Daycare directors' work is essential. As early education leaders, they help to shape the youngest members of our society. They also play a critical role in forming healthy, thriving communities. On top of that, reliable childcare is a necessity for working parents and directly influences employment, equality, and women’s participation in the workplace.
If you’re considering pursuing a career in childcare or want more in-depth information about how much daycare directors and teachers make, this article is for you.
- The average salary range for daycare directors
- How salaries differ based on location and experience level
- Tips on advancing your career and increasing your salary as a daycare director
What are the responsibilities of a daycare director?
A daycare or childcare director is responsible for running the day-to-day operations of a daycare center. Their responsibilities include 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 childcare environment for all students and staff
What is the average daycare director salary?
Daycare director salaries can range from $26,000-$65,000, with the average total compensation falling between $38,000-$40,000 per year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average daycare director's salary is 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 11 percent from 2020 to 2030, faster than the average for all jobs. Over the next decade, the Bureau anticipates an average of 5,300 childcare director openings each year.
In several online databases, the average salaries reported for “Child Care Directors” job titles were higher than those reported for “Daycare Directors” job titles, with discrepancies ranging between $2,000-$33,000 per year.
While these roles are virtually identical, 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 consider this when evaluating jobs.
What is the average daycare director's 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 living regions to $52,686 in high-cost 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|
What are some common benefits that daycare directors receive?
Daycare and child care directors often receive benefits such as 401K, dental, health, vision, and life insurance, and paid time off. They may also have access to tuition reimbursement and professional development assistance to help them grow their skills and further their career.
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, suppose you started as a daycare director at a public daycare center or a larger franchise. In that case, you could explore starting your own private program, so you have greater ownership over the business's operations, vision, and scope.
Suppose you’ve been with the same type of program for many years. In that case, you could also move to other leadership roles with greater administrative responsibilities, such as directing a program with a larger student headcount or multiple locations.
If you're wondering how much childcare teachers typically get paid, check out our guide, How Much Do Daycare Makers Work in 2022?
How can I prepare for daycare director interviews?
During the daycare director interview process, you can expect to answer general and in-depth questions such as:
- Why are you leaving your current job?
- Why do you want to work for our daycare center?
- What are the most difficult aspects of working with kids?
- What are your goals for the center should you become the director?
- What's the best way to create an engaging and stimulating environment for children?
- What are some differences between caring for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers?
- When’s a time that you dealt with a difficult parent, and how did you handle the situation?
Expect to also answer questions regarding your certifications, licensing procedures, and previous experiences working with children and interacting with their parents. Remember that you’re also interviewing them to ensure that the opportunity is a good fit. Be prepared to answer these questions openly and honestly, but also come up with your own questions about the daycare center, job expectations, benefits, salary, and growth opportunities.
Pursuing a career as a daycare director
If you dream of owning a daycare or furthering your career in childcare, be sure to understand what responsibilities are required and how your experience and education will impact your salary and qualifications.
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 mybrightwheel.com.