Nursery jobs or childminding: what’s best for me?

Hunting for nursery jobs? Whether you are thinking about a new career in childcare, or leaving your nursery job for something else in the field, it can be difficult to decide the best path.

You have already decided to make a big impact in small children’s lives, but there are many different paths to a rewarding career in childcare. Read on for our comparison between working as a childminder, or working in a nursery.

Nursery jobs

What does a nursery assistant do?

A nursery assistant and a childminder share similar responsibilities, but aa nursery assistant follows the routine set by their manager/ room leader (where a childminder would structure their own day). It’s great to have previous experience in childcare when applying for nursery jobs. It helps if you have some training or a Level 3 Qualification to get a nursery job, but some nurseries will take unqualified nursery assistants and train them as they work. 

A nursery assistant will generally be responsible for 3–8 children, depending on their age (three ‘babies’ under 2, four toddlers between 2–3, or eight children between 3–5). The average childcare places in nurseries across England come to 46 children per nursery, but busy settings could have over 100 children. 

Although it’s really rewarding–like most childcare jobs–it can also be stressful. If you have your own young children, you may or may not be able to bring them to work with you. If you do enrol them in the nursery you work at, the cost can outweigh your earnings.

What does a nursery room leader do?

After you have gained enough experience working with children, you can become a room leader. A room leader manages other nursery nurses in ‘their’ room. You will generally be paid more and have more responsibilities. In a large nursery it’s important to have room leaders—there are so many children to look after that it would be hard for a single manager to cope. A room leader usually has a Level 3 Qualification, and a lot of passion for early years development. Due to the minimal salary increase and the extra workload, many people pass on this promotion and just focus on spending time with the children. Still, being a room leader is a valuable experience if you intend to progress and become a nursery manager.

What does a nursery manager do?

A nursery manager’s job is running the nursery as a business. They deal with parents, budgets, and reports. They are in charge of recruiting and supervising nursery staff, and deal with Ofsted directly so that their staff doesn’t need to. They’ll alsowork with the owners of the nursery to make sure the nursery is a stimulating, safe environment for all the children who attend.

Nursery managers are often less involved with the children day to day as they spend so much time doing admin. Many nursery managers have degrees in early years’ childcare, childhood development, or related subjects. As a minimum they will need a Level 3 Qualification, but have usually worked with children for longer than a nursery nurse or room leader. A nursery manager has to be able to divide their attention between their staff, the children in their setting, and the parents. 

Working as a childminder

Work from home with smaller groups

A childminder looks after other people’s children in their own home. They often work by themselves, or with one or two assistants. A childminder can look after up to 6 children under the age of 8. 

Qualifications and training

You don’t need a great deal of previous experience or qualifications to become a childminder, though it’s always a plus. If you have the dedication to find and pay for the right courses, or join a childminding agency, you can get the training you need within 3 months. You can read about more about how to become a childminder here.

Control of the setting and routine

Childminders register directly with Ofsted or work with a childminding agency like Koru Kids. Since the setting is yours alone, you can arrange the play-zones, create a safe sleep-space, and give children a really welcoming and stimulating ‘home away from home’. You have more control over your own time, and your daily routine. You get to plan all the fun activities you do, in line with the Early Years Foundation Stages. 

Healthy body, healthy mind

If you are a childminder, you will most likely head out to local green areas with the children every day. If you become a childminder, we highly recommend bringing outdoor learning into your daily routine. It means more fresh air and open spaces for you than most nursery staff get! You will plan and prepare meals yourself, so you can provide tasty, healthy choices, and eat as a family around the table. You will also be safeguarding lead, and first aid lead.

Nursery jobs vs childminder salaries

What you can get paid as a nursery nurse or manager varies widely depending on the area you live in, your previous experience, and the nursery itself. In 2019, the average salary for a full time nursery nurse in the UK was £16,685. Starting around £11,000–£12,000 for a new nursery staff member, it could go as high as £26,000 for a senior nursery nurse. A nursery manager in the UK can expect to get paid on average £30,785, and work 5 days per week. 

A childminder is self-employed so has more control over their earnings. In the UK they can expect to earn on average £20,000–£30,000 when they work 5 days a week. Childminders also sort their own taxes, if they don’t work with a childminding agency that provides accountants.

If you work only 4 days per week and look after 3 children under 5, in inner London, you could expect to earn around £40,466. If you have a lot of childcare experience under your belt, and room in your home, you could take on an assistant and look after 6 children in total. In that case, you could earn up to £77,116 before tax, if you worked 5 full days per week. Salaries can vary between inner and outer London and beyond.

What’s right for me?

If you are leaving your nursery job to spend more time with your own children, or because the stress is too high, childminding could be the perfect career move. Perhaps you’re looking for ‘nursery jobs near me’—it doesn’t get closer than your own home! If you are exhausted managing nursery staff and parent queries in a large setting, becoming a childminder lets you use your experience and skills without that high stress. Many nursery practitioners also enjoy the autonomy that comes with childminding. Getting to set your own routines, and come up with activities that you know suit the children you are looking after, is a welcome change.


Not sure childminding is right for you?

If you’re not sure childminding is right for you, learn more about other childcare careers at Koru Kids.

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