How to earn a Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential™

Everything you need to know about earning a CDA credential is outlined below. 

Eligibility: Have a high school diploma or GED, or be a junior or senior in a high school vocational program.

Previous Training/Education: Complete 120 hours of formal early childhood education training across the 8 CDA subject areas:

1) Planning a safe and healthy learning environment
2) Advancing children's physical and intellectual development
3) Supporting children's social and emotional development
4) Building productive relationships with families
5) Managing an effective program operation
6) Maintaining a commitment to professionalism
7) Observing and recording children’s behavior
8) Understanding principle of child development and learning

The Community College Early Childhood Alliance selected four 3-credit college courses (12 credits) as CDA courses.

ECE 103- Introduction to Early Childhood Education
ECE 133- Child Health, Safety & Nutrition
ECE 243- Early Childhood Guidance

And one of the following:
ECE 158- Early Childhood Curriculum I
ECE 159- Early Childhood Curriculum II
ECE 221- Infant/Toddler Care & Education

T.E.A.C.H. has scholarships available to help complete these college courses.

Click here to see how these courses correspond with the 8 CDA Subject Areas.

Click here to see how statewide trainings correspond with the 8 CDA Subject Areas.

Need a way to track your hours? Use this form to track by Subject Area.

Experience: Have 480 hours of verifiable work experience with the birth-5 age group in the past 3 years.

Family Questionnaires: Distribute and collect questionnaires (master copy provided in Competency Standards Book) and complete the Family Questionnaires Summary Sheet within 6 months of application.

Professional Portfolio: Compile the Professional Portfolio as outlined in the Competency Standards Book. The Professional Portfolio includes the following:

       -The Resource Collection
       -The Reflective Statements of Competence
       -The Professional Philosophy Statement

The Professional Portfolio must be completed within 6 months of application.

Apply to the Council for Professional Recognition

The Competency Standards Books contain all necessary application materials. They are available from the Council's online bookstore. Be sure to purchase the book that matches the setting in which you will be assessed (infant/toddler, preschool, family child care, etc.).

The candidate will choose a Professional Development Specialist who will complete their Verification Visit and indicate this person on the application.

The assessment fee is $425. T.E.A.C.H. offers scholarships to help with this fee.

Once the Council processes this application and assessment fee, the candidate will receive a "Ready to Schedule" notice.

Within the 6 months following the "Ready to Schedule" notice:

A. The candidate must schedule and take the CDA Exam at a PearsonVUE testing center.

-The CDA Exam consists of 65 multiple-choice questions to be completed within one hour and 45 minutes. This exam is offered in both English and Spanish to all candidates.

B. The candidate must arrange and complete the Verification Visit with the Professional Development Specialist.

-The Verification Visit is made up of three components (R.O.R. Model).
       -Review of the Professional Portfolio, Family Questionnaires, and transcripts/certificates
       -Observation of the candidate by the PD Specialist
       -Reflective Dialogue

*Please note: The CDA credentialing process has been updated as of June 1, 2013. If you began the process or purchased application materials prior to this date, please review all current requirements and make sure you have the most current materials. 


CDA Assessment Fee Scholarship Overview

T.E.A.C.H. will provide ~85% ($360.00) of the CDA assessment fee and the recipient will provide the remaining ~15% ($65.00). Upon receiving the CDA credential, the recipient is awarded a bonus of $300 if the CDA is earned with the 12 college credits recommended by the Iowa Community College Alliance.  All other candidates will receive a $200 bonus. The recipient also commits to continue working in Iowa in the field of early childhood for 6 additional months after the credential is awarded.