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4 Types of Child Care Jobs

Caring for children is a valuable, rewarding, and essential career path. It is also incredibly challenging, and teacher burnout is real. One thing that can help you to feel fulfilled and motivated in your job is to find the right type of child care job. While similar, there are some subtle but important differences between types of child care jobs. If you know you love working with children, but aren’t sure what type of job you want, here are some options you might consider, all with their own pros and cons:


In-home Child Care Provider

An in-home child care provider gets licensed to turn their home into a child care business. You can think of it as a one-room schoolhouse. How you set up your space will depend on your home and your philosophy, but many programs find ways to transform their living space to also be a space for learning.

The process of obtaining a license varies by state, but generally speaking you can expect to submit an application, get a background check, and get certified in pediatric CPR and first aid. As an in-home child care provider you will be both an early educator and a business owner, so you’ll be responsible for maintaining the required paperwork for your program, and complying with licensing guidelines.

In-home child care typically provides care for children 0-5, but you’ll be the business owner, and you’ll get to choose. Only want to accept infants? You can do that. Do you have a lot of experience with 3-4 year olds? You can create a preschool-aged program. Do your kids have older siblings? You can also enroll school-age kids to supplement as an afterschool program.

Becoming an in-home child care provider might be a good fit for you if:

  • You love working with children and parents
  • You’ve ever thought to yourself, “If I ran the school, I’d do this differently”
  • You want to develop deep and long lasting relationships with families
  • You want to provide a high quality child care option for families right in your neighborhood
  • You want a career where you can care for your own child while still earning a living
  • You want to plan your own curriculum and lesson plans

Forest School Director

A forest school program is a child care program that happens almost exclusively outdoors. You might run your program in a park, the woods, your backyard, or at a beach. Forest school programs typically employ the mindset of, “there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing,” and can be found outdoors in sunshine, rain, snow, wind, and beyond.

Forest school programs are all about helping foster children’s love of the natural world, while being developmentally appropriate. They often employ a relaxed attitude towards risky play, giving children lots of opportunities to climb trees, ford streams, play with sticks, and get dirty.

Due to the realities of an outdoor program, they are typically most suitable for children who are 3+ years old (but that is not a hard and fast rule– it can be done with younger children!).

Becoming a forest school director might be a good fit for you if:

  • You love being outdoors and have spent your spare time doing things like camping and hiking
  • You have a natural interest in your local flora and fauna
  • You want to foster a love and respect for the natural world
  • You do not rely on walls or fences for classroom management


Center Teacher

When most people think of child care jobs, working in a center is usually what comes to mind. A center is a site with multiple classrooms, typically divided by age. A center teacher often identifies with the age group they teach– infant teacher, toddler teacher, threes teacher, or fours teacher. Each year your children will age out of your classroom and move on.

Centers can vary widely in size, so you may have just a couple of classrooms with a handful of teachers or you may have ten or more classrooms with more than twenty teachers. Some centers are standalone programs, meaning it’s just that one site, while in many cases centers are part of a larger franchise. Whether they are part of a franchise or standalone can really impact how much control the center director has to make decisions, versus how many decisions are made at a higher level.

Regardless of the size, a center will usually have a specific early learning philosophy or curriculum.

Becoming a center teacher might be a good fit for you if:

  • You love working with young children
  • You have an interest in working with a specific age group
  • You want to be part of a teaching team and have several coworkers
  • You want to follow a specific curriculum or philosophy


Becoming a nanny might be the most intimate form of child care you can provide. A nanny typically cares for children in the family’s home, and sometimes even lives with the family. Becoming a nanny can feel a bit like becoming a member of the family, so finding the right fit is incredibly important. It’s not uncommon for nannies to take on some of the household work in addition to their child care responsibilities. While child care preferences vary widely by family, often families choose to have a nanny for the first few years, until the child is ready to go to preschool.The decision to transition to preschool can often be related to a parent wanting more socialization for their child.

One other way that parents approach the desire for more socialization is to set up a nanny-share, which simply means more than one family relies on the same nanny for child care. In addition to this setup providing more social interaction, it also shares the burden of the cost for care between two families.

Becoming a nanny might be a good fit for you if:

  • You want to develop a strong bond with one or two families
  • You want a more informal care environment
  • You want to provide care in someone else’s home and neighborhood

No matter what version of child care you choose to do, it requires incredible patience, creativity, compassion, and motivation. It is definitely not for everyone! The best prerequisite for entering the field of early care and education is to love working with children. If that’s where you’re starting from, you’re already ahead!

Meredith Downing

Meredith Downing is the Curriculum Lead at Wonderschool, where she supports directors to build high-quality programs that help students grow and succeed.