Child Development Associate

What is a Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential?

The CDA stands for Child Development Associate.  It is the most widely recognized credential in Early Childhood Education (ECE) and is a key stepping stone on the path of career advancement in ECE.  The CDA Credential is based on a core set of Competency Standards, which guide early care and learning professionals as they work toward becoming qualified teachers of young children.  These professionals have the knowledge of how to put the CDA Competency Standards into practice and the understanding of how the Standards help children move with success from one developmental stage to another.

(Council for Professional Recognition 2013)

What are the three child care settings?

All candidates must be able to identify an appropriate setting where they can be observed working as the lead caregiver.  The CDA Credential can be awarded in one of three child care settings:

– Center-based Credential with endorsements to work with preschool children, or with infants and toddlers.
– Family Child Care Credential
– Home Visitor Credential
– Bilingual endorsements are available for all of the settings.  The Council also offers a Second Setting CDA Credential for CDA’s who hold one credential and wish to obtain a second credential in a different setting.

Reason’s to Obtain your CDA:

(Cited from the Council for Professional Recognition, 2013)

 1. The CDA brings vision and unity to the field about what professionals who work with young

children should know and be able to do effectively in any setting – Center-Based Preschool,

Infant & Toddler, Family Child Care and Home Visitor.

2. The CDA is the only portable, reciprocal, competency-based, national credential recognized

in all 50 states, territories, the District of Columbia, community colleges and the United

States military.

3. The CDA credentialing system is based on the knowledge of the nation’s leading scholars in early

care and learning. Utilizing multiple sources of evidence, the CDA national credentialing system is

the only comprehensive system of its kind that recognizes the essential competencies needed by

entry-level and all early childhood professionals.

4. The CDA is the only credit-bearing national credential that articulates to Associate degrees

in most community college systems across the nation.

5. The CDA is the only national, multi-language credentialing system that assesses educators in

the language of their daily work.

6. The CDA has revolutionized entry-level credentialing once again! With the launch of CDA

2.0 the Council has streamlined and strengthened the process, making it even more valuable

as a professional development experience.


What Can the CDA Credential do for Your Career?

The CDA is a nationally recognized credential awarded by the Council for Professional Recognition and allows recipients to work anywhere in the country. Beginning in 2013, all Head Start assistant teachers will be required to have a CDA. Some states require all providers to have a minimum of a CDA. Others states are on their way to requiring it.

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics predicts that the need for child care professionals will grow at a rate of 20%, higher than average, over the next eight years. Individuals with a CDA can earn more than $3,000 a year more than someone who does not have a CDA. In addition, according to the National Survey of Child Development Associates, over 70% of CDA’s receive a salary increase in the first year after receiving the credential, over one-third received a promotion and over 70% continue to work in the profession ten years after the credentialing.

Quality Care remains committed to assist the professionals we serve by continually improving and adapting our programs to meet their specific needs. Beginning in October 2012, Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem Counties will be offering one year CDA program with classes meeting once a week. At the end of the program, successful participants will be eligible to apply for the CDA Credential from the Council for Professional Recognition.


How to Earn your Child Development Associate (CDA):

(Cited from the Council for Professional Recognition, 2013)


• Obtain a minimum of a high school diploma/ GED or be currently enrolled in a high

school career / technical program

• Any time before application – Complete 120-hours of education within the required

Eight Subject Areas

• Within 3 years of submitting application – Complete 480 hours of experience working with

young children in the appropriate setting (Preschool, Infant & Toddler or Family Child Care)

• Within 6 months of submitting application – Complete a Professional Portfolio (Details on

how-to create a Professional Portfolio can be found in the Competency Standards books)


• Select and confirm a Professional Development (PD) Specialist

• Obtain completed Director’s Permission Statement from center/program director

• Submit Application and Assessment Fee [$425] (Applying online is the fastest and easiest way

to obtain your CDA credential!)

• Receive a “Ready to Schedule” notification from the Council, confirming that your

application has been processed and you are ready to schedule your Verification Visit


 Schedule Verification Visit

• Candidates will be assessed by the Professional Development (PD) Specialist using the R.O.R.

Model (Review-Observe-Reflect) designed by the Council. Using the new Comprehensive

Scoring Instrument, the PD Specialist will observe the Candidate using a combination

of Portfolio evidence and observable criteria using the thirteen Functional Areas.

Schedule CDA Exam

• Candidates will take a 65-item exam at a local PearsonVue testing center in their area. To

locate a PearsonVue testing center, visit: www.pearsonvue.com/cdaexam.


After the Council receives the scores for your Verification Visit and CDA Exam, a Cumulative

Score is calculated and is used to determine the credentialing decision. To learn more, review

the section on “Earn Your CDA Credential” in the Competency Standards books.


The CDA credential is valid for three years from the date of award. To learn more about how

to renew, visit our website www.cdacouncil.org.

What are the required 120 clocked hours?

All CDA Candidates must have 120 clocked hours of formal child care education.  The hours must be through and agency, organization or school with expertise in early childhood teacher education.  The agency must provide verification of the candidate’s education in the form of a transcript, certificate or letter.

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

CDA Subject Area:

  • (Area 1) Planning a safe, healthy, learning environment. (safety, first aid, health, nutrition, space planning, materials and equipment)
  • (Area 2) Steps to advance children’s physical and intellectual development. (large and small muscle, language and literacy, discovery, art, music)
  • (Area 3) Positive ways to support children’s social and emotional development. (self-esteem, independence, self-control, socialization)
  • (Area 4) Strategies to establish productive relationships with families. (parent involvement, home visits, conferences, referrals)
  • (Area 5) Strategies to manage effective program operation. (planning, record-keeping, reporting)
  • (Area 6) Maintaining a commitment to professionalism. (advocacy, ethical practices, workforce issues, professional associations)
  • (Area 7) Observing and recording children’s behavior. (tools and strategies for effective information collection)
  • (Area 8) Principles of child development and learning. (developmental milestones from birth through age 5, cultural influences on development)

How is the Credential awarded?

A Council committee conducts a review of the candidate’s documentation and renders a decision whether to award the credential.  If a Credential is awarded, the official Credential is sent to the new Child Development Associate.  If the committee decides the Candidate needs more training, the Council notifies the Candidate and informs them of the appeal procedures and other subsequent options.

CDA Renewal Requirements:

– 4.5 CEU’s or 3 college-credit-hours or 45 clock hours of training in the areas of early childhood education/child development, principles of adult learning, mental health counseling, etc.
– A recommendation letter from an Early Childhood Education (ECE) reviewer/professional who is familiar with your professional work.
– Documented Proof of a current pediatric first aid certificate.
– Documented Proof of Membership in an ECE professional membership organization.
– Documented proof that of a minimum of 80 hours worked or volunteer experience.  This should be verified with an official letter from a supervisor.
– The renewal application can be purchased directly from the Council for Professional Recognition.


What is Quality Care Resource & Referral Services  (QCR&R) Child Development Associate (CDA) Module Training Program?

Quality Care Resource and Referral Services, Inc. (QCR&R) understands the importance of professional development and continuing education.  It is our commitment to provide quality workshops that are designed to enhance the skills, knowledge and education of child care professionals.  The QCR&R Child Development Associate Module Training Program offers CDA qualified trainings in Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem Counties.

The program consists of 12 separate modules covering all of the Council for Professional Recognition’s eight CDA Subject areas.  Each module is 10 hours and meets once a week for one year.  The modules are designed in line with Professional Impact New Jersey’s (PINJ) Core Knowledge Areas, New Jersey State Department of Education’s 2009 Preschool Teaching and Learning Standards, and New Jersey Council for Young Children’s 2013 Birth to Three Early Learning Standards as a result of a MOU from NJACCRRA.  Each Module is taught by experienced, PINJ registered Instructors and Master Instructors who are trained in each step of the CDA credentialing process.

The Modules are outlined as follows:

  1. Child Development
  2. Observing & Recording
  3. Safe & Healthy Environments
  4. Learning Environments
  5. Program Management
  6. Professionalism
  7. Families
  8. Self & Social
  9. Guidance
  10. Physical & Cognitive
  11. Communication
  12. Creative


Contact the Council for Professional Recognition for more information about the CDA www.cdacouncil.org.



  • twitterTwitter Feeds