Types of careers in the early childhood sector

An overview of the types of careers in the early childhood sector, and what qualifications you may need.

This page includes an overview of the types of careers in the early childhood sector, and what qualifications you may need.

Education and care

Early childhood teacher

Early childhood teachers support the learning, development, health and wellbeing of young children, including babies and toddlers.

Roles and responsibilities include:

  • plan activities to develop learning and development
  • observe, assess and record children’s learning and development
  • encourage children to question, explore and be aware of their world
  • work as part of a team of professionals including nurses, educators and intervention specialists.


To become an early childhood educator, it takes 4 years of tertiary study. This includes at lease one year of teacher education study.

The most common qualifications are:

  • a 4-year undergraduate childhood qualification (e.g. Bachelor of Early Childhood Education)
  • a ‘pathways’ course that allows those with an approved diploma in children’s services to complete a degree in early childhood education.


All Victorian early childhood teachers are required to be registered with the Victorian Institute of Teaching. Teachers who do not register will need to have a valid legal exemption.

See the Victorian Institute of Teaching for more information about the registration process.

Early childhood educator (formerly assistants)

Early childhood educators were previously known as kindergarten or child care assistants or workers. The new title reflects the importance of play-based learning in early years growth and development.

Roles and responsibilities include:

  • plan and put in place programs based on individual children's needs
  • prepare and supervise play and learning activities
  • maintain a safe, clean and appealing environment
  • observe and record children’s learning and development
  • liaise with parents and other professionals
  • support the participation of children with extra needs in the program
  • perform basic first aid in emergencies
  • help children with daily routines and promote health and safety concepts
  • guide and promote positive social interactions between children.


There are a range of qualifications and training opportunities that will open the door to a career as an early childhood educator. These include VET qualifications in education and care such as:

  • Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care
  • Certificate IV in School Age Education and Care
  • Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care
  • Diploma of School Age Education and Care
  • Certificate IV in Training and Assessment

Other pathways include pre-apprenticeships, apprenticeships, traineeships or school based apprenticeships in children’s services.

Information on the training and qualifications of staff in Victorian Children’s Services is found on the Australian Children's Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) website.

Educational leader

An early childhood educational leader works with educators and children to develop a program of activities and experiences that support learning.

The leader must have knowledge and experience about the way children learn. Their role is about promoting positive educational philosophies.

Roles and responsibilities include:

  • providing educational leadership to educators, teachers and administrative staff of early childhood services
  • coaching and mentor educators to support children’s learning in the five learning and development outcomes (identity, community, wellbeing, learning and communication
  • supporting high quality teaching and learning for children in a service
  • representing the organisation in networks and committees that focus on children’s learning
  • developing and review policy, course curricula and teaching/learning materials
  • drawing on a deep understanding of educational theory and practice
  • collaborating and work with parents and families as partners in children’s learning.


Qualifications will vary according to the exact role, but could include:

  • Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care
  • Diploma of School Age Education and Care
  • Bachelor of Early Childhood Education
  • Bachelor of Education
  • Bachelor Degree plus Graduate Diploma of Education
  • Certificate IV in Training and Assessment


Maternal and child health nurse

MCH nurses:

  • monitor children's health
  • support maternal health and wellbeing
  • identify health and development concerns early
  • provide intervention and referral where necessary
  • deliver health promotion and education programs
  • provide parenting support.

Maternal and child health nurses work in metropolitan, regional and rural locations in a range of settings:

  • in local government
  • parenting centres
  • community health services.


To practice in Victoria, maternal and child health nurses must:

Before starting maternal and child health studies, at least one year’s experience as a midwife is preferable.

Midwives have traditionally undertaken a three-year university degree in nursing and then completed a postgraduate qualification in midwifery to be eligible for registration. More recently, three-year university degrees in midwifery and double degrees have commenced in Victoria.

Suitable qualifications (depending on interest/area of specialisation include:

  • Bachelor of Nursing (three years)
  • Bachelor of Nursing or Bachelor of Midwifery (4 years)
  • Postgraduate studies in nursing.

National registration

A national registration and accreditation scheme for nurses and midwives began on 1 July 2010, and a new National Law (the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law Act 2009) came into effect to regulate the profession.

The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) is now responsible for setting standards and policies for the regulation of all nurses and midwives registered in Australia. It will be supported in this task by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).

The NMBA has taken over the functions previously managed by the Nurses Board of Victoria.

For more information about how the national registration scheme operates, see:


Physiotherapy is a professional medical treatment focussed on restoring function after disease or injury.

Physiotherapists may work as part of a health care team, independently in private practice, within the school system or as industry consultants in metropolitan, regional or rural locations.

Roles and responsibilities include:

  • assess development of premature babies
  • plan and provide therapy for children with movement problems or physical disabilities
  • assist individuals with permanent disabilities to maximise their abilities and manage the physical demands of daily living
  • work as part of a team of allied health professionals to provide a multidisciplinary care plan
  • educate children, their families, industry and the community about healthy lifestyles and avoiding injury.


To practice in Victoria, physiotherapists must:

Completion of Certificate IV in Allied Health Assistance may provide some credit to the degree program.

Speech pathologist

Speech pathologists assess and treat children and adults who have a communication disability.

Roles and responsibilities include:

  • support children who are unable to communicate effectively due to conditions such as:
    • cleft palate
    • hearing loss
    • stuttering, delayed speech or language development
    • cerebral palsy
    • emotional disturbances
  • assess and assist children who have difficulty chewing and swallowing
  • provide ongoing counselling, advice and information to children and families.


To practice in Victoria, speech pathologists must hold on the following:

  • Bachelor of Health Science
  • Bachelor of Speech Pathology
  • Master of Speech Pathology

Entry can be from Certificate III and IV in Allied Health Assistance. Completion of Certificate IV in Allied Health Assistance may provide some credit to the degree program.


Early years manager

Early years managers, formerly known as kindergarten cluster managers provide professional leadership and management for community based kindergarten services.

Roles and responsibilities include:

  • employment and management of staff
  • improving the quality of services
  • apply legal, regulatory and policy requirements
  • strategic and business planning
  • risk and financial management
  • working with parents, local government and other service organisations.

Find out more about early years management.

Children’s services manager

Children’s services managers work in a variety of early childhood services, including long day care, family day care, occasional care and kindergartens.

Roles and responsibilities include:

  • directing and supervising early childhood educators (formerly known as child carers)
  • developing and coordinating programs to enhance the physical, social, emotional and intellectual development of young children
  • ensuring centres are safe and comply with relevant government standards
  • liaising with parents
  • maintaining records and accounts for the centre
  • understanding and applying relevant legal, regulatory and policy requirements including the National Quality Framework, Education and Care Services legislation and regulations and the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework.