Center-Based Preschool

CDA® credential for educators working with children ages 3 to 5 years in a center-based setting.


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The CDA Three-Step Process

To earn a center-based Preschool Child Development Associate® credential, you must complete a three-step process.


All requirements must be met before starting the application process.


Any time prior to applying:

  • Earn a high school diploma, 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, covering the growth and development of children ages 3 to 5 years, with no fewer than 10 training hours in each of the eight CDA® subject areas.

CDA Subject 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 the principles of child development and learning

CDA® Training

Training can be obtained through a wide variety of organizations — from a single training agency or several training organizations. The organization must have expertise in early childhood education and teacher preparation and must provide official documentation of training completed.

The Council does not accept training provided by individual consultants or from a conference. A trainer is considered an individual consultant if they are providing training independently. A training agency must have two or more instructors in order to not be considered an individual consultant.

Acceptable forms of training documentation:

  • College transcript from an accredited college or university
  • Certificate of Training
  • Letter of training on official letterhead of the agency(ies)

Documentation of training must include:

  • Training agency name and address
  • Training agency logo
  • Course name(s)
    Note: If course name does not include age reference, certificate must include the ages the training covered
  • CDA subject area of training
  • Candidate’s name
  • Number of hours/credits awarded
  • Dates of training
  • Official signature of instructor


Within 3 years of submitting your application:

  • Obtain 480 hours of professional work experience in a center-based setting with children ages 3 to 5 years.


Within 6 months of submitting your application:

  • Prepare your CDA® professional portfolio. This is a collection of reference materials related to your work with children and families. You will find detailed preparation instructions in the green Preschool edition of the CDA Competency Standards book.
  • Select a CDA Professional Development (PD) Specialist™ to conduct your CDA Verification Visit®, which is part of your final assessment. Your PD Specialist will review your professional portfolio, observe you working with the children, complete a reflective dialogue with you, and submit score recommendations to the Council.
    • All active CDA PD Specialists can be found and selected in YourCouncil. To access the Find-a-PD Specialist Tool, login to YourCouncil and click the Find a PDS button located on the left side menu. If you do not have a YourCouncil account, visit and click the option to create an account under the Login button. Need help? Check out these video resources to learn how to create an account and apply online.
    • To learn more about CDA PD Specialist’s role in the CDA credentialing process click here.


After all requirements are met:

  • Apply online using YourCouncil and pay the online assessment fee of $425, or submit a paper application provided in the green Preschool edition of the CDA® Competency Standards book with the $500 assessment fee.
  • The non-refundable, non-transferable application fee must be submitted with your application. Make sure to secure the funds before you submit your application.

Learn more about applying for a CDA in Other Languages or CDA Exam Special Accommodations.


Once your CDA application is approved, you will receive your Ready to Schedule notice, and you can schedule your CDA Verification Visit® and your CDA® Exam. Details are provided in the green Preschool edition of the CDA Competency Standards book.


  • Once you have completed your CDA Verification Visit® and CDA® Exam, in either order, your results are electronically submitted to the Council by the CDA PD Specialist™ and Pearson Vue testing center.
  • The Council reviews the results of your assessment and renders a credentialing decision. If your credential is awarded, the official Child Development Associate® credential will be mailed to you. In the unfortunate event your credential is denied, the Council will make recommendations on areas of improvement and let you know the next steps to take to earn the CDA credential.



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