Early Childhood Education and Training Program

About the CDA Credential

A Child Development Associate (CDA) is an individual who has successfully completed the CDA assessment process and has been awarded the CDA Credential. CDAs are trained to meet the specific needs of children and work with parents and other adults to nurture children's physical, social, emotional, and intellectual growth in a child development framework. Earning a CDA Credential can improve your skills and confidence in working with children. It can also increase your opportunities for advancement in the early childhood field by helping you become eligible for positions such as Director, Group Leader, and Assistant Teacher. The CDA Credential is administered by The Council for Professional Recognition (the Council) in Washington DC. It is recognized in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam and the Virgin Islands.

Please consult the CDA website at www.cdacouncil.org for the most current and up-to-date information regarding the CDA.

Overview of the Requirements and Steps for Obtaining the CDA Credential

As a CDA candidate, you must meet the following requirements before applying for the final CDA assessment for credential:

  • Be 18 years of age or older
  • Hold a high school diploma or GED, or be enrolled as a junior or senior in a high school career and technical program in early childhood education
  • Obtain 480 hours of professional work experience in either a center-based or group setting, depending on the CDA setting you are applying for
  • Have 120 hours of formal child care education training in 8 subject areas

Within six months before submitting the application for credential to the Council, the CDA candidate must:

  • Complete the Professional Portfolio
  • Have Family Questionnaires completed
  • Contact a Professional Development (PD) Specialist to arrange the CDA Verification Visit. A list of PD Specialists can be found at www.cdacouncil.org

After the above steps are completed, the candidate should apply online at www.cdacouncil.org for the CDA Credential and submit the required fee. The candidate will receive notice of application approval or denial.

Within six months after receiving application approval from the Council, the candidate must:

  • Have the CDA Verification Visit conducted by the PD Specialist. The PD Specialist sends the results to the Council
  • Take the CDA Exam at a local Pearson VUE testing center. The test center will send the exam scores to the Council

The Council will then review the results of the Verification Visit and the exam score and either award or deny the Credential.

Please consult the CDA website at www.cdacouncil.org for the most current and up-to-date information regarding the CDA.

CDA Credential Settings

There are four settings in which candidates can obtain a CDA Credential:

  • Preschool: For candidates working in a center-based setting with children 3-5 years old.
  • Infant/Toddler: For candidates working with children from birth to 36 months of age.
  • Family Child Care: For candidates working with one or all age groups in a family child care home.
  • Home Visitor: For candidates working with the parents of young children. *CDA training and assessment fees for the Home Visitor setting are not eligible for EIP scholarships.

CDA Training

The candidate must complete 120 hours of formal childhood education training, with no fewer than 10 training hours in each of the eight subject areas, before applying for the CDA Credential. Some training organizations and colleges offer CDA training programs specifically designed to meet this requirement. Before enrolling in a CDA training program, we encourage you to research your options and determine which will best help you obtain your CDA Credential.

The 120 hours of training must be documented, with no fewer than 10 hours in each of the following content 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

Training obtained as part of a CDA Credential program may be applied towards your 30 hours of required training. Questions about using CDA related training to fulfill your regulatory training requirements should be directed to your Licensor or Registrar at the New York State Office of Children and Family Services. Any training taken as part of the 30 hour regulatory training requirement may help you meet the 120 hour CDA training requirement.

The Professional Development Specialist

As part of the credentialing process, you will need to have a Professional Development (PD) Specialist conduct a CDA Verification Visit. The PD Specialist brings the mentoring and coaching skills and early childhood education expertise needed to assess your competencies and facilitate your self-reflection. Before submitting your CDA application, you must identify a PD Specialist who is willing to conduct your CDA Verification Visit. The visit happens AFTER the Council approves your application. After the Council receives and processes your correctly completed CDA application and assessment fee, you will receive a Ready to Schedule Notice. You can then proceed with the scheduling of your CDA Verification Visit with your PD Specialist.

During the CDA Verification Visit the PD Specialist will review your professional portfolio, the family questionnaires, transcripts and certificates. You will be observed in the classroom and have a reflective discussion with the PD Specialist. The PD Specialist will send your results to the Council.

To find a PD Specialist in your area, please visit www.cdacouncil.org

Application for Assessment

When you have completed 120 hours of CDA training, 480 hours of work experience, and your professional portfolio, gathered your family questionnaires and found a PD Specialist, you should apply to the Council for your assessment. Visit www.cdacouncil.org to apply online.

After reviewing your application, the Council will send you an email that the application is complete and payment is now due. Apply to EIP and submit a copy of the email from the Council with your application supporting documents.

If your EIP application is approved, you will receive an EIP award. You must sign the award and return it to EIP.

Once the award is processed by EIP, you will receive an email from the Council with your voucher number.

Login to your Council account and redeem the voucher as payment for your account.

If you are sending a paper application to the Council, you must send a copy of your EIP award with your application to the Council. Online applications are preferred.

The CDA Exam

As part of the final assessment, you also need to take the CDA Exam at a local Pearson VUE testing center. The exam has 65 multiple choice questions. Five of the questions have a photo and short narrative, followed by a multiple-choice question about each scenario. You will have up to one hour and 45 minutes to complete the exam. Pearson VUE will send your exam scores to the Council.

Pearson VUE is the Council’s partner for delivering the CDA Exam. Go to http://www.pearsonvue.com/cdaexam/ to find a test center near you.

The Final Step

After the Council has reviewed the CDA Verification Visit results and the CDA Exam score, you are either awarded the CDA Credential or denied the Credential. If you are awarded the Credential the official certificate will be mailed to you. If you are denied, the Council will let you know the next steps to take to earn the Credential.

The CDA Renewal

A CDA Credential is valid for three years from the date it is first awarded to you. You can apply for your renewal as early as six months prior to the expiration date. EIP scholarships can be used to cover the cost of CDA renewal training programs as well as the CDA renewal fee. For more information on the renewal requirements go to www.cdacouncil.org.

Scholarship Eligibility

EIP scholarships can be used to cover the cost of CDA training, the CDA assessment fee and the CDA renewal fee. In order to receive a scholarship for training and fees leading to the CDA Credential, the applicant must:

  • Meet all of the eligibility requirements that are outlined in the General Information section above
  • Have 240 hours of experience working with children

If you are applying for a scholarship for the CDA assessment fee or the CDA renewal, your income will not be used as a factor to determine your scholarship eligibility.

EIP scholarships will only be issued for training activities that begin and end in the 2019 calendar year. Scholarship applications must be received by December 1, 2019 to be considered.

Scholarships for training taken with a Verified Trainer or Content Specialist, or distance learning training, will be issued at a rate of up to $30 per training hour.

Scholarships for training taken with a Professional Development Specialist in Early Childhood and/or School-Age will be issued at a rate of up to $35 per training hour.

EIP scholarships cannot be used to cover the cost of the application packet.

If you do not pass, you must refund EIP the full amount of your CDA assessment scholarship.

The maximum annual scholarship amounts are up to:

  • $1,250 for credential training
  • $500 for CDA assessment fee
  • $150 for CDA renewal fee
  • $500 for second setting fee

Breakdown of CDA activities and related costs

Activity Cost Eligible for EIP funding?
CDA Preparatory Training Varies depending on organization Yes
CDA textbook and training materials Varies depending on item No
CDA Initial Application Packet $25 per setting plus shipping and handling No
CDA Formal Observation Paid by the CDA Council to the PD Specialist No
CDA Final Assessment Fee $425 online application
$500 paper application
CDA Renewal Application Packet $15 No
CDA Second Setting Fee $425 online application
$500 paper application
CDA Renewal Fee $125 online renewal
$150 paper renewal

CDA Related Resources

The Council for Professional Recognition (CDA Council)

  • Learn about the CDA Credential
  • Request application forms
  • Contact The Council about your candidacy.