Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential


Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential

The Child Development Associate (CDA) National Credential is the most widely recognized credential in early childhood education. It is a key stepping stone on the path of career advancement. The program’s purpose is to enhance the quality of early child care by defining, evaluating, and recognizing the competence of early child care professionals across the country.

Obtaining your Child Development Associate (CDA) credential

The process for obtaining your CDA includes the following components.

  • 120 clock hours of formal training in specific areas
  • A portfolio
  • Family questionnaires
  • A verification visit
  • An online exam

Depending on your learning style and availability, there are a few different options for the training: face-to-face, online, and independent study.

For more details about the specific process and requirements, visit the CDA Council’s website


We offer face-to-face CDA courses in four parts,  for a total of 120 hours.  The time it takes for you to complete the entire program varies, depending on which class you take. No matter the class, it will take you no more than nine months to complete.

Your cost for the program may be as little as $100.  The cost is actually $1,100, but scholarships are available through a number of generous partners including:

Each program has its own individual requirements.  You must meet these requirements in order to participate in your desired program.

Enrollment for our CDA Classes is Ongoing

To get started, fill out our wait list form so we can learn more about you. This helps us determine what classes you qualify for and what scholarships are available for the classes we have coming up. Then, we’ll contact you to let you know when we have a spot available. Vea este formulario ene Español.

Online training and Independent study

You can complete professional hours through a wide variety of training organizations with expertise in early childhood. Such agencies include: a college or university, other resource and referral agencies, private training organizations, vocational or technical schools, or other approved early childhood training sites.

Smart Horizons Online Education Center offers Child Care Aware Training Academy online CDA courses for $299.  Portfolio assistance is an additional $500. There is no scholarship assistance for these offerings. Learn more at the Smart Horizons website.

Child Care Answers also offers independent study.  If you are currently finishing your hours and would like guidance on your next steps, we can help you:

  • Complete your CDA professional portfolio
  • Coordinate a verification visit with a Professional Development specialist
  • Prepare for the CDA exam online
Connect with Mollie for guidance on next steps

Renewing or Updating Your Expired CDA

First, congratulations on obtaining your CDA! All CDA credentials are valid for three years from the date of the award. There is also no longer a grace period for an expired CDA. Keep all documentation for trainings and other professional development from the date you earned your credential. We suggest you start the process of renewing about six months before your credential expires.  All information you submit for a renewal goes directly to Washington D.C. to the CDA Council. Child Care Answers does not have any control or management over your CDA renewal.

If your CDA has expired, remember that your 120 hours do not expire. You will need to review and update your portfolio and reapply for the assessment process (verification visit and online exam).


If your CDA expired between January 1, 2007 and now, the The Council for Professional Recognition has waived the expiration! You may renew your CDA online up until December 29, 2017. Do not delay – there will be no exceptions or extensions.

If you currently work 30 or more hours per week in a licensed home/center or registered ministry, you might qualify for a T.E.A.C.H. renewal scholarship that pays 90% of the cost.  If you meet those qualifications, complete the renewal scholarship form and send to T.E.A.C.H. as soon as possible.  In order to use the T.E.A.C.H. scholarship, you must fill out the scholarship application and have it approved before renewing with the Council.

Child Care Answers is happy to be a support and answer any questions you might have!