dedicate more time to your early childhood studies, an associate degree may be your best bet. This takes longer to obtain but it’s possible to get your degree within two short years. Flexible offerings such as online courses allow you to seek your degree while holding down a job.

Keep in mind that eligibility for early childhood education jobs may be limited to the most experienced applicants. As mentioned previously, you will need at least 480 hours of relevant experience to become CDA certified. Thankfully, you can complete many of these hours while fulfilling the internship requirements for your associate degree.

Start Your Child Care Journey Today

Are you ready to experience the joys of working with young children? With proper training, you’ll be thoroughly qualified to take on the challenges and opportunities of the child care profession.

As you explore your options, take a look at the multiple programs offered through Bryant & Stratton. These include the Early Childhood Care & Development diploma and the Associate of Applied Science in Early Childhood Education.

It is natural for you to have questions, but there are plenty of resources to guide your way. Request information at your earliest convenience to learn more about our child care diploma and degree programs – and the role they can play in preparing you for your dream career.

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