The Nanny Career Path and How to Advance

As an in-home childcare provider, how do you define your role?

As an in-home childcare provider, how do you define your role? Are you a Nanny? Family Assistant? Babysitter? Household Manager? With so many different terms and titles, it can certainly feel overwhelming! According to Daryl Camarillo, Owner of Stanford Park Nannies, which earned the 2017 Association of Premier Nanny Agencies (APNA) Honors Award, “A big challenge in the industry is that terms are often confused. It leads to a disconnect in expectations making it harder for nannies and families to manage expectations about job duties and compensations.”

Making sure you and a potential employer are communicating clearly can be a challenge. So, how can you best communicate your skills and experience to potential families? How do you define yourself among the myriad of “titles” out there? This guide will help you understand the distinct levels of in-home childcare as we clarify job descriptions based on responsibilities and skills.

In each of the career levels, we’ll share the job descriptions and qualifications. “Licensed childcare certification programs for nannies are vital to help families ensure their children are cared for by qualified persons” shared Dr. Lauren Formy-Duval, a child psychologist, adjunct professor, and a mom who hires Nannies to help care for her children. “Nannies and Sitters investing in affordable and high-quality training not only gain practical skills but also enable a career path, just like teachers and other professionals.”

Before we get started, it’s important to note that paid childcare work experiences differ. For this guide, we do not consider taking care of family members or relatives as paid childcare experience. Although it is caring for children, the ability to adapt to another family’s structure, discipline style, and schedule often aren’t learned when caring for family members. Also, in this guide, childcare experience by those less than 18 years old is defined as babysitting experience, while nanny experience typically requires some childcare training for a part-time or full-time job after age 18.

The 6 Levels of a Nanny Career

There are 6 levels in an in-home childcare career that include Parents’ Helper, Babysitter, Nanny, Family Assistant, Professional Nanny, and Specialist. Not every childcare provider goes through or achieves all the levels, but these are industry standards based on job responsibilities, autonomy, and skills needed for each position.

woman hugging child

1. Parents’ Helper

Parents’ Helpers are considered babysitters-in-training, as they help care for children under the direct supervision of a parent or guardian. Often too young or inexperienced to care for children independently, Parents’ Helpers play with children, feed babies or make easy lunches, and perform light housework. An entry-level position in childcare, Parents’ Helpers should have CPR and First Aid training but may not have experience working with children. For those less than 16 years old, the American Red Cross offers an online class and local YMCA’s may host a babysitter training day.

2. Babysitter

Babysitters provide for the safety of children for several hours, often with the family members nearby and available by phone. Usually working over the weekend, Babysitters offer playtime, snacks, and help children get ready for bed. Sitters may do light housekeeping directly associated with caring for the children such as washing the dishes or emptying the diaper bin. Sitters should have CPR and First Aid certification and it’s recommended they complete childcare training.

3. Nanny (Part or Full Time)

Nannies have contracted, consistent work for at least 3 months but usually a year or more and are responsible for several children throughout the workday while family members are at their places of employment. Care includes providing meals and activities for the children but also includes outings and additional support such as transporting children to and from school, from school to clubs, sports practices, play-dates, and other activities. Nannies work autonomously and may have full responsibility to care for the children when families are out of town.

All nannies, whether part or full time, should have CPR and First Aid certification and invest in childcare training that teaches age-appropriate growth, development, and activities from newborn through primary years. Nutrition, fitness, health, art, music, and communication courses provide practical skills to help nannies excel as in-home childcare providers. The Advanced Childcare Diploma from Amslee Institute provides 30 hours of courses taught by physician assistants and teachers to help nannies better care for kids. Nannies can also benefit from continuing education programs offered by interNational Nanny Training Day, the International Nanny Association annual conference, and Nannypalooza.

4. Family Assistant/Household Managers

Family assistants (sometimes referred to as Household Managers or Nanny Managers) perform childcare duties with additional responsibilities such as managing a weekly schedule, scheduling and attending doctor appointments, picking up the dry cleaning, planning and hosting birthday parties, household organization, shopping, pet care, meal planning, and preparing meals for the family. Family Assistants are often committed to the role as their primary employment and have the maturity to work unsupervised while remaining responsible for several children and managing an allocated budget.

woman cooking

Family Assistants have a combination of childcare experience, training, and organizational skills. Family Assistants often have between 2 to 5 years of in-home childcare experience with additional experience managing their own household or working in the service industry as a personal chef, pet sitter, or cleaning service provider. Most have CPR and First Aid certification, and most have completed childcare and household management programs. For those interested in an 8-week on-site program, Starkey International offers a Certification in Household Management.

5. Career/Professional Nanny

Professional Nannies are the central core to managing all schedules, logistics, and needs for the entire family. Daryl Camarillo describes the role of a professional nanny. “Families think of [professional] nannies as in-home professionals who do everything to care, nurture, and develop the children. These include household duties related to childcare and the upkeep of the home such as washing bottles, meal preparation for the children, emptying diaper bins, and the child’s laundry. Families are seeking nannies to take the child to activities and invest in their development and growth. They view the nanny as part of the childcare team.”

Professional nannies have a combination of training and paid childcare experience. All should have CPR and First Aid certification, and most have completed college-level education courses or Continuing Education Courses (CEC’s) like the Professional Childcare Diploma program. Professional nannies have at least 3 years of in-home childcare experience and are paid legally with benefits that include paid vacation and appropriate compensation.

The International Nanny Association (INA), the difference between a Career Nanny and a Professional Nanny is as follows:

Career Nanny – Has chosen to be a nanny as their career path and has worked as a nanny for a significant amount of time. He or she has made a conscious choice to remain in the field and has no intention to leave.

Professional Nanny – Meaning, they treat this job as they would any position in any other field. They have signed a contract, negotiate pay and benefits, attend training and invest in professional knowledge that is relevant to the position, etc.

The INA points out that some providers can fall into both categories, but not every Career Nanny can be considered a Professional, and not every Professional Nanny would consider him/herself a Career Nanny.

Cheerful preschool age boy enjoys playing with blocks with his teacher. Only the teachers arms are seen in the photo.

6. Specialized Nanny

A Specialized Nanny is a Professional Nanny who has unique qualifications and experiences that allow him or her to work with families with specific needs. Types of Specialized Nannies include but are not limited to: Special Needs Nanny, Multiples Nanny, Travel Nanny, Montessori/RIE/Waldorf Nanny, High Profile/High Net Worth Nanny, and Governess.

Specialized Nannies have varying qualifications that often include college degrees in Early Childhood Education, Special Needs Education, or Psychology with diverse work experiences as a nanny, in daycares, teaching, or advocacy. Specialized Nannies are passionate about their work and are often leaders in the nanny industry. Many Specialized Nannies work for high profile and/or high net worth families and are extremely desirable within the nanny market.

Now that we’ve explored the in-home childcare career path, let’s clarify some common terms. These terms, including Nanny Sharing, Live-In/Live-Out Nannies, and Overnight Nannies, are used to describe specific situations.

Nanny Sharing: When two or more families employ one Nanny, it’s a Nanny Share. Most nannies watch the children together, but many families work together to come up with a schedule tailored to their specific needs.

Live-in versus Live-out Nannies: Live-in Nannies work and reside in their employer’s residence while Live-out Nannies have their own residences and come and go to their place of employment.

Overnight Nannies: Overnight nannies may care for children when parents have jobs that require night shifts, parents who have to travel for their work, or while parents get some much-needed rest.

The 6 levels of an in-home childcare career (parent’s helper, babysitters, nannies, family assistant, professional nanny, and specialized nanny) help everyone understand the different roles and responsibilities as they plan their career. Knowing key industry terms, which evolve as families have new needs such as nanny sharing, help families and nannies better communicate during the interview and hiring process. To qualify for more advanced positions, there are numerous training programs as well as online resources and agencies that support career advancement.

8 Nanny and Sitter Diplomas and Certifications to Advance Your Career

While there are training programs and state requirements for daycare workers and teachers, no qualifications are required for nannies and sitters.

While there are training programs and state requirements for daycare workers and teachers, no qualifications are required for nannies and sitters. “Licensed childcare diploma and certification programs for nannies are vital to help families ensure their children are cared for by qualified persons” shared Dr. Lauren Formy-Duval, a child psychologist, adjunct professor, and a mom who works with Nannies to help care for her children. “Nannies and Sitters investing in affordable and high-quality training not only gain practical skills but also enable a career path, just like teachers and other professionals.”

To qualify for more advanced Nanny and Babysitter positions, there are numerous training programs and online resources and organizations that support career advancement. Nanny training demonstrates a commitment and makes you stand out when applying for jobs. Trained and experienced Nannies and Sitters also earn more, according to the 2017 Cost of Care Survey published by In the survey, parents acknowledged they are more willing to pay nannies and sitters higher wages if they had additional training, skills, and experience.

CPR and First Aid

child with hurt arm

CPR and First Aid training are the foundation and the most important certifications for a childcare job. Many families require these certifications to be considered for an interview. CPR and First Aid training is taught locally and online at community colleges, the American Red Cross, and the American Heart Association, as well as other local businesses. If you are working with infants or young children, the infant CPR course is recommended.

1. CPR Certification. There are more than 300,000 cardiac arrests each year and by performing CPR, you can help the person’s blood keep circulating until an ambulance arrives. The chance of surviving more than doubles when CPR is started early. Guidelines now offer a hands-only CPR approach which provides chest compressions without doing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

2. First Aid Certification. These skills are essential as children are less coordinated and can fall while playing. Getting certified not only provides confidence to provide care, it also increases the comfort of the injured child and can prevent many situations from getting worse.

Professional Nanny Diplomas and Certifications

When considering training programs, take time to investigate the organization’s reputation and licensing. The quality of an educational experience depends on the instructors and students should learn positive discipline from a child psychologist, health from physician assistants, nutrition from dietitians, legal requirements from a lawyer, and early childhood development from experts.

A common question is, “what is the difference between a diploma and a certification?” Diplomas are awarded through community colleges and technical schools, often as an alternative to an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. Certifications can be issued by an organization or business for completing a class or series of classes.

woman with baby

Amslee Institute offers 5 post-secondary programs taught by college faculty that require courses, exams, references, and childcare work experience. These online programs are self-paced and take 4-12 weeks to complete. New nannies and babysitters qualify for the Basic program while experienced nannies and family assistants can earn the Professional Diploma and Certification.

3. Basic Childcare Diploma. Families and employers expect nannies and babysitters to provide a safe environment when caring for their children. A robust Basic Childcare training program should include understanding children of all ages, emergency planning, advance the childcare provider’s skills in water safety, and educate nannies and sitters on their legal requirements when working in childcare. The Nannies and Babysitters also need to be armed with skills to help them manage stress and use positive discipline skills when children need help expressing themselves or for correcting undesired behavior.

4. Intermediate Childcare Diploma– An Intermediate Childcare program should focus on age-appropriate childcare that includes milestones for infants, toddlers, preschoolers and the primary years. To best support children, especially during the first 5 years of life, classes by age level should focus on physical care, nutrition, motor skill development, and enrichment activities that include reading and STEM.

5. Advanced Childcare Diploma – Advanced childcare courses should include providing the caregiver with the training needed as children need support academically and seek to gain more independence. Specialized courses in art, music, fitness, learning environments, and helping with homework teach Nannies and Sitters how to engage with children in a way that makes learning more fun. Nannies and Sitters also gain better communicating skills with children and families.

women smiling

6. Specialist Childcare Diploma – As the family dynamic changes and children grow, the role of Nannies and Sitters often evolves. Family assistants and household managers are increasingly popular with families and employers. Not just a nanny, family assistants can support special needs including medically required diets. Family assistant jobs have elements of household management so additional training in etiquette, scheduling, and pet care is valued. For those not pursuing family assistant roles, this program provides training to care for special needs and children that require special diets.

7. Professional Childcare Diploma– The Professional Childcare Diploma and Certification show that you’ve successfully passed a rigorous training program with a curriculum specifically designed for nannies. Earning this reputable and valued distinction requires 45 hours of training, passing 5 proficiency exams, completing a student project, submitting 5 professional references, and providing documentation of at least 2 years of full-time childcare care or equivalent.

8. Newborn Care Specialist Certification. If you plan to work exclusively with newborns, consider a Newborn Care training and certification program. Nannies and sitters learn about newborn care, night nanny work, the difference between a nanny and doula, and tips to build a nursery.

Continuing Education Programs

Continuing education provides enhanced skills and increases the value of offered childcare services. Continuing education also helps you stay up-to-date on important issues such as car seat regulations and nutrition or fitness recommendations. Also, plan to take First Aid and CPR refresher courses as these certifications are only valid for two to three years.

Many state agencies and some local healthcare systems and hospitals offer car seat installation classes and certifications. Local community colleges may offer courses that will enhance your knowledge and skill set. Conventions and events, such as Nannypalooza and interNational Nanny Training Day offer seminars and classes on various topics important to the Nanny community.

When investing in continuing education, talk with your employer about sharing or covering the tuition as many employers recognize the benefits of childcare training. Whether part of your compensation or you pay on your own, keep the receipts as job training from a licensed program may be tax-deductible. Investing in training from reputable and licensed programs can advance a Nanny or Babysitters career. Distinct qualifications communicate the value and skills of an individual applicant.

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