Be an Au Pair

By Eric Hammer

While it may sound like a very fancy title, an au pair is in essence just a nanny - someone who cares for the children, generally of someone who is rather wealthy or at least well off. The term au pair comes from the French language and often refers to someone from a foreign country, though you don't necessarily need to be from a foreign country in order to become an au pair. Here's what you need to know:

In essence, the big difference between an au pair and a nanny is that most nannies tend to be people who maintain their own homes and they may also be married and even have their own children to care for. By comparison, an au pair is invariably a live in position which is commonly taken by a woman in her late teens or early twenties, though men can be au pairs as well.

The job basically involves being a kind of surrogate parent or older sister to young children. Typically, you'll work for parents who are rather busy and simply don't have the time to care for their children adequately on their own. You'll need to know how to drive as you'll often need to drop off and pick up the kids from school and you'll need to help kids with their homework and other general lifecycle needs.

How Much Can You Make?

Most au pairs are paid more than minimum wage, though not a great deal more. Typical salaries can be in the range of between $10-$15 with the highest paid au pairs sometimes making as much as $25 per hour. However, given that the job typically also includes room and board, it's usually a fairly decent deal.

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It goes without saying that you need to love children and be able to balance their needs with the need to be the adult in the relationship. This is often difficult for an au pair because you are a relatively low paid person who works with the children of the wealthy, children who are not always ready to submit to your authority. Thus you need to walk a kind of tight rope where you care for the kids while at the same time winning them over.

You should also be someone who has a lot of patience and who is fairly intelligent as you will often be called upon to help the children with their homework and studies. Looking presentable when you meet with the parents is also useful.

This job is particularly well suited to people from other parts of the world or from other parts of the country who want to experience life in a large American city since the job is usually a live in position. Typically, you should expect the job to last no more than a few years, though on rare occasions, au pairs may stay with the family for many years.

Qualifications / Requirements

There are no formal requirements to become an au pair, however it's generally a good idea to love children and have some experience in caring for children.

First Steps

Start by taking on some babysitting jobs and helping kids with their needs. This will be good training for you to become an au pair. Then, look online for openings for an au pair.


Check out these helpful resources to learn more about becoming an au pair:

Au Pair Care - A website devoted to becoming an au pair as well as hooking you up with a job as an au pair.

International Au Pair Association - A professional organization for au pairs from all over the world.

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