How to Obtain Your CDA License

By Contributor; Updated July 05, 2017
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A child development associate, CDA, is an individual who has obtained the professional accreditation from the Council of Professional Recognition. The CDA is not a license, but rather a credential -- an important credential if you want to pursue a professional career in child care. There are two paths to obtaining the CDA credential. The first is for applicants with little to no child care experience; the second is for experienced applicants. If you are an experienced applicant, please see the "Tips" section below.

Sign up for the CDA Professional Preparation Program, referred to as P3. Contact the council at 800-424-4310 to sign up for the program or the program's website.

Complete phase one of the program: childcare field work. You will be referred to a licensed childcare agency to complete the field work. The majority of this phase consists of supervising, caring for and instructing children. You will be supervised closely by a field advisor.

Complete phase two of the program: course work and examination. You will attend a series of training sessions and seminars sponsored by the council. After the sessions, you will take a written examination; the fee for which, is included in the original tuition.

Complete phase three of the program: final evaluation and observation. The results of your examinations, interviews and observations are sent to the council for consideration. If you pass the program, you will be awarded the certification.


For experienced childcare professionals, the process is quite different. You must have at least 480 verifiable hours supervising children within the past five years. You must also have 120 hours of formal child care education within the past five years. These hours can be credit or non-credit. If you meet the requirement, you'll need to obtain the correct application packet -- preschool, infant and toddler -- from the council. Once you submit the application with proof of your credentials, you will be contacted for an observation and an interview.

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