Child-care workers care for children who have yet to enter school as well as older children during the hours before or after school, or at other times when parents are unable to provide supervision. They play an important role in a child's development by caring for the child when parents are at work. Child-care workers are usually classified in three groups:
Workers who care for children at the child's home, called private household workers
Workers who care for children in their own home, called family child-care providers
Workers at child-care centers
Child-care workers spend their day working with children, but they must maintain contact with the parents or guardians through meetings and conferences to discuss their child's progress and needs. Government employees work at the increasing number of day-care centers in offices. Single parents and new mothers want to keep their young ones nearby, and they are being accommodated more and more.
The government is jumping on the family-friendly bandwagon, and more and more onsite day-care centers are popping up in government facilities. This makes good business sense, and it's socially responsible. Having their children on the premises decreases workers' lateness and absenteeism, particularly with the increasing number of single parents, who depend on child-care facilities to help them raise their children.
State or local regulations require a certain ratio of workers to children. This ratio varies with the age of the children. Most child-development experts recommend that a single caregiver be responsible for no more than three or four infants (less than one year old), five or six toddlers (one to two years old), or ten preschool-aged children (between two and five years old).
Child-care workers may work a variety of different shifts. Childcare centers are usually open year round, with long hours so parents can drop off and pick up their children before and after work. Some centers have full-time and part-time staff with staggered shifts to cover the entire day. Public preschool programs operate during the typical nine- or ten-month school year, employing both full-time and part-time workers.
The qualifications required of potential child-care workers also vary. Each state has its own licensing requirements that regulate training. These range from a high school diploma to community-college courses to a college degree in child development or early childhood education.
State requirements are generally higher for workers at child-care centers than for family child-care providers. Publicly funded programs have more demanding training and education requirements. Some employers only hire child-care workers who have earned a nationally recognized Child Development Associate credential or the Certified Childcare Professional designation. More and more employers require an associate's degree in early childhood education.
Opportunities for advancement are limited, but as a child-care worker gains experience, she or he can rise to supervisory or administrative positions in large child-care centers. These positions generally require additional training and education, such as a bachelor's or master's degree.
There are about 1.3 million child-care workers, many of whom work part time. Some 62 percent of them work in local government educational services, nursing and residential care facilities, religious organizations, amusement and recreation industries, private educational services, or civic and social organizations. State and local governments operate nonprofit child-care programs.
There are always good job opportunities for qualified child-care workers. Many must be replaced every year as they leave the occupation. Many leave because of dissatisfaction with hours, low pay and benefits, and stressful conditions. Employment is expected to increase over the coming decade. This statistic is based on the number of women of childbearing age in the work force, combined with the fact that the number of children under five years of age is expected to rise over the next ten years. Only a few states provide targeted or universal preschool programs at the moment, but this is likely to change.
Salaries for Child-Care Workers
Salary depends on the education of the worker and kind of childcare center. Sadly, the pay is very low. As always, however, more education usually means higher potential earnings. The median hourly wage of child-care workers is $8.06. Benefits are minimal, if any.