Training & Credentials

The Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential

The Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential is a nationally recognized early childhood professional credential awarded by the National Council for Early Childhood Professional Recognition. A person who has earned the CDA Credential is referred to as a CDA. A person who is working toward the CDA credential is referred to as a candidate.

To earn the CDA credential, a person must successfully complete the national credentialing process. The CDA credentialing process determines a candidate’s demonstrated ability to meet the specific needs of young children and their families, and to work with other adults in a professional capacity.

Typically, the CDA Credential is earned in one of three areas: Infant/Toddler, Preschool, or Family Child Care. Though less common, a credential may also be earned in Home Visiting. The CDA Credential covers the age groups of 0-5 years. It does not address school-age development.

  • Advantages of Earning Your CDA
  • • Pursuing a CDA Credential helps you grow your skills and knowledge. It also demonstrates to parents, your employer, and others that you are a well-prepared early childhood professional.

    • A CDA Credential is portable state-to-state and is a recognized hiring qualification for many early childhood positions. Earning a CDA can help you build your skills for the job you have now and advance your early childhood career. For example, in North Dakota, a person with a CDA Credential is qualified to be a supervisor in a licensed group child care or child care center. A CDA with at least one year of experience is qualified to be a child care center director.

  • Steps to Earning Your CDA
  • 1. Hold a High School Diploma or Equivalent

    A person must hold a high school diploma or equivalent, or be a junior or senior in a high school vocational program in early education to complete the CDA process. A Child Care Aware® Professional Development Specialist can review your past training/experience and create a plan to help you fulfill the CDA Credential requirements.

  • Review the CDA Credentialing process and learn how to order the required competency standards book.

  • The Credentialing Checklist will help you keep track of your progress as you complete the credentialing process.

  • 4. Complete 120 Hours of Approved Training

    Training must be earned through in institution, agency, or setting approved by the National Council. There is no time limit on training and education; however, the training needs to match the CDA setting for which you are applying.

  • 5. Complete 480 Hours of Work Experience

    A candidate must be working directly with children age birth to 5 years in a licensed, state-approved child care setting for 480 hours to qualify as work experience. Work experience must occur within three years prior to submitting your CDA Credential Application, and must match the CDA setting for which you are applying.

  • Candidates are required to put together a Professional Portfolio that includes six reflection statements, a personal philosophy statement, and a collection of specific resource materials. This must be completed within six months prior to applying for the CDA Credential.

  • 7. Distribute and Collect Family Questionnaires

    These questionnaires offer parents an opportunity to give their opinion on your work with their children. Candidates must complete this step within six months prior to submitting the CDA Credential Application.

  • A candidate can apply for national CDA Credentialing once they have completed the prerequisites. A $425 application fee must be submitted with the online application. Once accepted and processed, the candidate will receive information to schedule the Verification Visit and CDA Exam.

  • During this visit, a National Council Professional Development (PD) Specialist will use to R.O.R. Model to review, observe, and reflect.
    The PD Specialist will review the candidate’s Professional Portfolio, training documentation, and proof of work experience, then conduct a 2-hour observation of the candidate working directly with children.
    The visit will end with a one-on-one session to reflect on the candidate’s strengths, areas for improvement, and goals. The PD specialist will send recommended scores to the CDA Council.

  • 10. Complete Your CDA Exam

    The candidate will complete a computerized exam at a local Person VUE testing center.
    The exam includes 65 multiple choice questions including five that are based on scenarios. The test is designed for those with little or no computer experience. Following completion of the exam, the Pearson VUE center will send scores to the CDA Council.
    A CDA Exam Tutorial is available to help candidates prepare for the exam.

  • 11. Review and Award of CDA Credential

    The National Council reviews the scores from the Verification Visit, the CDA Exam, and other documentation of competence to determine whether to issue the CDA Credential. An official CDA Credential is mailed to candidates who meet all requirements. A recommendation is offered to those who need additional training.

  • 12. Credential Renewal

    Renewal ensures that associates are maintaining current knowledge and skills in their work with young children and families. A CDA Credential is valid for three years each time it is renewed.

  • 13. Update Your Growing Futures Career Pathway Placement

    Visit ND Growing Futures.org to learn how to update your placement.