So you think Early Learning and Childcare could be a great fit for you? Here’s all you need to know to get a job in childcare, with some helpful information about qualifications and training options.

Lindsey, aged 23, Early Years Practitioner

“During sixth year at school, I did a placement at a nursery school one day a week and it gave me a really good idea of what working in childcare might be like. The staff were helpful and told me about the different courses I could study. I’ve now gained three qualifications from Ayrshire College – an NC and an HNC in Early Education and Childcare, and an HND in Childhood Practice. For anyone considering a job in Early Learning and Childcare, I’d definitely encourage them to do it.”

The lowdown on qualifications

The qualifications you need depend on the job you’re interested in. In the Early Learning Practitioner role, there are great options for on-the-job training. This could mean the bulk of your week is spent in a nursery, with one or two days a week spent with your training provider.

If you already have one of the qualifications, you can immediately apply for jobs. If you have a childcare related qualification that is not listed, please contact the Scottish Social Service Council who will confirm whether your qualification and/or experience allows you to work in the sector.

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Introductory qualifications

There are loads of different childcare qualifications that you can study either full-time or part-time. If you’re unsure what’s right for you, it’s probably a good idea to talk to your careers advisor at school. You could ask your local college for some advice – use our Training Providers Directory to find a college with suitable courses near you. It might even be a good idea to approach a local nursery or pre-school to see what they think is best.

Here are a few examples of what you might study:

  • 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

What about my career path?

It’s worth knowing how your career in Early Learning and Childcare could shape up. You might start in childcare thinking that it’s just a job – but you’ll soon be surprised at where the profession could take you.

With a wide number of roles and qualifications available, you can build your career according to what suits you and what you enjoy. You might start as an Early Learning and Childcare Practitioner and then become a Manager later down the line. It all depends on your goals and where you see yourself in the future (although you don’t need to decide all this right now!)

There’s no set career path in Early Learning and Childcare. So, if you start working in one area and find that you’re interested in another part of the care sector, or the education system, you can always change direction.

And, you’ll always have the option to move on to degree level study too. Degree level courses are available at a number of colleges, universities and other training providers across Scotland. These courses are often aimed at people who would like to mix study and training with work. They’re great if you want to build on your skills as a Practitioner or gain a promotion in your current workplace.

Learn about a day in the life of an Early Learning and Childcare Practitioner


  • 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 (spending time with children in a nursery) 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.