Skip to content


Professional Recognition Without a Degree

The nationally recognized Child Development Associate® (CDA) Credential™ offers recognition for valuable knowledge about working with children and helping them reach their full potential. It is often a first step into a career educating young children.

The Council for Professional Recognition is the go-to resource for initial CDA®-related questions. For more information on the CDA® or to order your CDA Competency Standards book, including application materials, please visit the Council for Professional Recognition’s website.

Young children learning the English alphabet with their parents

Child care professionals who earn their CDA® Credential receive increased professional recognition.


Other benefits include:


Candidate must have:

  • Earned a high school diploma or GED, or be enrolled as a junior or senior in a high school career and technical program in early childhood education
  • Completed 120 hours of formal early childhood education training
  • Chosen a credential setting:
    • Infant and toddler (center-based)
    • Preschool (center-based)
    • Family child care
    • Head Start home visitor
  • Worked with children in their chosen setting a minimum of 480 hours within the past three years

Before You Apply

  1. Complete 120 hours of training with at least 10 hours in each of the following eight 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
    6. Maintaining a commitment to professionalism
    7. Observing and recording children's behavior
    8. Understanding principles of child development and learning

Training hours may be completed at any time. There is no time frame requirement. To find approved trainings for your CDA®, please visit Develop.

  1. Purchase the CDA® Competency Standards book that matches the setting you work in (infant-toddler, preschool, family child care, or home visitor) from the Council for Professional Recognition’s website. Use this book to guide your portfolio completion, fine tune your exam preparation, and prepare for your verification visit.
  2. Create a Professional Portfolio by following instructions in the CDA® Competency Standards book. Additional support is available for this process from Child Care Aware of Minnesota.
  3. Choose a Professional Development Specialist using the Council’s directory. This process can take some time. We recommend reaching out to several Professional Development Specialists to find a scheduling match.


Applying to the Council

  1. Complete an application using the Council’s YourCouncil online system and pay the $425 assessment fee. Applications submitted on paper have an increased cost of $500.
  2. Once you receive your ready to schedule notification from the Council for Professional Recognition:
    1. Schedule your Verification Visit with your Professional Development Specialist
    2. Schedule your CDA® exam at the nearest Pearson Vue testing center
  3. Receive your CDA® from the Council for Professional Recognition


View a recorded Information Session to learn more about applying for the Child Development Associate® (CDA) Credential™.

View a recorded Information Session to learn more about renewing the Child Development Associate® (CDA) Credential™.


The Child Development Associate® (CDA) Credential™ is valid for three years after the award date and may be renewed no sooner than six months before the expiration date. The purpose of the CDA® renewal is to ensure that early childhood professionals are maintaining current knowledge and skills in their work with young children and families.


Before You Apply

  1. Have documented proof of valid and current certification in First Aid and both Infant and Child (Pediatric) CPR.
  2. Within one year prior to submitting your renewal application, have at least 80 hours of work or volunteer experience with young children in the setting of your original credential.
  3. Select an Early Childhood Education Reviewer to verify your work experience as part of the recommendation process.
  4. Have documented proof of completing at least 45 hours of training or three semester credits in early childhood education/child development. This proof must be in the form of a college transcript, certificate(s) of completion, or an official letter from a training agency. Training must have been completed within the past three years and be specific and relevant to your CDA® credential type.
  5. Have documented proof of current membership in a national or local early childhood professional organization.


Renewing with the Council

  1. Download a free renewal procedures guide from the Council’s website
  2. Compile required documentation
  3. Complete an application using the Council’s YourCouncil online system and pay the fee ($125 for online applications and $150 for paper applications)
  4. Receive your CDA® Renewal from the Council for Professional Recognition

Advising Services

No matter where a candidate is in their process of earning a CDA®, Professional Development Advisors are available to offer support and guidance. Contact your local Professional Development Advisor for one-on-one assistance regarding goal setting, training verification, and more.


Professional Portfolio Support

As you prepare to apply for the CDA®, it can be helpful to have additional support completing your Professional Portfolio. Child Care Aware of Minnesota offers free access to a Portfolio Specialist who can help with the following tasks:

  • Review the work you have already completed
  • Provide feedback to expand on ideas
  • Answer questions about portfolio requirements and CDA® requirements in general
  • Share CDA® resources

This opportunity is available to CDA® candidates who are not enrolled in an MNCDA or MNITCDA learning community through Eager-to-Learn or a Child Care Aware of Minnesota district office. Complete the CDA Portfolio Assistance Request Form to receive up to five hours of support from a Portfolio Specialist at no cost. Space is limited and based upon availability.

Just getting started? We recommend using the following tools to help you:


Professional Development Specialists

The Council for Professional Recognition has a search tool for locating available Professional Development Specialists (PDS) in your area. We suggest using this tool to contact multiple PDS to find one who can match your scheduling needs.


MNCDA and MNITCDA Learning Communities

The Minnesota CDA (MNCDA) and its infant/toddler specific counterpart the MNITCDA were designed to provide the core training required for the Child Development Associate® (CDA) Credential™. Cohorts are held face-to-face throughout the state and online through Eager-to-Learn.

What to expect:

  • 120 hours of professional development in all eight CDA® subject areas. Trainings incorporate and align with key early childhood education standards, including Minnesota’s Knowledge and Competency Framework and the Minnesota Early Childhood Indicators of Progress.
  • Guidance to complete your Professional Portfolio. Participants who complete the homework assignments will have most of their Professional Portfolio materials ready for review upon completion of the MNCDA.
  • Support from a Learning Community Coordinator and connections to other early education professionals.
  • Prioritized eligibility for CDA® application fee and training reimbursement after completion.

Interested in finding a MNCDA or MNITCDA learning community near you? Complete the CDA® Learning Community Interest Form.


CDA® Awards

CDA® Awards help candidates pay for the required training, application, and renewal of the nationally recognized Child Development Associate® (CDA) Credential™.

To learn more about the financial support available, visit the CDA® Awards page.