How Many Years Do You Have to Go to College to be a Daycare Worker?

Whether you have experience working with children or you are new to the industry and are interested in becoming a daycare worker, one important question you may ask yourself is how many years do you have to go to college to work in a daycare?

The minimum education requirement for a daycare worker is a high school diploma in some circumstances, however, most providers may require a 2-year associate’s degree or certification received from the National Child Care Association or the Council for Professional Recognition, which can take between 6 months and one year to receive, to be considered for employment.

With the detailed information that is provided below, you will learn about all of the requirements to obtain a degree or certification which will help you to achieve success as a daycare worker!

Local, State, and Potential Employer Requirements

Although the minimum federal education requirement for a daycare worker is a high school diploma, each state has its own licensing and educational laws or regulations for childcare providers. Due to this, it is recommended to check your local and state education requirements to determine which degree or certification you may need to earn to become a candidate for employment.

Some daycare providers may even have additional education requirements other than those of your local or state regulations to ensure you have the skill and experience necessary to provide an exceptional level of care! Because of this, it is also highly recommended to verify with a potential employer of their specific education or certification requirements to help determine how much additional schooling you will need!

Associate’s Degrees and Requirements

While it may be true that an associate’s degree is not required to be a daycare worker in some circumstances, most providers prefer to employ those who have received a degree in either Child Development or Early Childhood Education to ensure you have received an adequate amount of training and practical experience working with children.

How Many Years Do You Have to Go to College to be a Daycare Worker?

Associate’s Degree in Child Development

An associate’s degree in Child Development is meant to prepare those who wish to start a career as a preschool teacher, assistant, or daycare worker, in which you will learn how to nurture and positively impact the lives of children through your care.

There are only 3 requirements that must be met to be considered eligible to enroll in this degree, which are:

  • Must hold a high school diploma or GED
  • Pass a child abuse screening
  • Pass a criminal background check

Once enrolled, this degree usually requires approximately 60 credit hours, or 2-years of full-time study, to complete; however, some colleges do offer accelerated program tracks which could shorten the time required to earn your degree!

While the exact curriculum will vary depending on the school you choose, the more typical courses involved in these programs will cover the following areas of study:

  • Gain an understanding of children’s behavioral, emotional, mental, physical, and social development as they age
  • How to properly assess each child’s developmental progress while under your care
  • Learning how to recognize any developmental or behavioral delays in children
  • Understanding the factors that influence a child’s progression; such as biological, community, and family dynamics
  • Learn to properly communicate with parents to encourage and guide children in constructive classroom behavior
  • How to plan and properly implement an effective curriculum for the children in your care
  • Learn about all of the nutritional standards for children from birth to the age of 8
  • Understanding the basics of child safety
  • Receive hands-on experience through a training practicum to apply the knowledge received in class

Some colleges even offer specialized courses for those who wish to focus on more specific areas of study, such as special education for exceptional children, administrative duties, and even language development!

As a bonus, those who earn an associate’s degree in Child Development will have most gained the experience necessary to apply for a Child Development Associate credential to further their career options, although this is completely voluntary!

Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Education

Similar to a degree in Child Development, this program will prepare those who wish to pursue a career as a daycare worker or teacher. This degree will also take approximately 2 years to complete, and requires a minimum of 60 credit hours to graduate.

Eligibility requirements for this program may vary depending on the university you attend, however, some of these requirements can include:

  • Recipient of a high school diploma or a GED
  • Completion of English, math, or science prerequisite courses
  • Maintained a minimum of a 2.0 GPA in high school
  • Submission of your ACT or SAT scores
  • Complete a criminal background check
  • Pass a child abuse screening

Some colleges or universities may even require you to submit recommendation letters from colleagues or instructors, a personalized professional mission statement, writing samples, and even a resume to be considered for their programs!

How Many Years Do You Have to Go to College to be a Daycare Worker?

To help prepare you for a successful career, once you have enrolled in an ECE program at a school of your choice you will receive training in the following areas of study:

  • Understanding and recognizing child development milestones
  • Learn effective teaching strategies
  • How to properly communicate and engage with parents
  • Nutritional standards for children under 8 years of age
  • Provide effective motivation for the development of all children in your care
  • Receive guidance in behavioral development in the daycare/classroom
  • Knowledge of general education courses; such as verbal communication, English composition, history, and even mathematics
  • Examination of child development areas; such as biological, cognitive, emotional, and social development
  • Exploration of language and literacy concepts; such as teaching phonics or vocabulary
  • Developing a positive classroom environment for students to motivate and dissuade from negative behaviors
  • Learn how playing can be used as a tool for education
  • The ability to address any psychological concepts; such as specific learning styles or methods and aiding in knowledge recollection

Not only do the courses in the ECE program provide you with the knowledge in the subject areas above, but also have specific concentrations in the following areas as well:

  • Learn how to build a specialized curriculum for exceptional children in need of special education
  • The ability to implement various literacy and language strategies to better instruct children with diverse backgrounds; such as bilingual children
  • Understand the basics of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) concepts and how to implement them into your curriculum
  • Give training in administrative or leadership roles within the classroom to better prepare you for advancement as well as how to communicate and involve parents in your curriculum/education process
  • Learning the importance of technology in the classroom, which forms will best help children to learn, as well as the safety precautions about that technology

Those who graduate with their degree in Early Childhood Education may also choose to enroll in a Child Development Associate program to help further their careers or education, and may be required to do so depending on your prospective employer.

So how much can I make as a Daycare worker? Find out Here

Childcare Certifications and Requirements

Receiving a certification from either the National Child Care Association or the Council for Professional Recognition is another widely accepted alternative to receiving a degree in Childhood Development or Education, however, you will be required to receive an extensive amount of formal training to be eligible to receive these certificates.

Certified Childcare Professional

The Certified Childcare Professional (or CCP) credential was designed for prospective daycare workers and educators who have not received a college degree or do not have a degree in one of the recommended fields listed in the section above. This credential can take anywhere from 6 months to a year to complete, and is valid for a total of 2 years!

However, to ensure that you meet the professional experience required to be considered as a CCP candidate, you must fulfill the following criteria:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Hold a high school diploma or GED
  • Complete a minimum of 720 hours of care for children between the ages of birth to 6 years old at a licensed early childhood program
  • Complete a portfolio of professional development (listed below)
  • Pass the National Early Childhood Education specialist exam
  • Complete a review by the National Early Childhood Program Accreditation (NECPA) Professional Standards Council
  • Complete 180 hours of training in the Professional Ability Areas (listed below)

CCP Professional Portfolio Requirements:

  • Must complete a performance-based assessment
  • Evaluations from two parents
  • Endorsement letter from the director of the daycare you previously worked at
  • Letter of endorsement from a colleague
  • Two samples of writing skills in professional activities
  • Must include a plan for your continued professional development

As stated above, you must complete a total of 180 training hours in CCP Professional Ability Areas; to renew your accreditation before it expires, you must complete a total of 24 training hours of continuing education in these areas as well.

The Professional Ability Areas of the CCP:

  • Maintain your commitment towards leadership and professional development
  • The ability to promote the use and knowledge of technology and basic computer skills
  • Establishing and maintaining a safe, purposeful, and nurturing learning environment
  • Promote the cognitive, emotional, physical, and social development of the children in your care
  • Creating a purposeful learning environment through your curriculum and activities
  • Utilize assessments of activities and learning opportunities to document the growth of the children
  • Ensure the curriculum and learning environment is culturally responsive and inclusive of all races, genders, and religions
  • The ability to manage the learning environment effectively and efficiently
  • Demonstrate and practice your knowledge of the child development theory

Child Development Associate Certification

The Child Development Associate (or CDA) certification is designed for childcare workers or teachers who are looking for their “first step” to take towards starting their career in child care, Compared to the CCP, there are fewer requirements to determine your eligibility, and it is valid for a period of 3 years; however, this certificate does take up to 6 months to earn.

Child Development Associate Eligibility Requirements:

  • Must have a high school diploma, or be a junior or senior in high school that is enrolled in an early childhood/development technical program
  • Must complete 480 hours of on the job experience
  • Prepare and complete a professional portfolio according to CDA standards (listed below)
  • Complete a total of 120 hours worth of courses in the CDA Subject Areas (also listed below)

CDA Professional Portfolio Requirements:

  • Documentation of the education you have received
  • Distribute questionnaires to the families you have previously provided care for, review and address this feedback to include into your portfolio
  • Complete 6 personally reflective Statements of Competence, which describe how you have the experience necessary to perform the duties and responsibilities of being a childcare worker
  • Have a total of 10 professional references
  • Create and include a unique professional philosophy statement

As well as receiving the initial training hours in the CDA Subject Areas to be eligible to receive the certification, you will be required to complete an additional 45 hours worth of training to renew your certification.

The 8 CDA Certification Subject Areas:

  • Observation and documentation of children’s behavior
  • Build relationships with the families in a productive and professional manner
  • The ability to manage the operations of an effective child care program
  • Understand the basic principles of learning and child development
  • Providing a safe and healthy environment for the children to learn
  • Help support the emotional and social development of the children in your care
  • Encourage the growth of intellectual and physical development
  • Maintain your commitment towards professionalism

After you have received a certification, you will be required to continue your education of child development courses in the ability or subject areas of the specific certification. This could mean that you may be required to enroll in extra training programs or possibly obtain an associate’s or bachelor’s degree to be able to renew either of the above certifications.How Many Years Do You Have to Go to College to be a Daycare Worker?

While each employer’s requirements may vary, with all of the detailed information provided in this article, you will gain a better understanding of how long it will take you to earn a degree or certificate to advance your career as a daycare worker!

Related Questions

1. How much does not cost to enroll in the CCP program?

The total price of the CCP is $350, which includes the candidate’s enrollment paperwork, performance-based observation evaluation, and the cost of the exam. 

2. How much does it cost to apply for a CDA certification?

The initial application for a CDA certification is $500 for a paper application or $425 for an online application. To renew your CDA certificate, it will cost $150 for a paper application or $125 for an online application.

3. Are there any scholarships available to help pay for a certification?

Yes; most states (besides the states of Illinois and Washington) offer scholarships or financial aid to be able to enroll in, or complete, a certification.

4. How much do daycare workers make annually?

On average, a daycare worker can earn anywhere from $17,000 to $31,000 annually or approximately $8 to $15 per hour, depending on experience, while a daycare teacher can earn anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000 annually.


How Many Years Do You Have to Go to College to be a Daycare Worker?

Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.

To learn more on how to start your own daycare checkout my startup course and documents here.