Choosing a Career in Childcare

There are many reasons to choose a career working with children and there are a variety of jobs within the childcare sector. From working in a nursery with lots of children, to being a self-employed childminder looking after children in your own home, if you love the idea of working with children, there will be the ideal role for you.

About the childcare sector

Working in the childcare sector can be extremely rewarding but also challenging. Some of the benefits include having the opportunity to teach something new to children and seeing them develop from babies to young people. You will build amazing relationships and have the opportunity to earn money from doing something you enjoy. The hours can be really flexible and the joy of seeing children’s faces when they have achieved a new skill is priceless.

What can you do?

There are many different careers under the umbrella term of Childcare. Here are just some of the examples of different roles within the childcare sector:

Working in a non-domestic setting

Play Worker: This can include roles such as working in out of school clubs, breakfast clubs, after school clubs or holiday play schemes. Within these roles you could be working in a school, community centre or leisure centre.

Teaching Assistant: Working to assist teachers with students, a teaching assistant is a rewarding role in a school environment. Previous experience in childcare, play work or youth work may be an advantage.

Nursery Assistant: Just like children, no two nurseries are the same. So whether they’re part of a large chain, or a small, independent set up, nurseries and their staff work together to provide a high quality childcare and early learning experience for all the children they care for.

Working in a home-based environment

Childminder: This is someone who looks after children in their own home and is self-employed. Childminders are qualified professionals and must be registered with Ofsted or a childminding agency. They will deliver the Early Years Statutory Framework (EYFS) to those of early years age but may also care for older children as well as part of wraparound care. Childminders must stick to a certain number of children that they can care for (ratio and the hours can be varied.

Nanny: This is where you look after a child or children in their family home. It is optional to be registered or not and you do not necessarily need formal qualifications however families may specify that they would prefer someone with a childcare qualification or experience. 

The Professional Association for Childcare and Early years (PACEY) offers membership and insurance to support you throughout your career. You can access exclusive resources, monthly live events, three support helplines, get free advertising and more.


High quality childcare, play opportunities and early education are crucial for young children to get the best possible start in life and working with children can be an incredibly rewarding experience. If you love being with children, are dedicated to keeping them safe and happy, and are interested in educating and stimulating them to prepare for later life then a career in childcare could be perfect for you.

Childcare professionals play a vital role in supporting, inspiring and laying the foundation for all-round development in children’s formative years and preparing them for adulthood. The work of childcare professionals has a far reaching impact. Recognising the importance of play in supporting children’s social and emotional development and creativity, childcare professionals enable children to be resilient and prepare them for the range of transitions in their lives.

There are many skills that are important when considering a career in childcare and also many skills that you will gain along the way. A sense of fun, energy, imagination, empathy and patience are all key skills you’ll need to work with children in any setting.

In addition to this, a good level of written and spoken English is crucial along with the ability to be a good communicator and active listener.

All kinds of people work in early years and childcare. Children need a variety of positive role models and good influences. School leavers and students, adults of all ages, people from all cultures and backgrounds, men and women – with or without previous experience – all play an important part.

Pathways and qualifications

Completing a qualification in childcare will help you to understand more about your role and the environment you work in, enhancing the service you provide to children and their families.

The benefits of gaining a childcare qualification include:

  • More opportunities for professional development and career progression, such as moving into more senior or specialist roles
  • A greater sense of confidence in your professional knowledge and skills
  • Increased satisfaction and fulfilment from your work.

It can be possible to work in childcare without a childcare qualification, although more and more settings ask for qualified staff. There are lots of childcare qualifications available in the UK.

Whether you want to set up as a childminder running your own business; manage a nursery; specialise in caring for children with additional needs; or work as a nanny, there are training and professional development opportunities that will support you on this journey. 

Vocational qualifications, training and apprenticeships:

  • Level 2 or 3 qualification in childcare
  • You can complete this online, through your local college or on the job

Higher education:

If you’ve already gained a level 3 qualification, you might want to consider going on to complete a degree in childcare and early years

Early years teaching:

Are you interested in becoming an early year’s teacher in England? To train as an early year’s teacher, you need a degree and at least a GCSE C grade (or equivalent) in English, maths and science. You’ll also need to pass the professional skills tests in numeracy and literacy. 

Then, you’ll then need to complete your early year’s initial teacher training (ITT) and demonstrate that you’ve met the Teachers’ Standards (Early Years).

Preparing to work in home-based childcare (HBCA)
Specifically aimed at those who want to become a childminder or nanny, doing PACEY’s HBCA is a great way to help you begin a career in home-based childcare. It covers how to work with children effectively and manage your business. It also comes with three months free PACEY membership.


Working with children and young people is an increasingly popular area for apprentices.

You could be an apprentice teacher, teaching assistant, childminding assistant or early years educator, playing a vital role in enabling children to get the most out of education in a school or nursery setting.

Apprenticeships can also involve particular specialisms in areas like music or working with pupils with special educational needs or challenging behaviour, helping them to overcome barriers to learning and fulfil their potential.

Hear first-hand what it's like to work in childcare...

“You watch them grow and blossom in different ways and it is an amazing feeling to be part of making that happen. One of the great benefits of working in home-based childcare is there is no commute. I also now work with my partner” Maisie Collins of Maisie Poppins Childcare

“The most rewarding part of my role is watching children develop and grow.” Robert, Nursery Worker, South East London

“Nannying is great because children have the reassurance and familiarity of their own home, so transitions are purely about building a trusting relationship with me. One of the most rewarding elements is watching children grow and develop.” Angie Ellis, Nanny Buckinghamshire

*This article was created by Pacey, the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years.

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