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Childcare qualifications and training

To work in a day nursery, pre-school or out-of-school club you ideally need to hold a minimum level 2 early years or playwork qualification. If you are not qualified to this level you can still get a job (as a percentage of staff can be unqualified), but you will have more chance of finding a job if you show commitment to gaining a qualification once you start work.

Childminders don't have to hold a childcare qualification, but it's recommended to gain a level 3.  The national aspiration is for the entire early years workforce (including childminders) to eventually be at least level 3 qualified.

The table below illustrates the different childcare roles available and qualifications needed:

  • depending on your experience and qualifications you could start at Level 2 or 3, or even Level 6 if you hold a degree
  • there are some additional specialist qualifications which are not listed in the table, eg Montessori qualifications
  • managers who are responsible for the business aspects of running a setting rather than leading on the Early Years Foundation Stage may prefer to undertake Management qualifications rather than the Foundation Degree or HND and Early Years Teacher Status
  • if you work in both early years and playwork then just holding an early years qualification is sufficient. However it’s good practice to undertake additional playwork training, as this requires different skills
Qualification Level and Role Early Years Qualification
(Working with 0-5’s)
Playwork Qualification
(Working with over 5’s)
Optional if not ready for level 2
Award in an introduction to Early Years Settings Play Way
Level 2
Assistant under supervision

Certificate in an Introduction to Early Years Education and Care

Diploma for the Early Years Practitioner

Level 2 Award, Certificate and Diploma in Playwork
Level 3
Supervisory Roles

Diploma for the Early Years Practitioner (Early Years Educator)

Diploma for Early Years Education and Care (Early Years Educator)

NB Entrants for the Level 3 Early Years Educator qualifications will be required to hold a level 2 in maths and English such as GCSE grade A*-C.4-9 (CSE grade 1 or O level) functional or key skills

Level 3 Award, Certificate and Diploma in Playwork
Level 5
Supervisory and Leading Roles
Early Years Foundation Degree

HND Advanced Practice in Early Years

Diploma in Playwork 
Level 6
Early Years Teacher

NB: Entrants for the Early Years Initial Teacher Training routes will be required to have at least a grade C in GCSE English, maths and science

Degree and evidencing of standards to achieve Early Years Teacher Status


Where can I gain these qualifications?

Most childcare qualifications will be gained while you work in a setting. There are a number of local colleges, private training providers and national distance learning centres that offer all qualification levels and Early Years Teacher Status.

We recommend you contact a range of training providers who will be able to advise about:

  • appropriate qualifications for your role (linked to your role/level of responsibility)
  • entry requirements
  • differing methods of study and assessment which may include attendance at college, private study, distance learning, assignments and demonstrating your skills whilst at work.

You can search for training providers in the courses section of this website although this list does not include everyone who offers this training. Please note we do not endorse these organisations and strongly recommend you research a range of training providers before making your decision.

As most childcare qualifications have a work related focus, if you are not in employment you may like to volunteer in a local childcare setting. As a guide, a level 2 course requires 10 voluntary hours per week to gain adequate experience to complete the qualification. Higher level courses require more hours and need a role with sufficient responsibility to evidence your learning. Ultimately it is up to the training provider or the funding organisation of your course to set the minimum work/voluntary hours and the entrance requirements to access a qualification.

Visit the government website to find out which qualifications are deemed full and relevant.

Is qualification funding available?

There may be opportunities to receive full or partial funding to achieve early years and playwork qualifications. Contact training providers to ask about funding available for their courses.

If you are not eligible for funding for a:

What are the career development opportunities?

It’s important to give children the best start in life. This requires skilled, dedicated staff at every level. We encourage the entire playwork and early years workforce to continually self assess and keep up to date with best practice to attain the best outcomes for children.

For those wishing to advance their qualifications, there are opportunities for career progression at all levels through to supervisory and managerial positions.

If you are a graduate, or a level 3 practitioner with good experience and are willing to attain a degree, you may wish to further your study and experience to become an Early Years Teacher.

Is there other training available to me?

Yes, once you start working in a childcare setting you will be eligible for the full range of training opportunities offered. There are lots of courses to support your continued professional development and to ensure you have the skills to help children reach their full potential, support their play, and protect their welfare.

Local Authorities send information to childcare settings and childminders on training opportunities available. If you work in a day nursery, pre-school or out-of-school club, your manager will help you identify your training needs, and nominate you for appropriate training courses.

What shall I do next?

I want to be a childminder...

Read the Childminding Factsheet.

I want to find a job in a nursery, pre-school or out-of-school club...
Search for jobs. Alternatively contact childcare settings in your area to discuss options for gaining experience (voluntary or paid work). Each local authority has an online directory of childcare settings in their area; 

If you need any more help contact your council.

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