How is an au pair different from a live in nanny?

February 28, 2013

Many people use the terms au pair and nanny interchangeably. But the fact is, an au pair is a lot different from a nanny for many reasons, even if you are considering a live in nanny.  In this article, we will explore the differences between an au pair vs. a live in nanny.

Live in nannies
A nanny can be used to describe any individual—whether professionally trained or not—who cares for children. Professional nannies make a career out of minding kids while other nannies do it for a short while in between school semesters or other jobs. You can hire a live in nanny or a live out nanny depending on whether you want the nanny to live in your home or not. Based on a 2012 salary and benefits survey distributed by the International Nanny Association, nannies salaries average about $705 per week, so in most cases nannies are more expensive than au pairs.  With a live in nanny, depending on what you include for room and board, you may pay slightly less than what you would pay a live out nanny.   The same survey showed the national average live in nanny cost as $652 per week.  However, live in nannies may be more difficult to find, and you may end up paying more for a high quality live in nanny.

Unlike au pairs, nannies are often American. If your nanny is not a U.S. citizen, it is your responsibility to ensure she resides and can work legally in the U.S.  Also unlike au pairs, nannies are not limited to work a certain number of hours, nor are they limited in what household help they provide. These are all factors you can negotiate on an individual bases.

What is an au pair?
In the U.S., the word “au pair” should really only be used when talking about the young adults who travel here through a U.S. Department of State-recognized sponsor company (like Cultural Care Au Pair) to provide live in childcare for American families. Au pairs travel on a J-1 cultural exchange visa to reside in the U.S. and do their jobs for up to two years.

Au pair qualifications
The U.S. Department of State regulations also dictate that au pairs must:

  • Be 18–26 years old
  • Be proficient in conversational English
  • Have at least 200 documented hours of childcare experience
  • Have at least 200 documented hours of childcare experience with children under 2 if expected to provide childcare for an infant (0-2 years)
  • Limit their childcare schedule to 45 hours per week and 10 hours per day
  • Receive 2 weeks of paid vacation per calendar year
  • Have successfully completed her home country’s secondary education
  • Submit a detailed application including information about her childcare experience, education, family background, interests, photos, and a letter to her host family
  • Undergo a background check including multiple verified references and a criminal background check
  • Not be charged as sole caretaker for a child under 3 months of age

Where do au pairs come from?
Au pairs come from countries all over the world and typically take on this responsibility as a way to better their English, explore the U.S. and challenge themselves. Cultural exchange is an important part of the experience, both for the au pair and the host family.  Cultural Care Au Pair currently recruits au pairs from over 20 countries.

What can au pairs do?
Au pairs can work up to 45 hours a week on a schedule you decide, which can be great for families who need specific or unusual hours of coverage, or whose schedules vary week by week. Au pairs can help with household duties related to the children—their laundry, food preparation and room pick-up—but cannot be asked to provide the same chores for the whole family.  Per U.S. State Department guidelines, all au pairs make the same weekly stipend of $195.75.  Families will also pay a program fee to their au pair agency.  For Cultural Care, this fee covers the costs of recruiting, screening and training au pairs, as well as travel costs, medical and travel insurance and year-long support from a local childcare consultant and central office staff.

What should you choose?
The best fit for your family will depend on your individual needs and personality.  Take a look at the chart below to help you determine what the most important factors are for you when choosing a nanny versus an au pair:

Live in nanny vs. au pair chart

Find out more about the advantages of hosting an au pair today!

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