Child Development Associate Credential | CDA Certification Online Courses

What is a CDA?

The Child Development Associate (CDA) is a credentialing program developed to provide opportunities for #teachers and providers to demonstrate their abilities, skills, and understanding of #early-childhood #development and instruction. The CDA Credential is issued by The Council for Professional Recognition. Candidates are assessed through their preparation of multiple sources of evidence, which includes training, a professional portfolio, resources, and competency statements, as well as undergoing observation and assessment.

Why should I earn a CDA?

Earning your CDA Credential is the best way to advance your #career in the field of #early-childhood-education. The CDA national credentialing program is a professional development opportunity for early #educators working in a variety of settings with children ages birth to 5 years old and their families to demonstrate their knowledge, skills, and abilities in the #early-childhood-education field. The program is designed to assess and credential #early-childhood education professionals using multiple sources of evidence, including an exam, observation, and a professional portfolio. CDA Certification in any of the settings demonstrates a commitment to career advancement and professionalism.

Once you have obtained your CDA Credential in Preschool, Infant/Toddler, Family Child Care, or Home Visitor, you will be highly qualified and valued in the field of early childhood education. The beauty of the CDA Certification is that it is recognized nationally. This means that you will be able to work in any state as a highly qualified early educator.

State Requirements

Many states require educators to complete a CDA Certification to be considered qualified to care for children in an early childhood education setting. In these cases, earning the CDA credential is often a mandatory step to meet state requirements. The #CDA_Certification proves that you have met the qualifications required for your role and therefore gives you greater job security and better chances of promotion.

Start your CDA training today 

Benefits of CDA online training with ChildCareEd

ChildCareEd’s CDA online classes are offered in a self-paced format. This provides an ease of use that can be accessed from anywhere at any time for easy and convenient learning. 

In addition, ChildCareEd offers:

  • CDA resources to assist in the development of your portfolio.
  • To support learners with various needs and from all cultures and backgrounds, ChildCareEd offers online training in over 40 different text #languages.
  • ChildCareEd has created the CDA Club - Peers & PD Specialists, a public Facebook group where you can connect with like-minded individuals, access valuable resources, and stay informed about the latest updates.

CDA Training Online

ChildCareEd’s CDA online classes are offered in the following areas. Each of the initial online CDA trainings is a 120 hours CDA Certification program for childcare.

Initial CDA Credential training:

Dive into the world of tiny wonders with our Infant-Toddler CDA Credential Training! Join us for 120 hours of excitement as we guide you through the m...

Get ready to turn your home into a haven of learning and laughter with our Family Fun CDA Credential Training! Join us for 120 hours of adventure wher...

Get ready to play, learn, and earn your stripes with our CDA Preschool Credential Training! Join us for a 120-hour adventure where we'll turn your pas...

Embark on a journey of home-visiting mastery with our Home Visitor CDA Credential Birth to 5 Training! Get ready to empower families, foster connectio...

What is the process to obtain a CDA?

There are five essential steps to obtaining a CDA Credential.

  • Prepare

To prepare for the CDA Credential, candidates must obtain proof of all education and experience. Proof can include a valid high school diploma or GED, college transcripts, and training certificates.

Formal education hours can be for credit or noncredit, they must be earned through an agency or organization with expertise in early childhood teacher preparation. The agency or organization must verify your education in the form of an official transcript, certificate, or letter. Paid or volunteer hours are accepted as work experience. Babysitting, Before and After School Programs, Sunday school programs, and Drop-in Programs are not eligible settings where a Candidate can prove competence around the Competency Standards, and experience hours in these settings should not be counted towards the 480 hours of experience.

  • Apply

To apply for the initial CDA Credential, the cost is $425 for online applications and $500 for paper applications. Payment for the CDA application is due in full at the time of application.

To apply for the CDA Credential, candidates must:

  • Purchase a CDA Competency Standards book in the setting of their work with children.
  • Have a personal email address.
  • Provide their center Director’s email address.
  • Provide their PD Specialist ID number.

PD Specialist

In order to properly complete the application process, candidates will need to find a PD Specialist to conduct their CDA Verification Visit.

All active CDA PD Specialists can be found on the Council for Professional Recognition's website through the Find-a-PD Specialist Tool. Candidates enter their work zip code, their #classroom setting, and the language in which they teach into the database. The database will generate the names and descriptions of PD Specialists nearest to the Candidate. The Candidate then selects the nearest PD Specialist and sends a request to the PD Specialist to conduct their CDA Verification Visit. If the PD Specialist is available to complete the verification visit, they will respond to the Candidate with their PD Specialist ID number. The PD Specialist ID number is required to complete and submit the CDA application.

Once the CDA application is approved, candidates will receive a Ready to Schedule notice via email and their status in the online application will also be updated. Candidates may now schedule the CDA Verification Visit and CDA Exam.

  • Demonstrate

Verification Visit

The CDA PD Specialist conducts the CDA Verification Visit with the Candidate. The verification visit will last four hours. During the CDA Verification Visit, the CDA PD Specialist will go to the candidate’s place of work. During the visit the PD Specialist:

  • Review the Candidate’s Professional Portfolio.
  • Observe the Candidate working with children.
  • Facilitates a reflective dialogue with the Candidate.

At the end of the CDA Verification Visit, the CDA PD Specialist electronically submits the Candidate’s scores to the Council.

CDA Exam

The CDA Exam has 65 multiple-choice questions – 60 questions and 5 scenario questions (with a short narrative and photo). The Candidate will have up to one hour and 45 minutes to complete the exam. The only computer-based skill needed to take the Exam is the ability to point and click a mouse. The exam requires no scrolling, typing or even double-clicking. The exam is taken at a local Pearson VUE testing site. Pearson VUE is the Council’s partner for delivering the CDA Exam at testing centers all over the country.

The CDA Exam questions will test the candidate’s knowledge of basic early childhood best practices based on the CDA Competency Goals and the thirteen Functional Areas. Once the exam is completed, the scores are sent to the Council electronically.

There are two ways a Candidate can schedule the CDA Exam. Testing times and locations are available on a “first come, first serve” basis.

  • Schedule online.

To schedule the exam online, Candidates must first create a Pearson VUE web account. When creating your account, you will need the Candidate ID number from your Ready to Schedule Notice that you received from the Council.

  • Schedule by phone

To schedule your CDA Exam by phone, call 1-866-507-5627. You may schedule the CDA Exam anytime between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. Central Standard Time (CST),  Monday through Friday.

  • Earn

Candidates do not receive a pass or fail score on the CDA Exam and Verification Visit. Rather, the Council comprehensively evaluates how Candidates score in each of the thirteen CDA Functional Areas on the CDA Exam and during the CDA Verification Visit to make a credentialing decision. Based on this decision, candidates may be awarded their CDA Credential.

Try ChildCareEd’s Free CDA Introduction training to Learn More About the CDA Process

Dive into a gateway of opportunity with our CDA Introduction training, where you'll unlock the key to distinguishing yourself in the realm of early c...

Learn what it takes to obtain a Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential. For many in the early childhood education field, the CDA Credential is what sets them apart from others. Learn how the CDA Certification can advance your career and the steps in the CDA process including training, Verification Visit, Professional Portfolio, and Exam. 

Types of CDA

Center-Based Infant/Toddler

The Infant Toddler center-based setting is a state-approved child development center where a candidate can be observed working with a group of at least 3 children ages birth through 36 months, with at least one of the sub-groups. The program must have at least 10 children enrolled, not necessarily in the candidate’s group, and at least two early educators working with the children regularly.

Center-Based Preschool

The Preschool center-based setting is a state-approved child development center where a candidate can be observed working with at least 8 children, all of whom are ages 3 to 5 years. The program must have at least 10 children enrolled, not necessarily in the candidate’s group, and at least two early educators working with the children regularly.

Family Child Care

A Family Child Care setting is a family child care #home where a candidate can be observed working with at least two children 5 years old or younger who are not related to the candidate by blood or marriage. The setting must meet at least the minimum level of applicable state and/or local regulations. Family Child Care settings are also eligible in localities where there is no regulation of family child care.

Home Visitor

Home visitors are professionals, usually educators, who enter children's #homes to work with #parents by managing home visits while establishing close working relationships with the community and other agencies to support the program. Home visiting programs aim to offer support to promote child #health, educational development, and #school-readiness, prevent child #abuse and #neglect, and support parents as they deal with a variety of challenges in raising young children. 

Home visits focus on helping pregnant women with prenatal care, promoting strong parent-child attachment, and coaching parents. Coaching and modeling are important aspects of home visits as they help to support parents in their role as a child's first teacher. Home visitors also conduct regular screenings to help parents identify possible #health-and #developmental issues.

Renewing Your CDA

Once granted, the CDA Credential is valid for three years.

To renew the CDA Certification you must show the following:

  • Obtain 4.5 CEUs, a 3 credit hour college course, or 45 clock hours of training.
  • Become a member of an ECE professional organization. 
  • Select an early childhood professional to review and verify your training and membership documentation. 
  • Complete 80 hours of experience working with children.
  • Select an early childhood professional to:
    • Verify your 80 hours of work experience.
    • Complete a recommendation based on your work with children.
  • Obtain in-person or blended courses in First Aid and Infant and Child (Pediatric) CPR.

Applicants can send in their renewal application up to 6 months before their expiration date. It is important to remember that all renewal applications must be received by the CDA Council by the expiration date. Once a CDA Credential expires, applicants must reapply to obtain a new CDA Credential.

Renewal CDA training online

ChildCareEd’s CDA online classes are offered in the following areas. Each of the renewal CDA trainings is 45 hours.

Empower your expertise and secure your place at the forefront of family child care excellence with our comprehensive CDA Family Child Care Renewal cou...

Embark on a journey to nurture the youngest minds with our dynamic CDA Infant/Toddler Renewal course, meticulously crafted to ...

Reignite your passion for preschool education with our dynamic CDA Preschool Renewal course, crafted to reaffirm your expertise and dedication to shap...


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