Earlier this month, a peek at my email inbox got me thinking. I had four emails from different individuals all asking the same thing:

“Hi Laura, can you explain to me what I need to do to become a nanny?”

“What are the requirements to care for children in Seattle?”

“Do I need training to become a nanny?”

“Laura, I just moved to Washington from Mexico and would like to work as a nanny. How?”

Several times each week, I hear from people that want to become a nanny but are unsure if formal training or education is required. With this in mind, I approached Dr. Angela Blums who is an Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education at Pierce College. Angela very graciously agreed to write the below post on the value of childhood education and the different education opportunities that exist in Washington. Thank you so much Angela for this incredibly valuable information and insight!

P.S. There is no formal training or education required to become a nanny in Washington but it sure helps! I hear from parents looking for care providers with formal child care education on a regular basis.

child care education

What is the difference between a field and a profession? There are several factors to consider, such as professional organizations, national or state recognition, and of course, education. Caring for young children is the most important work in the world, yet few people consider nanny work to be “professional”. This is wrong, because the care that a qualified nanny provides is nothing less than professional. One way to be recognized as a professional is to pursue training or to learn to highlight the training you already have!

What child care education opportunities are available in our area?

Washington has an excellent system for training early childhood professionals. The most common form of training is the early childhood education stackable certificates (initial certificate, short certificate, and state certificate), and the Associate of Arts (AA) degree in Early Childhood Education (ECE). These are available through most local community colleges including North Seattle College, Highline College, and Edmonds Community College.

The initial certificate is a 12-credit, 10-week program that provides a background in early childhood, health, safety and nutrition, and includes some practical experience for your resume.

The short certificate is 20 credits and can be completed in two quarters (about 20 weeks). This certificate builds on the initial certificate by adding child development and behavior strategies and includes specialty options such as infants, toddlers and school-age care.

The state certificate is 47 credits and can be completed in three quarters (about one academic year). This builds on the short certificate by adding language and literacy, family and community connections, and suitable environments for young children.

The AA in Early Childhood Education (ECE) is 96 credits and takes about two years. It puts all the content of the certificates to use while adding music, art, math, and science for children as well as focused education about children with special needs. College classes are always available, full-time, part-time, evenings, weekends, face to face, or online.

There are also a wide variety of bachelor’s degrees that focus on early childhood and child development. Most can be completed in four years and some are designed to build learning upon the AA in ECE.

training to be nanny

Aside from higher education, there are also other training options. The Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) facilitates training courses through the online MERIT system. These short courses are offered either in person or online and topics are wide ranging, covering areas such as child development, behavior guidance, outdoor play, and specialized topics around infant care. The courses are taught by trainers who are approved through DCYF. Most courses take between two hours and two days to complete.

A useful entry-level option is a babysitting or child care training course. Both of these safety-focused courses are offered by The American Red Cross and provide a basic level of credentialing for those starting out. These typically take eight hours to two days to complete. The American Red Cross also offers First Aid and CPR classes, which are a must for anyone who cares for young children.

Some private companies offer a training called a Child Development Associate (CDA). These usually cover basics such as child development and behavior guidance and include some safety training as well. These courses usually take about four months to one year to complete.

Which one should I choose?

Each educational option offers advantages. Your decision depends on what you are looking for! If your long-term professional interests involve a deeper understanding of how children think and behave, a college course might be a good option for you.

If you are trying out nannying to see if this career is right for you, a short-term course might be a better option.

Keep in mind, even a single college course can help improve your qualifications and if you do decide to continue, you will be able to build upon that. Short-term courses are a great way to get some credentials and gain knowledge but will not transfer to college credits later.

training to be nanny

Angela’s Pro Tips!

Part of being a professional in any field means combining education and experience. Nannies have the added task of making a good case for how our qualifications make us right for the job. Most families are unaware of the value of a nanny’s qualifications. That means that it is up to the nanny to learn how to effectively market yourself and make sure that prospective employers understand your value.

Did you take a child development course in college?

Don’t just list it on a resume, explain to families why that makes a difference in how you will care for their child. Perhaps your knowledge of toddler tantrums means that you have a list of expert strategies at your disposal. Parents would love to know this! It might make all the difference in your interview and is a vital part of salary negotiations.

It is the belief of the industry that educational experiences help to create quality care situations for children, and we can surely all agree that we want the very best for the kids we care for. What’s more, educational experiences can strengthen your resume and help you to work not only with children but share knowledge with families as well.

Dr. Angela Blums is an Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education at Pierce College. She has worked with children in a variety of settings for 10 years including as a toddler teacher, preschool teacher, and nanny. Her research focuses on children’s cognitive development, math and science learning, and she teaches mindfulness for children workshops. Originally from Minnesota, Angela has lived and worked in both Germany and California before happily settling in Seattle. She is also a mom to an active 18-month old girl! Angela can be reached via email by clicking here.


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