How to Become a Childcare Worker: The Ultimate Guide

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If you’re thinking about going into the childcare profession, read this guide to get to grips with the careers you could step into, the average salary you could earn, and the qualifications you need to get started.

Key points:

  • The EMSI predicted there would be 111,000 jobs in childcare by 2025 in Cardiff alone. Childcare professionals are in demand.
  • You can get into childcare via a college course, an apprenticeship or by gaining a work experience placement
  • To work directly with children, you must have (or be working towards) specific qualifications

What is a childcare worker?

A childcare worker is a qualified and trustworthy person, who is responsible for the health, safety and wellbeing of a child while their parents or guardians are working, or fulfilling other responsibilities, like learning or caring.

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What does a childcare worker do?

A childcare worker has specific duties and responsibilities, depending on their setting.

An early years playworker, for example, will create an engaging environment where children learn through safe activities and imaginative play, designed to develop their social skills.

Regardless of the title, people who work with children are responsible for their progression and development. They adhere to educational frameworks and comply with childcare laws and legislation.

What childcare jobs are there?

The Cardiff and Vale College reported the EMSI’s predictions, that there would be 111,000 jobs in childcare by 2025 in Cardiff alone.

It’s a growing industry for would-be childcare workers, with plenty of opportunities to specialise in particular vocations and environments.

Types of childcare vocations

  • Nursery worker
  • Nursery assistant
  • Nursery officer
  • Early years educator
  • Pre-school assistant
  • Playgroup assistant
  • Childcare worker
  • Nanny
  • Childminder

There are many more which are specific to the childcare setting. There will be a crossover of duties and responsibilities, meaning you can gain experience but change your career direction later down the line.

Childcare workers typically operate in:

  • Nurseries
  • Sessional care
  • Creche
  • Schools
  • Private and public healthcare settings, like hospitals and doctors surgeries
  • Playgroups
  • Residential homes and private residences
  • Childminders

To work in any of these places, you need to be passionate about developing the abilities of children and have an awareness that everything you do should be in the name of positively impacting their lives.

How to work in childcare

Your root into childcare could be via:

  • A childcare or education course achieved at college or in a sixth form
  • Work experience or volunteering in a childcare setting
  • childcare apprenticeship, working and learning at the same time
  • Applying directly to a setting as a trainee

But the avenues into childcare depend on the type of childcare worker you want to be, and where you live in the UK.

For example, the experience required to work in a nursery, children’s residential care, or a children’s social care role, will vary between England and Wales.

But wherever you live and work, we can say that if you want to work directly with children, you must be DBS checked and qualified to do so.

Relevant work experience, or equivalent qualifications, can mitigate the need for specific qualifications, but it depends on the setting and role.

Childcare jobs and average salaries of childcare workers

There’s a big spectrum of childcare jobs in Wales. Careers Wales has a big list of careers you can explore, which tells you how in-demand a role is, the salary expectations, plus a bit about the role and its duties and responsibilities.

We researched the most popular childcare jobs on the 24th June 2021, to compare the hours and salary expectation for entry-level and more experienced workers:

Job title: Childminder

  • Setting: Private homes
  • Hours: It varies, but usually it’s up to 38 hours per week
  • Salary: £15,500 starting, £23,500 experienced

Job title: Care assistant / Childcare support worker

  • Setting: Day centres, special schools, day centres and residential homes
  • Hours: 37.5 hours
  • Salary: £15,000 starting, £20,000 experienced

Job title: Nursery assistant

  • Setting: A private, or charity-run, nursery
  • Hours: 35-40 hours per week
  • Salary: £14,500 starting, £17,500 experienced

Job title: Nursery nurse

  • Setting: Childcare environments suitable for children between 0-5 years old
  • Hours: 38-40 hours per week
  • Salary: £14,000 starting, £17,000 experienced

Job title: Nursery worker / Nursery assistant

  • Setting: Nurseries, creche, planning fun and educational activities
  • Hours: 35-40 hours per week
  • Salary: £14,500 starting, £17,500 experienced

Job title: Early years teacher / Nursery school teacher

  • Setting: Nurseries and primary schools, with children aged 3-to 7-year-olds
  • Hours: 33 hours per week
  • Salary: £17,682 starting, £40,490 experienced

Job title: Playworker

  • Setting: Nurseries
  • Hours: 35-39 hours per week
  • Salary: £15,000 starting, £17,500 experienced

Job title: Teaching assistant

  • Setting: Schools
  • Hours: 37 hours per week
  • Salary: £14,500 starting, £18,000 experienced

You can progress from an entry-level role into a senior position once you’ve gained experience and your childcare qualifications.

What qualifications do you need to be a childcare worker?

The qualifications you pursue depend on what kind of childcare worker you want to be.

If you’re a school leaver, you can opt to take a childcare course at college.

Sixth form or college childcare courses usually have a big emphasis on work experience and placements in nurseries and schools. You need to be able to prove you have experience of working with children to get a childcare worker role when you graduate.

Alternatively, and this is a popular route, you can learn on the job with a childcare apprenticeship.

What is a childcare apprenticeship?

Childcare apprenticeships are an earn-while-you-learn route into a childcare role.

You’re interviewed and hired as a nursery nurse, early years teacher, or teaching assistant, and your employer claims the course fees back from the Welsh Government to fund your studies.

You fulfil the role as outlined in your job description, and you sign up to learn the course materials, complete assignments and take assessments and tests to earn the apprenticeship and prove your abilities.

Apprenticeships are open to young learners who have just left school, or to those who have been working for a number of years.

There are usually no barriers to entry. If you’re lacking GCSEs in English or Maths, the apprenticeship consists of Essential Skills Wales qualifications to cover off skills gaps. Plus, you get a coach to help you navigate any topics you find more difficult.

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What childcare courses are there?

Children’s Care, Play, Learning Development (CCPLD)

You can take a CCPLD in Levels 23 and 4.

This apprenticeship will give you the qualifications to work with nursery age children, up to around 8 years old.


You can take a Playwork apprenticeship in Levels 23 and diploma level 5.

It’s aimed at holiday clubs, breakfast and after school club or youth groups.

Whichever childcare career you plump for, there are opportunities to move into other fields and branch out.

For example, if you start with a CCPLD Level 2 qualification, you might discover that your real passion is in early years imagination play in afterschool clubs. In that case, you could advance your expertise with a Playwork Level 3 qualification, to specialise.

What jobs can you get with a Level 2 in Childcare?

  • Level 2 Nursery nurse
  • Early years practitioner
  • Day nursery assistant
  • Childcare practitioner

What jobs can you do with a Level 3 in Childcare?

  • Teaching assistant
  • Nursery room leader
  • Senior nursery practitioner
  • Level 3 Nursery nurse
  • Nursery manager

What is the need for childcare in the UK?

According to the Office of National Statistics:

  • There were around eight million families with dependent children in the UK in 2019.
  • From April to June 2019, 3 in 4 mothers with dependent children (75.1%) were in work.
  • Almost 3 in 10 mothers (28.5%) with a child aged 14 years and under said they had reduced their working hours because of childcare reasons. This compared with 1 in 20 fathers (4.8%).

Parents and guardians have social and economic responsibilities that take them away from parenting. They need trustworthy people who are invested in their wellbeing, progression and development to take care of them in their absence.

The Money Advice Service says that the average cost of childcare in the UK is £14,000 a year. According to the OECD Family Database, the UK’s childcare system is one of the most expensive in the world. The cost has increased by 27% since 2009. For a lot of families, the cost of childcare is equivalent to one parent’s monthly salary.

With that in mind, it’s little wonder that families expect exceptional quality care from childcare providers.

Inspire a new generation

Childcare apprenticeships and qualifications show you how to be a positive influence in a child’s life.

To become a bright star in the childcare industry (someone the children will love to be around) immerse yourself in everything a fully-funded qualification has to offer and transfer it into your place of work.

Picture of Richard Hywood
Richard Hywood
Richard is TSW Training Apprenticeships’ Employer and Community Engagement Manager. His articles will help your business prepare for and manage apprentices.
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