Erin DelRegno

What is a Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential?
The CDA is a credentialing program for Early Childhood Educators working with children ages birth to five years old. It doesn’t just look at the knowledge you’ve learned through trainings; it allows candidates to demonstrate their skills and abilities used in their work to meet the needs of children, work with families and nurture physical, social, emotional, and intellectual growth of a child. It assesses candidates with an exam, an observation of them working with children, and a review of a professional portfolio created by the candidate.

What are the benefits of earning a Child Development Associate (CDA)?

  • Whether you worked in this field for a long time or you are new, there is always new research to learn about young children. This helps you learn and understand more about developmentally appropriate practices when working with children.
  • Your confidence will grow as you get an opportunity to have hundreds of hours of hands-on experience, get useful feedback from an observer, and gain knowledge before moving forward in your education.
  • It shows your professional commitment to the field. This is beneficial for centers looking for highly qualified staff with skills and knowledge in Early Childhood Education (ECE).
  • The CDA Credential is the first step many Early Childhood Educators take. Many community colleges will grant you credit towards your associates degree for attaining this credential.
  • This credential is recognized nationwide (in all 50 states). It moves with you wherever you go.
  • Parents will have peace of mind as you are working with their child. They will trust and have confidence in you.

What types of CDA credential settings can you choose from?
You can choose the credential you are working toward, based on the current group of children with whom you are working. The following are the CDA settings from which you choose:

  • Center-based Preschool (3-5 years)
  • Center-based Infant/Toddler (birth-36 months)
  • Family Child Care (birth-5 years)
  • Home Visitor (birth-5 years)

* CDA in Other Languages – The council wants to support candidates that use a language other than English or Spanish, including sign language, when working with children and their families. Candidates who wish to apply for an assessment in a language other than English or Spanish must receive approval by the Council prior to submitting their application.

What do I need to be eligible for a CDA Credential?

  • A high school diploma, GED, or be enrolled as a junior or senior in a high school career and technical program in early childhood education
  • 120 hours of formal ECE training completed (need at least ten hours in each of the 8 subject areas)
  • 480 hours professional work experience in the selected setting (within 3 years of submitting application)
  • CDA professional portfolio prepared by following detailed instructions in the CDA competency standards book
  • Identify a CDA Professional Development (PD) Specialist who will conduct your Verification Visit (within 6 months of submitting application)

How do I apply and complete the process?

  • Submit an online application or complete and submit a paper application located in the CDA competency standards book.
  • The application fee is $425 if completed online, or a $500 application fee is sent with your paper application (the application fee is non-refundable and non-transferable).
  • Once the application is approved, you will receive your Ready to Schedule notice from the Council for Professional Recognition.
  • After receiving the notice, you can schedule your CDA verification visit with the specialist and the CDA exam through Pearson VUE.

How do I renew?

  • Download the renewal procedures guide for your setting on the CDA Council website.
  • Complete one of the following: 4.5 CEU’s, a 3 credit hour college course from an accredited college or university, or 45 clock hours of training relevant to your CDA credential type.
  • Show proof of a current membership in an Early Childhood professional organization.
  • Show proof of valid and current certification First Aid & both Infant and Child (Pediatric) CPR.
  • Select an Early Childhood Education (ECE) Reviewer that will submit a recommendation verifying your minimum of 80 hours work experience with children in the appropriate setting and attesting to your performance with children based on the six CDA Competency Goals and 13 Functional Areas.
  • Complete and submit the application and above information with the application fee
    ($125 if submitted online, and $150 if submitted by paper).

*You renew your CDA every 3 years. The expiration date is on your certificate. Renewal applications can be submitted up to six months prior to the expiration date. You must renew your CDA before it expires.

Are you worried about the cost?
The initial cost can be a little scary, but it is worth it. First thing you can do is ask the organization you work for, because if this is a job requirement, they may pay the application cost in the process of getting your CDA.

In Pennsylvania, there are some other options to check out. Look into the CDA Voucher, T.E.A.C.H Early Childhood PA Scholarship, or contact your Early Childhood Education Professional Development Organization (ECE PDO). Information on these financial assistance options can be found on the PA Keys website ( For other states, links for scholarship options are located on the CDA Council website.

Reference & Resource
The following link is to the Council for Professional Recognition’s website. Click this for more CDA information, to purchase needed materials, to find a PD Specialist for your observation, and to apply for your CDA:

Tags : CDA CredentialChild Development AssociateCouncil for Professional Recognitionearly childhood educationEducation

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  1. Thank you for mentioning how earning a CDA will allow you to receive the experience needed to be more confident. My wife is interested in learning how to take care of children with special needs so that she can open a daycare someday, but she is worried that she will be too nervous to take care of younger children unless she gets enough experience to handle any situation. Maybe she should find a CDA training course to help her prepare.

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