What is a child development associate credential?

The Child Development Associate Credential, or CDA credential for short, is a national credential and a professional recognition awarded by the Council on Standards in Early Childhood Education Programs. 

The purpose of this credential is to provide preschool teachers and early childhood educators with a professional recognition that they have completed training and experience in early childhood education. The Child Development Associate ® (CDA) Credential is one of the most widely recognized credentials in early childhood education and a great opportunity to grow your career.

The CDA or the Child Development Associate ® Credentials are offered in four professional development categories, or “settings.” The CDA credential is different for each setting, so you need to identify the appropriate setting for your situation before applying to earn your CDA credential: 

  1. Center-Based Infant Toddler CDA credential
  2. Center-Based Preschool CDA credential
  3. Family Child Care CDA credential
  4. Home Visitor CDA credential

What does that mean?

Simply put, it means more opportunities for employment and professional development for Early Childhood educators and preschool teachers!

Why do I earn a CDA credential?

The Child Development Associate® (CDA) Credential is the most widely recognized credential in early childhood education for child care providers. Earning your CDA credential will be a great stepping stone towards your dream job!

For most people, obtaining a CDA credential certification is the first step towards entering the field of early childhood education. After all, it does lead to professional recognition, better pay, and far-reaching opportunities for early childhood professionals.

But CDA is just not for entering the field you may already be an Early Childhood educator who wants to be a Head Teacher at a preschool or daycare or simply keep up with the changes in competency standards. 

Receiving the Child Development Associate credential means you are able to:

Build confidence and help you develop a good understanding of today’s best practices for teaching young children

Establish and maintain a safe, healthy learning environment for young children.

Advance the physical and intellectual competence of young children.

 Foster the social, emotional, physical, and cognitive growth of young children

How do I get a CDA Certification Online?

Yes, you can earn your Child Development Associate credential certification training online. All you need is an Internet connection and the desire to make a positive difference in young children’s lives!

This article will walk you through the process of earning your credential. Here are the initial 120-hour, and 80-hour core and the 45 -hour renewal training packages. The early childhood credential is valid for five years and you must recertify every five years to maintain the credential.

Choose from 4 packages to meet your specific needs. Our online training courses are interactive and engaging, providing you with a fun way to earn your CDA Certification Online:

Step 1

Earning your CDA requires completing 120 hours of early childhood education training, with at least 10 hours in each of the 8 CDA subject areas.

CDA Subject Areas

  1. Planning a safe and healthy learning environment
  2. Advancing children’s physical and intellectual development
  3. Supporting children’s social and emotional development
  4. Building productive relationships with families
  5. Managing an effective program operation
  6. Maintaining a commitment to professionalism
  7. Observing and recording children’s behavior
  8. Understanding principles of child development and learning

You’ll also need to consider the type of childcare setting you want to offer -Infant/Toddler, preschool, or family child care.

 120 Hours Pre-selected 80 hours plus You Choose 40 hours-this option provides the required courses in each of the Child Development Associate Subject Areas plus 40 hours of classes that you can choose from. You decide what’s best for yourself.

120 Hours Pre-selected for CDA Setting Type  – This comprehensive package contains 120 hours of the best selection of classes based on your chosen setting type.

80 Hours Pre-selected for 8 CDA Subject Areas -This package offers 10 hours in each of the 8 Child Development Associate Subject Areas. This total is 80 total hours for CDA-specific subjects that are relevant to your setting type!

120 Hours Pay As You Go  – For those who are looking for a cost-effective way to meet their CDA requirements, this package is perfect. It’s a 3 part regimen that together provides 120 hours of required training, but can be broken down in order to make payments easier on your budget-friendly schedule!

Step 2

The CDA requires that you complete 480 hours of professional work experience with young children. The requirement is based on the CDA setting you’re applying for so make sure it includes the right age group.

Step 3

You will need to submit a professional portfolio that demonstrates your abilities, education, and work experience. Your Professional Portfolio must have been completed within the six months prior to application for CDA Credentialing – it should match with the age group/setting of which you are applying (age 25+). This Professional Portfolio entails:

  • Education Documentation
  • Family Questionnaires
  • Six (6) Reflective Statements of Competence
  • Ten (10) Resources
  • A Professional Philosophy Statement

Step 4

Identify a CDA Professional Development Specialist and send in your application to the CDA Council.

Step 5

CDA Professional Development Specialist verification visit followed by the CDA exam.

Step 6

The Professional Development Specialist Verification scores and the exam are compiled, congratulations :), Now you’re one of those lucky few that has achieved a CDA credential. You deserve all the praise! So pat yourself on your back because it takes years’ worth of hard work, dedication, and perseverance to achieve this professional recognition.

How long does it take to get a CDA certification?

The process of earning your CDA credential takes between six months and one year depending on the number of hours you are investing. It takes about 600 hours to earn a Child Development Associate certificate. This includes 120 hours in learning and 480 hours of work experience working with young children.

How to get a CDA for free?

We are not aware of any CDA certification training being offered for free however there are affordable discounted packages and pay-as-you-go options that will help you get started in your professional recognition journey towards earning the child development associate CDA credential.

In addition, there are maybe scholarships available – see what CDA Scholarships are available in your state.

Where can you find more information about getting discounted CDA Certification training?

There are many discounted online training packages to fulfill the training requirement for the CDA certification. The discounts and payment plan will make it easy for your CDA certification journey! 

Discounts and special offers – Check out the latest discounts and offers

Pay-As-You-Go packages – The pay-as-you-go packages allow child care professionals an option to spread the costs out over a period of time. You decide how quickly you’d like to complete your Credentials and order classes accordingly, a section at a time try our pay-as-you-go option to pay when you’re ready to proceed.

When can I apply for my CDA?

At this point, there are no official answers to that question. The best answer is “As soon as possible:) “

CDA Renewal

A Child Development Associate CDA credential is valid for 3 years from the award date. You’ll need to renew your CDA professional recognition every 3 years to reaffirm your competence as a Preschool, Infant-Toddler, Family Child Care, or Home Visitor Child Development Associate. The process includes 45 hours of early childhood education training specific for your setting type, below are 2-package courses on how you can fulfill these requirements!

45 Hours: Pre-selected for CDA Setting Type – This pre-selected package will provide you with 45 hours of classes designed specifically for each CDA setting type.

45 Hours: You Choose Classes – This CDA course lets you customize 45 hours of classes to suit your unique needs. You can choose from a wide range of options, so it’s perfect for anyone who has specific interests or wants something new!

Achieving a Child Development Associate CDA credential is a big commitment. But becoming one can be rewarding and lead to more job opportunities for Early Childhood Professionals with this professional recognition in their back pocket. Qualifying as an expert on early childhood development means you have reached a high level of skill and knowledge when it comes to working with young children, and the journey of becoming a CDA will be worth it as you have more opportunities for employment with higher salaries. 

If you are thinking about pursuing this certification, contact us today! We offer free consultations so we can answer any questions or concerns before starting down the path on earning your Child Development Associate CDA credential.


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