When you’re considering a new career in Early Learning and Childcare, it’s good to have all the info you need to make an informed decision (that might end up being the best decision you’ll ever make!). Here’s a little more on what the job involves, as well as answers on job roles, qualifications and some direction on salary expectations.

What the job involves

It’s a fun, hands-on job with different challenges every day. You’ll help set up and run a variety of activities – for groups as well as individual children.

You can bring your skills to the job. So if you’re good with sports, you can work with the children to keep them active and help their coordination. And if you’re creative, you’ll be able to bring your ideas to the activities the children enjoy to build their own creativity.

It’s all about connecting with the children and working together with other professionals.

Ultimately, you’ll be a positive role model for the children. You’ll give them a stimulating and engaging environment – where they can learn essential skills that they’ll need for a happy, successful life.

Steven, aged 38, Early Learning and Childcare Manager

“For anyone considering a career in Early Learning and Childcare, I’d say, keep an open mind and expect to be challenged from the very core of your beliefs. Enjoy every minute, because it will fly past you in the blink of an eye, and don’t get caught up taking things too seriously. Remember to have fun!”

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What sort of jobs are there in Early Learning and Childcare?

There are a variety of different jobs you can do, working in a range of settings – from home-based childcare, to nurseries, playgroups and pre-schools. And, the qualifications you need vary depending on the different roles. Here are some examples of the main jobs available.

  • Support Worker
    As a Support Worker you’ll spend your day looking after small children – playing, caring for them, and making sure they are learning lots. This is an ‘entry level’ role and it’s a great way to get started in Early Learning and Childcare and train while you work.
  • Practitioner
    It’s an Early Learning and Childcare Practitioner’s responsibility to identify and meet the care, support and learning needs of every child. As part of a team, you’ll make sure that the activities and games you provide are worthwhile, fun and engaging. You could be tasked to look after a specific room or group of children.
  • Manager
    As a manager (or lead practitioner) you’ll be tasked with the development, management, and quality assurance of the childcare setting – including the supervision of staff and the management of resources. You’ll often find yourself planning an activity calendar and checking up on the growth and development of the children in your care.

What qualifications do I need?

There are lots of different ways career changers can move into Early Learning and Childcare. Your skills (and life experience) will be invaluable for this job – you’ll be surprised at how much you know already, particularly if you have children yourself.

If you don’t have any formal qualifications in Early Learning and Childcare, then that’s not a problem. There are opportunities to retrain at a pace that suits you. There are even options to retrain and earn a wage as you learn on the job. SVQs and modern apprenticeships often provide these options.

Tell me more about the qualifications to get a job in Eary Learning and Childcare

What about the salary in Early Learning and Childcare?

It’s hard to define what you’ll earn working in Early Learning and Childcare, as it can depend on a variety of factors – such as your hours, location and experience. Generally, the more hours you work, and the more qualifications that you have, the higher salary you can expect to receive. To get an idea of your local salary, you could approach a local nursery leader for advice, ask your local Jobcentre, or find more info on MyJobScotland.


  • What qualifications do I need?
  • Which of these qualifications is best for me?
  • How long does it take to train for a role in Early Learning and Childcare?
  • Can I work and earn money while I train?
  • I have other related qualifications. Will they allow me to work in Early Learning and Childcare?

There are lots of different ways to start your career in Early Learning and Childcare, and nurseries across Scotland work in different ways. Generally speaking, however, there are three types of job in Early Learning and Childcare: Support Worker, Practitioner and Manager. To be able to work in one of these roles you will need to complete one of the relevant benchmark qualifications listed below. There are lots of other qualifications out there which will help you work towards one of these benchmark qualifications or help you progress your career. But remember – only those listed below will allow you to register for these roles.

Everybody learns in a different way and at a different pace. Thankfully, there are lots of different ways to complete your training. It might suit you to study part-time, or you might want to look into an introductory course or an access course that could lead onto one of the qualifications listed below. If you’re thinking of applying for a course in Early Learning and Childcare we’d always suggest you contact your local training provider to have a chat about what method of learning is best for you.

Here are the benchmark qualifications you will need for specific roles:

Support Worker
Any of the following qualifications allow you to work as a support worker:

  • NC in Early Learning and Childcare at SCQF level 6
  • SVQ Social Service (Children and Young People) at SCQF level 6


  • HNC Childhood Practice (at SCQF level 7)
  • SVQ Social Services Children and Young People at SCQF level 7

Manager / Lead Practitioner
Note: Anyone becoming a Lead Practitioner or Manager must have worked in the sector for at least two years before being able to undertake one of the following qualifications:

  • BA Childhood Practice
  • BA (Honours) Childhood Practice (at Strathclyde University)
  • Graduate Diploma Childhood Practice (at the University of West of Scotland)
  • SQA Professional Development Award Childhood Practice (SCQF level 9)
  • Postgraduate Diploma in Childhood Practice
  • Master of Education Childhood Practice (Glasgow University and Dundee University)

Anyone who completes one of the qualifications above will have gained the same level of knowledge, understanding and experience needed for their preferred role regardless of where or how they studied. Choosing which qualification to pursue depends on how you prefer to learn and what qualifications are available where you live.

All qualifications involve a large amount of practice based learning, which means you’ll be working with children in a nursery as part of your qualification. However, some qualifications have more practice based learning than others.

Generally speaking, training for an SVQ means you’ll spend more of your time ‘on the job’, while taking an NC or HNC will mean a little more time with your training provider each week, while still being in a nursery a couple of days each week.

Gaining a qualification to become a support worker or practitioner will take 12-18 months. Most qualifications are completed within one year.

Modern Apprenticeships (open to all ages) are another route into a career in Early Learning and Childcare. Most apprentices are paid a wage while they train. Similarly, some employers will allow those who undertake an SVQ, to ‘earn as they learn’, meaning you can earn a wage while training.

If you have related qualifications which do not appear on this list, please contact the Scottish Social Services Council who will advise you on whether the qualifications you have allow you to work in Early Learning and Childcare.