As many families shift to two-income households, the need for childcare is ever-present. As the childcare industry grows, it is paralleled by job growth and promotion opportunities.
If you are pursuing a career in childcare to become a director, follow our career guide on how you can transition into this role.
What are the requirements to be a childcare director?
Before opening a daycare or childcare center, it is important to understand the regulations you must follow to obtain a license to operate. The specific requirements and regulations for childcare licensing vary from state to state and by center type (i.e. home-based or center-based program). Each state’s licensing requirements also usually include qualifications or requirements that the childcare center director must meet such as age requirements, education qualifications, or training certifications.
For example, some states require that a childcare center director has a degree in child development, while other states require a director to have a combination of relevant coursework from an accredited college and teaching experience. Obtaining a childcare license ensures that the program follows proper child-staff ratios, child supervision policies, and health and safety procedures at the center.
Although some states allow exemptions in childcare licensing (for example, providers who care for relatives, care for a small number of children, or operate for a few hours a day), it is the norm for most facilities to obtain a license.
What is the role of a childcare director?
A childcare director is responsible for the full operations of running a daycare or childcare center, including managing the facility, setting policies and procedures, budgeting, hiring staff, overseeing curriculum, and maintaining relationships with families.
The duties and responsibilities of a childcare director include:
- Developing the program and curriculum
- Overseeing the hiring and training of staff
- Managing facility operations
- Creating a budget
- Meeting with families and teachers
- Marketing the facility to drive enrollment
Their duties extend beyond their responsibility to the children and include accountability towards the teachers, families, and facility. With education, experience, and practiced skills, childcare directors are an irreplaceable component in a child's early education.
What is the average salary of a childcare director?
The average salary of a childcare director differs based on geographic location and things like education level and years of experience.
As of September 2022, Glassdoor reported the average annual salary of a childcare director in the United States at around $50,000. While the average director salary heavily depends on location and experience level, the “most likely range” varies between $41,000/year and $65,000/year.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of preschool and childcare center directors is projected to grow 8 percent from 2021 to 2032, faster than the average for all occupations. It is expected that the population group of children under 5 years of age will continue to grow, increasing the demand for childcare with working families continuing to rely on the services childcare centers provide.
How to become a childcare director
A college degree is preferred but not always necessary to become a childcare director. This will depend on your state's requirements and whether you're opening your own center or you’re applying with private or state organizations.
An associate’s or bachelor’s degree in relevant fields like early childhood education, education, or child development, is ideal. Because the job of a childcare director is multifaceted, a background in teaching and communications is also beneficial.
To get a job in this role, you need experience in the field. That experience level may differ based on your state and the employer, but a minimum number of years of teaching experience is usually required.
When gaining experience to become a childcare director, focus on the age group you’d like to work with. However, you’ll find it beneficial to have hands-on experience teaching each age group because it provides you with the opportunity to understand a child’s development at every stage.
In addition to teaching experience, childcare directors often need experience in administration and management. As previously stated, the role includes overseeing the teaching staff, managing the facility operations, and marketing the facility for enrollment.
Experience in business and administrative tasks ensures you’re a well-rounded individual for a career as a childcare director.
Professional organizations and certifications
As you build your career towards becoming a childcare director, you must obtain specific credentials and certifications from nationally-recognized organizations.
There are many professional organizations to look into that will increase your knowledge and experience as a childcare provider. Examples include the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), which offers the Early Childhood Higher Education accreditation system and the Child Development Associate (CDA) credential from the Council for Professional Recognition.
List of providers
Professional organizations that offer accreditation and provide certifications toward a career in child care include:
- NAEYC Early Learning Program Accreditation
- Council for Professional Recognition Child Development Associate (CDA) credential
- American Red Cross First Aid, Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), Automated External Defibrillator (AED) certifications
Once you have gained the education, experience, and credentials to become a childcare director, you’ll have all the tools to apply for a license.
Step 4. Childcare center license
If you are opening your own childcare center, most states require you to obtain a license prior to opening for business. It is important to note that every state has different requirements and standards for childcare facilities. Due to varying regulations across the nation, check the licensing requirements in your state to ensure a smooth application process.
Licensing requirements by state
The National Database of Child Care Licensing Regulations is a helpful tool that allows you to get the licensing agency contact information and regulations for each state. Use the list below to search the regulation standards in your state.
- Alabama: Alabama Department of Human Resources, Child Care Services Division
- Alaska: Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, Division of Public Assistance, Child Care Program Office
- Arizona: Arizona Department of Health Services, Child Care Facilities Licensing
- Arkansas: Arkansas Department of Human Services, Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education, Child Care Licensing
- California: California Department of Social Services, Community Care Licensing Division, Child Care Program Office
- Colorado: Colorado Department of Human Services, Office of Early Childhood
- Connecticut: Connecticut Office of Early Childhood
- Delaware: Delaware Department of Education, Office of Child Care Licensing
- District of Columbia: District of Columbia Office of the State Superintendent of Education, Division of Early Learning
- Florida: Florida Department of Children and Families, Office of Child Care Regulation
- Georgia: Bright From the Start, Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning
- Hawaii: Hawaii Department of Human Services, Benefit, Employment, and Support Services Division, Child Care Licensing Program
- Idaho: Idaho Department of Health & Welfare
- Illinois: Illinois Department of Children and Family Services
- Indiana: Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, Office of Early Childhood and Out-of-School Learning
- Iowa: Iowa Department of Human Resources
- Kansas: Kansas Department of Health and Environment, Child Care Licensing Program
- Kentucky: Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, Division of Child Care
- Louisiana: Louisiana Department of Education
- Maine: Maine Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Child and Family Services, Children’s Licensing and Investigation Unit
- Maryland: Maryland State Department of Education, Division Early Childhood, Office of Child Care Licensing Branch
- Massachusetts: Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care
- Michigan: Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, Child Care Licensing Bureau
- Minnesota: Minnesota Department of Human Services, Licensing Division
- Mississippi: Mississippi State Department of Health, Child Care Facilities Licensure Branch
- Missouri: Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Office of Childhood
- Montana: Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, Early Childhood and Family Support Division, Early Childhood Services Bureau
- Nebraska: Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Public Health, Licensure Unit
- Nevada: Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Public and Behavioral Health, Child Care Licensing
- New Hampshire: New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, Child Care Licensing Unit
- New Jersey: State of New Jersey Department of Children and Families, Office of Licensing
- New Mexico: New Mexico Early Childhood Education and Care Department
- New York: New York State Office of Children and Family Services, Division of Child Care Services
- North Carolina: North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Child Development and Early Education
- North Dakota: North Dakota Department of Human Services, Early Childhood Services
- Ohio: Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Early Learning and Development
- Oklahoma: Oklahoma Department of Human Services, Child Care Services
- Oregon: Oregon Department of Education, Early Learning Division
- Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, Office of Child Care and Early Learning
- Rhode Island: Rhode Island Department of Human Services, Office of Child Care
- South Carolina: South Carolina Department of Social Services, Division of Early Care and Education
- South Dakota: South Dakota Department of Social Services, Child Care Services
- Tennessee: Tennessee Department of Human Services, Child Care Services
- Texas: Texas Health and Human Services, Child Care Regulation
- Utah: Utah Department of Health, Child Care Licensing
- Vermont: Vermont Agency of Human Services, Department for Children and Families, Child Development Division
- Virginia: Virginia Department of Education, Office of Child Care Licensing
- Washington: Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families
- West Virginia: West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Division of Early Care and Education
- Wisconsin: Wisconsin Department of Children and Families
- Wyoming: Wyoming Department of Family Services
Your future in childcare
Childcare directors can significantly benefit a child’s early development and are responsible for managing a center’s daily operations, staff, and resources.
Becoming a childcare director can take years of education and experience. The process of earning this title is as important as the work itself. This guide starts your journey to become a skilled, professional childcare director in your community.