The work that daycare directors do is incredibly important. As early education leaders, they help to shape the youngest members of our society. Reliable childcare is also a must for working parents and directly influences employment, equality, and women’s participation in the workplace. Simply put, daycare directors play a critical role in forming healthy, thriving communities, and a career in childcare can be truly gratifying and rewarding.
If you’re considering pursuing a career in childcare or want more in-depth information about how much daycare directors and teachers make, then this article is for you. In this guide, you’ll learn about the average salary range for daycare directors, including how salaries differ based on location and experience level. We’ll also share tips on advancing your career and increasing your salary as a daycare director.
What is the average daycare director salary?
Daycare director salaries can range between $26,000 - $65,000, with the average total compensation falling between $38,000 - $40,000 per year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this places the average daycare director salary about $12,000 below the median wage for workers in the United States, which was $51,168 at the end of 2020.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics also projects that the employment of daycare directors will grow 1 percent from 2019 to 2029, slower than the average for all jobs. Although this growth is limited, about 4,600 job openings for daycare directors are projected each year, on average, over the decade.
In several online databases, the average salaries reported for “Child Care Directors” job titles were higher than the average salaries reported for “Daycare Directors” job titles, with discrepancies ranging between $2,000 - $14,000 per year. While these roles are virtually identical in function, this data shows that centers that regard their work as “child care” rather than “daycare” may tend to skew towards higher compensation. If you’re an aspiring director, you may want to take this into consideration when evaluating jobs.
What is the average daycare director salary based on geographic location?
The average salary of a childcare center director differs based on geographic location, ranging from $32,289 in low cost of living regions to $52,686 in high cost of living regions in the United States.
|Region's cost of living||Average daycare director salary|
|High (based on data from CA and NY)||$52,686|
|Medium (based on data from TX, CO, FL)||$38,667|
|Low (based on data from TN, IA, KY)||$32,289|
Of the top 5 highest paying cities for daycare directors, 3 are located in California. The typical salaries in these 5 cities all top the national average.
|City||Average daycare director salary|
|Los Angeles, CA||$55,510|
|San Mateo, CA||$43,200|
What is the average daycare director salary based on experience level?
An entry-level daycare director can expect to make an average of $32,840, while an experienced daycare director with more than 5 years of experience can expect to make closer to $39,805. Data also shows that the average compensation for daycare directors increases with years of experience—up to a point.
|Years of experience||Average daycare director salary|
|Less than 1 year||$32,840|
How many hours a week do daycare directors work? What is their pay per hour?
Most daycare directors work full time, clocking in 40 hours or more a week. Typically, childcare directors will work during their center’s open hours, which may include early mornings and late evenings if their centers offer before- and after-school care.
Based on the average salary range of $38,000 - $40,000, the average hourly pay for daycare directors comes out to between $19.00 - $19.23 per hour.
How do I increase my salary as a daycare director?
The wide range of daycare director salaries indicates that there’s room for increased pay based on years of experience, location, qualifications, and other factors.
Here are a few ways you can invest in your own professional development, advance your career, and potentially make a higher salary as a daycare director.
1. Advance your education.
The typical level of education that childcare directors need will vary from state to state, and also depend on whether a childcare center is privately or publicly funded. While some programs may require their directors to hold a bachelor’s degree, others may only require a high school diploma.
A study by Zippia found that 45% of daycare directors hold a bachelor’s degree, 24% hold a master’s degree, and 14% hold an associate degree. Of the daycare directors who pursued higher education, 14% majored in early childhood education, 11% in business, and 10% in nursing.
If you’re just starting in your career or want to make a bigger investment in your education, consider pursuing a bachelor’s degree or higher and majoring in early childhood education, business, or other related fields. Having a degree will give you a competitive edge and allow you to negotiate for a higher base salary. To learn more about degree programs that could be a great fit for you, check out NAEYC’s Early Childhood Higher Education Director.
Many schools and training programs also offer continuing education courses that could benefit both new and experienced directors. These courses cover a breadth of ECE subjects, from operations and financial management to following licensing regulations and daycare manager responsibilities. One popular program that many directors have benefitted from is the Child Care Education Institute (CCEI), which offers trainings for both teachers and directors.
2. Attain NAEYC accreditation at your daycare center.
NAEYC offers a widely recognized accreditation program that ensures childcare centers adhere to the highest national standards of care and education. The process for attaining NAEYC accreditation is rigorous, and less than 10% of childcare and preschool providers in the U.S. have achieved this recognition.
Many parents and families choose NAEYC accredited daycare providers because they know those centers will provide high-quality, research-based education for their children. For this reason, NAEYC accreditation can increase your childcare center’s brand recognition and visibility, which can in turn help to boost enrollment and provide a basis for charging higher tuition fees. Both of these factors can improve your daycare business's profitability, helping you make more as a director (and increase the wages of your teaching staff, too). To learn more about how to get your program accredited, check out NAEYC’s Early Learning Program Accreditation resource page.
3. Pursue bigger career opportunities.
If you’re a more experienced daycare director, there are a few ways you can advance your career and potentially make more money. For example, if you started as a daycare director at a public daycare center or a larger franchise, you could explore starting your own private program so you have greater ownership over the operations, vision, and scope of the business. If you’ve been with the same type of program for many years, you could also move to other leadership roles with greater administrative responsibilities, such as directing a program that has a larger student headcount or multiple locations.
What are the typical responsibilities of a daycare director?
A daycare or childcare director is responsible for running the day-to-day operations of a daycare center. This includes everything from managing the program’s budget to overseeing a team of daycare teachers.
More specifically, daycare directors:
- Hire, train, and develop new teaching staff
- Establish an educational program that prepares students for preschool and beyond
- Manage communication with families
- Oversee the program’s finances, including tracking tuition and allocating program funds
- Ensure the center operates in compliance with local, state, and federal requirements
- Maintain a safe and caring environment for all students and staff
Further reading for daycare directors
To learn more about how to effectively run a daycare or childcare center, check out these additional resources:
At brightwheel, we are immensely grateful for everything that daycare directors do to develop young minds and support working families. Thank you for helping our communities thrive!
Brightwheel is the complete solution for early education providers, enabling you to streamline your center’s operations and build a stand-out reputation. Brightwheel connects the most critical aspects of running your center—including sign in and out, parent communications, tuition billing, and licensing and compliance—in one easy-to-use tool, along with providing best-in-class customer support and coaching. Brightwheel is trusted by thousands of early education centers and millions of parents. Learn more at www.mybrightwheel.com.