Everything You Need to Know About Becoming a Childcare Director
Caring for children is more than just a job. It’s a passion, a huge responsibility and a life-altering role. Whether you are looking after your own children or someone else’s, the job is both self-sacrificing and incredibly rewarding. This is precisely why you’re considering taking your experience in caring for kids and going a step further by becoming a childcare director.
Working with kids is one thing, but managing people, leading a team and being the one who is responsible for the answers is a whole other animal. Before you get too far along in the process, you need to know what becoming a childcare director will mean for you and to also better understand whether it will be worth it for you and your family.
So, let’s take the first step by looking at the whole picture. In this article, we’ll outline what you can expect when working in a childcare director role as well as the skills and training you’ll need to get there.
Main duties and responsibilities of a childcare director
The main responsibility of a childcare director is running a safe and effective facility. However, on any given day, the duties and tasks to achieve this goal can vary—one day may be packed with teacher evaluations, while the next you may be negotiating with a vendor for a better deal on classroom supplies—and that’s just scratching the surface.
The Rasmussen College School of Education department chair Mary Muhs says there’s a lot you can expect to see as the director of a childcare center.
“The duties are many and varied,” says Muhs. “Directors are considered teachers, managers, leaders, coaches, marketers, trainers, cooks, bus drivers, custodians, friends, counselors, financial experts and even cheerleaders. They wear many hats, and every day can be different. The main duty is to provide and maintain a safe, encouraging and quality educational program for the children and families they serve.”
Common tasks in a childcare director’s day
So what all goes into running a safe and effective childcare center? Let’s get into the specifics. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), childcare directors typically do some or most of the following:*
- Hire and train new staff members
- Supervise and provide training and professional development for said staff
- Establish policies and communicate them to staff and parents
- Develop educational programs and standards
- Ensure instructional excellence
- Assist staff in resolving conflicts between children
- Aid staff in communicating with parents
- Meet with parents and staff to discuss students’ progress
- Prepare budgets and allocate program funds
- Ensure facilities are maintained and cleaned according to state regulations
As you can see, the work is a mix of managing and developing employees, communicating with and addressing the needs of parents and ensuring that the day-to-day operations of the facility are running smoothly. It’s a challenging yet satisfying role for any educator looking to branch out from strictly classroom instruction.
Childcare director salary and career outlook
An engaging job that mixes education and management tasks sounds great, but what can you expect when it comes to salary or potential employment opportunities? It’s no secret that an education-related career is rarely a road to riches, and you probably don’t expect that. But it’s still important to know if the typical childcare director’s salary is enough to suit your needs. According to the BLS, the 2017 median annual wage for preschool and childcare center directors was $46,890—a substantial jump up from the national average of $37,690.1
Another important factor to consider is the job market for childcare center directors—you may love the idea of being a center director, but it doesn’t do you any good if these jobs are few and far between. The good news is the BLS projects employment of childcare center directors to grow 11 percent by 2026—a rate faster than the national average for all positions.*
The increased share of households where both parents work has kept demand for childcare and preschool services strong, but price pressures are worth keeping any eye on—if childcare becomes too expensive, parents may opt to stay home. Another factor that could have a big impact on demand for childcare directors is the push for universal pre-K—several states have or are currently pursuing programs that offer free or heavily subsidized preschool education, according to a research study by the National Institute for Early Education Research.2 If (and it’s a big if) this takes hold nationwide, it could become a huge benefit for the employment of childcare directors.
Education and training to get you there
So what does it take to land a job as a childcare director? The specific educational requirements will depend on the state that you’re in and the employer you’re looking to work for. That being said, the BLS reports that most states require childcare directors to have a Bachelor’s degree.* But that recommendation isn’t just about checking a box for the human resources department—there’s a lot to learn about running a childcare center, and it’s generally a good idea to have a well-educated leader of an institution.
“I recommend that all center directors have an educational attainment that matches or exceeds the teachers in their program,” Muhs says.
Beyond education, it should come as no surprise that aspiring center directors will likely need several years of hands-on experience working with children. Because of this, many childcare center directors work their way up to this administrative leadership role after working as a preschool teacher themselves.
Skills and abilities childcare directors need
If you’re seriously considering this career, then you probably already have the experience and natural ability to work well with kids. But what about the rest of the work that comes with being a director?
Business management ability
In many, if not most, cases, childcare centers are a for-profit business. That doesn’t mean you have be a slick, Wall Street-type to do well, but you’ll definitely need an understanding of how to operate a business profitably.
“Directors must have business skills, such as finances—working with budgets and managing spending,” says Muhs.
Communication and interpersonal skills
As a childcare center director, you’ll be asked to interact with a broad swathe of people with different priorities and concerns. You’ll switch gears often—working with children, teachers, parents and facilities workers takes an excellent communicator who can engage with their audience, no matter the level they’re at.
“Soft skills and traits such as patience, being a good listener, organization and having confidence and the ability to ask or look for guidance and help are all must haves,” Muhs says.
As a director, the buck stops with you. You’ll encounter plenty of scenarios where tough decisions must be made. The best directors know how to go out on a limb, weigh their options and confidently make a decision.
“A director needs to have the ability to relate, understand and motivate their teachers to be the best,” says New Horizon Academy center director Christy Colpitts. “As a director, your job is never done—you become attached to the staff, families and environment and truly want only the best for everyone. The impact one has ripples far beyond the walls of the center.”
Childcare directors have a lot to keep track of—student allergies, teacher schedules, supplies and parental preferences are just a few of the things running through their minds. Strong center directors do an excellent job of keeping track of what’s going on under their roof and using their organizational abilities to help manage competing priorities.
Impacting lives as you grow in success
Now that you know all about what it takes to become a childcare director, your next step may just be getting the education you need to set you up for success. The Rasmussen College Early Childhood Education Bachelor’s degree program prepares students to not only learn about child development techniques and strategies, but also how to effectively manage and lead a facility of your own.
1Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [career information accessed June 4, 2018] www.bls.gov/ooh/. Salary data represents national, averaged earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries and employment conditions in your area may vary.
2The State of Preschool 2017: State Preschool Yearbook, The National Institute for Early Education Research