4 Tips for Getting a Job at a Daycare Without Any Experience
One thing is for sure: You love kids and enjoy spending time with the ones in your life. You, more than anyone, know to appreciate their unending curiosity, boundless energy, spunk and humor. After all, kids really do say the funniest things.
You’d love working with little kids, and maybe you’ve even done some babysitting in the past. But you’ve never had any formal experience at a daycare—and you’d like to change that. You want a career working with children, and with your patience and creativity, you know you’ll make a difference in their young lives.
Don’t let your lack of experience stop you. After all, everyone has to start somewhere. Keep reading for expert advice on everything you need to know about how to get a job at a daycare with little or no experience.
How to get a job at a daycare
1. Get certified (and educated)
To get a daycare job without experience, it will help to have a high school diploma paired with an Early Childhood Education (ECE) certificate. Additionally, you may want to consider pursuing a professional certification like the Child Development Associate (CDA) credential from the Council for Professional Recognition.
Certification programs vary and typically take about a year to complete, which will allow you to get on the fast-track to launching your career in childcare. Many programs also give you the option to become certified and return later to complete your schooling if you choose to pursue an Associate’s degree or Bachelor’s degree.
While it’s true you may be able to find work with just a high school diploma, earning an ECE certificate shows your dedication to employers and makes you stand out from the pack.
“Know your state networking and training programs. Attend free trainings and talk to directors and owners. We are always looking to see candidates who seek professional development on their own,” says Jennifer Thompson, chief operating officer at Global Pioneer Academy.
While most daycare and ECE positions you’ll come across won’t require a degree, a handful do. For instance, if you want to be a preschool teacher in a public school or at Head Start, then you will need a college degree.
An ECE degree could set you apart from the pack and help you advance your career faster. It also shows potential employers that you’re serious and dedicated to your career. You may begin as a teacher, but you could progress to overseeing multiple classrooms, become a daycare director or even open your own daycare center. The fact is that an ECE degree provides more options for employment.
Additionally, would-be daycare employees are likely to be asked to provide vaccination records and pass a background check before getting started. You may also be required to undergo first aid and CPR training.
2. Highlight courses applicable to Early Childhood Education
You may not have decades of experience in a daycare but don’t dismiss all of your other relevant experience, especially from the classroom. A variety of coursework shows potential employers you have a well-rounded background that has prepared you for working in a daycare. As you may suspect, education and child development courses can serve as great resume boosters for daycare positions you may apply for.
How do you make the connections between your courses and your career? Well, for example, a course in Developmental Psychology is very applicable to a classroom setting because it prepares you to nurture a child’s developmental needs. A course in sociology helps you become aware of and sensitive to cultural differences among children of different backgrounds. An interpersonal communications course can demonstrate your ability to interact with clarity and ease.
If you have special areas of expertise, such as music, math, art or a foreign language, then don’t forget to include these. They may come in handy in the classroom as well.
3. Volunteer with kids to gain experience
If you want to land a daycare job without previous daycare experience, anything to do with kids on your resume will work in your favor and make a difference to employers.
“Never underestimate the importance of doing volunteer work,” says Joyce Monfort, assistant professor for the Rasmussen College School of Education.
Offer to babysit for friends or family to experience working one-on-one or in a small-group setting with children other than your own. It will allow you to work with children in a range of ages to see which age you’d most enjoy working with. After all, there’s a big difference between two-year olds and five-year olds.
You could also volunteer with children at an after-school program, a summer camp or as a tutor. Another option is to reach out to local churches in order to work with children’s ministries or Sunday school programs. You could also coach a sports team or volunteer in a nonprofit that serves children. Experiences like these show employers that you’re capable and invested in working with children.
“Any volunteer opportunities you pursue demonstrate to a prospective employer that you are willing to help give back to your community If the volunteer experience is in the early childhood field, it can even often lead to a paid position in the future. Volunteer positions show employers you are dependable, can work with others and can maintain a position over a period of time,” says Monfort.
In addition to accumulating hands-on experience, you’ll also want to stay tuned into the early childhood education field.
“We often hire individuals without experience who are committed to the industry and learning,” says Thompson.
Following childcare and education blogs and newsletters is a fun and easy way to stay informed on industry happenings. Any initiative you demonstrate, whether related to professional development, the industry or experience with children, separates you from the pack for potential employers to see.
4. Showcase your relevant skills and qualities
“Don’t overlook what previous experiences you may already have that would make you employable,” Monfort says.
The key here, she stresses, is your ability to demonstrate verbal, written and technology skills you may possess. These transferable skills are highly valued by employers who are usually willing to help train you in technical skills of the job.
The way to do this is to showcase a strong set of applicable skills on your childcare resume and personal qualities in your cover letter. Problem solving, coordination and the ability to build relationships are all valuable skills for an ECE career that you’ve likely developed from past experiences.
Another in-demand skill in childcare is communication, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.* Teachers must clearly communicate with young children, both one-on-one and when leading large groups. They also need to understand parental concerns and be able to provide clear feedback on progress, behavior and expectations.
Think about the ways in which your previous employment experiences required you to provide excellent communication. Be sure to highlight those experiences in your cover letter and resume when applying to childcare facilities and be prepared to elaborate on them during an interview.
Lesson planning and finding interesting ways to teach a subject are another important focus area. Highlight your creativity, as it’s a huge boost for both. You’ll be working with many children of different learning preferences, so being able to exercise innovative teaching strategies through play and activity is essential.
Even if your resume is a little sparse when it comes to relevant childcare experience, your personality can do a lot of the heavy lifting. Find ways to highlight how your everyday personality can be an asset—are you infectiously enthusiastic? Love to organize things? Patient? Find anecdotal examples of your personality and do your best to show how that can be applied to a daycare job.
Find your daycare job
You don’t need a jam-packed resume full of childcare experience to get a job at a daycare. A little strategic placement of your skills and coursework combined with volunteer work and a CDA or degree will be everything you need to launch your dream career.
So what are you waiting for? It’s time to exchange the job you tolerate for a childcare career you love. Learn more about what an ECE degree can do for you and your family and check out our article, “What Can I Do With an Early Childhood Education Degree?”
*Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [career information accessed May 4, 2018]
Graduates of Early childhood Education programs at Rasmussen College are not eligible for licensure as a teacher in an elementary or secondary school. A Bachelor’s degree and a state teaching license are typically required to work as a teacher in a public school and some private school settings. States, municipalities, districts, or individual schools may have more stringent licensing requirements. Students must determine the licensure requirements in the state and school in which they intend to work. Child care facilities and the states in which they are located establish qualifications for staff that work with children, and often implement guidelines regarding age, education, experience, and professional development. Students must determine the licensure requirements in the state and facility in which they intend to work.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was originally published in July 2014. It has since been updated to reflect information relevant to 2018.