Education Requirements for Health Services Managers and Health Professionals

Programs must ensure that staff or consultants who support Head Start health, nutrition, and mental health services have the knowledge, training, experience, and competencies to provide high quality comprehensive services to children and families. Programs can use this brief to review the Head Start regulations and education requirements for health services managers, health professionals who support nutrition services, and mental health consultants. Learn where to find applicable licensing and certification requirements to support professional development.

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Woman filling out paperworkStaff Qualifications: Steps for Programs to Consider

Use this brief to better understand the Head Start regulations and considerations for health services managers and health professionals (mental health consultants and staff or consultants who support nutrition services).

Local programs determine how their staff and consultants meet the Head Start regulations.

Follow these steps to help guide you in the process of determining and justifying how your staff and consultants meet the Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS).

  1. Read the HSPPS.
    • Know the specific education requirements for staff and consultant roles detailed in 45 CFR §1302.91.
    • Review the cross references to the staff and consultant qualification requirements in other relevant HSPPS.
  2. Gather information to know your program’s needs and expectations, based on:
    • Community, family, and child needs
    • Program goals including school readiness goals
    • Your existing continuous quality improvement system
  3. Use all available information to ensure your program has:
    • Human resources and professional development policies and procedures to help you meet regulations
    • Clear program goals, including school-readiness goals
    • Qualified staff and consultants who can effectively support your program’s goals and service delivery
    • An ongoing monitoring process that identifies and addresses challenges in hiring and retaining qualified staff and consultants

What Are the Requirements?*

*For full text, access the HSPPS.


45 CFR §1302.91(d) A program must ensure staff responsible for management and oversight of … health services… [applies to staff hired after Nov. 7, 2016] have, at a minimum, a baccalaureate degree, preferably related to one or more of the disciplines they oversee.

Teacher helping a childCompetencies

  • 45 CFR §1302.91(a) "A program must:
    • Ensure all staff, consultants, and contractors … have sufficient knowledge, training and experience, and competencies to:
      • Fulfill the roles and responsibilities of their positions;
      • Ensure high-quality service delivery …
      • Provide ongoing training and professional development to support staff in fulfilling their roles and responsibilities."

Health Professionals

  • 45 CFR §1302.91(e)(8)(i) "A program must:
    • Ensure health procedures are performed only by a licensed or certified health professional.
  • 45 CFR §1302.91(e)(8)(ii) A program must:
    • Ensure all mental health consultants are licensed or certified mental health professionals.
    • Use mental health consultants with knowledge of an experience in serving young children and their families, if available in the community.
  • 45 CFR §1302.91(e)(8)(iii) A program must:
    • Use staff or consultants to support nutrition services who are registered dieticians or nutritionists with appropriate qualifications."

Registered Dietitian Nutritionists

A registered dietitian nutritionist is a food and nutrition expert who has met academic and professional requirements including:

  • Earned a bachelor’s degree with coursework approved by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics. Coursework typically includes food and nutrition sciences, food-service-systems management, business, economics, computer science, sociology, biochemistry, physiology, microbiology, and chemistry.
  • Completed an accredited, supervised practice program at a health care facility, community agency, or food-service corporation.
  • Passed a national examination administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration.
  • Completes continuing professional educational requirements to maintain registration on an ongoing basis

Explore the Qualifications of a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist webpage.

Common Types of Licensed Mental Health Providers

  • Social workers
  • Psychologists
  • Professional counselors or mental health counselors

The Center for Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation (IECMHC) recommends that qualifications include three or more years of post-master’s experience involving work with young children, infant-child mental health, and IECMHC delivery and the capacity to work within the culture and system of the service community in
which consultation is delivered.

Download the Qualifications of an Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultant. [PDF, 516KB]

Please Note!

Grantees have the flexibility to implement higher or more stringent requirements than those outlined in the regulation.

What Else Do I Need to Know?

  • What is a health procedure?
    Some children have special health care needs and may require a specific health treatment while they are in your care. Health procedures are defined by your state medical board or board of nursing. Also, consult your state/territory licensing regulations.
  • What are the requirements for a licensed or certified health professional who can perform a health procedure?
    These requirements vary. Check with your state medical board or board of nursing to find out who is qualified to perform specific health procedures.

Considerations for hiring health services managers

  • Use the Head Start Health Services Competencies: A Tool to Support Health Managers and Staff to identify applicants who can effectively establish and oversee health, nutrition, and mental health services.
  • Access the T/TA system for support and connect with your Regional Office program specialist as necessary.
  • Consider requirements detailed within the state/territory early care and education system (includes licensing requirements, and when applicable, health requirements included within the state Quality Rating and Improvement System and early childhood program health standards).

Woman making meals for kidsConsiderations for hiring staff or consultants to support nutrition services

  • Consult this resource to understand the difference between a registered dietician and a nutritionist.
  • Consult the Committee on Dietetic Registration, which provides state/territory–specific licensure and certification requirements.

Considerations for hiring mental health consultants

Considerations for professional development

  • Ongoing professional development and supervision can help staff who manage health services and staff who support nutrition services develop the knowledge and competencies they need to effectively oversee child health and nutrition services and support the health and wellness needs of families enrolled in your program.
  • Staff can use the Head Start Health Services Competencies: A Tool to Support Health Managers and Staff to learn more about the attitudes, knowledge, and skills needed to deliver high-quality health and nutrition services.

Where Can I Find More on This Topic?

Last Updated: August 5, 2019