The best way to prepare for a career in ECE: The High School CDA®

October 21, 2020


The countdown to graduation is a rite of passage for many high school students. Even before senior year, students dream about the day when they will march across the stage, receive their diploma, and toss their graduation caps high into the air as the audience erupts into applause. Preparing for graduation is exciting, yet at the same time, seniors face the nerve-wracking question: “what are you doing next year?” For students who earn their Child Development Associate® (CDA) credential in high school, post-graduation prospects are bright.

Students interested in early childhood education can accelerate their careers by gaining academic and hands-on training during high school. CDA programs allow students to earn college credit and graduate from high school with the only globally recognized education credential. Seniors who graduate with the CDA credential are recognized for their knowledge in child growth and development and are qualified for higher education and vocational employment in early childhood education.

Earning the CDA in high school is not only an impactful career step; it’s fun, too! “My favorite thing about CDA training would have to be the ability to spend half of my school day with the kids,” Alabama high school student Noah Malone says. Noah volunteers as an instructional aide with a preschool teacher as he prepares to study early childhood education in college. Though constructing a school schedule aligned to the preschool’s hours was challenging at times, in Noah’s view, it was worth it. “Earning the CDA helped me learn ways to handle behavioral situations, has given me opportunities to teach lessons, and to learn from my mistakes early. It’s a great stepping stone for high schoolers wanting to dive deeper into the world of ECE and can lead to career opportunities straight out of high school.”

Zoe Labarthe, a high school student based in Florida, feels that her high school’s training program offered numerous opportunities for vocational learning. “One of the main things I’ve learned is how to interact with children” she reflects, “[since] there is a lot of emotional and positive reinforcement we need to give them.” The experience gained by high school students who earn their CDA prepares them to enter early childhood education with confidence in their knowledge of child cognitive, social and emotional development.

High school faculty members also see the value of the CDA for high school students, including Utah-based Family and Consumer Sciences teacher, Mary Matthews. “I think the CDA is a great opportunity for students to start their career path,” Matthews explains. “Whether they continue in early childhood education or not, there are professional traits learned as they work to complete a portfolio and track their training and work hours. While many high school students graduate with improved study habits, CDA students also graduate with professional skills, such as working alongside educators in a child care setting, prioritizing children’s well-being and receiving professional development feedback from child care program staff members.

If your school is seeking ways to prepare students for careers in early education, the CDA is the most effective program to launch within your school. Not sure where to start? The Council for Professional Recognition’s soon to be published Child Development Associate® (CDA) Handbook for High School: A Guide to Advocacy and Implementation is designed to equip faculty with needs assessments, financing recommendations, and guidance on garnering support on a school and district-wide level. Baylie D. Collins, a Texas-based Child Guidance instructor and Family & Consumer Science educator, shared her appreciation for the new guidebook, which she deemed “incredibly helpful.” Collins’ school has a CDA program, and she is certain that educators and administrators who are interested in establishing the program in their schools will benefit from the book’s guidance. In particular, Collins appreciated the book’s sections on accommodations for students with special needs and advice on forming local partnerships in early childhood education.

The Council for Professional Recognition is delighted to provide resources for high school faculty and administrators who are invested in their students’ career success, and who are interested in laying the foundation for a CDA-certification program within their high school. Together, we can create academic pathways that provide students with higher education credit, globally recognized vocational experience and greater security and sense of achievement on graduation day.

Sign up here to be among the first to receive updates about Child Development Associate® (CDA) Handbook for High School: A Guide to Advocacy and Implementation and to pre-order a free PDF sample chapter.


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