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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.

Couple and children playing with toys

This year the Council for Professional Recognition is offering a CDA Renewal Amnesty Program until June 1, 2021. This program allows anyone with a CDA credential expiration date as far back as January 1, 2010, an opportunity to complete the renewal process and make their credential active again. Visit the council’s website for more information.


Child care professionals who earn their National CDA credential receive increased professional recognition.

Other benefits include:


Candidate must have:

  • Earned a high school diploma or GED
  • Completed 120 training hours
  • 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.

  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Choose a Professional Development Specialist using the CDA Council’s directory. This process can take some time. We recommend reaching out to several Professional Development Specialists to find a scheduling match.
  5. If eligible, apply for a CDA Assessment Fee Scholarship


Applying to the CDA Council

  1. Complete an application using the Council’s YourCDA 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 CDA Council:
    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
  4. If eligible, apply for a Training Reimbursement Award.

The National CDA 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. Online CPR or First Aid training will not be accepted.
  2. Within one year prior to submitting your renewal applcation, 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 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 CDA Council

  1. Download a free renewal packet from the CDA Council’s website
  2. Compile required documentation
  3. If eligible, apply for a CDA Renewal Scholarship
  4. Complete an application using the Council’s YourCDA online system and pay the fee ($125 for online applications and $150 for paper applications)
  5. Receive your CDA Renewal from the Council for Professional Recognition
  6. If eligible, apply for a renewal application fee or training reimbursement award

Child Care Aware of Minnesota offers several supports for educators earning their CDA. Our Minnesota CDA (MNCDA) and Minnesota Infant/Toddler CDA (MNITCDA) cohorts will help you complete the CDA training requirements and our CDA Awards can help cover the costs of required training, application, and renewal of the CDA.

For one-on-one assistance with CDA-related questions, contact your local Professional Development Advisor