Professionalizing: Advancing Your Career as an Infant and Toddler Professional

Child care provider Millions of families rely on caring teachers like you every day to provide care and education to their infants and toddlers. Early care and education provides a powerful way for you to make a positive difference in the lives of children and families (Sosinsky, et al., 2016). In caring for infants and toddlers, you support their well-being and promote each child’s school readiness.

Supporting infants’ and toddlers’ healthy growth and well-being requires specific knowledge, tools, and strategies.  Information and resources on infant/toddler learning, development, and care can help you to really appreciate, enjoy, and support each child’s unique interests and abilities. Also, by purposely building relationships with families, you can provide truly responsive, individualized care that meets the unique and changing needs of each infant and toddler.

The value of caring for infants and toddlers cannot be overstated. Unfortunately, the early childhood field faces challenges, such as low wages, limited benefits, and minimal professional supports (Whitebook, Phillips, & Howes, 2014). However, you can communicate the importance of infant and toddler care and can even advocate for better wages and more professional supports for care teachers. In addition, remember that teachers are better positioned to advocate for necessary resources and professional recognition when they work together within their communities. Taking part in professional development and collaborating with other infant and toddler professionals is a chance to build a community of support with people who share a commitment to children and families.

This chapter includes information about the following:

  • Building and strengthening skills and competencies. Learn about what skills and competencies you need as an infant and toddler teacher and where you can learn more.
  • Earning credentials and understanding career ladders. Learn about ways to advance your education and credentials within the field of infant and toddler care and education.
  • Collaborating within the profession. Discover how you can become more professionally involved in the field of infant and toddler care and education.
  • Practicing Self-care and professionalism. Learn about how you can care for yourself so you can better care for infants and toddlers.



Professional Development Overview: Support for Practitioners (2013), provides an overview of key elements of state- and territory-wide professional development systems that support early childhood professionals. It was developed by the National Center on Child Care Professional Development Systems and Workforce Initiatives, Office of Head Start and Office Child Care, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


Sosinsky, L., Ruprecht, K., Horm, D., Kriener-Althen, K., Vogel, C., & Halle, T. (2016). Including relationship-based care practices in infant-toddler care: Implications for practice and policy (OPRE Research Brief 2016-46). Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE), Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from  

Whitebook, M., Phillips, D., & Howes, C. (2014). Worthy work, STILL unlivable wages: The early childhood workforce 25 years after the National Child Care Staffing Study. Berkeley, CA: Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, University of California, Berkeley. Retrieved from