What Qualifications Do You Need To Work In A Nursery? 

What Qualifications Do You Need To Work In A Nursery? 

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Having a career in nursery work requires more than just a natural passion for working with children…

Embarking on a career in nursery education involves a variety of roles and responsibilities aimed at fostering young children’s development. In this article, we will look into what qualifications do you need to work in a nursery in the UK, including the diverse positions from assistants to senior management. Furthermore, we’ll cover the day-to-day tasks, required skills, and the training necessary to thrive in this rewarding field. 

Career Overview

Nursery workers play a pivotal role in the early stages of a child’s development, providing care in nursery settings or preschools for children aged six weeks to five years. These professionals are instrumental in fostering social, emotional, educational, and practical growth in young minds. Understanding what qualifications you need to work in a nursery in the UK is vital for anyone considering this career path, as these credentials are crucial to ensuring the safety and well-being of children.

Day-to-Day Tasks

what qualifications do you need to work in a nursery day to day tasks

The daily responsibilities of nursery staff are diverse and impactful:

  • Organise activities such as arts and crafts, music, and cooking to stimulate learning and creativity.
  • Engage children in numeracy and language skills through interactive games.
  • Participation in singing, role play, and storytelling to improve social skills.
  • Manage routine care tasks like feeding, changing, and outing supervision.
  • Monitor the children’s environment to ensure their safety and observe their progress, often gathering detailed reports for parents.

Salary & Working Hours

A nursery worker’s salary varies by location and experience but typically ranges from £14,000 to £24,000 annually. Standard working hours are 38-40 per week, with the potential requirement of weekend shifts depending on the employer.

Potential Roles

The nursery environment offers various roles, each contributing uniquely to children’s education, including the following:

  • Nursery Assistant: Supports daily activities under the guidance of more experienced staff.
  • Team Leader/Senior Team Member: Manages small groups and coordinates activities.
  • Early Years Teacher: Focuses on educational programs for preschool aged children.
  • Nursery Manager: Oversees the operation of the facility, including staff management and curriculum implementation.
  • Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO): Addresses the needs of children with special requirements.

For further information regarding the early years sector, read our guide on how to become an early years teacher.

Working Life

what qualifications do you need to work in a nursery working life

Nursery nurses and assistants work in multiple environments:

  • They provide care in children’s wards, hospital nurseries, and community-based centres.
  • Work alongside health play staff, healthcare professionals, and social workers to offer thorough, expert care.

Staff in these roles ensure that environments are safe, engaging, and supportive of both developmental and healthcare needs. Nursery nurses might also take on additional responsibilities such as staff supervision, program coordination, and public health promotion.

Nursery professionals frequently collaborate with parents, carers, and a variety of health and education specialists to create a supportive and effective care environment. These interactions are crucial for developing specific care strategies that meet the individual needs of each child.

Entry Requirements 

To begin a career in childcare, specifically within a nursery setting, various entry requirements and qualifications must be met. For those wondering what qualifications do you need to work in a nursery in the UK, the criteria can vary depending on the specific role.

Here is the basis behind the criteria used when looking for appropriate nursery nurses:

  • Literacy and Numeracy: A good record of English and Maths skills, often demonstrated through GCSEs or equivalent qualifications, is essential.
  • Background Checks: A DBS check is mandatory to ensure the safety of children.
  • Experience: While not always mandatory, experience in childcare, whether through paid positions, volunteering, or family care, is beneficial to demonstrate your commitment to the role.
  • Childcare Qualifications: Some positions may require specific childcare qualifications, such as an NVQ or BTEC.

Nursery nurse qualifications required for the role include:

  • A Level 2 or Level 3 qualification in Childcare, such as the NCFE CACHE Level 3 Diploma in Child Care and Education or BTEC National Diploma in Children’s Care, Learning, and Development.
  • Certificates in first aid or food hygiene are often recommended or required.

What Qualifications Should I Consider?

When beginning your career, ensure any qualifications you consider are listed on the Early Years Qualifications List, verified as ‘full and relevant’ by the Sector Skills Councils. Before pursuing a Level 3 qualification, confirm it meets Ofsted requirements and includes ‘Early Years Educator’ in its title. We offer the following diploma and course options:

Here are some additional roles that you could consider within the industry if you would prefer a more professional role with further responsibilities: 

  • Room/Team Leader: Stepping into a supervisory role generally requires a Level 3 diploma in childcare.
  • Senior Management: Higher-level qualifications, such as a Level 4 diploma or above, are advisable, providing the skills necessary to manage a nursery and ensure compliance with health and safety regulations.

Skills Needed

Working in a nursery not only requires specific educational qualifications but also a particular set of skills and personal characteristics:

  • A caring nature is crucial for creating a nurturing environment for children.
  • Being able to engage children with imaginative activities helps stimulate their development.
  • Strong skills in both listening and speaking are necessary to effectively interact with children and their families.
  • The ability to observe and assess the needs of children is key to ensuring their proper development and safety.

It’s not just children that you will be working with, but with children and other childcare professionals too:

  • Nursery staff must collaborate with parents, carers, and other professionals to provide holistic care to children.
  • You should have a thorough understanding of child protection and safeguarding practices is essential to maintain a safe environment.

Every industry sector nurse has a specific colour – learn what each of the nurse uniform colour codes means in our guide on our blog.

Training and Development

training and development for what qualifications do you need to work in a nursery uk

Depending on your skill level as a nursery nurse, you will receive a certain degree of learning and training within your chosen establishment. Newcomers will receive initial training that covers nursery operations, safety protocols, and effective child interaction methods. You may also receive further  training in food hygiene, first aid, and safeguarding, equipping you to safely care for young children.

For those entering without formal qualifications, you will be encouraged to pursue further education such as NVQs, certificates, or diplomas in childcare. This education is crucial for meeting the necessary nursery nurse qualifications and advancing within the nursery field.

Can I Still Get A Job In A Nursery Without Qualifications?

Some employers may hire you without qualifications, but you will need to commit to training while working. Be aware that part-time courses often require attendance at evening classes, potentially up to two evenings per week for around a year.

What Should I Do If My Qualifications Are Outdated?

If you haven’t worked in the nursery sector recently, it’s crucial to verify whether your qualification is still recognised as relevant to modern standards. You can check the status of your qualification through the appropriate channels.

How Can I Gain Further Experience?

To remain current in industry knowledge, consider following nursery-led publications such as Nursery World, Practical Pre-school, or visit websites like the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years, Family and Childcare Trust, and the Early Years Foundation Stage Forum. Volunteering at local preschools, nurseries, or clubs can provide valuable, up-to-date experience and insight into local practices.

Can I Work Part-Time Within Nursery Care?

Yes, part-time positions are generally available, though the definition of part-time can vary, especially as many preschools offer extended days. Nurseries and out-of-school sectors like breakfast and after-school clubs or holiday play schemes often provide part-time opportunities. If you prefer setting your own schedule, consider becoming a self-employed childminder.

Pathway to Becoming an Early Educator

Becoming an Early Educator differs from traditional nursery roles as it doesn’t require formal qualifications. However, engaging in introductory childcare courses provides a solid base, covering key topics from the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) to food hygiene, beneficial for those new to childcare.

In conclusion, pursuing a career in nursery care in the UK requires a blend of formal qualifications, ongoing professional development, and personal traits geared towards child care. From initial safety training to advanced childcare qualifications, each step prepares individuals for a variety of roles within the nursery environment. Embracing these requirements not only enhances professional growth but also ensures the highest standard of care and education for the youngest members of our society.

Sometimes it’s worth knowing first hand experience of what it is like working in a nursery


Can I work in a nursery without qualifications?

Yes, you can work in a nursery without qualifications in some roles, such as an assistant position. However, specific training or qualifications may be required for career progression or to fulfil certain responsibilities.

Can unqualified staff work in a nursery?

Unqualified staff can work in nurseries, typically in support roles. They must be supervised by qualified staff, and many employers offer opportunities for on-the-job training and qualifications.

What qualities do you need to work in a nursery?

Working in a nursery requires patience, a caring and nurturing attitude, good communication skills, creativity, and the ability to work as part of a team. Being energetic and having a genuine interest in child development are also important qualities.


Nursery World. (2020) Home. [online] Available at: https://www.nurseryworld.co.uk/ [accessed 05/06/24]

Practical Pre-School Books. (2009) Home. [online] Available at: https://www.practicalpreschoolbooks.com/ [accessed 05/06/24]

Professional Association For Childcare And Early Years. (2013) Homepage. [online] Available at: https://www.pacey.org.uk/ [accessed 05/06/24]

Family and Childcare Trust. (2013) Homepage. [online] Available at: https://www.familyandchildcaretrust.org/ [accessed 05/06/24]

The Foundation Stage Forum Community. (2011) Welcome to the FSF. [online] Available at: https://eyfs.info/ [accessed 05/06/24]

Momentum Careers Advice. (2012)  The Monday Interview – “So, what’s it really like working as a… nursery nurse?” [online] Available at: https://www.momentumcareersadvice.com/the-monday-interview-so-whats-it-really-like-working-as-a-nursery-nurse/ [accessed 05/06/24] 

Nick Cooper
Nick is NCC's resident blog author and covers a range of subjects, including teaching and health & social care. NCC is an international learning provider with over 20 years’ experience offering learning solutions. To date, NCC has engaged with over 20,000 employers, and delivered quality training to over half a million learners.
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