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. 

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

Candidate Eligibility

  • Have a high school diploma/equivalent or be a junior or senior in a high school
  • Have 480 hours of experience working with young children within the past 3 years
  • Have 120 hours of training or college credit in early childhood

Training/Credit Requirements

Candidates need 120 hours of Early Childhood education/training with at least 10 hours in 8 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

Cost and Financial Support

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

CDA® Navigators

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.

Are you interested in pursuing a CDA credential? Contact a CDA Navigator at

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