When you work with children it’s your job to give them the best start in life. They need to be cared for and taught the essential skills they need for the rest of their life. To do this, we need people with the right blend of skills and personal qualities.

Do I need qualifications?

If you are a caring, creative, positive person who wants to leave their mark on the world then that’s enough to get you in the door. When you’re offered a job in Early Learning and Childcare you’ll get the chance to complete some formal qualifications while you work.

In the Early Learning Practitioner and Support Worker roles, there are great options for on-the-job training. This could mean, for example, four days in a nursery and one day at college; Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs) are usually taken in the workplace over 12-18 months.

And, if you want to work at management level you’ll need some more advanced qualifications – as well as the relevant experience.


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Here’s a shortlist of some of the qualifications available to study.

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.

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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

Practitioner

  • 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)

Find details about the training providers and qualifications available near you


Get some work experience

The best way to know if a career is right for you is to get some experience. It’s important to know that you’ll be happy and motivated in childcare. After all, you won’t just be shaping your career, you’ll be shaping young children’s lives.

We’d suggest getting some experience at a local nursery – that way you can know for sure whether Early Learning and Childcare is right for you.

Different ways to develop your career

You might start as an Early Learning and Childcare Practitioner and then progress to a Lead Practitioner or Manager. It really depends on your aspirations and goals. Childcare is a fantastic option as there’s always plenty of variety and opportunities for training and development.

There’s no career path set in stone in Early Learning and Childcare. So, if you start working in one particular area, you can always change direction if your interests and situation change.

And, you’ll always have the option to move on to degree level studies too. BA degree courses are available in a number of colleges and universities. These courses are often aimed at people who would like to mix high-level study with work.


What about career progression?