5 Steps to Obtain a CDA Credential

March 11, 2016

Are you considering applying for a Child Development Associate® (CDA) Credential™? The CDA® credential has many valuable benefits for all early childhood professionals, including helping early educators meet current state and national professional requirements and serving as a pathway to learning best teaching practices. CDA® recipients are competent practitioners who value vital knowledge, skills and formal education. There have been more than 350,000 CDAs® awarded since the early 70s, and 20,000 new CDAs® and 18,000 renewals in 2013 alone.

Start taking action towards your “Best 1st Step” in early childhood education by reviewing the five necessary steps below that every CDA® candidate must follow in order to successfully prepare and complete the process of obtaining a CDA® credential.

1. Prepare

  • High School – Candidates must show proof of high school education with a valid high school diploma, a GED or through enrollment as a junior or senior in a high school career/technical program in early childhood education.
  • Professional Education – Applicants must complete 120 clock hours of professional early childhood education, including 10 hours in each of the following eight CDA® Subject Areas.
  • Have 480 hours of work experience working with children in the age group matching your type CDA® application.
  • Complete Family Questionnaires and Professional Portfolio.

2. Apply

Once you’ve completed Step 1, you’ll be ready to complete the following requirements:

  • Select a CDA® Professional Development Specialist, who will conduct your Verification Visit during the application process, and obtain her or his Identification Number.
  • Obtain your director’s permission and signature for your Verification Visit.
  • You can apply online, it allows you to save your work, check your status, communicate with the Council and get automatic updates.

3. Demonstrate

Once the Council has received your application, please complete the following steps within six months of your Ready to Schedule notice date. Otherwise, you risk forfeiting your application fee and your Candidate record will be closed:

  •  Verification Visit – Schedule the date and time for your Verification Visit with your PD Specialist and then confirm this information with your Director. You are able to reschedule your Verification Visit with the PD Specialist of you need a new date and time.
  •  CDA® Exam – To schedule a CDA® exam online, visit the Pearson VUE . Once your account has been created, you may return to the Pearson VUE website at any time to schedule, cancel or reschedule your CDA® Exam. To schedule your exam by phone, please call 1-866-507-5627 (7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. CST, Monday through Friday)

4. Earn

If the Council determines that after scoring your Verification Visit and CDA® Exam your Cumulative Score meets the credentialing requirement, you will be awarded the Child Development Associate (CDA®) CredentialTM.

5. Renew

The CDA® credential is valid for three years from the awarded date. You may apply to renew your CDA® credential 90 days before it expires. To learn more about CDA® renewal, click here.

With our recent CDA® 2.0 launch, the process of obtaining your credential has never been easier and more convenient. Now is a great time to get motivated about your future as a CDA® candidate! After obtaining their CDAs®, many candidates have gone on to receive advanced degrees, including PhDs in the education field. Remember that there is a CDA® credential for four different settings to conveniently suit your professional goals in early childhood education:  For center-based programs there is an Infant/Toddler CDA® and a Preschool CDA®, the Family Child Care CDA® (for children from birth to five years), and the Home Visitors CDA® (for children from birth to five years). All candidates wishing to earn a CDA® for another setting must complete each respective CDA® credentialing process.


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