How do I get a National CDA?

We hear this question a lot here at Care Courses! So, How do I get a National CDA?

All the information in this blog post applies to earning the Family Child Care CDA, the Preschool Center-Based CDA, and the Infant Toddler Center-Based CDA.

For information on the Home Visitor CDA, which has different requirements, please click here: Home Visitor CDA Requirements. Thanks!

Here are the four steps to earning your national CDA:

As a National CDA candidate you will prepare for your application, you will complete the application process, and then you will demonstrate your knowledge in order to earn your CDA Credential.

First: Prepare to apply for the National CDA

Before applying for your CDA (these items can be done simultaneously):

  • Receive your high school diploma or equivalent.

Required time frame: Must be completed before applying for your CDA.

  • Complete 120 hours of formal childcare education covering the 8 CDA subject areas.

Required time frame? None! Take as long as you need to get this training done. However, we strongly recommend that you get your training done no more than five years before you apply. You will want this education fresh in your mind when you take your final CDA Exam and have your Verification Visit.

  • Work 480 hours with children whose ages are consistent with your CDA setting: Infant/Toddler*, Preschool**, or Family***

Required time frame? Within 3 years! You must complete this work within 3 years before applying for your CDA. Your work experience cannot be more than 3 years from the date you apply for your CDA.

  • Purchase a Competency Standards book from the CDA Council for your setting (Infant/Toddler, Preschool, or Family). Once you get the book, prepare your portfolio (which is described in detail in the book). Steps involved in creating your portfolio:

o   Create a cover sheet for your portfolio o   Complete your education summary sheet and assemble your transcripts and/or certificates from your 120 hours of formal childcare training o   Distribute and collect family questionnaires o   Complete your family questionnaire summary sheet (after reading the family questionnaires you collected) o   Complete your reflective dialogue sheet o   Gather your resource collection items o   Create your professional philosophy statement

Required time frame? Within 6 months before application! You must complete your professional portfolio within 6 months of applying for your CDA, so be sure to order the book with plenty of time to complete the requirements. Your portfolio cannot be completed more than 6 months before you apply.

  • Complete “Director’s Permission Statement.”

o   Candidates applying for Center-Based CDAs: Have your director fill out the permission statement portion of your application as you will be needing their permission to conduct your verification visit

o   Candidates applying for a Family Child Care CDA: Fill out the permission statement portion of your application yourself. If you are submitting online, you must include an email address that differs from the one you use to log in.

Second: Apply for your CDA

Applying for the CDA includes the following tasks:

  • Select a Professional Development Specialist at (or call the Council for assistance) and obtain his/her ID number. 
  • Submit your completed application online at ($425) or submit by US mail to the Council ($500).

After your application is received, the Council will send you a ready to schedule notification. This notification will allow you to schedule an appointment with your Professional Development Specialist.

Third: Demonstrate your abilities and knowledge

Once you’ve received your ready to schedule notification from the Council, you will schedule your Verification Visit and your CDA Exam for a date within the next 6 months. You can do either the exam or the visit first – there is no order in which these have to be completed.

The Verification Visit and CDA Exam provide you opportunity to demonstrate your childcare knowledge, skills, and practical experience.

And Finally … Earn your CDA!

Learning whether the Council has awarded you a CDA Credential is the final element to the credentialing process. The Council will notify you of their decision to award or deny your CDA. This typically takes 10 days to 2 weeks from the date you complete all the requirements.

* Infant/Toddler: This age group is defined as children aged birth to 3 years. Your work experience must include experience with each of the three infant/toddler sub-groups: young infants (birth–8 months), mobile infants (9–17 months), and toddlers (18–36 months).

** Preschool: This age group is defined as children aged 3 through 5 years.

*** Family Home CDA candidates must work with children aged birth through 5 years.

Care Courses provides support throughout your CDA training and after. We are here to help make this experience pleasant and rewarding!

Want to know what you can do with a CDA? Check out our blog on how you can use your CDA!

Please let us know how we can assist you further with the CDA process! Call us: 1-800-685-7610, Monday through Friday, 9-5 ET, or email us days, evenings and weekends: We’re here to help!

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