Child Development Associate (CDA)


Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential

The Child Development Associate (CDA) National Credential is the most widely recognized credential in early childhood education and 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 120 clock hours of formal training in specific areas, a portfolio, family questionnaires, a verification visit, and an online exam. Depending on your learning style and availability there are a few different options for the training including face-to-face training, online training and independent study options. Take a look below to learn more about each training opportunity.

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


Child Care Answers offers face-to-face  CDA training classes. The course is offered in four parts for a total of 120 hours. Time to complete the entire program varies depending on which class you take, but it will take no more than nine months to complete.

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

Each program has its own individual requirements that you must meet in order to participate.

Enrollment for our CDA Classes is Ongoing

The best way to get started is to 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. We’ll then contact you to let you know when we have a spot available.

Online training and Independent study

Professional hours can be also completed 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 online CDA training courses for $299.  Smart Horizons portfolio assistance is an additional $500. There is no scholarship assistance for Smart Horizons’ 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.  This may include helping 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, and there is no longer a grace period for an expired CDA. Keep all documentation for trainings and other professional development from the date of earning your credential. We suggest you start the renewing process six months prior to expiration.  All information you submit for a renewal goes directly to the CDA Council in Washington D.C. 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).

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

Fill out our contact form to contact Mollie Smith with questions or to schedule an appointment.