Online Child Development Associate Credential Facts

There are several in-person components to the process for earning the Child Development Associate (CDA) credential, but you can order your application packet online. Read on to review the requirements for becoming a CDA, the application process and the examination. Check the benefits of becoming a CDA, and find out how to renew your credential. Schools offering Child & Adolescent Development degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is a Child Development Associate Credential?

Administered by the Council for Professional Recognition, the Child Development Associate (CDA) credential certifies your ability to care for children. Specifically, it certifies that you can recognize and address the intellectual, emotional, educational and physical needs of children. Earning your CDA doesn't require enrollment in a degree program, and you can start the process after meeting eligibility requirements by ordering an application packet online.

The CDA Credential Certifies ability to care for children; no degree needed
Requirements Must be at least 18 years old; high school diploma/GED; 480 hours experience with children and 120 hours of formal childcare instruction within 5 years
Common Courses Child development and learning, professionalism, safe learning environments
How It's Done Complete application packet and pass verification visit and oral interview
Why It Matters Allows for work as caregiver for young children, further study and/or state licensure
Credential Renewal Due every 3 years, requirements include first aid certification, early childcare course completion
Median Salary (2018) $47,940 (for all preschool and childcare center directors)  
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 11% growth (for all preschool and childcare center directors)  

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 

What Do I Need to Earn the Credential?

Before earning your CDA credential, you'll need to show that you're at least 18 years of age and that you have a high school diploma or GED. You'll also need to prove that you have logged at least 480 hours of experience working with children and received 120 hours of formal childcare instruction within the last five years. These training requirements don't necessarily need to be completed within a program that awards college credit, but they do have to be completed and verified through an organization that deals with early child care and development. In addition, the formal childcare instruction component must cover specific areas, including:

  • Child development and learning
  • Professionalism
  • Safe learning environments
  • Effective family relationships
  • Observation of child behavior

How Do I Earn the Credential?

Once you meet eligibility requirements, you can order an application packet online. This packet is specific to your CDA credential of interest - for infants and toddlers, preschool students or families. To complete the packet, you'll have to prepare and collect necessary materials, such as a professional reference portfolio and parent opinion questionnaires. An approved advisor will also complete an observation to assess your competency.

After you submit your application, supporting documentation and fee, a representative from the Council for Professional Recognition will certify your abilities through a verification visit and oral interview. You'll also have to pass the Early Childhood Studies Review exam before being awarded the CDA credential.

Why Should I Earn This Credential?

Earning your CDA can help you find work as a caregiver for young children. You may also be able to apply training courses taken to fulfill your formal instruction requirement toward an associate's degree or certificate in early childhood education. For daycare workers and similar positions, a CDA credential may be required for licensure from the state.

Do I Need to Renew My CDA Certification?

Your CDA credential is valid for three years. Renewal requires first aid certification from the Red Cross or a similar organization, completion of a 3-credit-hour course in early childcare and proof that you've worked with children for at least 80 hours. You'll also need a recommendation letter from the organization(s) you worked for when seeking to renew your CDA credential.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools

  • Northern Michigan University

    Campus Locations:

    • Michigan: Marquette
  • Pellissippi State Technical Community College

    Campus Locations:

    • Tennessee: Knoxville
  • York County Community College

    Campus Locations:

    • Maine: Wells
  • Western Oklahoma State College

    Campus Locations:

    • Oklahoma: Altus
  • West Virginia University at Parkersburg

    Campus Locations:

    • West Virginia: Parkersburg
  • Weber State University

    Campus Locations:

    • Utah: Ogden
  • Washington County Community College

    Campus Locations:

    • Maine: Calais
  • Walters State Community College

    Campus Locations:

    • Tennessee: Morristown
  • Volunteer State Community College

    Campus Locations:

    • Tennessee: Gallatin
  • University of Alaska Fairbanks

    Campus Locations:

    • Alaska: Fairbanks