Teaching Careers Updated November 19, 2019

Infant and Toddler Teacher – Job Description and Outlook

By Robbie Bruens October 4, 2012

Young children are naturally curious, creative, energetic, and eager to learn. They need the guidance and support of committed adults to ignite their potential and give them the opportunity to succeed. Parents are a big part of the equation, but great teachers are just as important in guiding them through childhood.

Motivated, passionate teachers and caregivers greatly enhance the happiness, intelligence, and future success of infants and toddlers. Becoming an infant and toddler teacher is a terrific way to make a real impact on the world and get your foot in the door of an education system that grows more important every day.

At-a-glance: Infant and toddler teachers

Infant and toddler teacher job description

Infant and toddler teachers aid in the cognitive and social development of preschoolers. Working with children through age 5, they must teach the most basic social skills focusing on play-centered learning and creativity rather than intense curricular standards.

Typical duties:

While the activities vary, infant and toddler teachers focus primarily on teaching children to share, express themselves, communicate, and collaborate well with others, follow their curiosity, and further their language and vocabulary development.

Other day-to-day duties can include:

  • Teaching basic skills such as color, shape, numbers, and letter recognition
  • Planning and carrying out curriculum
  • Helping children develop positive self-images and experience success
  • Encouraging the exploration of interests and developmental social skills
  • Developing schedules and routines ensuring physical activity, rest, and playtime
  • Teaching children how to play fairly with others
  • Disciplining bad behavior and rewarding good behavior
  • Observing, assessing, and documenting each assigned child’s health, skills, behavior, growth, and development
  • Identifying any physical or mental development concerns in assigned children
  • Meeting with parents to discuss concerns
  • Optimizing children’s developmental, intellectual, and social achievements in class activities
  • Providing leadership and guidance to other staff and colleagues
  • Creating and leading a supportive, nurturing learning environment that encourages responsibility and motivation

Who makes a good infant and toddler teacher?

Someone who is:

  • Excited by the learning of young children
  • Empathetic and caring
  • Patient and kind
  • Good at planning and organizing
  • Creative and flexible
  • Enthusiastic about learning
  • Passionate yet pragmatic
  • Full of energy
  • Able to have a sense of humor yet remain respectful of differences
  • Willing to take risks for the sake of the children
  • Knowledgeable in child development and milestones associated with each age group
  • Qualified with the proper credentials and degrees

Infant and toddler teachers in-depth

Teaching in various environments

Infant and toddler teachers supervise, educate, and inspire children every day. Very young children need an enormous amount of care and attention to learn and develop appropriately. Infant and toddler teachers look after children, help them to learn and socialize, and supervise their play and activities.

Infant and toddler teachers lead the educational and social development of these young children in varying working environments.

Infant and toddler teachers most often work in:

  • Public preschool programs
  • Private preschool programs
  • Head Start programs
  • Child care centers
  • Family child care homes
  • Private residences

Preschool teachers

Preschool teachers usually work within a school district and educate children between the ages of two and five enrolled in PreK programs. Preschool teachers tend to be more closely in line with the elementary school program, preparing their students for the rigors of kindergarten. They plan each day to give children opportunities to express themselves and learn basic skills in reading, writing, and social interaction.

Early childhood education teachers and specialists

Early childhood education (ECE) specialists work closely with young children, from toddlers to children up to six years of age, empowering them to reach important developmental milestones. ECE specialists educate their young pupils in a range of subjects, including early literacy, math, science, and civics knowledge. They are also expected to teach children to care for themselves and behave properly in social and academic situations.

While early childhood education teachers may work in public or private schools, they also teach in child care centers or private residences. Besides working with young children, ECE specialists will need to work with parents or family members closely to monitor the progress of children.

In addition to classroom teaching, ECE specialists may work as administrators. People in this role also work closely with their students’ parents, other teachers, and caregivers.

Child care workers

Parents rely on child care workers to provide care and instruction to their children, usually within the home. Working with children of multiple ages, child care workers help children learn and discover and protect them from getting hurt. Caregivers often feed and bathe children, as well as supervise their playtime. They also teach basic social and language skills.

Some child care workers’ jobs are similar to those of nannies. They provide care throughout the day or for specified hours during evenings and weekends. Some caregivers live in the home of the family for whom they work, and are responsible for preparing meals, driving children to activities, and doing household chores.

Unlike preschool teachers or early childhood education teachers and specialists, child care workers may continue to work with children and families after the children begin school.

Educational and certification requirements

  • Education: High school diploma, bachelor’s, CDA, or master’s degree
  • Typical study time: 2-6 years

As infant and toddler education programs can be privately run, operated by local school systems, or through a federally funded program, it is important to find the educational and licensing requirements appropriate for each institution.

To become an infant and toddler teacher, a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or a child development associate (CDA) certificate (or an equivalent certification) is necessary. It’s usually helpful to have a degree in education or another relevant field like child psychology.

Many preschool programs place a high priority on hiring people with an advanced degree and prior teaching and/or child care experience.

For early childhood education specialists, a master’s degree is preferred. The appropriate type of master’s degree can depend on the emphasis within the ECE programs being considered, as well as state requirements and professional development goals.

Child care workers and caregivers who work in positions for a family, or within a home may not have to fulfill the same requirements. However, employers (such as child care agencies) may require child care workers to have a certification in early childhood education. States may require child care workers to complete formal child development training to work in a licensed facility.

Concordia University-Portland offers a variety of degrees specializing in teaching infants and toddlers.

Certification and licensing

Certification and licensing requirements vary from state to state and differ within public and private school, center-based, or home-based settings.

In public schools, preschool teachers and early childhood education teachers are required to have a teaching license for early childhood education. In many cases, they must pass an exam to demonstrate competency.

Many private preschools and child care centers may accept the certified child care professional (CCP) designation offered by the National Early Childhood Program or a child development associate (CDA) credential.

Salary range and employment projection for infant and toddler teachers

Salary ranges for infant and toddler teachers can vary, depending on the state and environment of employment as well as experience and degree. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states the median annual salary for infant and toddler teachers at the preschool level is $29,780. The lowest 10% earn less than $20,610 and the highest 10% earn $55,350. Child care workers’ median salary is stated as $23,240, the equivalent of roughly $11.17 per hour. The lowest 10% of child care workers earn less than $8.53 per hour and the highest 10% earn more than $16.55 per hour.

According to ZipRecruiter.com, the average pay for beginning preschool or early childhood education teachers varies from $22,579 to $31,902. The average pay for child care workers varies from $17,182 to $24,277.

Here is a snapshot of average preschool and early childhood education teacher salaries:

  • Glassdoor.com: $ 37,501
  • Payscale.com: $36, 310
  • ZipRecruiter.com: $29,152
  • Salary.com: $32,871

Here is a snapshot of average child care worker salaries:

  • Payscale.com: $10.06 per hour; $30,667 annually
  • Glassdoor.com: $24,887
  • ZipRecruiter.com: $22,184

The BLS states the employment of infant and toddler teachers will grow 7% from 2018 to 2028. The employment of child care workers is expected to grow 2% from 2018 to 2028. Parents that work will continue to require infant and toddler teachers, as well as child care workers. In addition, the demand for these teachers will continue as early childhood education is widely recognized for its importance in childhood intellectual and emotional development.

Advantages and disadvantages


  • Influence the lives of young children in a substantial way
  • Experience the creativity and curiosity of young children firsthand
  • Frequently get to work one-on-one with kids
  • Play a formative role in the shaping of young minds
  • Be creative by trying out new teaching methods
  • Witness understanding and creative play
  • Continue to learn and experience life with young minds
  • Variety in every day
  • Stay young through play


  • Caring for large groups of children is an enormous responsibility that causes considerable stress
  • Salary lags behind other jobs in the education field
  • The job can be exhausting and stressful at times
  • Physically demanding: being on your feet all day, bending down, and lifting students
  • Limited contact with adults
  • Emotionally taxing to keep desires and emotions in check and appropriate
  • Lots of prep time necessary for instruction
  • Long days that typically go beyond the school day

Professional development for infant and toddler teachers

Continuing education is the best way to stay on top of current best practices and continue the pursuit of being an effective and qualified infant and toddler teacher.

Many early childhood professional organizations provide continuing education opportunities through workshops, conferences, and online classes. When infant and toddler teachers pursue educational opportunities, both teachers and students win.

Infant and toddler teachers with more education and advanced degrees earn more than those without them. With advanced education, one can expect to expand employment opportunities and earning power. By earning a master’s degree, employment in other career tracks within education and child care sector is possible.

Professional Associations for infant and toddler teachers

Best of the web

The internet makes it easy for us to stay connected to prominent infant and toddler teachers and resources. Here is a list of some of our favorites.

Favorite infant and toddler teacher websites and blogs

Favorite infant and toddler teacher Twitter and Instagram feeds to follow

Learn More: Click to view related resources.

You may also like to read

Request FREE Info About Our 100% Online MEd and EdD Programs


Request FREE Info About Our 100% Online MEd and EdD Programs


Request FREE Info About Our 100% Online MEd and EdD Programs

Yes! By clicking “Send me info”, I consent to receive e-mail, text messages, and calls on behalf of Concordia University-Portland about its degree programs and its admissions process, at the telephone number and email address I entered above. I agree that automated technology may be used to text or dial the number I provided, and understand my consent to receive these communications is not a condition of purchase. Message frequency varies. Message and data rates may apply. Reply STOP to cancel and HELP for help text messages. Read our Mobile Terms and Privacy Policy.