11.02.2016  Hilde von Balluseck

Professions and professional training for early education

For a job in early qualification not only formal qualifications are required.

Personal approach and qualification

Anyone wanting to learn and practise a profession in the field of early education has to like children, of course. But that alone is not sufficient for the job. There are also personality traits necessary which are difficult to learn. Therefore you should reflect thoroughly when deciding for one of the professions described. Here are some tips you should consider. 
  • Working with children requires treating them as equals, valuing their own personalities. Authoritarian behaviour (like “I’ll tell you what’s what” or “It’s me who’s always right”) is out.  
  • You must be physically able to tolerate noise because children make noise and sometimes they must be allowed to do so.
  • You should not go into such a profession primarily to solve your own problems, otherwise you will not be capable of responding to their individual needs.
  • You must be inquisitive; otherwise you will not understand children who virtually burst with curiosity. Only if you are open to new questions, will you be able to find more or less surprising solutions with children.
  • It is equally important for boys and girls to have male role models, so if you are male and have always been interested in working with  children, you should consider one of the professions described. Men in day care centres, in primary schools, in open child work – this will be a project for the future. However you should appreciate women as potential colleagues, not to be intimidated by them but enjoy working with them because for the time being most of the professionals in day care centres and primary schools are women.
  • Now some words concerning a sensitive topic. Pedophilia is a sexual orientation in which adults, mostly men, find children sexually desireable. Most pedophiles can develop adult sexual relationships. However 1% of men suffer from a primary pedophile orientation, i.e. they will not find gratification through sexual contacts with people in their own age group. Nobody who suffers from this innate sexual orientation is guilty per se. However pedophiles must not be working with children.
Fulfilling the personal requirements mentioned, you will have the best qualifications for finding an exciting and fulfilling job.

Fields of activity and professions I : Child and Youth Care Services

Nursery day care

Vocational training
Childminders must demonstrate a good knowledge of the requirements of nursery day care, acquired e.g. through further training. These trainings are financially sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Seniors, Women and Youth and by the job centres.
A childminder arranged by the youth welfare office gets a compensation including:
  • material costs for the child
  • a certain sum to acknowledge the performance of development
  • work injury benefits
  • social security and health insurance
 The amount is different in the federal states and municipalities.
On 1 March 2014 147,507 children were placed with 44,860 childminders, of which 101,132 were under three years of age. (Fachkräftebarometer 2014, S. 14)
Day care centre
There are educational professionals with various qualifications working together in day care centres. They are all guided by the federal state educational programmes for this educational venue, which stipulate the skills that should be taught to children in day care centres and which values educational professionals should orientate themselves towards (
Basically all the professionals do the same work when it comes to educating children, but there are differences. For example some professionals are not allowed to lead a group but need a better-trained colleague to work with. Talks with parents about the development of their children require a higher qualification, which not all professionals have acquired.

Social assistant/childcare assistant

Training is provided at vocational schools or at vocational colleges. A three-year training requires a secondary modern school qualification  and a two-year training requires a secondary school degree. The work consists of taking care of children and people with disability. Social assistants and childcare assistants are also employed in day care centres for children in some but not all federal states (link: Other places include:
  • nurseries and day centres
  • homes for children or for people with disability
  • all-day schools
  • private households (with small children) 
  • recreation and holiday
  • children’s hospitals and pediatric clinics
On 1 March 2014 60,709 childcare assistants and 5,337 social assistants worked in day care centres and day homes for school children. Furthermore 7140 remedial teachers worked as part of the educational staff (Fachkräftebarometer 2014, S. 33).
The salaries for social assistants differ from different federal states and lie between  € 1,259 and € 3.151 (
The starting salary for childcare assistants is between  € 1,400 and € 1,800 (
State-certified child care worker
child care workers look after and give children and adolescents support. They work mostly in childcare facilities, for example in municipal and church kindergartens, nurseries, school and company kindergartens as well as in after-school care centres and homes for children and adolescents. They are also active in educational homes for adolescents, youth centres, counselling centres for families or addicts, day care centres, homes for people with disability and in ambulatory social services. Further employment opportunities are provided in children’s hospitals, religiously affiliated child care, primary schools, special needs schools, boarding schools, youth organizations and interest groups as well as recreation and holiday homes.
Federal states have different requirements for training youth/child care workers. The Weiterbildungsinitiative, a state-funded organization for further training describes the entrance requirements and the training conditions for vocational schools as well as for professional schools for social education and universities in each federal state. (visit then click ‘Alle Anbietertypen’. For more information visit
On 1 March 2014 there were 354,530 state-certified child care workers working in day care centres (Fachkräftebarometer 2014, S. 33)
In 2015 child care workers went on strike for several weeks. The result was a low pay rise. You can read more in the pdf file on
Childhood educator
Since 2004 bachelor’s and master’s programmes for early education have emerged at German universities. The initial points for the academization were mainly the academic training for early education in Europe; the realization that this woman’s profession had to be appreciated; and the poor performance in Germany with regard to educational processes in international comparisons. 
University entrance qualification is required for the study. More and more universities also offer child care workers in the field a bachelor’s programme. You can find more information on training here:
The salary of childhood educators is not always better than that of child care workers, but the advancement opportunities are better. With an additional master’s degree childhood educators can also get leading positions outside the day care centre or strive for a scientific career.
On 1 March 2014 there were 3038 childhood educators working in child day care centres and after-school day care centres (Fachkräftebarometer 2014, S. 34). This number shows that academization is progressing very slowly. Most staff in day care centres are still child care workers.
Social educator, social worker
Social education or social work – the terms used for the same study are different – can be studied at universities. Social educators and social workers might work in similar fields as child care workers but because of their academic training they are in most cases better paid. In the child day care centre this is not automatically the case, but – like childhood pedagogues – advancement opportunities are better. 
On 1 March 2014 there were 15,943 social workers/social educators working in day care centres and after-school day care (Fachkräftebarometer 2014, S. 34).

Fields of activity and professions II: Primary school

In Germany school attendance is compulsory from the age of 6. The first level is the primary school, which is four years in most federal states, and six years in Berlin and Brandenburg, thus extending it till the age of 13.
A brochure informs about the role of primary school in the German educational system in 20 languages, including English:
The professionals
Teachers, who teach children the fundamental skills needed to succeed in school and later on in their professions, have to be mentioned in first place.
Professional training for teachers is provided at universities and, like the training for child care workers, is regulated by the federal states. Similar to the study paths of childhood education and social work universities offer their own training profile. Teachers acquire a bachelor’s degree followed by a master’s degree.
Teachers belong to the educational system, whereas child care workers and in most cases social educators belong to the system of child and youth care services. This difference has led to higher salaries for teachers from the beginning of their career. There is no comparison of salaries of the two systems because they are rarely seen together. You can get an idea here; information is only in German:

Social workers and child care workers
Many schools have after-school day care centres, but for several years there has been a trend towards all-day schools, where children not only spend the morning but the whole day. In many European countries this is the norm, but in Germany all-day schools are very slow in gaining acceptance. The Conference of the Ministers of Cultural Affairs expects from this more equality of opportunities for children with different social backgrounds and a better compatibility of family and work for parents (visit
Social workers and child care workers are both educationally active in extracurricular programmes outside the regular classes. In most cases neither professional group is specially trained to work with children. Their salaries are different because child care workers are trained at technical colleges and social workers at universities. 
In the school year 2012/2013 just under a third of all school children attended all day school, 785,000 of them in primary school  ( In the school year 2013/14 there were 15,749 primary schools, 8,342 of them were all day schools (, S. 5) Let’s assume that the number of all-day programmes has not changed significantly, at least about half of the primary schools are all-day schools (;jsessionid=33021EEE5354346FDADFA1830C2C7925.cae1)..

This means that on the one hand after school care programmes have been integrated into schools; on the other hand, however, there are more and more professionals who are not teachers working in schools.

Fields of activity and professions III: Open children and youth services

Social workers and educators work primarily in open children and youth services. Their salaries are different because of the different levels of training. You can find the earning potential here:

Career changes – freedom to choose

In Germany there are currently many efforts to recognize competences that have been acquired if someone wants to change his or her profession. The federal state ministries are ultimately responsible for the recognition . Qualifications acquired abroad must also be recognized by the ministries before starting a job in a learned profession.


The professional training of all the professions mentioned is held at different venues (LINK), each of them emphasizing different aspects of child development.
An aim must be to impart in all educational institution an image of the child, who is granted all conceivable opportunities to develop ideally and to shape this development.  
Professionals need high qualifications to  meet the task requirements. Their experience on site should be utilized to design the cooperation with other educational venues and to achieve synergies.
Society, politics and economy have to make sure that professionals bearing responsibility for the upcoming generation are appreciated and paid adequately. 


Nursery child care: Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend (Hrsg.):Handbuch
Social assistants/childminders:
All professions: Autorengruppe Fachkräftebarometer (2014): Fachkräftebarometer Frühe Bildung 2014. München, Deutsches Jugendinstitut.

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