Guide To Becoming a Daycare Teacher

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published March 15, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Daycare is an environment where children thrive, become curious and learn more about the world around them. If you want to be a part of facilitating a child's emotional and mental growth, then a career as a daycare teacher may be ideal for you. Like any job, to excel in this position requires that you obtain the education and experience you need to get the attention of a hiring manager.

In this article, we explain what a daycare teacher is and what they do, share how to become one and provide the average salary and job outlook for this career.

What is a daycare teacher?

A daycare teacher is a professional who cares for and educates children in a daycare facility. They may work in an after-school program for older children or provide care to younger children in a preschool setting, usually while the child's parent or guardian is at work. Many daycare teachers work traditional hours, although others may start work early in the morning or stay after 5 p.m. to allow parents time to pick up their children after work. There are also some daycare facilities that are open nights, weekends and holidays to accommodate parents' schedules.

What do daycare teachers do?

The primary responsibility that daycare teachers have is to care for children in a a safe environment. Here are the other responsibilities a daycare teacher has:

  • Create lesson plans and other curriculum that supports a child's learning and development

  • Engage children in activities that reinforce their interests and expose them to new ways of thinking

  • Set up the classroom and play areas each morning

  • Supervise the children during open play time

  • Serve meals and snacks to kids

  • Handle behavioral issues, including mediating conflicts between children

  • Clean and sanitize the daycare facility

How to become a daycare teacher

Review this list of steps to become a successful daycare teacher:

1. Earn your high school diploma

Most employers hire daycare teachers in an entry-level role as long as you have a high school diploma or equivalent, like a GED. High school can prepare you for most any role, as you'll learn basic math, English and certain skills that can help prepare you for a career post-graduation, like communication, writing and critical thinking. When writing your resume, consider including details of your grade point average (GPA), relevant courses and accomplishments that are related to the role or showcase certain abilities that set you apart from other candidates.

Related: High School Resume Tips and Example

2. Get a degree in early childhood education or a related field

While an employer may not require a college degree, you may appeal more to a hiring manager if you have an associate or bachelor's degree in a field like early childhood education. They'll also consider you for more than entry-level positions, or you'll find that you'll be more eligible for promotions. While in school, consider taking courses in early language, behavior observation, technology for educators, educational psychology and child care guidance.

3. Job shadow a current teacher

One of the best ways to gain experience and knowledge about what the position as a daycare teacher requires is to job shadow a current daycare teacher. Job shadowing provides you with a unique opportunity to work in the field by assisting current teachers and grow your network to include professionals who can answer your questions or provide you with a letter of recommendation when you're applying for a position as a daycare teacher.

Related: 40 Job Shadowing Questions (With Sample Answers)

4. Volunteer

You can volunteer to work in a school, daycare facility or preschool or provide free services to families that may need a nanny or babysitter. You may also explore volunteer opportunities at children's hospitals, libraries, churches or with a youth sports team. Although volunteer positions are unpaid, you'll still be able to share your experience on a resume and ask those you've worked with to provide you with a referral for a full-time, paid position.

Related: 7 Reasons To Consider Volunteering

5. Obtain your professional certification and license

Two of the most popular professional certifications for the field include the Child Care Professional (CCP) and the Child Development Associate (CDA) credential. Both licenses show a hiring manager you're serious about your career path and able to fulfill the position's requirements. Credentials on your resume can be a major qualifier in getting you the position you're applying for.

6. Complete a background check

Many daycare employers require that applicants complete a background check, which will help assure hiring managers that you're a secure fit for the open position and have a clear record.

7. Receive training in medical emergencies

Because you'll work with young children, it's a major benefit to receive training in CPR or first aid. Having this information on your resume can give you a unique advantage over your peers who are applying for the same position. With these trainings, you'll be better able to take care of a child who's going through a medical emergency.

8. Develop your soft skills

Often, soft skills hold just as much importance as hard skills. As a daycare teacher, it's imperative that you have excellent communication, practice patience and empathy, listen well, stay organized and are creative. Your soft skills can prepare you for a role as a teacher, and you can share these skills on your resume to show a hiring manager why you're the ideal candidate for the position.

Related: 11 Child Care Worker Skills To Advance Your Career

Salary and job outlook for daycare teachers

The national average salary in the United States for daycare teachers is $25,756 per year, although your geographical location can affect your starting salary. For example, daycare teachers in New York, New York, report making an average of $50,797 per year. Like most other positions, the salary for a daycare teacher can also depend on your level of education, experience and certifications.

Common benefits for daycare teachers include:

  • Health, dental and vision insurance

  • Free food program

  • Paid time off

  • Tuition reimbursement

  • Professional development assistance

  • Free childcare

  • Paid sick time

  • Employee discount on supplies

The job outlook for preschool teachers according to the BLS is 2% through the year 2029, which is slower than the average for all other occupations.

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