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Child Care Workers - What They Do

How to Advance (Advancement)
Some employers prefer to hire child care workers who have earned a nationally recognized Child Development Associate (CDA) credential or the Child Care Professional (CCP) designation from the Council for Professional Recognition and the National Child Care Association, respectively. Requirements include child care experience and coursework, such as college courses or employer-provided seminars.

Opportunities for advancement are limited. However, as child care workers gain experience, some may advance to supervisory or administrative positions in large child care centers or preschools. Often, these positions require additional training, such as a bachelor's or master's degree. Other workers move on to work in resource and referral agencies, consulting with parents on available child care services. A few workers become involved in policy or advocacy work related to child care and early childhood education. With a bachelor's degree, workers may become preschool teachers or become certified to teach in public or private schools. Some workers set up their own child care businesses.

Child care workers held about 1.3 million jobs in 2008. About 33 percent of child care workers were self-employed; most of these were family child care providers.

Child day care services employed about 19 percent of all child care workers, and about 19 percent worked for private households. The remainder worked primarily in educational services; nursing and residential care facilities; amusement and recreation industries; civic and social organizations; and individual and family services. Some child care programs are for-profit centers, which may be affiliated with a local or national company. A very small percentage of private-industry establishments operate onsite child care centers for the children of their employees.

Job Outlook
Child care workers are expected to experience job growth that is about as fast as the average for all occupations. Job prospects will be good because of the many workers who leave the occupation and need to be replaced.

Job Growth
Employment of child care workers is projected to increase by 11 percent between 2008 and 2018, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. An increasing emphasis on early childhood education programs will increase demand for these workers. Child care workers often work alongside preschool teachers as assistants. Therefore, increased demand for formal preschool programs will create growth for child care workers. Although only a few States currently provide targeted or universal preschool programs, many more are considering or starting such programs. A rise in enrollment in private preschools is likely as the value of formal education before kindergarten becomes more widely accepted. More States moving toward universal preschool education could increase employment growth for child care workers. However, growth will be moderated by relatively slow growth in the population of children under the age of five, who are generally cared for by these workers.

High replacement needs should create good job opportunities for child care workers. Qualified persons who are interested in this work should have little trouble finding and keeping a job. Many child care workers must be replaced each year as they leave the occupation to fulfill family responsibilities, to study, or for other reasons. Others leave because they are interested in pursuing other occupations or because of low wages.

Pay depends on the educational attainment of the worker and the type of establishment. Although the pay generally is very low, more education usually means higher earnings. Median hourly wages of child care workers were $9.12 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $7.75 and $11.30. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $7.04, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $13.98.

Earnings of self-employed child care workers vary with the number of hours worked, the number and ages of the children, and the geographic location.

Benefits vary, but are minimal for most child care workers. Many employers offer free or discounted child care to employees. Some offer a full benefits package, including health insurance and paid vacations, but others offer no benefits at all. Some employers offer seminars and workshops to help workers learn new skills. A few are willing to cover the cost of courses taken at community colleges or technical schools. Live-in nannies receive free room and board.

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