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Male teacher talking to one of his nursery students

Childcare and Early Years Education

A career in childcare and early years education is rewarding and full of variety. It gives you the opportunity to help young children grow and flourish, as they go from baby into childhood.

Types of roles

(If you’re looking for information on help with childcare costs, find out more at childcare costs and support for families).

Working in childcare and early years education can be an incredibly fulfilling and rewarding career. You get the opportunity to make a difference to children’s lives and play a key role in their growth and development. Through education and play, you’ll help lay foundations and teach children useful skills that prepare them for school and later life.

There are multiple different roles you could consider:

  • Nursery workers help babies and children up to 5 years old to develop and learn in a safe and supportive setting. You can become a nursery worker through gaining a qualification from a college course or an apprenticeship, or you can apply directly.
  • Nursery managers run early years settings, coordinating care and education for babies and young children. Many people start as a nursery worker, then move into a management role. You will usually need at least 2 years’ experience working in a childcare setting, or you can apply directly with a university degree in child development or other related college qualifications.
  • Childminders offer professional early education and childcare in their own homes, supporting the early learning and development for children of all ages. You must either register with Ofsted (external website) or a childminder agency (external website). New childminders can apply for start-up grants (external website) (£600 if registering with Ofsted, or £1,200 if registering with an agency).
  • Wraparound childcare involves working in holiday clubs and before/after school clubs with primary school aged children. A wide range of people with different skills and experience work in wraparound. You are not required to have any specific qualifications, but some employers may want you to have a level 2 qualification (equivalent to GCSEs), and safeguarding training will be required.

Find out more about jobs in early years and childcare, including real stories from people already working with small children, at Early Years Careers (external website).



Apprenticeships offer hands-on experience and training towards early years qualifications, all whilst earning a salary.

There are two entry-level early years apprenticeships, and one playworker apprenticeship and all can be suitable even if you have no previous experience:

  • level 2 early years practitioner
  • level 2 playworker apprenticeship
  • level 3 early years educator

There are a range of other apprenticeships that are relevant to working in wraparound childcare, such as the level 2 community activator coach.

Find out more information on our apprenticeships page or search for apprenticeship vacancies in your area on Find an Apprenticeship (external website).


Benefits of working in childcare and early years education

  • You play a vital role in helping children grow, develop and reach important milestones
  • The opportunity to teach them new and useful skills that will impact them for the rest of their lives
  • Children look up to you as a positive role model
  • It’s fun! You get to be creative and inspire young minds
  • Every day is different
  • You build trusting relationships with not only the children, but also their families
  • There’s a wide variety of roles, from entry to advanced level with opportunities to specialise
  • A long-term career
  • You may be able to work flexibly or become self-employed
Female teaching nursery students

Desirable skills

Working with children requires a wide range of skills and abilities. Some roles require experience, which you can gain from studying, volunteering, or simply being a parent or grandparent.

You should also have the following personal attributes:

  • Interested in working with children
  • Being creative and imaginative
  • A caring, kind and empathetic attitude
  • Patience
  • A sense of fun
  • Enthusiasm
  • Ability to plan and deliver activities that are interesting and engaging for children
  • Excellent communication skills – with both adults and children

Learn more about skills for work options.

Further Links

The National Careers Service provides more detailed information, including salaries, on job roles in childcare and early years education. For example:

Nursery worker (external website)

Nursery manager (external website)

Childminder (external website)

Playworker | Explore careers | National Careers Service (external website)

You can find out about the various qualifications required and learning routes you could take on the Learning Pathway (external website).

Adult Skills Learning Offer (external website) – if you haven’t yet achieved a level 3 qualification, you may be eligible for free training with opportunities in this sector.

If you’re aged between 16-19 you may be eligible to undertake a T-Level (external website) in Education and Early Years.

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