Get or Renew the CDA Credential

What is the CDA Credential?

The Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential is a national early childhood professional credential for direct caregivers working with children ages 0–5 years in family/group, center, and preschool settings. A CDA Credential is accepted in childcare settings nationwide and is a hiring consideration in Early Head Start and Head Start programs. In North Dakota, a current CDA Credential is the minimum qualification to be a child care center director in a DHS licensed program. NOTE: The CDA Credential applies to the early developmental period of Birth-to-Five Years only and is not a qualification for school-age caregivers. Training related to children over the age of 5-years cannot be counted toward completing the national CDA credentialing process.

Only one organization in the world can issue a valid CDA Credential - the national Council for Professional Recognition. Visit the Council’s website to learn more and to order the materials you’ll need to complete the CDA Credentialing process. Some training sponsors claim that their training will result in a CDA however until you’ve completed the entire national CDA Credentialing process, you will not have a CDA Credential.

What are the Steps to Earning the CDA Credential?

Earning a CDA Credential is a two-step process. The first step is one you take on your own and complete at your own pace. It includes:

  • 120 hours of training in eight key areas, all focused on children ages 0–5 years
  • 480 hours of work experience in a licensed or regulated child care setting
  • Completion of a Professional Portfolio

When you’ve completed the first step, you apply to the national Council for Professional Recognition to complete the second step of the process, which includes:

  • $425 application fee
  • Observation and review in a licensed childcare program with children in the age group of the CDA emphasis area you’ve applied to complete by a Council approved PD Specialist
  • A national exam

The CDA Credential can be earned in Infant Toddler, Preschool, or Family emphasis areas. The Credential must be renewed every three years.

What Help is Available to Plan and Prepare for the CDA Credentialing Process?

The Growing Futures Registry provides special CDA training reports to members to help them plan and track their training toward the 120 hours of required training. The reports will also be accepted by the national Council for Professional Recognition as verification that you’ve completed the required training hours in the correct content areas. The reports are set up by the CDA emphasis area - Infant Toddler, Preschool, and Family/Group. When you complete training, it is added to the CDA report that matches the age group. If you are working toward your CDA Credential, you will want to select your ongoing training very carefully to be sure it applies to the right age group. On the Growing Futures Training Calendar, look for the age group listed in the course description. If you are taking training out-of-state, be sure to check the age group the training applies toward before registering and paying. NOTE: The training you complete must be specific to the age group of the CDA Credential you are working to complete. For example, training that is specific to children ages 3–5 years will not be added to the Infant Toddler CDA report and cannot be used toward completion of the 120 hours of training required for an Infant Toddler CDA Credential. You can use the Growing Futures Registry CDA reports to keep track of the hours you’ve already completed in the CDA emphasis area you’ve chosen.

To find your CDA Reports:

  • Log in to your Growing Futures account
  • Click on the “Reports” tab
  • Scroll to the bottom of the Reports page to find the CDA Reports

If you’d like to speak with a Registry staff member about the CDA process, selecting training that is applicable to the CDA, or other CDA related questions, please contact our office.