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How to Obtain a CDA Certification

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Now that 49 states and the District of Columbia require that caregivers working in child-care centers, in family child care or as home visitors have at least a Child Development Associate, or CDA, certificate and have revised their licensing regulations as such, more than 15,000 caregivers apply for the certification each year. The CDA also gives caregivers more opportunities for career advancement, as they've completed education and experience courses in young children’s social, emotional and physical development. Through their formal education required by the Council for Professional Recognition, they acquire the skills needed to tailor programs to children's needs and address issues with parents.

Determine your eligibility for the certification. Candidates must be at least 18 years old and have earned a high-school diploma or passed the General Educational Development, or GED, test; must have worked 480 hours in a licensed child-care center or home day care for children; and must have 120 hours of formal early childhood education, with the latter two completed within five years of the CDA application date. The Council for Professional Recognition's website has information about the exact requirements within these guidelines.

Select a CDA adviser, who will observe your progress as you complete exercises in the role of lead teacher, evaluating you on your interaction with the children, interaction with parents and overall professionalism. Your adviser may be someone at your child-care center; if not, contact the Council for Professional Recognition for referrals from the adviser registry. You can then research and interview these candidates.

Order an application packet from the council's website, selecting for which age group you want your packet, and complete the application along with the other necessary forms. The forms include the Professional Resource File, in which you analyze your own progress; the Parent Opinion Questionaires, which parents of children in your classroom will complete with their perceptions and observations; and the CDA Assessment Observation Instrument, in which the adviser notes his observations and rates you in specific performance areas.

Send your application, along with the application fee, to the Council for Professional Recognition.

Attend your verification visit, which is scheduled by a council representative after your application is received. During the visit, a representative will conduct an oral interview, check your application materials and give you a written exam.


You may have to wait several weeks before hearing from a representative to schedule your verification visit. After this visit, the council generally takes several weeks or months to finish reviewing your materials before it will send your credentials in the mail if you are approved. CDA certification needs to be renewed within three years of first receiving it.