How to Become a Babysitter and Get Paid Up To $21 an Hour
Babysitting can be a great side hustle to earn quick money. But this popular child care job isn’t for everyone.
You obviously need to love children — and have some real-life experience caring for them.
Many people start their babysitting careers at a young age by watching their own siblings or family members.
But the truth is you can make money babysitting at almost any age. Babysitting jobs are accessible to younger adults and teens because they don’t require a college degree or formal education.
On the flip side, adults typically earn higher rates, which can make babysitting a profitable side hustle for grown-ups, too.
There’s plenty of responsibility involved with watching other people’s children, so babysitting shouldn’t be a job you enter into half-heartedly.
You need to be a leader and problem solver with excellent communication skills. You’ll also need to educate yourself about child care and get certified in first aid and CPR.
Curious about how to become a babysitter? Here’s everything you need to know.
Babysitter Requirements: What You Need to Get Started
Most babysitting jobs require a minimum age, some safety certifications and key interpersonal skills.
Age and Education
Most babysitting jobs don’t require formal education or a college degree, making them ideal gigs for teenagers, college students and other young adults.
How old you need to be to babysit is also pretty flexible. In all but one state (Maryland), there is no legal minimum age required to babysit.
However, age can still impact the type of jobs you get.
For example, you must be at least 11 years old to take the American Red Cross babysitting course (more on that later). Many parents and agencies look for this type of training when hiring a babysitter.
Likewise, some parents may not be comfortable handing their child over to a preteen. Each family has their own preferences, so you may need to be at least 16 or 18 to land certain babysitting jobs.
Websites like Care.com — one of the largest job posting sites for caregivers — also sets age requirements. Care.com does not perform background checks on applicants under the age of 18
According to a March 2021 post, users must now be at least 18 years old to create a Care.com account and register as a caregiver.
Certification and Training
You generally need to be certified in first aid and CPR before you can land a babysitting job.
The American Red Cross is one of the best places to start your babysitting certification and training search. The nonprofit organization not only offers first aid and CPR training, they also offer three different babysitting certification courses.
A babysitting class will teach you how to deliver compassionate care to infants and young children in fun, age-appropriate ways. Plus, it looks great on your resume.
“Taking introductory courses can help aspiring sitters learn the key skills to babysitting, like responsibility, problem-solving, decision-making and leadership,” said Connie Fong, vice president of marketing at Care.com.
You can search for local Red Cross safety courses by entering your city and selecting the type of class you want to take. You can also register for these courses online.
These certifications usually require completing online coursework as well as passing a hands-on in-person class to master skills.
Most first aid and CPR certifications last two years, so you’ll need to renew them regularly. An initial combined CPR/first aid certification from the Red Cross ranges from $50 to $90.
You’ll probably receive a handbook as part of your babysitting certification course. Hold onto it. Guides like this offer valuable information you can refer back to once you start babysitting.
Other community organizations also offer babysitting and CPR training, including local hospitals, YMCAs, churches and community centers.
Other Helpful Things to Have Before You Start Babysitting
While a resume or driver’s license isn’t required to become a babysitter, these assets will help you land more jobs.
Having a good set of references improves your chances of snagging the babysitting job you want.
You generally want at least two solid references you can show potential clients. Families want to make sure you come highly rated and have prior child care experience.
Creating a list of references can be challenging if this is your first professional babysitting job. Technically, you can list anyone — including family members and friends — as a reference. However, the more relevant your references are, the better it looks to prospective parents.
Each reference should include:
- The person’s name
- Their job title (or their relationship to you)
- Their company and address
- Their contact phone number or email address
It’s also a smart idea to create a resume if you don’t already have one. A good resume will showcase your certifications, training, education and prior experience watching children.
Make sure to share other experiences or extracurricular activities that involve children, such as reading to kids at the library, volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters or tutoring younger children.
You may also want to consider getting a driver’s license if you don’t have one.
Some families look for babysitters who can drive their kids to after-school activities or doctor appointments. Obtaining your license helps you prequalify for a wider range of jobs.
You’ll need to take a written test, a driving exam, complete an application and pass a vision test to get your driver’s license.
Some states let you get your driver’s permit as early as age 14, but the average age range is 15 to 16 years old.
If you want to be a professional childcare worker or expand your babysitting career, it’s wise to learn as much as possible about child development and early education.
Brush up on topics you’re interested in, like gentle parenting skills or conflict resolution between younger siblings.
You can find many of these resources online with a simple Google or YouTube search. Another option is enrolling in an online class at a community college.
You can also seek advice from other babysitters, or observe friends and family with small children.
How Much Money Can Babysitters Make?
According to 2021 data from Sittercity — a major job posting site — the average rate for babysitters in the U.S. is about $17 per hour.
Your pay rate will depend on a variety of factors, including:
- Location. You can charge more in cities with a higher cost of living. The Care.com calculator suggested rate for babysitting one child in San Francisco is $21 per hour, while in Toledo, Ohio, the going rate is $13.50 an hour.
- Number of children. You can typically charge $1 or $2 more per hour, per child.
- Age of sitter. Adults earn more money. So do more experienced babysitters.
- Time. Late night and on-demand schedules typically result in extra money. You can also charge more to provide child care services on New Year’s Eve and other holidays.
- Additional qualifications. Most parents are willing to pay more for a babysitter with CPR and safety training.
- Additional responsibilities. You can charge a higher rate for going above and beyond basic care and regular babysitting duties, such as picking the kids up from school, helping prepare meals or assisting with homework.
Remember: You can always negotiate a higher pay rate with families. Still, it’s always helpful to have a starting figure in mind when you apply for any babysitting job.
Babysitting Taxes: How They Work
According to the IRS, babysitters need to report their income when filing taxes.
If you don’t get paid more than $2,600 by any one client in a year, you’ll normally be considered an independent contractor, which means you’ll need to pay the self-employment tax along with your income tax.
If you earn more than $2,100 per year from one client, then the IRS considers in-home caregivers to be household employees, which means your employer has tax-compliance responsibilities like payroll taxes.
However, the IRS says, “A worker who performs child care services for you in his or her home generally is not your employee.”
So babysitting in your own home makes it clearer that you’re an independent contractor and that the parents won’t need to deal with payroll taxes.
If you do decide to babysit children in your home, you might be classified as a daycare operator, in which case you may need a license and have other legal complications.
Each state has its own laws covering daycare, and you’ll want to make sure you’re on the right side of them.
For example, child care laws in Illinois specify that you need a license from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) if you care for more than three children (your own are included if they’re under 12 years old). So if you live in Illinois and want to avoid the need for a daycare license, simply limit your service to watching three or fewer kids.
Consult a tax specialist if you’re in doubt about your status.
Where Can You Find Babysitting Jobs?
When you’re just getting started, word-of-mouth is one of the best ways to boost your babysitting business and find new customers.
Provide great service to friends, family and neighbors, then ask them to refer you to their network of parents. It’s one of the easiest ways to land more babysitting jobs.
You can also post about your babysitting services on Facebook. Look for parent groups on the site along with classified and community groups in your area.
Make sure to mention your qualifications, availability and maximum distance you’re willing to travel for babysitting jobs.
If you’re a new babysitter in high school or college, you can send Facebook messages to friends of your parents who have small children.
Babysitting Apps and Websites
Both offer free membership options as well as paid versions that include background checks and improved placement.
When creating your profile on babysitting sites, include more than the basic facts to attract parents who are looking for specific work history and personality traits that are a good match for their family, according to Fong.
“Share information beyond, ‘I like caring for kids,’” Fong said. “[Babysitters should] include more specific details such as their years of experience, the types of responsibilities they have had, and special skills or passions that may help with the job.”
Babysitting websites and apps make it easy to find work, but there’s a catch. Most handle payment transactions through their online platform — and many take a cut of what you earn.
How to Make Contact With Families and Land a Babysitting Job
An interested parent just reached out to you — that’s great!
When a parent first makes contact with you, be prepared to discuss basic details about yourself, like your availability, limitations and prior experience.
After brief introductions are over, be confident and ask questions. Gather basic information you’ll need, like how many children they have and the shift they want you to cover.
Also ask for a contact number so you can reach parents immediately if an emergency arises during your shift.
Other good questions to ask parents:
- Do you normally get home on time or should I prepare to work later?
- Are your children potty trained?
- Do any of your children have special needs?
- Do you need me to take care of any pets?
- Am I responsible for any light cleaning or other household duties?
- Are there any foods or snacks that are off-limits for your children?
- When is their bedtime?
Parents may want to hire you right after the first phone call or email. That can be exciting, especially if it’s your first babysitting job.
Still, it’s always best to meet in-person or over Zoom before you formally accept an offer. Doing so lets you discuss your hourly rate, responsibilities, house rules and expected duties in more detail.
It also gives you one last chance to decide if you really want to work with these parents and babysit their child.
If things progress to the interview stage, prepare the night before by brainstorming potential questions. Bring a copy of your references and resume with you, even if you’ve already emailed it to the parent beforehand.
On the day of your babysitting shift, be prompt and don’t ask to reschedule unless it’s a true emergency. A good babysitter shows up on time. After all, first impressions go a long way — especially with this side gig.
If you don’t land the babysitting job you wanted, don’t give up. It’s normal to face rejection in the beginning. Stay positive and keep honing your skills to find the right job.
Rachel Christian is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance and a senior writer for The Penny Hoarder.