How to Become a Nursery Nurse

Do you have a passion for helping young children, providing exceptional care and introducing them to education? A career as a nursery nurse could be the perfect professional path to follow – allowing you to follow your passion and guide the next generation. Here, we shed a little light on what nursery nursing entails and how you can get started.

A woman playing with a little girl

What is a nursery nurse?

A fundamental role model in early years education, a nursery nurse is a qualified childcare professional caring for children from infancy up to seven years old. Often working in a nursery or preschool, nursery nurses assist in the academic, emotional, and social development of children. It’s a job that carries the responsibility of teaching, but also caring, as nursery nurses support and nurture the wellbeing of each child and monitor their health and safety. By making learning fun through play activities, interactions, and lessons, nursery nurses have a crucial role in children’s lives before they begin school, providing a safe space to explore and grow.

What does a nursery nurse do?

Whilst most nursery nurses will work in a preschool, day care, or nursery, they may also find employment in other public services, such as hospitals, schools, charities or family centres. In all settings, their daily job involves caring for young children from all backgrounds. However, working with children is an incredibly varied and unpredictable job, as each day presents different situations and challenges.

Typically, a nursery nurse will work between 38-40 hours a week, overseeing and maintaining a child-friendly environment, whilst organising activities for learning and entertainment. On top of their daily duties, it’s important that a nursery nurse observes all children, not just as a matter of safety, but to keep a record of each child to inform their parents or carers of their day. This falls under relevant admin and paperwork tasks expected of professionals working in childcare.

Each day, nursery nurses ensure that the essentials are covered: young children need feeding suitable meals at lunchtime and given snacks and drinks throughout the day. They need help going to the toilet or assistance with toilet training and nappy changing. They may also need regular breaks, naps and medication. It’s the responsibility of a nursery nurse to stay on top of these things so that each child’s individual needs are met. That also means cleaning regularly and keeping the nursery tidy and organised. By doing all the above, nursery nurses also teach children basic life skills in hygiene and manners.

In between caring duties, nursery nurses get to have fun teaching! They plan engaging lessons, working to the Early Years Foundation Stage standards on child education. Children learn through games, playing, arts and crafts, sports, story-time, and music, amongst other things; that’s why a nursery nurse has plenty of opportunities to bring out their creative side at work. Alongside the fun, they’ll also be helping children to develop essential numeracy and literacy skills, communication and listening skills, and social skills too. It’s a privilege to play a role in such a crucial part of life.

What is the difference between a nursery nurse and a nursery assistant?

Sometimes these titles get mixed up because the title ‘nursery nurse’ is no longer used in some places. However, it’s important to know the difference, because a nursery nurse (or its equivalent) is not the same as a nursery assistant. The latter has no formal qualifications, and so they need to be supervised on the job by qualified staff. A nursery assistant can only assist with other staff members in a childcare setting, and may receive basic training, although they will not have many responsibilities in the workplace. For example, they may help with the cleaning of the nursery and engage in children’s learning and play activities, but they won’t be able to lead them.

On the other hand, a nursery nurse can run their own nursery and be solely responsible for pre-school children, as well as supervising non-qualified staff. Sometimes, a nursery nurse is called a senior nursery manager, or an early years practitioner, and they will be on a higher salary than nursery assistants. Nursery nurses must have attained at least a Level 3 qualification in childcare.

How to become a nursery nurse

If you’d like to pursue a career as a nursery nurse, here are the qualifications, skills and experience you need to make that first step.

What qualifications do you need to become a nursery nurse?

Firstly, you must ensure you have GCSEs in English and maths between grades 9-5 (A* to C) or equivalent Level 2 qualifications. After that, you’ll need to take a Level 3 childcare qualification, which could be either an NVQ, BTEC or NCFE CACHE certificate. These include:

Having a qualification in childcare ensures you have the knowledge to support children’s learning and development. It also means you have an understanding of what health and safety standards and procedures are involved in the welfare of young children. These courses equip you with the skills needed to teach and prepare children for their next stages of education.

A woman and a little girl playing with a toy

Employers usually prefer if you have experience in childcare, too, whether that’s voluntary or paid, such as babysitting or an apprenticeship, although this isn’t an essential requirement to become a nursery nurse. However, when applying for a nursery nurse role, you will need to have a background DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check. Once employed, you’ll still be expected to keep your skills and knowledge up-to-date, attending training on specific topics and learning about the latest government guidance. Nursery nursing is a career that involves continual professional development, which means there is also opportunity for career advancement.

What skills do you need to become a nursery nurse?

To be a nursery nurse, you need to be able to strike the balance between fun, caring and kind, and assertive and responsible. It’s just like parenting, but for a larger number of young children, therefore, you should also be able to cope well in stressful situations with the ability to adapt. Keeping little ones happy, healthy, and engaged takes an enthusiastic attitude and a positive approach to tasks, with a creative imagination to make the day fun!
You’ll also have excellent observational skills and an approachable, reassuring nature, to support those children who seem like they’re unhappy or not developing as expected. With a watchful eye and an awareness of child protection and safeguarding, you’ll know just what to do when a child needs your help. On top of this, you’ll have a good level of fitness to work on your feet for most of the day, knowing that the days fly by when you’re constantly on the go.
Being there for children and supporting their social and educational development, nurturing their needs and providing guidance takes care. The best nursery nurses are welcoming and accepting, as they work with children from various cultures, backgrounds, ethnicities, and abilities.

What are the benefits of becoming a nursery nurse?

Nursery nurses get to work in a fast-paced, creative, and inspiring environment all day, every day. This creates a strong sense of purpose and achievement; being a nursery nurse is personally rewarding because you get to see the fruit of your efforts as you watch young children grow and flourish. This doesn’t go unnoticed, either, because as a nursery nurse, you’ll often receive appreciation from parents – a reminder of the real difference you’re to children’s lives and whole families, too.

A young woman writing in a notepad at a desk

Another benefit of being a nursery nurse is the working hours, which are generally flexible and can be full or part-time, depending on your employer’s requirements. Working in early years also means there are many opportunities for career progression, specialising in different age groups, subjects or special needs.

How much do nursery nurses make?

Most trainee nursery nurses start on a salary of around £14,000 a year, though as you become experienced, you can expect to earn up to £22,000, depending on location and experience. It’s a career that often offers overtime which can boost salaries, as well as the opportunity to work private nanny jobs, too. However, it’s generally considered that the best-paid nursery nurses work in London, in private schools, or with specialist skills, capable of earning up to £28,000 as a manager. Typically, early years salaries are better paid in private infant day cares or pre-schools, rather than national nurseries which have restrictive budgets.

What career progression can a nursery nurse expect?

Having the qualifications and experience to work in childcare will enable you to move into higher level teaching after attaining further qualifications at Levels 4 and 5. You can also train to work with children with special educational needs (SEN), or gain qualifications in health and social care to move into the NHS.

Another option is to apply for high-calibre nanny positions, which can include working and living abroad, and having benefits such as paid-for holidays, a car, and rent-free accommodation. Ideal for those wanting a more independent lifestyle where you can experience different cultures.

If you’d like to take the first step towards a career as a nursery nurse, Oxbridge can help you secure the qualifications you need. For more information, head over to our homepage or give our experienced course advisers a call on 0121 630 3000.

How much does a nursery nurse earn?


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