Child Day Care Services

Significant Points
  • Preschool teachers, teacher assistants, and child care workers account for almost 8 out of 10 wage and salary jobs.
  • About 42 percent of all child care workers have a high school degree or less, reflecting the minimal training requirements for most jobs.
  • More than a quarter of all employees work part time, and nearly 18 percent of full-time employees in the industry work more than 40 hours per week
  • Job openings should be numerous because dissatisfaction with benefits, pay, and stressful working conditions causes many to leave the industry.

Nature of the Industry [About this section] Back to TopBack to Top

Obtaining affordable, quality child day care, especially for children under age 5, is a major concern for many parents, particularly in recent years with the rise in families with two working parents. As the need for child day care has increased in the last decade, the child day care services industry began to fill the need of non-relative child care.

Goods and services. Child day care needs are met in different ways. Care in a child’s home, care in an organized child care center, and care in a provider’s home—known as family child care—are all common arrangements for preschool-aged children. Older children also may receive child day care services when they are not in school, generally through before- and after-school programs or private summer school programs. With the increasing number of households in which both parents work full time, this industry has been one of the fastest growing in the U.S. economy.

The industry consists of establishments that provide paid care for infants, toddlers, preschool children, or older children in before- and after-school programs. (For information on other social assistance services for children and youths, see the Career Guide section on social assistance, except child day care.)

Industry organization. Two main types of child care make up the child day care services industry: center-based care and family child care. Formal child day care centers include preschools, child care centers, and Head Start centers. Family child care providers care for children in their home for a fee and are the majority of self-employed workers in this industry. This does not include persons who provide unpaid care in their homes for the children of relatives or friends or occasional babysitters. Also, child care workers who work in the child’s home, such as nannies, are included primarily in the private household industry, not this industry.

The for-profit part of this industry includes centers that operate independently or as part of a local or national company. The number of for-profit establishments has grown rapidly in response to demand for child care services. Nonprofit child day care organizations may provide services in religious institutions, YMCAs and other social and recreation centers, colleges, public schools, social service agencies, and worksites ranging from factories to office complexes. Within the nonprofit sector, there has been strong growth in Head Start, the federally funded child care program designed to provide disadvantaged children with social, educational, and health services.

Some employers offer child care benefits to their employees, recognizing that the unavailability of child care is a barrier to the employment of many parents, especially qualified women, and that the cost of the benefits is offset by increased employee morale and productivity and reduced absenteeism. Some employers sponsor child care centers in or near the workplace, while others provide direct financial assistance, vouchers, or discounts for child care or after-school or sick-child care services. Still others offer a dependent-care option in a flexible benefits plan.

Working Conditions [About this section] Back to TopBack to Top

Hours. The hours of child day care workers vary. Many centers are open 12 or more hours a day and cannot close until all of the children are picked up by their parents or guardians. Unscheduled overtime, traffic jams, and other types of emergencies can cause parents or guardians to be late. Nearly 18 percent of full-time employees in the child day care services industry work more than 40 hours per week. Self-employed workers tend to work longer hours than do their salaried counterparts. The industry also offers many opportunities for part-time work: more than 26 percent of all employees worked part time in 2006.

Work environment. Helping children grow, learn, and gain new skills can be very rewarding. Preschool teachers and child care workers often improve their own communication, learning, and other personal skills by working with children. The work is sometimes routine; however, new activities and challenges mark each day. Child care can be physically and emotionally taxing, as workers constantly stand, walk, bend, stoop, and lift to attend to each child’s needs, interests, and problems. Child care workers must be constantly alert, anticipate and prevent trouble, deal effectively with disruptive children, and provide fair, but firm, discipline.

Many child day care workers become dissatisfied with their jobs’ stressful conditions, low pay, and lack of benefits and eventually leave.

Employment [About this section] Back to TopBack to Top

Child day care services provided about 807,000 wage and salary jobs in 2006. There were an additional 467,000 self-employed and unpaid family workers in the industry, most of whom were family child care providers, although some were self-employed managers of child care centers.

Jobs in child day care are found across the country, mirroring the distribution of the population. However, day care centers are less common in rural areas, where there are fewer children to support a separate facility. Child day care operations vary in size, from the self-employed person caring for a few children in a private home to the large corporate-sponsored center employing a sizable staff. Almost half of all wage and salary jobs in 2006 were located in establishments with fewer than 20 employees. Nearly all establishments have fewer than 50 workers (chart).

More than 80 percent of child day care services establishments employ fewer than 20 workers, accounting for nearly half of the industry's jobs.

Opportunities for self-employment in this industry are among the best in the economy. About 37 percent of all workers in the industry are self-employed or unpaid family workers, compared with only 8 percent in all industries. This disparity reflects the ease of entering the child day care business.

The median age of child day care providers is 38, compared with 44 for all workers. About 21 percent of all care providers are 24 years or younger as opposed to about 14 percent for all industries (table 1). About 6 percent of these workers are below the age of 20, reflecting the minimal training requirements for many child day care positions.

Table 1. Percent distribution of employment, by age group, 2006
Age group Child day care services All industries


100.0% 100.0%




5.6 4.3


14.9 9.6


23.1 21.5


21.8 23.9


20.5 23.6


10.8 13.4

65 and older

3.4 3.7

Occupations in the Industry [About this section] Back to TopBack to Top

Jobs in the child day care services industry are concentrated in a smaller number of occupations than in most other industries. Three occupations—preschool teachers, teacher assistants, and child care workers—account for 77 percent of all wage and salary jobs (table 2).

Professional and related occupations. Preschool teachers make up the largest occupation in the child day care industry, accounting for about 32 percent of wage and salary jobs. They teach pupils basic physical, intellectual, and social skills needed to enter primary school. Teacher assistants account for about 14 percent of industry employment; they give teachers more time for teaching by assuming a variety of tasks. For example, they may set up and dismantle equipment or prepare instructional materials.

Service occupations. Child care workers account for about 31 percent of wage and salary jobs, as well as a large proportion of the self-employed who care for children in their homes, also known as family child care providers. Regardless of the setting, these workers feed, diaper, comfort, and play with infants. When dealing with older children, they attend to the children’s basic needs and organize activities that stimulate physical, emotional, intellectual, and social development.

Management, business, and financial occupations. About 4 percent of the industry's wage and salary workers are education administrators, preschool and child care center/program. They establish overall objectives and standards for their centers, provide day-to-day supervision of their staffs, and bear overall responsibility for program development, as well as for marketing, budgeting, staffing, and all other administrative tasks.

Child day care centers also employ a variety of office and administrative support workers, building cleaning workers, cooks, and busdrivers.

Table 2. Employment of wage and salary workers in child day care services by occupation, 2006 and projected change, 2006-2016.
(Employment in thousands)
Occupation Employment, 2006 Percent
Number Percent

All occupations

807 100.0 33.7

Management, business, and financial occupations

44 5.5 25.0

Top executives

5 0.6 9.5

Education administrators, preschool and child care center/program

32 4.0 27.8

Professional and related occupations

415 51.4 30.1

Child, family, and school social workers

8 0.9 21.6

Preschool teachers, except special education

259 32.1 30.2

Kindergarten teachers, except special education

7 0.8 21.6

Special education teachers, preschool, kindergarten, and elementary school

5 0.6 21.6

Teacher assistants

110 13.7 33.8

Service occupations

308 38.1 41.7

Cooks, institution and cafeteria

17 2.1 21.6

Janitors and cleaners, except maids and housekeeping cleaners

8 0.9 24.3

First-line supervisors/managers of personal service workers

12 1.5 21.6

Child care workers

253 31.4 46.0

Office and administrative support occupations

30 3.7 17.6

Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks

5 0.7 21.6

Secretaries and administrative assistants

8 1.1 14.8

Office clerks, general

10 1.2 19.8

Transportation and material moving occupations

8 1.0 21.3

Bus drivers, school

7 0.9 21.6

Note: May not add to totals due to omission of occupations with small employment

Training and Advancement [About this section] Back to TopBack to Top

Most States do not regulate family child care providers who care for just a few children, typically between ages 2 and 5. Providers who care for more children are required to be licensed and, in a few States, have some minimal training. Once a provider joins the industry, most States require the worker to complete a number of hours of training per year. In nearly all States, licensing regulations require criminal record checks for all child day care staff. This screening requirement protects children from abuse and reduces liability risks, making insurance more available and affordable.

Many local governments regulate family child care providers who are not covered by State regulations. Home safety inspections and criminal background checks are usually required of an applicant.

Child care centers have staffing requirements that are imposed by States and by insurers. Although requirements vary, in most cases a minimum age of 18 years is required for teachers, and directors or officers must be at least 21. In some States, assistants may work at age 16—in several, at age 14. Most States have established minimum educational or training requirements. Training requirements are most stringent for directors, less so for teachers, and minimal for child care workers and teacher assistants. In many centers, directors must have a college degree, often with experience in child day care and specific training in early childhood development. Teachers must have a high school diploma and, in many cases, a combination of college education and experience. Assistants and child care workers usually need a high school diploma, but that is not always a requirement. Many States also mandate other types of training for staff members, such as on health and first aid, fire safety, and child abuse detection and prevention. Some employers prefer to hire workers who have received credentials from a nationally recognized child day care organization.

State governments also have established requirements for workers who provide services associated with child care—those involved in food preparation, the transportation of children, the provision of medical services, and other services. Most States have defined minimum ratios of the number of staff-to-children, which vary both by State and the age of the children involved.

Outlook [About this section] Back to TopBack to Top

Employment in child day care services is projected to increase rapidly, and an unusually large number of job openings will result each year from that growth and the need to replace the large numbers of experienced workers who leave the industry for other jobs.

Employment change. Wage and salary jobs in the child day care services industry are projected to grow about 34 percent over the 2006-16 period, compared with the 11 percent employment growth projected for all industries combined. The rising demand for child day care services driving industry growth reflects in part demographic trends. Over the same period, the number of children under age 5 is expected to increase at a faster rate than in previous years and many of them will continue to be raised in households with two working parents or a single working parent. Furthermore, growing numbers of parents will hold jobs that require work during weekends, evenings, and late nights. As a result, demand will grow significantly for child care programs that can provide care during not only traditional weekday hours, but nontraditional hours as well. In addition, school-aged children, who generally require child care only before and after school, increasingly are being cared for in centers.

Center-based day care should continue to expand its share of the industry because an increasing number of parents prefer its more formal setting and believe that it provides a better foundation for children before they begin traditional schooling. However, family child care providers will continue to remain an important source of care for many young children because some parents prefer the more personal attention that such a setting can provide. Demand for child care centers and preschool teachers to staff them could increase even further if more States implement preschool programs for 3- and 4-year-old children, which some States have begun and others are planning to start. In addition, subsidies for children from low-income families attending child day care programs also could result in more children being served in centers, as could the increasing involvement of employers in funding and operating day care centers. Legislation requiring more welfare recipients to work also could contribute to growing demand for child day care services.

Job prospects. Opportunities within this industry are expected to be excellent because of the need to replace workers who choose to leave the industry to return to school or enter a new occupation or industry. Replacement needs are substantial, reflecting the low wages and relatively meager benefits provided to most workers. The substantial replacement needs, coupled with faster-than-average employment growth, should create numerous employment opportunities.

Earnings [About this section] Back to TopBack to Top

Industry earnings. In 2006, hourly earnings of nonsupervisory workers in the child day care services industry averaged $10.53, much less than the average of $16.76 throughout private industry. On a weekly basis, earnings in child day care services averaged only $316 in 2006, compared with the average of $568 in private industry. Weekly earnings reflect, in part, the large number of part-time jobs in the industry. Earnings in selected occupations in child day care services in May 2006 appear in table 3.

Table 3. Median annual earnings of the largest occupations in child day care services, May 2006
Occupation Child day care services All industries

Education administrators, preschool and child care center/program

$35,380 $37,740

Child, family, and school social workers

29,480 37,480

First-line supervisors/managers of personal service workers

26,640 32,800

Preschool teachers, except special education

20,920 22,680

Office clerks, general

20,680 23,710

Bus drivers, school

19,750 24,820

Janitors and cleaners, except maids and housekeeping cleaners

19,030 19,930

Teacher assistants

18,020 20,740

Cooks, institution and cafeteria

17,420 20,410

Child care workers

16,320 17,630

Benefits and union membership. Employee benefits in child day care services often are minimal. A substantial number of child day care centers offer no healthcare benefits to any teaching staff. Reduced day care fees for workers’ children, however, are a common benefit. Wage levels and employee benefits depend in part on the type of center. Nonprofit and religiously affiliated centers generally pay higher wages and offer more generous benefits than do for-profit establishments.

In 2006, about 3 percent of all workers in child day care services were union members or were covered by a union contract, compared with about 12 percent of workers in all industries.

Sources of Additional Information [About this section] Back to TopBack to Top

Links to non-BLS Internet sites are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement.

For additional information about careers in early childhood education, contact:

  • National Association for the Education of Young Children, 1509 16th St. N.W., Washington, DC 20036. Internet:

For more information about the child care workforce, contact:

  • Center for the Child Care Workforce, 555 New Jersey Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20001. Internet:

For an electronic question-and-answer service on child care, information on becoming a child care provider, and other child care resources, contact:

  • National Child Care Information Center, 10530 Rosehaven St, Suite 400, Fairfax, VA 22030. Internet:

For a database on licensing requirements of child care settings by State, contact:

  • National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education, University of Colorado Health and Sciences Center at Fitzsimons, Campus Mail Stop F541, P.O. Box 6508, Aurora, CO 80045-0508. Telephone (toll free): 800-598-5437. Internet:

For a list of colleges offering courses in early childhood education, contact:

State Departments of Human Services or Social Services can supply State regulations concerning child day care programs, child care workers, teacher assistants, and preschool teachers.

Detailed information on the following key occupations in the child day care services industry appears in the 2008–09 Occupational Outlook Handbook:

NAICS Codes [About the NAICS codes] Back to TopBack to Top


Suggested citation: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Career Guide to Industries, 2008-09 Edition, Child Day Care Services, on the Internet at (visited September 15, 2008 ).


Last Modified Date: March 12, 2008