Child Development Associate® (CDA) Credential™

The Child Development Associate® (CDA) Credential™ is a nationally recognized credential earned by those working in the early care and education field. The credential is based on a core set of competency standards and includes an assessment process by the Council for Professional Recognition:

The CDA Credential is a recognized part of child care regulations in Iowa and across the country, is a way to earn points on Iowa’s Quality Rating System (IQ4K®), and is part of achieving some accreditation standards. It is the best first step to earn more education in the early childhood field.

CDA® Navigators

Our CDA® Navigators work side-by-side with CDA candidates to support and facilitate the CDA process.  They also build partnerships with community colleges and other training entities that provide education and training for the early childhood workforce.

Our Navigators are located throughout the state and would love to meet with you in-person or virtually. The Navigators’ services are free of charge, and they are glad to offer as much guidance as you want. If you’re interested in pursuing a CDA Credential, you can contact a CDA Navigator at

For a comprehensive overview on how to earn your CDA, take a look at the Simple Steps to Earn Your CDA.

Cost and Financial Support

The assessment fee is $425. T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Iowa offers scholarships to help with this fee. Not only will T.E.A.C.H. pay for 85% of the CDA assessment fee, but if you are eligible for a T.E.A.C.H. scholarship, T.E.A.C.H. will also help you pay for any college coursework needed to earn your CDA.

Training & Credit Requirements

Candidates can choose to earn either 120 hours of training, nine college credits, or a combination of the two to be eligible for the CDA. Outlined below are the training requirements and the recommended college coursework.

Candidates need 120 hours of early childhood training with at least 10 hours in eight subject areas:
  1. Planning a safe and healthy environment to invite learning
  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 the principles of child development and learning
The Iowa Community College Early Childhood Alliance recommends four 3-credit college courses:
  • ECE 103—Introduction to Early Childhood Education
  • ECE 133—Child Health, Safety & Nutrition
  • ECE 243—Early Childhood Guidance

And one of the following courses:

  • ECE 158—Early Childhood Curriculum I
  • ECE 159—Early Childhood Curriculum II
  • ECE 221—Infant Toddler Care/Education

Optional wrap-up one-credit class (offered online): ECE 106 – CDA Standards

Note: CDA eligibility requirements only mandate nine college credits. Those listed above are the recommended courses.

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