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How do I get a CDA Credential?

Take Our Free Online CDA Tutorial and Review the Steps Below

CDA Steps and Free CDA Checklist

Download our free printable Steps to the CDA checklist to help you on your CDA journey. Download it here

The CDA process has several steps. Care Courses can help. The training portion can be completed with Care Courses, and our specialists can answer questions about all of the steps. Confused? Contact us at 1-800-685-7610 or send an email to: for help with your CDA or CDA decisions.

The CDA Council offers CDA Credentials in the following childcare settings: infant & toddler center-based, preschool center-based, family childcare. Your CDA setting is the setting in which you work. For example, if you work with preschoolers in a childcare center, then you will get a preschool center-based CDA. 

1. To prepare for your CDA, you must satisfy these requirements:
  • Hold a high school diploma, or equivalent, or are a junior or senior in a high school vocational program in early education.
  • Be able to speak, read, and write well enough to perform the responsibilities of a CDA.
  • Complete 120 clock hours of formal childcare training (specific to the credential and setting type).
    • Care Courses CDA training sets are available in both our online and book formats. Both formats cover the same content. Choose the format that works best for you!
    • Purchase Care Courses 120 hour CDA training sets for a discount or spread out the cost over time by purchasing the courses one at a time. 
  • Have 480 hours of experience (volunteer or paid) working in your CDA setting within 3 years prior to submitting your CDA application.
    • For example, if you are working towards your infant/toddler center-based CDA, you must have at least 480 hours of formal childcare experience (volunteer or paid) with infants and toddlers in a childcare center before applying for your CDA credential.  
  • Purchase a CDA Competency Standards book from the Council: Choose the book specific to the setting for which you wish to apply (Family Child Care, Infant/Toddler Center-Based, or Preschool Center-Based). Read the CDA Competency Standards book carefully. We recommend that you order this book from the Council as soon as possible.
  • Develop a Professional Portfolio (within 6 months prior to submitting your CDA application) that includes: Family Questionnaires, Resource Collection items, Reflective Statements of Competence, and a Personal Philosophy Statement. The Professional Portfolio also requires proof of a first aid course and infant/child (pediatric) CPR course offered by a nationally-recognized training organization such as the American Red Cross. Watch our How to Create Your Professional Portfolio video to learn more about the professional portfolio.
2. To apply for your CDA, you must:
  • Find a Professional Development Specialist in your area using the Find a PD Specialist link on the Council’s website, and get his/her ID number.
  • Submit your CDA application online at ($425) or submit by mail to the Council ($500).

3. Once you have completed the steps above, await the Council’s Ready to Schedule notification and then schedule your Verification Visit and CDA Exam.

4. And finally, await the Council’s decision as they review your Cumulative Score from the Verification Visit and the CDA Exam.

Are you ready to start your CDA? Start your CDA classes today!