How to become a nursery worker (job description and salary)

Updated 31 July 2023

If you're interested in becoming a nursery worker, it's important to understand how to secure a role working in a nursery and what skills and qualifications can help you advance your career in childcare. Nursery employees look after children during the day and plan activities to inspire and educate them. By gaining relevant qualifications, you can progress in your career to become an early years teacher or nursery room leader. In this article, we explore how to become a nursery employee and what it's like to work at a nursery.

What is a nursery worker?

Before you find out how to become a nursery worker, it's important to understand what this role entails. These employees are childcare professionals who look after young children in nurseries and early years settings. They primarily look after babies and children between the ages of 0 and 5 years old, with some children in the nursery on a full-time basis and others on a part-time basis.

Duties involve providing basic care for children, including feeding them, putting them down for naps and ensuring their safety. They may also plan activities and crafts for young children and help them develop essential cognitive, social, physical and emotional skills. Some of the typical duties include:

  • providing care and security for young children in a safe environment

  • planning and conducting age-appropriate activities

  • assisting with children's social, emotional, physical and language development

  • helping children to eat, clean up and nap

  • providing emotional support to children when they're upset or angry

  • observing and assessing children's well-being and progress

  • attending staff meetings and training days

  • speaking with parents about their children's day

  • following strict health and safety guidelines to keep children safe

How to become a nursery worker

If you're wondering how to become a nursery worker, then it's possible to secure a role without any formal qualifications. Gaining relevant qualifications can enable you to progress to roles with more responsibility within a nursery setting. It's also important to gain experience working around children so you can demonstrate that you have the patience and understanding required of nursery staff. If you're interested in becoming a nursery employee, follow the steps below to find out how to become a nursery employee and advance to more senior roles:

1. Gain childcare experience

Before you embark upon a career in early years childcare, it's important to evaluate whether this career path is right for you. If you have limited experience with young children, you may not have an accurate understanding of what childcare entails. Seek opportunities to spend time with young children by offering childcare and babysitting services to friends and family members with young children. This can help you to assess whether a career in childcare is a good fit for you and make it easier to demonstrate a meaningful interest in early years care and education during job interviews.

Related: Nursery practitioner CV examples (and how to write one)

2. Apply for entry-level roles

You can become a nursery assistant at private nurseries without having any formal qualifications in childcare or education. You can start by applying for entry-level roles in nurseries using your previous experience of looking after young children in your application. In entry-level roles, you may be responsible for looking after young children, cleaning up and planning developmental activities and games under the supervision of qualified members of staff. Many nurseries have some nursery assistants in each nursery room. This role gives you lots of opportunities to learn from more experienced staff members.

Related: How to write a nursery assistant CV (with examples)

3. Study towards professional qualifications

While you work as a nursery student or assistant, you can start working towards qualifications in childcare that can help you progress to more senior nursery roles. If you want to apply for roles as a nurse or practitioner, you could apply for level two or three qualifications in childcare, while room leaders often have level-three diplomas in childcare. For management roles within the early years setting, qualifications at level four or higher are common. Some common qualifications in childcare that can help you to advance in your career as a nursery employee include:

  • level two Certificate in Childcare

  • level three Diploma in Early Years Education and Care - Early Years Educator

  • T-level in Education and Childcare

  • a degree in Early Years Initial Teacher Training (EYITT)

Related: Can I work in a nursery without qualifications? (With FAQs)

4. Apply for promotions

Once you've gained relevant qualifications in childcare and early years education, you can apply for promotions within your nursery or more senior roles in other nurseries. Ask your room leader to let you know if any more senior roles become available. As you gain further qualifications in childcare, you can apply for new roles. The next step after working as a nursery assistant is working as a nursery nurse or practitioner, which means you can enjoy more independence while planning and organising activities with children under the supervision of your room leader.

5. Progress to leadership roles

As you gain more qualifications and experience, you can consider what direction you want to take in your career. After you become a room leader, you could choose to explore the early years teaching roles by studying full-time or part-time for a degree in this field. This would qualify you to work as an educator in nurseries and early years settings. You could also consider transitioning into senior management roles, which often require a level-four qualification in childcare, plus some experience in managing nursery schedules and activities. You can gain this experience by working as a room leader.

Related: What is an early childhood education degree? (Plus careers)

What is it like to be a nursery worker?

Nursery employees typically work core hours from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., with occasional meetings in the evenings. As a nursery employee, you spend most of your day working in a nursery around babies and children and working with colleagues, including other nursery employees and practitioners. It's important that you can maintain high energy levels and a friendly disposition all day and you may spend long periods of time on your feet. Travel away from home is rarely necessary unless you take the children on a field trip or attend regional networking events or conferences in childcare education and development.

It's possible to find work as a nursery employee, with positions available in both towns and cities nationwide. At present, men are under-represented in early years care settings, but national initiatives are in place to encourage more men to embark upon this career path. When you begin working in a nursery, you may specialise in working with a particular age group, such as babies or toddlers. As you gain experience in the industry, you are most likely to experience working with children across the 0 to 5 year age range.

What salary do nursery employees earn?

The average salary of a nursery worker is £23,623 per year. You can increase your salary as a nursery employee by gaining more qualifications and experience and applying for more senior roles. Depending on where you work, you may earn more if you relocate to another area. You might also earn more working in a private nursery than in a public nursery.

Nursery employee essential skills

If you want to pursue a career as a nursery employee, it's important to develop the skills that can help you to communicate effectively with young children, build trusting relationships with parents and collaborate with your colleagues. Nursery employees take on a range of responsibilities. Below is a list of some of the essential skills for nursery staff and early years childcare professionals:


Working with children requires a lot of patience. Young children can be loud and emotionally challenging, but it's important you remain calm and positive throughout the day, even when you're feeling stressed or angry yourself. You can develop skills in patience and empathy by spending more time around young children and learning about how children think and behave.

Related: Compassion vs empathy: what's the difference?


It's important that you're very resourceful to succeed as a nursery employee. Even in entry-level positions, nursery employees regularly improvise to deal quickly with unexpected incidents at work, including accidents, spills and trips. Remaining calm under pressure and using your initiative to decide on the best course of action is key so you can put your skills as a childcare professional into practice to quickly and effectively resolve incidents.

Interpersonal skills

It's important that childcare practitioners and nursery employees have strong interpersonal skills. Interpersonal skills can help you to better collaborate with other members of staff and communicate effectively with young children. When you work in a nursery, it's important to develop an array of emotional and communication skills, including verbal and non-verbal communication skills.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries‌ ‌may‌ ‌‌vary‌‌ ‌depending‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌hiring‌ ‌organisation‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌candidate's‌ ‌experience,‌ ‌academic‌ background‌ ‌and‌ ‌location.‌

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