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How Can I Obtain a Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential?

If you teach and care for children age five and under, earning a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential could be a way of advancing your career. Learn the steps necessary for earning your CDA credential here.

Child Development Associate Defined

The Child Development Associate (CDA) credential is awarded by the Council for Professional Recognition (CPR) to candidates who are currently working with children who are under five years old. According to the CPR, this credential can help demonstrate to employers that you are a competent child care provider (www.cdacouncil.org).

Important Facts About CDA Credentials

Prerequisites Meet all training standards, purchase an applicable CDA Competency Standards book, submit a CDA application and take the exam, and complete a visit with a PD Specialist
Programs Formal training is provided to matriculated and non-matriculated students
Online Availability Materials to help prepare for the exam may be available online
Possible Careers Helpful with career advancement and job requirements
Median Salary (2020)$25,460 (Childcare Workers)
Job Outlook (2019-2029)2% growth (Childcare Workers)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Determine Your Eligibility

To be eligible for the CDA credential, you must possess a high school diploma or its equivalent, although the organization now allows select third and fourth-year high school students opportunities to qualify. In addition to meeting educational and experience requirements, you must submit documented verification of your work with children.

Choose Your Setting

The CPR offers credentials in four different areas. The Preschool and Infant/Toddler settings are applicable if you work in a state-approved educational center with an enrollment of at least ten children. If you look after two or more children who are unrelated to you in a private child care home, consider the Family Child Care setting. Finally, the Home Visitor setting is relevant if you go into a family's home to help parents care for their children.

Fulfill the Requirements

You must complete 120 hours of CDA-approved, postsecondary education. You can meet this requirement through certificate or degree programs offered by several colleges and universities. Coursework focuses on CDA-content areas such as child development and effective program operation.

Moreover, you will need to complete 480 hours of professional child care experience in the setting for which you're applying. A CDA advisor needs to observe and document your interaction with children after you apply for the credential. You must submit a file containing work-related reference materials and parent-opinion questionnaires. After you've fulfilled the necessary education and work experience requirements, you'll need to send in your completed application and transcript.

Await the Verification Visit and Award

Once your application has been approved, the CPR will schedule a verification visit. During the visit, a representative will collect your professional resource file, administer oral and written examinations and conduct an interview. The CPR will then review your documentation and, if they approve, award your credential within three months of the visit. You can renew your credential after 3-5 years by providing proof of an updated pediatric first-aid certification, at least 80 hours of work experience and membership in an early childhood organization. Continuing education requirements must also be fulfilled.