What is a CDA? Everything You Need to Know (2024)

  • May 26, 2021

The Child Development Associate (CDA) Certificate is the simplest, quickest, and most inexpensive way to further your career in early child care and education. Receiving your CDA can help you become a lead child care teacher or open your own licensed child care center in Virginia. The certificate is also valid in all fifty states, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virginia Islands.

Jump to:

  • How to get a CDA
  • How to take it
  • Schedule your verification visit/observation
  • What goes in a CDA portfolio
  • How long does it take
  • How much does a CDA cost
  • How much does online training cost
  • What are the requirements to enroll in training
  • How to renew your certification
  • Additional professional development opportunities

How to Get a CDA (Child Development Associate Certificate)

What is a CDA? Everything You Need to Know (1)

It can take less time to get your certificate than an associates degree! You earn your CDA by:

  • Meeting 120 hours of qualified professional development (typically completed through a CDA training course)
  • Meeting 480 hours of professional work experience
  • Passing the Child Development Associate Certificate exam, given by Pearson VUE at a designated testing site
  • Passing your Verification Visit
  • Passing a review of your Professional Portfolio

It is recommended to enroll in training for your professional development hours. You can find many inexpensive options (like ChildSavers’ Online CDA Training) that will help you purchase your books, calculate the 120 hours of training and 480 hours of professional work experience needed to earn your certificate, put together your Professional Portfolio, train for your Verification Visit, and prepare you to take (and pass!) your exam.

Important note: You will need to choose which child care setting you will be applying for (Center-Based Preschool, Center-Based Infant-Toddler, Family Child Care, orHome Visitor).Within 3 years of submitting your CDA application, you must obtain 480 hours of professional work experience in your applied child care setting.

How to take the Child Development Associates Certificate (CDA) Exam

To take the CDA Exam, you must first purchase your study book(s),enroll in a training course to gather your 120 professional development hours, and apply to the Council of Professional Recognition. The fee to apply online is $425. All exams must be scheduled and taken through Pearson VUE at a local testing site.

Scheduling Your Verification Visit (Observation)

After you apply to the Council of Professional Recognition, you will schedule your exam and your CDA Verification Visit (Observation). An approved specialist will visit your workplace to observe your interactions with children in a specific age group. The specialist will then sit down with you to review your strengths and areas of improvement. They will also review your Professional Portfolio. Their findings and evaluations, along with your exam scores, factor equally into whether or not you will earn your certificate.

What goes in a CDA Professional Portfolio?

You will need to submit a Professional Portfolio along the road to earning your CDA. According to Child Care Aware, your Professional Portfolio needs to include:

  • My CDA Professional Portfolio cover sheet
  • Summary of CDA Education cover sheet plus documentation of your CDA training and education such as official training record or college transcript, certificates, or other verification that you have successfully completed a minimum of 120 hours of training with no fewer than 10 clock hours of training in each of the eight CDA subject areas.
  • Family Questionnaires Summary sheet plus completed Family Questionnaires, a form you distribute and collect back from the majority of the families of children in your care (a return from more than 50% of families is required).
  • Six Reflective Statements of Competence:Written statements of your own teaching practices, including one for each of the six CDA Competency Standards (300–500 words in length).
  • Resource Collection:A specific collection of early childhood resources
  • Professional Philosophy Statement:A written summary of your professional beliefs and values about early childhood education, how young children learn, and your role as an early childhood educator (no more than two pages in length).

How long does it take to get a Child Development Associates Certificate?

The timeline to get your CDA is flexible, but it normally takes less time than an Associates degree. Earning your certificate is also usually cheaper than taking college courses or earning a college degree.

Typically, child care professionals sign up for a training course, which can vary in length. These training courses help prepare you for the exam, purchase the study book(s), earn your required professional development hours, build your portfolio binder, and much more.

You receive your CDA once you’ve passed your exam, completed your 120 hours of professional development, passed the review ofyour Professional Portfolio, and passed your Verification Visit.

How much does it cost to earn your CDA?

The fee to apply for your CDA exam and assessment is $425. This includes a review of your Professional Portfolio and Verification Visit. Low-cost online training like ChildSavers‘ 13-month training course costs $20 per class ($260 total) and $80 for books.

We also offer an additional, quarterly Portfolio class for $40. This workshop will provide step-by-step instructions over two nights as to how to complete your CDA Professional Portfolio. The Professional Portfolio is a requirement in completing your CDA.

In total, earning your Child Development Associates Certificate could cost as low as $805 when you train with ChildSavers.

How much does ChildSavers training cost?

What is a CDA? Everything You Need to Know (2)

There are 13 classes in ChildSavers CDA Training Course. Each class costs $20 (one class/month) and books for the course cost $80. We also offer an additional, quarterly Portfolio class for $40.

Please note: Our class does not include the $425 CDA application fee. You will need to pay for that separately.

ChildSavers offers CDA classes online! Our training is 13-month course leading up to your test and observation. We’ll help you on your journey to earning your certificate, which will include:

  • A monthly class for 13 months. Don’t worry, multiple evening classes are offered per month!
  • 13 chapters of homework (1 per month), feedback about your assignments, and a portfolio notebook that we’ll help you complete.
  • Upon completion of our training program, you will receive a certificate of completion for 120 hours of study needed to apply for credentialing through the Council for Professional Recognition in Washington, D.C.

What are the requirements to enroll in ChildSavers’ CDA training?

To participate in training, you must:

  • Be at least 16 years of ageAND/ORhold a high school diploma/G.E.D. and participate in an early child care class
  • Be currently employed or volunteering in a child care center or family day home
  • Attend a ChildSavers CDA orientation (offered December, March, May, August)
  • Attend your designated monthly CDA class and complete required assignments (first classes start January, April, June, September)

How to Renew Your Certification

Those who earn a CDA will need to renew their certification every three years. To renew your CDA Credential, the cost is $150 for paper applications. Candidates who apply online will receive a $25.00 discount and the cost for renewal is $125.00.

Ongoing Professional Development with ChildSavers

If you’re in need of additional professional development hours after you receive your Child Development Associates Certificate, or for your program, check out ChildSavers’ free and low-cost training for child care professionals.


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What is a CDA? Everything You Need to Know (2024)


What to expect on a CDA test? ›

The CDA Exam has 65 multiple-choice questions – 60 questions and 5 scenario questions (with a short narrative and photo). The Candidate will have up to one hour and 45 minutes to complete the exam. The only computer-based skill needed to take the Exam is the ability to point and click a mouse.

What does the CDA consist of? ›

The assessment process is made up of two components: the CDA Exam and Verification Visit. The Council uses the results of both to make a credentialing decision. The CDA Exam is a component of the credentialing process. The exam is a 65-question, computer-based exam that is taken at a local Pearson VUE testing site.

What is a passing score for CDA exam? ›

Take the CDA certification exam

Testing centers automatically submit your scores to the council. The council scores this exam on a scale of zero to 100, with a passing score of 70 or higher. Often, candidates learn what score they earn within one to three days of completing the exam.

What are the 5 steps for obtaining the CDA credential? ›

5 Steps to Obtain a CDA Credential
  • 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. ...
  • Apply. ...
  • Demonstrate. ...
  • Earn. ...
  • Renew.

What is the hourly salary of a CDA? ›

How much does a Cda Credential make? As of Jun 26, 2023, the average hourly pay for a Cda Credential in the United States is $17.16 an hour.

How do I prepare for CDA? ›

To earn your CDA you'll need to: 1) complete 120 hours of education that specifically cover the eight subject areas for the credential (see next section); 2) achieve 480 hours of experience in the field, working with young children and finally; and 3) you must prepare your Professional Portfolio according to the ...

What does a CDA exam look like? ›

The CDA test is a computer-based test that's administered at a Pearson VUE testing center. It consists of 65 questions, including 60 simple multiple choice questions and five scenario-based multiple choice questions.

How long does it take to do CDA? ›

It involves multiple steps and can take up to 6 months to complete, depending on how much time you can devote to the process. What is a CDA? One of the steps in the process is to complete 120 hours of early childhood training, or 45 hours if you are renewing your CDA.

How many questions is on the CDA test? ›

 The CDA Exam has 65 questions. They are multiple choice questions, like the question below: What is the most nutritious snack for toddlers?

What is the fastest you can get your CDA? ›

Depending on how quickly you can prepare for and pass your exam, earning your CDA credential could take anywhere from a few months to a year or more, however, this time investment is often worth it in the long run, as a CDA credential can help you gain greater recognition and credibility as an early childhood educator.

How many college credits is a CDA worth? ›

Number of Credits: Generally, institutions who provide credit for already earned CDAs provide six semester hours of credit that apply to the AAS degree. many). 9 semester hours and some as little as 3.

What do I need in my CDA portfolio? ›

Prepare your CDA Professional Portfolio.
  1. Cover sheet.
  2. Transcripts, certificates, and other necessary documentation.
  3. Family Questionnaires.
  4. Areas of Strength and areas for Professional Growth.
  5. Six Reflective Statements of Competence.
  6. Resource Collection.
  7. Professional Philosophy Statement.

What are the 4 different areas of a CDA? ›

About the CDA
  • Subject Area 1: Planning a safe and healthy learning environment.
  • Subject Area 2: Advancing children's physical and intellectual development.
  • Subject Area 3: Supporting children's social and emotional development.
  • Subject Area 4: Building productive relationships with families.
Oct 13, 2022

Is a CDA the same as an associate's degree? ›

Connections to Higher Education.

These skills can help pave the way towards a post-secondary certificate or degree. However, a CDA is not equivalent to a bachelor or associate degree, and not all Minnesota colleges accept the CDA as eligible for credits.

What are the 120 hours for CDA? ›

The 120 hours of CDA training is the first step in obtaining the National CDA Credential. Once you have completed the CDA training, you will complete the rest of the CDA Credentialing process through the CDA Council of Professional Recognition.

What can be paid by CDA? ›

2. Child Development Account (CDA)
Type of CDA benefitsAmount of Benefits Per Child
1st Child2nd Child
Dollar-for-dollar MatchingS$5,000
First Step GrantUp to S$4,000Up to S$7,000
Total Maximum SupportUp to S$9,000Up to S$12,000
Feb 20, 2023

What does CDA mean job title? ›

What is the role of a child development associate? CDAs work to nurture children. In this role, you'll work to develop children emotionally, intellectually, and socially. Highly recognized in the early childhood education field, a CDA credential is a stepping stone to advancing your career.

What does CDA mean job? ›

School Students a Career and Higher. Education Pathway. For four decades, the Child Development Associate® (CDA) competencies have remained the most frequently. accessed standard for entry level educators.

What are the three components of the CDA exam? ›

The CDA exam includes the RHS, ICE and GC exams taken together. These resources will help you apply and prepare for the exam.

Is the CDA exam online? ›

To schedule the exam online, Candidates must first create a Pearson VUE web account. When creating your account, you will need the Candidate ID number from your Ready to Schedule Notice that you received from the Council.

How many family questionnaires for CDA? ›

​Professional Portfolio is composed of:

Family Questionnaires. Six (6) Reflective Statements of Competence. Ten (10) Resources.

What do I do if my CDA expires? ›

If your CDA Credential expires, you will have to reapply to obtain a new credential. Candidates should submit their renewal application on or before their expiration date. Candidates can submit their renewal application up to 6 months before their expiration date.

What is a CDA quizlet? ›

Terms in this set (60) CDA stands for. Child Development Associate.

How many competency statements for CDA? ›

You will write six statements, one for each Competency Standard. Your statements are intended to reflect your own teaching practices in each of the CDA Competency Standards areas.

What are the four functional areas listed under competency goal 2? ›

Competency Statement Goal #2 "To advance physical and intellectual competence"
  • Functional Area 2-Cognitive.
  • Functional Area 3- Communication.
  • Functional Area 4- Creativity.
Apr 20, 2018

How many hours is 3 college credits worth? ›

What is a Credit Hour?
Credits to be earnedHours per week, 7-week courseHours per week, 8-week course
1 credit6 hours5 hours
3 credits18 hours16 hours
6 credits36 hours32 hours
12 credits72 hours63 hours

How much is 30 college credits worth? ›

In general, standard college courses are usually worth 3 semester credit hours. Based on that, 30 credits is usually equal to about 10 classes. Now, there are some exceptions to this rule. Lab classes are often 4 credit courses because of the additional time spent in lab sessions.

How many credits is 2 years worth of college? ›

For a 2-year associate's degree, you'll need about 60 credits.

What can I use CDA for? ›

You can save into and use the CDA at any time before 31 December of the year your child turns 12 years old. The savings in the account can be used for: Fees for registered childcare centres, kindergartens, special education schools and early intervention programmes.

What are the 3 settings for which a CDA is awarded? ›

The Council offers CDA Credentials in the following childcare settings: infant & toddler center-based, preschooler center-based, family childcare, and home visitor. Click on the CDA settings below to learn more. Care Courses' CDA training prepares CDA applicants for obtaining their CDA Credential.

Why do you want a CDA? ›

Your CDA Credential gives parents of the children you work with peace of mind that they've left their little ones in good hands. Having a CDA certificate also demonstrates your dedication to the field and communicates that you care enough to continue your own learning.

How many questions does the CDA test have? ›

 The CDA Exam has 65 questions. They are multiple choice questions, like the question below: What is the most nutritious snack for toddlers?

How many questions are on the CDA? ›

The CDA test has 65 multiple choice questions. Of these, 60 are simple questions. Five of the multiple choice questions have a more detailed prompt, with text describing a scenario and a photo.

What type of questions are on the CDA test? ›

The CDA Exam is a computer-based test with 65 multiple-choice questions based on the work of early childhood educators. 60 are simple MCQs, and 5 are scenario-based questions consisting of a short narrative and image.

How long does it take to study for CDA? ›

The CDA Training Takes 120 Hours

You can expect that a 1 hour course will take about 1 hour to complete. The CDA classes can be finished in a month, or you may take a year. If you work on the CDA training 10 hours per week, then it will take 3 months to complete the 120 hours of CDA training.

How many hours required for CDA? ›

CDA applicants must complete 120 hours of training for professional early childhood education.

What is a CDA portfolio? ›

The Contents of a CDA® Professional Portfolio

A summary of your official training, including the list of CDA Training courses you took and their subject areas (our CDA Training program lays this all out for you) Completed questionnaires from the families you've worked with.

How many family questionnaires are required for CDA? ›

​Professional Portfolio is composed of:

Family Questionnaires. Six (6) Reflective Statements of Competence. Ten (10) Resources. A Professional Philosophy Statement.

How long is the CDA observation? ›

strength and growth for the purpose of setting professional goals (1 hour) ❖ The CDA Verification Visit lasts a minimum of 4 hours.

How many modules are in CDA? ›

CDA is offered in four modules. You may apply for more than one module at a time within a calendar year.

How long should a CDA competency statement be? ›

You must write one Reflective Statement for each of the six CDA Competency Standards (see specific requirements for each one). Many of the statements require the use of specific Resources from your Resource Collection as the focus of that written reflection. Each statement should be no more than 500 words in length.


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