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Early years and childcare careers

Are you looking to start a career in early years education and childcare? Our guide explains what to expect.

Places you can work and roles

The places you can work in include:

  • Day nurseries - usually daycare for babies aged approximately three months to children aged four years-old. Working hours vary, but many open 8am-6pm all year round.
  • Pre-school and nursery schools - usually care for children aged three to four years-old. Some also care for two year-olds. Opening hours can vary with children attending either morning sessions, afternoon sessions, or both. They are usually only open during term-time. 
  • Before school, after school, and holiday clubs - provide care to school-aged children before school, after school and in the school holidays
  • In your own home or the child's home - childminders are self-employed and care for children in their own home. Registered nannies look after children in the child's home.

GOV.UK's website has profiles on the different job roles in early years education and childcare. They'll tell you what the jobs are and career progression:


Some workplaces employ unqualified staff, but for most jobs you'll need a specific early years education and childcare qualification. Workplaces must have a certain number of qualified staff caring for children at any one time.

There are different qualification levels depending on what job you want to do. There are usually different ways of achieving these qualifications too.

Government Early Years Careers Website

The Government has launched an Early Years Careers website to help those interested in working in early years and childcare. The site gives information on where you can work, what's involved and the qualifications and skills you'll need. There is also a 'real stories' section where you can watch videos of current early years practitioners sharing their experiences of how they got into their roles and what it's really like to work in early years and childcare.

Do something big - Early Years Careers

Early years careers

Qualification levels

Types of qualifications:

  • Early Years Skills Bootcamps - new, flexible courses of up to 16 weeks. They give you the opportunity to gain face to face work experience in an early years setting whilst completing accredited learning covering various aspects of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). You'll gain qualifications in Safeguarding, Food Safety and Paediatric First Aid, and be given the option to continue onto an accelerated apprenticeship. You'll also work closely with a Development Coach who will support you in your career development. For full details, including how to apply, please visit the Government's Early Years Careers website: Training and qualifications - Early Years Careers.
  • Level 2 qualifications - equivalent to GCSE level. They take approximately 1 year to complete. They'll allow you to work as a qualified nursery worker.
  • Level 3 qualifications - equivalent to A level. They take approximately 18 months to 2 years to complete. They'll allow you to progress your career and gain more responsibility.
  • Higher level qualifications (levels 4, 5 and 6) - equivalent to university level and are studied at levels 4, 5 and 6. Course lengths vary depending on whether you choose to do them full-time or part-time. A full-time level 6 degree would take 3 years, or approximately 5 years part-time.
  • Early years initial teacher training (EYITT) - a postgraduate certificate to become an early years teacher. It's similar to a qualified teacher status (QTS) that school teachers hold. There are various pathways to achieving EYITT with study length options from 3 months to 1 year.


Ways to get qualified

  • Apprenticeships - you can get an early years level 2 or 3 qualification through an apprenticeship. You'll need to be employed by an early years education and childcare workplace to do an apprenticeship. You'll work and learn at work and attend workshops delivered by the apprenticeship training provider. Self-directed study is also a requirement. Search apprenticeships on GOV.UK.
  • Diploma - you can get an early years level 2 or 3 qualification through a diploma. You'll need to have time working in a early years education and childcare workplace, as well as attending regular classes or workshops. Some training providers offer online lessons, whereas some will require you to attend a college. Search courses on GOV.UK.
  • T level - you can get an early years level 3 qualification through a T level. It's the equivalent to three A levels and takes two years to complete.  Classroom based learning is combined with a minimum of 21 weeks in an early years education workplace. This ensures plenty of hands-on experience. Find out more and search for T levels on GOV.UK.
  • Foundation degree - an early years foundation degree is the equivalent to the first two years of university and takes you through levels 4 and 5. A full-time course will take two years to complete. Part-time is available with some training providers and will take you longer. Search courses on GOV.UK.
  • Degree or degree top-up - a BA (Hons) in early years or early childhood studies is a level 6 qualification and takes three years full time, or longer part time. There is also a BA one-year top-up course for those that have a level 5 foundation degree and wish to progress to a level 6 degree. Courses are usually taken with a university with many offering online options as well as classroom based options. Search courses on GOV.UK.


Local training and course providers

Norfolk has training providers and colleges which offer various qualifications. Check their websites for the full details:


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Once you're ready to search for jobs, you can use:

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