Careers Working with Children

Children are the future of our communities, so those who want to devote their career to shaping young minds and helping kids become productive adults have an extremely important and rewarding role to play. From helping special needs children to teaching elementary school to working in pediatric medicine, there are many different career paths where you can make a positive and lasting difference in children’s lives. See if a career working with children is right for you, explore some of the most popular jobs and industries where kids come first, and get a first-hand account of what it’s like to work with children in our expert interview.

Meet the Expert
Angela-Medellin
Angela Medellin

Licensed Professional
Counselor & Registered
Play Therapist

View Bio

Angela Medellin is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Registered Play Therapist. She is co-owner of Mind Works Clinical and Counseling Psychology, a private practice for children and families in San Antonio, Texas. She specializes in the treatment of mental health disorders in children ages three and up. She is passionate about helping children and families succeed and receive the best care and support possible. She actively engages others in the profession by providing supervision and mentorship. She is also a strong advocate in her profession and volunteers her time on her state board as the Secretary for The Texas Association for Play Therapy. She enjoys spending quality time with her family, beach getaways, and trying new food. For more information check out her website at www.mindworkstx.com.

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Are You a Good Match for a Career Working with Children?

Although careers working with children can be incredibly rewarding, they aren’t for everybody. Use the following guidelines to get a sense of whether kid-focused careers are a good match for you.

Working with Children May Be Right for You If …

You enjoy being kept on your toes

Children are unpredictable, so working with them requires the ability to effectively handle unexpected situations that will inevitably arise. As a result, workers need to be flexible and effective at thinking on their feet.

You are energetic

Children (especially young children) tend to be active and boisterous, so you should also be energetic in order to keep up with them since they may have a hard time sitting still.

You can stay calm and level-headed

Working with children can be frustrating at times. If you choose to pursue a career working with them, you have to be able to keep your composure in stressful situations, as well as during emergencies.

You connect to your inner child

Children are filled with creativity and imagination, so in order to work well with them, you should be able to channel to the carefree, childlike part of yourself.

You love spending time with children

All of the preparation and training in the world won’t matter if you don’t truly love spending time with children. To be successful in careers working with children, you have to enjoy being around them all day—even when they’re challenging and frustrating you.

You May Want to Choose a Different Career Path if …

You are not a patient person

Relating to children is nothing like relating to adults. Workers who deal with children need the patience to explain the same thing over and over, deal with mood swings regularly, and fight against short attention spans.

You think children are all the same

Although you will be trained on the best practices of your profession, you will have to tailor what you know to individual children. You can’t succeed in these jobs if you expect all children to have the same skills, needs, and personality.

You have difficulty multitasking

Working with children can sometimes be chaotic and you have to be able to effectively juggle many tasks at once.

You can’t hide your frustration

You will have frustrating days when you work with children, but you have to be able to hide it while you’re on the job. If you can’t put on your best poker face, it’s going to cause problems.

You’re not interested in lifelong learning

No matter which career you choose, it’s important that you keep your skills sharp and knowledge current when you’re working with children. If you’re not prepared to continuously learn long after you’ve earned your degree, this may not be the right path for you.

Expert Perspective: A Day in the Life of Working with Children

Angela-Medellin

Angela Medellin

Licensed Professional
Counselor & Registered
Play Therapist

Angela Medellin is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Registered Play Therapist. She is co-owner of Mind Works Clinical and Counseling Psychology, a private practice for children and families in San Antonio, Texas. She specializes in the treatment of mental health disorders in children ages three and up. She is passionate about helping children and families succeed and receive the best care and support possible. She actively engages others in the profession by providing supervision and mentorship. She is also a strong advocate in her profession and volunteers her time on her state board as the Secretary for The Texas Association for Play Therapy. She enjoys spending quality time with her family, beach getaways, and trying new food. For more information check out her website at www.mindworkstx.com.

What made you decide to pursue a career working with children?

I decided to pursue a career as a play therapist because I wanted to make an impact at an early age. I began to learn about the importance of early intervention and treatment and began to explore the educational requirements for becoming a play therapist.

What do you find most rewarding about your career?

What are some of the challenges you face working with children?

How do you address these challenges?

What advice would you give to people considering a career working with children?

15 Standout Careers Working with Children

There are many ways that people can apply their interest in working with children to a career path, whether they want to work in education, psychology, medicine, or another field. The following list highlights some of the top careers working with children. Learn more about what these professionals do every day, as well as how to train for these jobs and the salaries they command.

Note: Salary, job growth, and other career details are based on information provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s Occupational Outlook Handbook.

Early Childhood Education and Development

Preschool Teacher

Since preschool teachers are working with children during their first exposure to education, these professionals play a huge role in shaping their relationship to learning. Thanks to preschool teachers, early learners become familiar with letters, numbers, colors, and shapes, as well as play and problem-solving skills. Also, preschool teachers are responsible for helping children develop the social skills needed to get along with peers from diverse backgrounds, so they learn from a young age how to communicate with people from different races, religions, or cultures.

  • Typical Education Required
    Bachelor’s degree in early childhood education
  • State License Required?
    Those who work in public schools are required to receive an early childhood education license.
  • Median National Salary (2018)
    $29,780
  • Est. National Job Growth (2018-2028)
    7%
  • Similar Careers
    Childcare Worker, Kindergarten and Elementary School Teacher, Special Education Teacher

Preschool or Childcare Center Director

Positions for preschool and childhood center directors are expected to grow faster than the national average of all professions because the number of children under the age of five is projected to increase in the coming years. As a result, the importance of these professionals is expected to grow in the community—whether they run preschools or childcare centers. People in both of these roles are responsible for supervising the daily activities of teachers, hiring and onboarding all staff members, developing the programs teachers use to educate the children in their care, and handling the organization’s funds.

  • Typical Education Required
    Bachelor’s degree in early childhood education
  • State License Required?
    Depending on the state, these professionals may be required to obtain a license. Also, some employers may require that workers earn a certification from the Council for Professional Recognition.
  • Median National Salary (2018)
    $47,940
  • Est. National Job Growth (2018-2028)
    7%
  • Similar Careers
    Elementary, Middle, and High School Principal, Kindergarten and Elementary School Teacher, Preschool Teacher

Elementary Education

Elementary School Counselor

Elementary school counselors help young children develop the key skills they need to use throughout their educational careers—such as self-management, decision making, social, and study skills. In addition, these professionals are responsible for working closely with parents in order to address problems like learning disabilities or behavioral issues. They also use their observations of students to help contribute to the curriculum a school develops, which ensures that students’ academic and developmental needs are met in the classroom.

  • Typical Education Required
    Master’s degree in school counseling or related field
  • State License Required?
    Yes, counselors who work at public schools are expected to earn a state license, endorsement, or certification.
  • Median National Salary (2018)
    $56,310
  • Est. National Job Growth (2018-2028)
    8%
  • Similar Careers
    High School Teacher, Kindergarten and Elementary School Teacher, Psychologist

Elementary School Teacher

Like preschool teachers, elementary school teachers help to set the tone for children’s educational future. Through a combination of pedagogical expertise and empathy, these professionals create grade-appropriate lesson plans that teach reading, mathematics, and science; assign and grade homework; observe students to determine their strengths and weaknesses; and give students individual instruction as needed. In addition, elementary school teachers communicate with parents about their child’s performance and give them guidance on what they can do at home to help the student.

  • Typical Education Required
    Bachelor’s degree in elementary education
  • State License Required?
    Yes, a license or certification is required for the specific grade level being taught.
  • Median National Salary (2018)
    $57,980
  • Est. National Job Growth (2018-2028)
    3%
  • Similar Careers
    Career and Technical Education Teacher, Librarian, Elementary, Middle, and High School Principal

Elementary School Principal

From what is taught in the classroom to how funds are spent, elementary school principals oversee how their school is run on a daily basis. In order to do this, they create and manage class schedules, develop and implement a classroom curriculum, discipline students, and order supplies. In addition, these professionals work closely with teachers to ensure that they are effectively managing their classrooms, which may include observation and analysis, as well as the creation of professional development opportunities.

  • Typical Education Required
    Master’s degree
  • State License Required?
    Public elementary school principals must have a school administration license from their state.
  • Median National Salary (2018)
    $95,310
  • Est. National Job Growth (2018-2028)
    4%
  • Similar Careers
    High School Teacher, Instructional Coordinator, Postsecondary Education Administrator

Special Needs Children

Special Education Teacher

Special education teachers need a specialized set of skills in their teaching toolbox in order to work with children who are living with physical, mental, and emotional disabilities. These children need learning environments that appropriately address the challenges they face, so special education teachers are required to assess the skills of their students to determine what they need, create and implement Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) that meet these needs, and provide small group and one-on-one instruction. Also, special education teachers prepare students for a smooth transition from one grade to the next, so they can successfully handle life inside and outside of the classroom.

  • Typical Education Required
    Bachelor’s degree with major or minor in special education.
  • State License Required?
    Yes, a license or certification is required for the specific grade level being taught.
  • Median National Salary (2018)
    Kindergarten and Elementary School Special Education Teachers: $59,390
    Preschool Special Education Teachers: $55,840
  • Est. National Job Growth (2018-2028)
    Kindergarten and Elementary School Special Education Teachers: 3%
    Preschool Special Education Teachers: 8%
  • Similar Careers
    Childcare Worker, Kindergarten and Elementary School Teacher, Teacher Assistant

Child Psychologist

Whether patients need help coping with the loss of a parent or dealing with the day-to-day challenges associated with a mental illness, child psychologists perform assessments in order to determine what kind of help children need, execute the treatment plan, and adjust it as necessary. These professionals generally work with patients on an ongoing, longer-term basis that school psychologists do and their duties include conducting clinical interviews, working with parents to create the best treatment plan for the child, and observing patient behavior. In addition, some child psychologists conduct research and publish their findings in academic journals.

  • Typical Education Required
    Doctoral degree in psychology (PhD or PsyD)
  • State License Required?
    Yes
  • Median National Salary (2018)
    $76,990
  • Est. National Job Growth (2018-2028)
    15%
  • Similar Careers
    Marriage and Family Therapist, School and Career Counselor, Social Worker

Pediatric Occupational Therapist

Pediatric occupational therapists help children with various issues, such as problems with motor skills, cognitive development, and sensory integration, develop the tools they need to perform daily activities. Through this work, children are able to learn daily activities that they may have challenges with, such as brushing their teeth, bathing, self-feeding, and getting dressed. In addition to basic self-care tasks, these professionals work with children to develop social and play skills by participating in crafts and board games.

  • Typical Education Required
    Master’s degree in occupational therapy
  • State License Required?
    Yes
  • Median National Salary (2018)
    $84,270
  • Est. National Job Growth (2018-2028)
    18%
  • Similar Careers
    Pediatric Occupational Therapy Assistant, Pediatric Physical Therapist, Pediatric Physical Therapist Assistant

Child Social Services

Child Welfare Social Worker

Child welfare social workers help children who are in dire and dangerous situations, such as those who live in abusive or neglectful households. In order to ensure that the children they work with are safe, they investigate abuse and neglect claims, provide assessments, conduct home visits to check on the welfare of the children, and make arrangements to have them removed from the home if needed. This is a high-pressure position that requires professionals to maintain comprehensive files on their clients and communicate effectively in volatile situations.

  • Typical Education Required
    Master’s degree in social work
  • State License Required?
    Yes
  • Median National Salary (2018)
    $46,270
  • Est. National Job Growth (2018-2028)
    7%
  • Similar Careers
    Psychologist, Social and Human Service Assistant, School and Career Counselor

School Social Worker

School social workers act in concert with educators to ensure that students can thrive developmentally and academically. In order to do this, school social workers conduct assessments on students who are having frequent absences, are the victims of bullying, are suffering from depression or suicidal ideation, or exhibiting aggressive behavior. In addition, they assist students who come from families that need services like food stamps and housing. They may also provide feedback on educational programs to ensure that children with special needs are getting classroom instruction that is appropriate for their specific challenges.

  • Typical Education Required
    Master’s degree in social work
  • State License Required?
    Yes, professionals should have a license or certification from their state.
  • Median National Salary (2018)
    $46,270
  • Est. National Job Growth (2018-2028)
    7%
  • Similar Careers
    Health Educator and Community Health Worker, Social and Human Service Assistant, Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselor

Healthcare & Medicine

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

Pediatric nurse practitioners deliver primary and preventive care to children. They offer a wide array of services to their patients, including administering required immunizations, performing school physicals, prescribing medications, and providing developmental screenings. In order to be successful in this career, professionals need strong critical thinking, assessment, detail orientation, and communication skills, as well as the patience and compassion needed to successfully work with sick children and their worried parents.

  • Typical Education Required
    Master’s degree in nursing
  • State License Required?
    Pediatric nurse practitioners are required to have a state license.
  • Median National Salary (2018)
    $107,030
  • Est. National Job Growth (2018-2028)
    28%
  • Similar Careers
    Occupational Therapist, Registered Nurse, Physical Therapist

School Nurse

These nursing professionals support school districts by working with children when they experience an injury or illness at school. Their duties include providing wound care, scoliosis screenings, medications, CPR, and mental health treatments. In addition, school nurses help parents obtain health insurance as needed, create and maintain medical records, develop health education classes, and contact parents about emergencies or continuous illnesses.

  • Typical Education Required
    Bachelor’s degree in nursing
  • State License Required?
    Yes, a nursing license is required in order to work as a school nurse.
  • Median National Salary (2018)
    $71,730
  • Est. National Job Growth (2018-2028)
    12%
  • Similar Careers
    Physician Assistant, Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurse, Respiratory Therapist

Pediatric Medical Assistant

These workers provide care for children under the supervision of a pediatrician. Job duties include taking vital signs, getting patient history and keeping medical records up to date, scheduling appointments, and assisting with examinations. In addition, some pediatric medical assistants may be able to provide medication or injections, depending on what their state legally allows.

  • Typical Education Required
    Medical assisting certificate or diploma
  • State License Required?
    Although pediatric medical assistants are not required to have a license, some employers may favor candidates who have earned a voluntary certification.
  • Median National Salary (2018)
    $33,610
  • Est. National Job Growth (2018-2028)
    23%
  • Similar Careers
    Dental Assistant, Occupational Therapy Assistant and Aide, Nursing Assistant and Orderly

Recreation

Camp Counselor

Camp counselors care for children and help them make fun memories during their summer vacations. Employed at day or sleepaway camps, these professionals are responsible for leading different activities, including swimming, hiking, horseback riding, boating, music, and drama. In addition, camp counselors keep children safe during emergencies, such as fires, and are trained to provide first aid and CPR.

  • Typical Education Required
    High school diploma or equivalent
  • State License Required?
    Employers may require camp counselors to obtain voluntary certification in order to land a job.
  • Median National Salary (2018)
    $25,060
  • Est. National Job Growth (2018-2028)
    8%
  • Similar Careers
    Activities Director, Recreation Supervisor

Physical Education Teacher

These teachers promote physical fitness among children by giving them the chance to participate in activities such as basketball, swimming, volleyball, aerobics, running, gymnastics and dance. In addition, physical education teachers may provide instruction on health-related topics, such as sex education, drug prevention, personal safety, and nutrition.

  • Typical Education Required
    Bachelor’s degree in physical education
  • State License Required?
    Those who teach in public schools are required to earn a license.
  • Median National Salary (2018)
    $57,980
  • Est. National Job Growth (2018-2028)
    3%
  • Similar Careers
    Recreation Coordinator, Recreational Therapist

Volunteering: Another Way to Support Children

In some cases, people who want to contribute to the development of children prefer to do so on a volunteer basis, rather than devoting their career to this kind of work. Volunteering can also be a great way to test the waters to see if a career working with children could be a good fit. Volunteering with children can include spending free time tutoring children, assisting with an after-school program, or babysitting young children at a church. Get more ideas by reading our complete guide to volunteering with kids.