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Become an early years practitioner

Early years practitioners work with children from 0 to 5 years old in places like day nurseries, pre schools, private nursery schools and maintained and independent schools. If you are caring, reliable and imaginative with a good sense of humour then helping children from birth to five years old develop and learn could be the career for you.

Job roles include everything from apprentice and early years educator to room leader and manager. You can find out more about the different jobs available and what it's really like to work in childcare by watching our Starting your childcare career playlist (YouTube).

Getting started


If you've never worked with children before then you might want to get some practical experience by volunteering. It'll give you a chance to try out different roles and will look great on your job application.

Childcare qualifications

You do not always need formal qualifications to start working or training as an early years practitioner, but depending on the kind of role you are interested in you may need to have qualifications in English and maths such as level 2 functional skills or GCSEs at grade C and above. Anyone who works or volunteers with children and young people must have an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service check (DBS).


This is a great way of gaining qualifications and workplace experience at the same time. All apprenticeships are real jobs so you will earn a salary while you are training. An apprenticeship has an equivalent education level and can be:

  • Intermediate - equivalent to 5 GCSE passes
  • Advanced - equivalent to 2 A level passes
  • Higher - can lead to NVQ Level 4 and above, or a foundation degree

Find out more information and search for apprenticeship opportunities near you.

If you're not quite ready for an apprenticeship then a traineeship could be for you. A traineeship is an education and training programme with work experience for young people aged 16 to 24. Find out more about traineeships.

Level 2 - Level 7 qualifications

There are full and part-time courses, college or e-learning packages so you'll be able to find something that suits you. But first, you need to look at what type and what level of qualification you'd like to do. This could include:

  • Level 2 Certificate for the Children and Young People's Workforce (aimed at assistants)
  • Level 3 Early Years Educator (aimed at more senior staff and playgroup leaders)
  • Level 4/ 5 Early Years Foundation/BA Degree (aimed at managers)
  • Level 6 Early Years Teacher Status

You can find out more about the courses and qualifications that are available and if you are eligible for funding by visiting our Childcare qualifications webpage.

Or why not download our Childcare career guide (PDF) for loads more information about job roles, qualifications and funding.

Files available to download