What is the difference between a nanny and a babysitter?

Girl with magnifying glass

What is the difference between a nanny and a babysitter?

A nanny is an experienced professional who provides ongoing childcare, while a babysitter usually provides short-term or occasional care for children.

Very often the terms babysitter and nanny are used interchangeably. This is understandable because the roles and responsibilities of a babysitter and nanny do overlap significantly.

What is a nanny?

A nanny cares for children, as her professional career. She has typically worked in the childcare industry for many years or has raised children of her own.

A nanny usually works in a permanent part-time or full-time capacity. A nanny will often work with a family for the long term, usually for at least one or more years.

In terms of qualifications, there are no specific requirements, however a nanny may have a certification in First Aid or CPR, or extensive experience caring for children.

A nanny usually takes sole charge, caring for children on a regular basis. The role includes all aspects of the children’s care, activities, health and wellbeing.

A nanny is often responsible for planning and implementing activities, to ensure that the children have a suitable educational environment that supports their development appropriately.

A nanny usually becomes a valued part of the family, involved in raising the children through many ages and stages.

There are a range of areas that nannies specialize in including

  • Live out nanny
  • Live-in nanny
  • Nanny mom
  • College nanny
  • Summer nanny
  • Night nanny
  • Newborn care specialist

What is a babysitter?

A babysitter usually refers to a person who cares for children in a short-term or occasional capacity. They are typically less experienced than a nanny.

A sitter usually works shorter hours. It may not necessarily be a long-term arrangement.

A sitter may not necessarily have a childcare qualification. They might be studying or working in another field and babysit children as a part-time job.

A babysitter usually takes sole charge when caring for children, but with some guidance from the parents.

Is a nanny or a babysitter the right choice for my family?

Ultimately the job description and the carer’s knowledge, skills and abilities will determine the best match for your family, regardless of whether she or he has the title of babysitter or a nanny.

That said, if you are seeking a carer for a permanent position, with sole responsibility for children, then an experienced nanny is usually the best choice. This is because a nanny will be more knowledgeable and skilful in managing all aspects of caring for children in the home.

If you are seeking a part-time carer to help with occasional child care then a sitter will be best.

What are the costs of a nanny compared to a babysitter?

Rates per Hour Nanny Agency The Best Babysitters site
Nanny Rates (daytime) $20-30 / hr $15-25 / hr
Babysitter Rates (evening) $20-30 / hr $15-25 / hr
Daily agency  booking fee  $15  per day $0
Placement  fee $1000+ $0

Typically a nanny who has more experience in childcare will have a higher hourly rate than a babysitter. But this may not always be the case, as hourly rates are influenced by many factors.

Higher hourly rates are usually charged if:

  • Experience: The carer has years of experience.
  • Qualifications: The carer has a qualification in childcare or a related field.
  • Skills: A significant level of skill is needed (caring for babies, toilet training toddlers).
  • Responsibility: The carer has significant responsibility (sole charge, driving a car).
  • Number of children: There are a number of children being cared for (twins, several children).
  • Ages of the children: If babies and young children are being cared for, a more experienced carer is needed.
  • Duties of the role: If the duties or responsibilities of the role are significant it will influence the hourly rate.
  • Time of the day or night: If the shift is at an unusual time of the day it will affect the rates.  
  • Length of shift: If the shift is very short or is a split shift.
  • Day of the week: If the work is on a weekend or holiday.
  • Through a Nanny Agency or not: If a nanny is engaged through an agency there will be additional costs that the agency charges on top of the nanny’s hourly rates. These usually include admin fees or placement fees. 

Please note The Best Babysitters is not an agency.  Our site is an efficient and affordable job posting site to help parents find a match for their family. Once the parents find a sitter or nanny, they interview, select and employ them directly.

What are the qualifications for a nanny or a babysitter?

A nanny or sitter does not need any formal qualifications to work in the family home. Some nannies may have qualifications in childcare or related fields. 

Many nannies and sitters listed on The Best Babysitters have studied or are studying in areas that are related to childcare. This includes teaching, allied health and nursing. Others have qualifications in different areas that can be a great addition to the family, including arts, dance, music and languages.

In addition to any formal qualifications, the best measure of a carer is their skills, knowledge, character strengths and competence.

What are the duties of a nanny or a sitter?

Parents can negotiate the exact responsibilities involved in a nanny job or babysitting job.

Both nannies and sitters can undertake a range of duties including things like:

  • Children’s snack and meal preparation
  • Supervising and playing with the children
  • Helping children get dressed
  • Taking the children on outings
  • Driving the children to and from activities
  • Bath and bedtime routine
  • Reading stories together

Can a nanny or babysitter drive as part of the job?

Yes both nannies and sitters can drive children as part of the role. The details of the driving should be specified in the job description, including addresses, distance and time of the day. Parents may ask to see a drivers license, check the driver has a clean record and a safe, serviced, fully insured vehicle. Parents may also offer to loan their own car, particularly if child car seats are required. If driving is part of the nanny job this may increase the carer’s hourly rate, due to the responsibility involved and the cost of using the vehicle and gas.

Does a nanny or a babysitter do cleaning?

A nanny or babysitter’s role is usually focused primarily on caring for the children. Light cleaning tasks that relate to childcare are typically included in the role. e.g., preparing children’s meals, washing the children’s dishes, wiping kitchen surfaces, folding the children’s clothes, tidying the toys, cleaning up after craft activities.

Will a nanny or sitter prepare meals?

Usually a nanny or babysitter is responsible for preparing the children’s meals. This might be making simple meals from scratch. Or heating and serving prepared meals that the parents have provided. This can be negotiated individually with the nanny or babysitter, depending on their skills and the time available during the shift.

Can nannies or babysitters do household management?

A household manager is usually responsible for the running of a household and associated tasks.  Often they oversee other domestic workers and contractors in the home.  A nanny or sitter is usually focused on childcare as their key responsibility. Often these two roles are separate jobs with different hours and responsibilities. Some nannies, however, may be able to offer some household management tasks in addition to childcare, depending on their skills, experience and time available. 

Do nannies and babysitters need a Background Check?

There is no law requiring nannies or sitters in the home to have background checks.  We do, however, encourage sitters to get a background check and show this to parents during their interview.  As with any pre-employment process it is important to view credentials including background checks.   We recommend choosing a Background Screening service that’s accredited through The Professional Background Screening Association. 

If you are looking for a babysitter or nanny we welcome you to join and post a job at The Best Babysitters.

Find the best babysitters and nannies near you!