Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images

Governess vs. Nanny

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

Nannies and governesses provide vital care-giving services for children whose parents work full-time or simply need assistance. Governesses focus primarily on educational responsibilities of their charges while nannies specialize in overall child care duties, including supervision, entertainment, safety, discipline and light household chores like cooking and laundry. Professional nannies and governesses have specified duties, but both require education and/or certification and must possess soft skills, such as patience, a pleasant disposition and chemistry with children, to do their jobs effectively.


Governesses are primarily responsible for educating the children of their employers. Governesses are, in a sense, private tutors that live in or outside their employers' homes. A governess can work as a full-time educator or provide part-time educational assistance, depending on the employer's needs. Governesses are typically required to hold a bachelor's degree in elementary or secondary education and in some cases, a teaching certification.


Nannies assume basic child care responsibilities, such as babysitting, helping with homework, supervising activities and transporting children to school and other places. Nannies work either full-time or part-time, according to their employers' scheduling needs and live either inside or outside their employers' home. Although nannies are not typically contractually obligated to assume household responsibilities, such as cooking, cleaning or laundry, they may do these chores in connection with the children. Nannies are also responsible for modeling and enforcing good manners, behavior and discipline to their charges.


Although both governesses and nannies assume a vital role in the everyday lives of their charges, they play different parts in how they assist their families. Governesses, whether live-in or live-out, serve essentially as teachers in their charges' homes and do not typically assume responsibilities pertaining to basic child care and well being. Nannies, on the other hand, can offer educational assistance, but they serve primarily as caregivers, not educators. Governesses often have higher educational requirements, given their teaching responsibilities, while most nannies only require a high school diploma. Governesses also tend to be older and more experienced than most nannies.


Nannies and governesses may have different contractual responsibilities; however, both are responsible for developing and caring for their charges. Both nannies and governesses set either full-time or part-time schedules with their employers. Some even have multiple employers. Both nannies and governesses are responsible for the safety, behavior and basic well-being of their charges while they work.


As both governesses and nannies play an important developmental and emotional role in the lives of their charges, both careers can bring fulfillment, as well as rewards and challenges. If you want to care for children in their own homes, but seek to focus on education and have the necessary degrees, experience and certifications, then the governess career path might interest you. If, however, you just want to focus on child care and nurturing on a flexible schedule, then the nanny career path may be more suitable for you.