Understaffed and Underpaid: Council for Professional Recognition Survey Highlights Early Childhood Educator Crisis and Possible Solution

September 12, 2023
For Immediate Release :
September 12, 2023
For More Information :

Usma Mohamed

WASHINGTON — The Council for Professional Recognition, the nonprofit organization that supports early childhood education professionals and administers the Child Development Associate® (CDA) CredentialTM, finds that six out of 10 child care center owners or directors who voluntarily participated in a recent survey report they’re having difficulty hiring additional staffing. The finding adds an important point to a sector that’s also facing the expiration of expanded federal support at the end of this month (“the child care funding cliff”).

Furthermore, roughly half (49%) of these center operators report a drop in existing staff. However, the survey also offers insights about possible solutions: 80% of center owners/directors say they are “more likely to hire someone with a CDA® Credential than someone without,” and half (51%) of CDA holders say they “received a pay increase because of earning the CDA credential.”

At the same time, half of those CDA recipients who answered the survey report an annual household income of less than $50,000 (the recent U.S. median household income is $70,784).

In its first CDA Holder Survey since the start of the COVID pandemic, 48% of respondents say the COVID pandemic had an extremely or somewhat negative impact on the mental health or well-being aspects of their careers.

The Council’s CEO, Dr. Calvin Moore, Jr., says, “Policymakers, advocates, employers and, most of all, parents, have been sounding the alarm that we need to devote more financial resources to the early childhood education sector. Parents want quality early childhood education.

“This survey shows that part of the solution is further investments in the Child Development Associate Credential that raises the bar for the entire profession. We see that earning this credential can result in a higher salary, which will attract more people to the large number of open positions. The Council stands ready to add further insights about how such a dynamic approach can help our country rebound.”

Moore points out that despite the challenges of recent years, there’s a 14% increase in survey respondents who say they pursued the CDA because their employer required it (34% in 2017 to 48% in 2022).

The CDA is based on a core set of competency standards that guide early childhood professionals toward becoming qualified educators of young children. Seventy-nine percent of owners/directors of survey respondents believe the CDA Credential makes their teachers more prepared for the classroom.

A significant majority (73%) of respondents believe the CDA Credential has been beneficial for their career; nearly 90% say earning the CDA made them more prepared for the classroom.

Over 5,000 CDA holders voluntarily participated in the survey, which Hanover Research conducted during the summer.


The Council for Professional Recognition promotes improved performance and recognition of professionals in the early childhood education of children ages birth to 5 years old. The Council recognizes and credentials professionals who work in all types of early care and education settings, including Head Start, pre-k, infant-toddler, family childcare, and home visitor programs. As a nonprofit organization, the Council sets policies and procedures for assessment and credentialing. To date, over one million Child Development Associate (CDA) credentials have been issued around the world. For more information, visit www.cdacouncil.org.


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