The Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential is a professional development opportunity for child care providers working with children ages birth to 5 years of age, to demonstrate their knowledge, skills and abilities to nurture the emotional, physical, intellectual and social development of children. Earning a CDA Credential can improve your skills and confidence working with children and demonstrates your professionalism and commitment to career advancement in early childhood education.
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.
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.
Before applying for the CDA Credential, the CDA candidate must complete and have documented 120 hours of formal childhood education
training, with no fewer than 10 training hours in each of the following CDA Competency Standards and Functional Areas:
- Planning a safe and healthy learning environment
- Advancing children's physical and intellectual development
- Supporting children's social and emotional development
- Building productive relationships with families
- Managing an effective program operation
- Maintaining a commitment to professionalism
- Observing and recording children's behavior
- Understanding principles of child development and learning
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.
Training obtained as part of a CDA Credential program may be applied towards your 30 hours of required training. Questions about using CDA training to fulfill your regulatory training requirements should be directed to your Licensor or Registrar at the NYS OCFS. Any training taken as part of the 30 hours of regulatory training requirement may help you meet the 120 hour CDA training requirement.
The Requirements and Steps for Obtaining the CDA Credential
Any time before you apply to the Council for the Initial CDA Application and Assessment, you must:
- Create an account with the CDA Council at www.cdacouncil.org.
- Be 18 years of age or older and 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.
- Complete 120 hours of formal early childhood education training in the required subject areas.
Within 3 years of submitting your application:
- Obtain 480 hours of experience working with children in the setting and age group of the credential type you are applying for.
Within 6 months of submitting your application:
- Complete your CDA Professional Portfolio.
- Contact a CDA Professional Development (PD) Specialist to arrange for your CDA Verification Visit.
Submit the Initial CDA Application and Assessment
When you have completed all the application requirements - 120 hours of CDA training, 480 hours of work experience, your professional portfolio, and found a PD Specialist, use your CDA Council account to submit your Initial Application and Assessment online.
After reviewing your application, the Council will send you a “checkout” email which states your application is complete and payment is now due.
Application for EIP Scholarship
After your assessment application has been approved by the Council and you have received your checkout email, apply to EIP for your scholarship award. Submit a copy of the checkout email received from the Council with your EIP application supporting documents.
If your EIP application is approved you will receive an email to review and accept your EIP award.*
You will also receive an email from the Council with your voucher number. Login to your CDA Council account and redeem the voucher as payment for your application.
*Note: 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.
Ready to Schedule Notice
Once your application has been approved and either your voucher has been redeemed or payment has been made, you will receive a Ready to Schedule Notice from the Council. You may then schedule your CDA Verification Visit with the PD Specialist you have previously chosen and take the CDA Exam at a local Pearson VUE testing center. The results of both will be sent directly to the Council.
The Verification Visit and the CDA Exam must be completed within 6 months of receiving the Ready to Schedule Notice.
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 Verification Visit
You will need to have a Professional Development (PD) Specialist conduct a CDA Verification Visit. You must identify a PD Specialist who will conduct your verification visit before you submit your application to the Council. Once your assessment application is approved and payment is made, the Council will send you a Ready to Schedule Notice. You can then schedule your visit with the PD Specialist.
During the CDA Verification Visit, the PD Specialist will review your professional portfolio, training transcripts/certificates and family questionnaires. The PD Specialist will observe you working with the children. You will then have a reflective discussion focused on your areas of strength or growth found during the observation and/or in the portfolio and family questionnaires.
The PD Specialist will send your results directly to the Council. To find a PD Specialist in your area, use the online directory on www.cdacouncil.org.
The CDA Exam
You will need to take the CDA exam at a local Pearson VUE testing center. The exam has 65 multiple choice questions – 60 questions and 5 scenario questions with a short narrative and a photo. You will have up to one hour and 45 minutes to complete the exam. Pearson VUE will send your exam scores directly to the Council.
Candidates must complete their CDA assessment application and have received a Ready to Schedule Notice in order to schedule the exam. You can schedule the exam either online or by phone. To find a Pearson VUE testing center near you go to http://www.pearsonvue.com/cdaexam/
The CDA Renewal
The 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. For information on the renewal requirements and procedures go to www.cdacouncil.org
EIP scholarships can be used to cover the cost of CDA renewal training and the renewal fee. Apply for your EIP award after you have completed your renewal application with the Council and have received your checkout email.
EIP Scholarship Eligibility
EIP scholarships can be used to cover the cost of CDA training, the Assessment application fee and the Renewal fee. In order to receive an EIP scholarship, you must:
- Meet all the eligibility requirements outlined in the General Information section above.
NOTE: Income is not used as a factor to determine scholarship eligibility for the Assessment Application Fee or Renewal Fee.
- Have 240 hours of experience working with children.
EIP scholarships will only be used for training activities that begin and end in the 2022 calendar year. Scholarship applications must be received by December 1, 2022 to be considered.
EIP scholarships cannot be used to cover the cost of the application packet.
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.
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
||Eligible for EIP funding?
|CDA Preparatory Training
||Varies depending on organization
|CDA textbook and training materials
||Varies depending on item
|CDA Initial Application Packet
||$25 per setting plus shipping and handling
|CDA Formal Observation
||Paid by the CDA Council to the PD Specialist
|CDA Assessment Application Fee
||$425 online application
$500 paper application
|CDA Renewal Application Packet
|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 (The Council)
- Learn about the CDA Credential
- Request application forms
- Contact The Council about your candidacy.