Child care providers typically take care of and nurture children who are not yet ready to enter kindergarten. Whether they work in the family home, a private facility or a public child care center, these professionals play a vital role in a child’s development and well-being through structured games, exercises and activities. The path to a career as a child care provider can begin with enrolling in an associate’s degree in Applied Psychology program.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that jobs for childcare workers will increase by 14% between 2012 and 2022, which is higher than the average growth rate of 11% for all occupations nationwide. Employment is expected to rise along with an increasing emphasis on early childhood education. In addition, the trend toward wider acceptance of formal education before kindergarten could increase the number of private preschool programs and child care provider jobs.
Daily tasks of child care providers vary, depending on the employer and the age of the children. Duties may include:
Some child care providers work with individual children, while others are in charge of small groups. Teaching and basic care are the mainstays of the child care provider’s day, although they can be called on to control behavior and teach good habits, such as cleaning up and sharing toys. Other important aspects of a child care provider’s job are building self-esteem, fostering independence, developing individual talents, and attending to children’s physical, emotional, social and intellectual growth.
Preparing nutritious meals and snacks, reading to children, telling stories and meeting with parents are additional duties. Close monitoring of the children in their care often gives them opportunities to identify emotional or behavioral issues, illnesses and injuries. Child care providers may also supervise older children before and after school – when parents are working or otherwise unavailable. By collaborating with administrators, peers and parents, child care providers help children learn skills they’ll need in school and encourage them to reach their potential.
Child care providers may be on the job full-time or part-time, working day, evening or weekend hours. Some are self-employed, while others work for private employers or for private or public child care centers.
For example, some work with preschool teachers and teacher assistants in Head Start and Early Head Start programs. These childcare center providers focus on teaching children through a structured curriculum, preparing daily and long-term activity schedules, and monitoring and recording children’s progress.
Physical activity is typically required, including lifting children, standing and kneeling. Child care providers also must have patience in dealing with children, as well as superior communication and interpersonal skills in order to discuss a child’s progress with parents and colleagues. Strong decision-making skills and good judgment are essential because child care providers may need to respond to emergencies and difficult situations.
The BLS reports that the average annual salary for childcare workers was $21,490 as of May 2013, with the top 10% of earners receiving more than $29,700 a year. Prospective students should conduct independent research as several factors can affect salary potential and employment opportunities, including regional market conditions and a candidate’s work experience and educational qualifications.
Training, education and licensing requirements for child care provider positions vary by state and employer. Employers may show preference to candidates with at least an associate’s degree. In addition, the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that some employers may prefer to hire child care providers who have earned the Child Development Associate certification, which is awarded by the Council for Professional Recognition, or the Certified Childcare Professional designation awarded by the National Early Childhood Program Accreditation Commission.
The road to becoming a child care provider can begin with earning an Associate of Arts in Applied Psychology. Coursework typically includes psychology of adjustment and personal growth, lifespan development and psychology, and human behavior perspective.
Graduates of an associate’s degree in applied psychology program should be able to:
Some employers offer opportunities for continuing education. It may be possible to enter the field with an associate’s degree and use a tuition assistance program to pay for a bachelor’s degree program.
A career as a child care provider can be an ideal fit for mature, patient individuals who are enthusiastic about interacting with children and enjoy teaching new skills. It requires candidates with strong communication skills, the ability to work on a team, and an understanding of child development and human behavior. Child care providers can position themselves to advance to preschool administration and other child advocacy positions by earning a bachelor’s in Applied Psychology with a concentration in Child Advocacy.