Preschool and Childcare Center Directors

Career, Salary and Education Information

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What Preschool and Childcare Center Directors Do[About this section] [To Top]

Preschool and childcare center directors supervise and lead staffs, oversee daily activities, design curriculums, and prepare budgets. They are responsible for all aspects of their program.

Duties of Preschool and Childcare Center Directors

Preschool and childcare center directors typically do the following:

  • Supervise preschool teachers and childcare workers
  • Hire and train new staff members
  • Provide training and professional development opportunities for staff
  • Establish policies and communicate them to staff and parents
  • Develop educational programs and standards
  • Ensure instructional excellence
  • Assist staff in resolving conflicts between children
  • Aid staff in communicating with parents
  • Meet with parents and staff to discuss students’ progress
  • Prepare budgets and allocate program funds
  • Ensure facilities are maintained and cleaned according to state regulations

Some preschools and childcare centers are independently owned and operated. In these facilities, directors must follow the instructions and guidelines of the owner. Sometimes, directors own the facilities, so they decide how to operate them.

Other preschools and childcare centers are part of a national chain or franchise. The director of a chain or franchise also must ensure that the facility meets its parent organization’s standards and regulations.

In addition, some preschools and childcare centers, such as Head Start programs, receive state and federal funding. Directors of these schools and centers must ensure that their programs, staff, and facilities meet state and federal guidelines. For example, they must ensure that the staff meets the educational requirements set by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Work Environment for Preschool and Childcare Center Directors[About this section] [To Top]

Preschool and childcare center directors held about 64,000 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most preschool and childcare center directors were as follows:

Child day care services 51%
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 18
Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private 12
Individual and family services 4

Although preschool and childcare center directors work in schools and childcare centers, they spend most of their day in an office. They also visit classrooms to check on students, speak to preschool teachers or childcare workers, and meet with parents.

Many preschool and childcare center directors find working in an early childhood educational environment rewarding, but they also have significant responsibilities. Coordinating and interacting with staff, parents, and children can be fast paced and stimulating, but can be stressful as well.

Preschool and Childcare Center Director Work Schedules

Preschool and childcare center directors generally work full time. When childcare centers are open, a director must always be on staff, so directors and assistant directors stagger their schedules to ensure that someone is always available.

How to Become a Preschool or Childcare Center Director[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Preschool and Childcare Center Director near you!

A college degree and experience in early childhood education is typically required to become a preschool and childcare center director. Some states or employers require preschool and childcare center directors to have a nationally recognized credential, such as the Child Development Associate (CDA).

Preschool and Childcare Center Director Education

Most states require preschool and childcare center directors to have at least an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in early childhood education. These degree programs teach students about child development, provide strategies for teaching young children, and discuss how to observe and document children’s progress. Employers may prefer candidates who have a degree, or at least some postsecondary coursework, in early childhood education.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Most states require preschool and childcare center directors to have experience in early childhood education. The amount of experience required varies by state.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Many states require childcare centers, including those in private homes, to be licensed. To qualify for licensure, staff must pass a background check, have a complete record of immunizations, and meet a minimum training requirement. Some states require staff to have certifications in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and first aid.

Some states and employers require preschool and childcare center directors to have a nationally recognized credential. Most often, states require the CDA credential offered by the Council for Professional Recognition. Obtaining the CDA credential requires coursework, experience in the field, and being observed while working with children. The credential is valid for 3 years and requires renewal.

Some states recognize the Certified Childcare Professional (CCP) designation offered by the National Early Childhood Program Accreditation. Some of the requirements for obtaining the CCP are that the candidate must be at least 18 years old, have a high school diploma, have experience in the field, take courses in early childhood education, and pass an exam. The CCP accreditation requires renewal every 2 years through the CCP maintenance process.

Important Qualities for Preschool and Childcare Center Directors

Business skills. Preschool and childcare center directors manage childcare centers and need to be able to operate the business effectively.

Communication skills. Preschool and childcare center directors need to inform parents and staff about the progress of the children. They need good writing and speaking skills to convey this information successfully.

Interpersonal skills. Preschool and childcare center directors must be able to develop good relationships with parents, children, and staff.

Leadership skills. Preschool and childcare center directors supervise staff, so they need good leadership skills to inspire staff to work diligently. They also must enforce rules and regulations.

Organizational skills. Directors need to maintain clear records about children and staff. In addition, they must be able to multitask when several people or situations require their attention.

Preschool and Childcare Center Directors Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for preschool and childcare center directors was $45,670 in May 2015. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $28,890, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $86,870.

In May 2015, the median annual wages for preschool and childcare center directors in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private $67,280
Individual and family services 48,590
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 47,650
Child day care services 42,310

Preschool and childcare center directors generally work full time. Some work more than 40 hours per week. When childcare centers are open, a director must always be on staff, so directors and assistant directors stagger their schedules to ensure that someone is always available.

Job Outlook for Preschool and Childcare Center Directors[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of preschool and childcare center directors is projected to grow 7 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

The number of children who are of preschool age is expected to increase, although their share of the overall population should remain constant. As a result, a greater number of working parents will continue to need help caring for their children.

In addition, a continued focus on the importance of early childhood education—specifically preschool—should increase demand for childcare centers. Early childhood education is widely recognized as important for a child’s intellectual and emotional development.

However, the increasing cost of childcare and the increasing number of stay-at-home parents may reduce demand in the child daycare services industry.

Preschool and Childcare Center Directors Job Prospects

Overall job opportunities for preschool and childcare center directors are expected to be favorable. Workers with formal postsecondary education, such as an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, should have better job prospects than those with only a high school diploma. Those with a bachelor’s degree should have the best prospects.

Employment projections data for Preschool and Childcare Center Directors, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Education administrators, preschool and childcare center/program 64,000 68,200 7 4,200


*Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Used by permission.

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