Working with children

Emma Knowles, Editor
October, 2018

Patience, adaptability and creativity are just some of the skills you'll need to work with children - discover the range of opportunities available to graduates with the right qualifications and experience

Whether you want to work with early years (pre-school), children (school age), young people (teenagers) or families, jobs are available in the public, private or not-for-profit sectors.

You'll need the required qualifications and a significant amount of work experience to be successful. You'll also need to undergo security checks and keep your professional development up to date through relevant training.

Read on to discover how to secure a job working with children.

Jobs with children

The main sectors that employ people to work with children include the charity and voluntary work, healthcare, social care and teaching and education sectors. However, jobs with children are available in other industries such as law, leisure, sport and tourism and public services and administration, where you could become a family lawyer, sports coach or children's librarian respectively.

Working in the voluntary sector you could become a project worker, therapist, protection officer or support worker for charities such as Barnardo's, Action for Children and The Children's Society.

The healthcare sector provides a number of opportunities when it comes to jobs with children including children's nurse, health visitor, paediatrician and speech and language therapist. Within social care you could work as a:

Unsurprisingly the teaching and education sector can offer a variety of opportunities to work with children. You could become a:

The majority of jobs with children require candidates to undergo a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check, which helps employers to protect vulnerable groups and make safer recruitment decisions. As part of the DBS check your criminal record history is accessed and you're checked against a list of named individuals who have harmed, or pose a risk of harm, to vulnerable people and are barred from working with them. Once cleared you will receive a DBS certificate.

Childcare qualifications

Nursing, social work and teaching are all graduate jobs, and you'll need a specific degree, either at undergraduate or Masters level to enter these professions.

If you know that you'd like to work with children but would prefer to keep your career options open, a more general degree may suit you. University of South Wales and University of Bradford are just two institutions offering first-degree courses in working with children and young people. Blending theory with practice, these programmes prepare you for a career working with children in a variety of settings and roles.

At postgraduate level, Anglia Ruskin University and the University of Cumbria offer full and part-time courses in Children and Young People, and Working with Children, Adolescents and Families respectively. These programmes are designed to prepare graduates for careers working with children in a range of industries including education, healthcare and social care.

Do some research - find out more about Masters degrees and search postgraduate courses to find a programme that meets your career needs.

Vocational courses, such as CACHE (Council for Awards in Care, Health and Education) qualifications, are available from Entry Level to Level 5 (for experienced professionals). CACHE qualifications are well known and widely respected throughout the childcare industry. Their Children and Young People programmes cover a range of topics, including Supporting Individuals with Learning Disabilities, Paediatric First Aid and Residential Childcare.

Work experience with children

Relevant work experience will give you a distinct advantage when applying for a place on a postgraduate course or for a job.

There are a huge number of volunteering opportunities that involve working with children. You could give your time to local sports, activity or youth clubs, work at after-school, summer or holiday clubs or get involved in community play schemes. You could also volunteer in schools and shadow teachers, assistants and admin staff or become a reading mentor.

Volunteering at children's centres, children's hospices and on hospital children's wards, or donating your time to charities such as Barnardo's, ChildLine and the NSPCC are some other options.

To gain a placement utilise your contacts and apply speculatively to local organisations and groups. Search for volunteering opportunities at:


Not everyone has the necessary skills or personality to deal with the high levels of demand in a career working with children. To be successful, you'll need:

  • a caring and patient nature
  • excellent communication skills including written, verbal and listening ability
  • the ability to work as part of a team
  • the capacity to think on your feet and stay calm in stressful situations
  • leadership skills
  • adaptability
  • imagination and creativity
  • problem-solving ability
  • good organisational and time management skills
  • enthusiasm
  • resilience
  • a non-judgemental approach and respect for diversity
  • a professional attitude to work
  • a strong regard for health and safety - a first aid certificate is useful.


Continuing professional development is essential when working with children. It's vital that you work hard to keep your skills and knowledge up to date in order to progress throughout your career.

A number of organisations provide further training opportunities. Local councils offer a range of courses for all staff working within Children's Services. Training can cover first aid, health and safety, information management, leadership and management and special educational needs (SEN).

City and Guilds offers a suite of training courses for those working with children, including qualifications in youth work, youth justice, parenting services and childcare. For more information, see City and Guilds - Children.

Children's charities, such as Barnardo's and NSPCC, provide training in child protection, safer recruitment, working with children and young people and safeguarding.

All organisations that work or come in to contact with children will have safeguarding policies and procedures in place to ensure that children are protected from harm. Because of this, safeguarding is an important aspect of any job that concerns working with children - if your qualifications haven't touched on this, completing additional training will be useful.

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