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Find your ideal early childhood jobs

Early childhood jobs offer a chance to use your skills and training at a vital stage in a young child's development. Although it can sometimes be difficult to find salaries that reflect sophisticated training and qualifications, working with infants, whether in nurseries, schools or privately, can be a very rewarding career.

Do you need qualifications?

The UK has been a little slow to recognise the specialist educational needs of infants, but that is changing. Nursery school staff and infant school teachers require unique skills to deal with developing minds, and related early childhood jobs can offer demanding but fulfilling careers.

Qualifications required for this kind of work vary according to the role. Academic study can be very practical and careers-oriented, although not mandatory.

The Open University (open.ac.uk) offers a selection of courses for early childhood practitioners. Their Foundation degree course in Early Years Education is suitable for people working with young children (aged from birth to 7 years) in nurseries, playgroups, daycare, children’s centres, or as child-minders. It offers courses on children’s development and learning, and on public policy and practice in early childhood settings.

A BA in early childhood studies, offered by several universities and colleges, provides a thorough grounding in early development and educational principles. Some schools and local authorities fail to recognise its scope, and it is not a guaranteed route to a job or a decent salary. It does provide a broad range of knowledge, skills, and the confidence to work with small children.

For those who do not want to follow an academic or teaching path, childminding is among the most popular, and flexible early childhood jobs. You do not need formal qualifications, but you do have to register with a local authority and submit to regular tests and inspections.

What are the rewards?

Early childhood jobs are never going to be a path to riches. Although private schools and nurseries may pay competitive salaries for highly-qualified staff, in many cases nursery staff and childminders are paid hourly rates that are not much above minimum wage. This is a profession for dedicated individuals who love working with children, and job satisfaction levels are often very high.

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