CareerExplorer’s step-by-step guide on how to become a nanny.
Is becoming a nanny right for me?
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Experience in Childcare
Gain as much experience as possible working with children, either through babysitting; working or volunteering at a school, hospital, daycare, or community center; or simply as a member of a large family.
As you build experience, collect references and letters of recommendation from the families, schools, and centers with which you work. Having solid references and accurate, up-to-date contact information will make it easier for a potential employer to verify your background.
Associate’s Degree or Bachelor’s Degree
While a degree is not mandatory in the profession, many families and hiring agencies look favorably upon applicants who have earned an undergraduate degree in early childhood education. Obtaining an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree signals to potential employers that you understand that there is more to being a nanny than babysitting and driving kids to school and activities. A nanny with a foundation in childhood education can lead fun activities while creating a learning environment that teaches discipline and provides guidance.
Additional Training & Certifications
One supplement – or in some cases, an alternative – to a degree program is a nanny school curriculum which has been approved by the American Council of Nanny Schools (ACNS). The English Nanny & Governess School (www.nanny-governess.com) offers one of these programs.
As another enhancement to your education, consider attending parenting classes or lectures, which teach valuable parent/child communication methods.
Training and certifications in the following areas will further increase your knowledge, professionalism, and marketability:
Infant/Child CPR and First Aid
Many families will not even consider hiring a nanny who does not have this training. Take these classes at regular intervals, as certifications are generally valid for about two years.
Families with swimming a pool or who enjoy the ocean and beach may seek out a nanny with this credential. Certifications in this area can be obtained through local pools or community centers, or through the Water Safety Education program sponsored by the American Red Cross.
Newborns require specialized knowledge. Taking a class at a local hospital, parenting center, community college, or pediatrician’s office will ensure that you know how to care for your youngest charges, especially if you have had limited experience in this area. The Newborn Care Specialist Association (NCSA) offers classes and certification in infant care.
A valid driver’s license, a clean driving record, and completion of a defensive driving course are sought-after qualifications.
Nutrition & Cooking
Knowledge of nutrition and cooking will make you a more valuable candidate to parents. Applicable classes are available at local community colleges, culinary schools, and even at some health food stores. You can even earn certification as a Kid’s Nutrition Specialist through the National Exercise & Sports Trainers Association.
Parents like knowing that you can help their children stay active and healthy. You can become a Certified Children’s Fitness Specialist by completing a course administered by the American Fitness Professionals & Associates.
One of the most sought-after nanny skills is proficiency in a foreign language. More and more families want their children exposed to a different language and culture at an early age.
Special Needs Care
Of course, parents with a special-needs child will be more inclined to hire a nanny who has some training in this area. Programs and workshops are offered by local colleges and special needs organizations, such as Easterseals (www.easterseals.com) and The Arc (www.thearc.org).
A Nanny Profile
The internet has become a meeting place for nannies and parents. Advancements in technology have made it even easier with several websites dedicated to connecting the two parties. Some popular resources are www.Care.com and www.Sittercity.com. Both of these sites allow nannies to create a free profile for potential clients to browse.
Effective profiles typically include a detailed resume with a timeline of experience; references from individuals who can attest to your character and childcare abilities; a background check; educational and medical certifications; and an updated listed of vaccines.
The International Nanny Association (INA) administers two tiers of examinations. The first is an online Nanny Basic Skills Assessment, consisting of forty timed, multiple-choice questions. This assessment addresses topics of health, safety, nutrition, child development, and professionalism.
The Association’s second tier evaluation, the INA Nanny Credential Exam, is composed of a hundred multiple choice questions and one open-response essay question with multiple parts. The Credential Exam, also timed and available be taken online, is designed to test a nanny’s practical knowledge of child care. Prior to testing, each student must secure a proctor to administer the exam. At this level, students’ knowledge of the following is tested:
Personal Qualities of a Nanny
Management Skills Health
Because the exam is challenging, it is strongly recommended that anyone sitting for the exam have a minimum of two thousand hours – the equivalent of one year, full-time –of professional in-home child care experience. Those sitting for the exam must have a current certification in Infant/Child CPR and First Aid.
Another designation that is recognized in the field is the CDA or Child Development Associate credential. CDA programs, administered by the Council for Professional Recognition, test candidates in state-approved child development centers where they are observed working with groups of toddlers and children to determine their eligibility for a specific certification. Many jurisdictions in North America require childcare professionals to have the CDA credential.
The Connection Centered Discipline Nanny Certification is an online program that helps nannies learn how to reinforce positive habits in children. This childcare philosophy focuses on nurturing and helping children without punishing or berating them.
How to become a Nanny
There are no universally mandated education or licensing requirements to become a nanny. Each family or childcare agency will have its own expectations concerning job candidates’ aptitudes and previous childcare experience. However, a Bachelor’s or Associate’s degree and/or special certifications in early childhood education typically help with career advancement. Individuals interested in working with children who have special needs should certainly consider earning a degree.
Coursework in early childhood education programs includes childhood education history and philosophies; child growth and motor, cognitive, social, language, and emotional development; childhood curriculum development and teaching strategies; early childhood nutrition and health; strategies for establishing positive collaborative relationships between educators and parents; diversity and management of anti-bias issues that arise in early childhood education settings; and the impact of books and other media on young children’s physical, cognitive, and emotional development, and strategies for using them effectively in learning environments.
The International Nanny Association (INA) administers two tiers of examinations that test and verify candidates’ childcare skills and knowledge of child development, nutrition needs; and other related areas. The INA has adopted the following basic standards for nannies:
Must be at least eighteen years of age Must have completed high school (or the equivalent) Must be in good general health, with proof of immunizations and, where states require, a negative tuberculosis test and/or chest x-ray Must be able to legally accept employment in the country where they work Must have an innate desire to make a positive contribution in the lives of children under their care Must have extensive babysitting or daycare experience May have already raised a family of their own May have a degree in early childhood education or elementary education
Normally, individuals who choose to become nannies already have some level of experience that has led them to the occupation. Caring for a younger sibling or young neighbor, for example, has helped them learn about responsibility and supervision. Or, they have earned more formal experience, perhaps working at a children’s summer camp or a church nursery. They may have had a summer job at a daycare center or volunteered at an after-school care program. These kinds of experience are invaluable, not only because they lay a foundation in childcare, but also because they build a set of references that validate attributes, skills, and abilities.