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Child Development Associate®

The Child Development Associate® (CDA) credential is the only globally-recognized credential in early childhood education, and is an important step for an educator’s personal and professional growth.

The CDA credential demonstrates a level of expertise and skill in delivering high quality, evidence-based learning to young children. Credentialed educators are trained in applying best practices to support the development of children’s emotional, physical, intellectual, and social needs. Program participants also develop skills in program management, professionalism, and building productive relationships with families. As the most widely recognized early childhood credential, the CDA provides opportunities for career advancement with the potential for higher wages. 

Whether a candidate is applying for their Infant/Toddler, Preschool, Home Visitor, or Family Childcare Credential, the process and requirements are the same. The Council for Professional Recognition requires that applicants hold a high school diploma, a GED, or are enrolled as a junior or senior in a high school career technical program in early childhood education. At the time of application, educators must have the necessary 480 hours of experience working with children in the age group of the credential they are applying for. 

The CDA is offered in different languages, and the Council celebrates and supports diversity in the early childhood national and international community. If a candidate finds themselves in a program that requires the use of a language other than English or Spanish, including sign language, there is a process to support candidates with their CDA assessment.

ECIC’s Incentives for the CDA® Program


Technology
Support
*

$500
Support Stipend

$425+
CDA Fee and Books

$1000
Completion Stipend

*after six months continuous employment in early child care or education

Resources for the Child Development Associate®

You can schedule your CDA® exam here: https://home.pearsonvue.com/cdaexam. Testing times and locations vary and are available on a “first come, first serve” basis. The cohort facilitator will prompt you when it is time to apply and guide you through this process. Stay tuned!

Candidates can select one of four work setting areas in which to earn their CDA® credential. All four focus areas have the same requirements and process to complete the credential, though some program specifics may vary depending on the educational setting you choose. When applying to obtain your credential and advance your early childhood career, pick the one that most closely reflects your working situation. 

In the center-based infant-toddler setting, you’ll be interacting with a group of at least three children under the age of three in a state-approved child development center. Within three years of submitting your CDA® application, you need to obtain 480 hours of professional work experience in a center-based setting that covers all three sub-age groups: young infants (birth to 8 months), mobile infants (9–17 months), and toddlers (18–36 months).

In the center-based infant-toddler setting, you’ll be working with a group of at least eight children ranging in age from three to five years old in a state-approved child development center. Within three years of submitting your CDA® application, you will need to obtain 480 hours of professional work experience in a center-based setting with children ages 3-5 years old.

Candidates will be observed interacting with at least two children, ages birth to five, in a family child care setting. The credential requires that the children observed should not be related to the caregiver by blood or by marriage. Within three years of submitting your CDA® application, you will need to obtain 480 hours of professional work experience in a family child care setting with children ages birth to five.

Under the home visitor setting, a different process is followed. To earn your credential, you will need 120 hours of formal early childhood education training in subject areas different from those in the other three settings. They include: 

  • Promoting health and safety in the home environment
  • Enhancing parents’ skills to advance children’s physical and intellectual development
  • Promoting parents’ use of positive ways to support children’s social and emotional development
  • Understanding family systems and development
  • Managing an effective home visitor program operation
  • Maintaining a commitment to professionalism
  • Working across the child welfare continuum
  • Understanding the principles of child development and learning

Within three years, you will need to obtain 480 hours of professional work experience in a home visitor program serving families with children aged birth to five years.

As part of the program, home visitors support families with the needs of their young children aged 5 or younger in an established home visit program. Within three years of submitting your CDA application, you will need to obtain 480 hours of professional work experience in a home visitor program serving families with children aged birth to five years.

Still Have Questions?

Reach out to us! Our team is happy to answer any questions you might have and talk through your goals for your career in early childhood education. 

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