CDA Certification

The Direct Assessment Route

The Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential’s purpose is to enhance the quality of child care by   defining, evaluating and recognizing the competence of child care providers and home visitors.
The CDA Competency Standards serve as a means for measuring the overall performance of caregivers during CDA assessment.  Assessment is available for caregivers in the following settings:

  • Center-based programs serving infants and toddlers
  • Center-based programs serving pre-school children
  • Family Child Care Programs (Independent & System-based)
  • Home Visitors
  • Bilingual Specialization for Candidates working in bilingual programs

To complete a CDA the following is required:

  • Purchase application materials packet
  • Choose an early childhood professional as an advisor (must meet advisor requirements)
  • Complete within the past five years 480 hours of experience working with children aged birth through 5 in a group setting
  • Complete within the last 5 years 120 clock hours of formal child training and education, with no fewer than 10 clock hours in each of the following eight subject areas (see chart on back). Training obtained at conferences or from individual consultants is not acceptable.
  • Compile a Professional Resource File including the following:
    • Autobiography
    • Statement of Competence on each of the following competency goals:
      1. To establish and maintain a safe, healthy, learning environment
      2. To advance physical and intellectual competence
      3. To support social and emotional development and to provide positive guidance
      4. To establish positive and productive relationships with families
      5. To ensure a well-run, purposeful program responsive to participant needs
      6. To maintain a commitment to professionalism
    • Resource Collection
      1. 17 specific items are to be included for each goal in the Resource Collection
  • Pass out and collect parent opinion questionnaires
  • The Advisor observes the candidate in the childcare setting and completes the Formal CDA Assessment Observation Instrument
  • The application is mailed into The Council for Professional Recognition by one of the following deadlines dates: December 1, March 1, June 1 or September 1.
  • The Verification visit is then scheduled for the corresponding quarter and consists of the following:
  • The Council Representative checks the goals, resource file, observational instrument and parent questionnaires.
  • Conducts the Early Childhood Studies Review
  • Conducts the Oral Interview
  • CDA committee will review the materials and make final decision to award the CDA Certificate
  • First renewal takes place in three years/second renewal in 5 years

To obtain a CDA Application Packet call 1-800-424-4310



1. Planning a safe, healthy, learning environment

Safety, first aid, health, nutrition, space planning, materials and equipment, play

2. Steps to advance children’s physical and intellectual development

Large and small muscle, language and literacy, discovery, art and music

3. Positive ways to support children’s social and emotional development

Self-esteem, independence, self-control, socialization

4. Strategies to establish productive relationships with families

Parent involvement, home visits, conferences, referrals

5. Strategies to manage an effective program operation

Planning, record keeping, and reporting

6. Maintaining a commitment to professionalism

Advocacy, ethical practices, work force issues, professional associations

7. Observing and recording children’s behavior

Tools and strategies for objective information collection

8. Principles of child development and learning

Development milestones form birth through age 5 years, cultural influences on development

All formal education hours must be under the auspices of an agency or organization with expertise in child care personnel preparation. The education could be for college credit or for no credit.
Such agencies and organizations include, but are not limited to:

  • Four-year colleges and universities
  • Two-year junior and community colleges
  • Vocational and technical schools
  • Early childhood education/child care programs that sponsor training, such as Head Start, U.S. Army Child and Family Services or school districts
  • Divisions of state or federal governments, or all branches of the U.S. Military Services
  • Resource and referral agencies
  • Family child care association