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.

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Angela Medellin
Meet the Expert

Angela Medellin



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

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

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?

The most rewarding part about being a play therapist is being able to positively affect change in a child’s life. I find it truly rewarding when I get to be a part of the healing and growth process for children. It’s such a joyful experience when you hear a child say they no longer worry about the thing that brought them to therapy, or to hear a parent say, “Thank you for helping my child succeed.”

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

One of the challenges I find most difficult about working with children is hearing some of the traumatic experiences they have gone through at such a young age. Working through issues of grief and loss, and abuse and neglect can sometimes be emotionally draining. I also find that sometimes it can be challenging working with high conflict or divorced parents that don’t see how their behavior towards each other is affecting their children.

How do you address these challenges?

Self-care is very important to me. When working with trauma, I know that I need to be able to separate myself from the trauma if I am going to be an effective play therapist. Not taking things home with me at the end of the day is something that I continue to learn and grow into as my role of being a child therapist. In terms of working with high conflict families, I try my best to educate and support them and help them reach an understanding in the hopes that they can be an effective co-parenting family.

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

The career is very rewarding and fun. But you do need to be certain that you want to work with children because many of the classes in your program of study and working towards becoming a play therapist will be geared towards child and adolescent mental health disorders. I would recommend volunteering in a local child advocacy center or children’s center if possible, to see if this something you ultimately want to pursue. Enroll in an online CE to see if this is something that interests you and something you can see doing for a long time.

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)
  • Est. National Job Growth (2018-2028)
  • 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)
  • Est. National Job Growth (2018-2028)
  • 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)
  • Est. National Job Growth (2018-2028)
  • 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)
  • Est. National Job Growth (2018-2028)
  • 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)
  • Est. National Job Growth (2018-2028)
  • 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