School of Education

School of Education

Child Development Associate Program

The School of Education at American University offers a Child Development Associate (CDA®) Program, the most widely recognized credential in Early Childhood Education. Our program is framed from a critical literacy, social justice and anti-racist perspective, and makes use of culturally responsive and culturally sustaining pedagogy. This program is available in an open enrollment format, and admission to American University is not required.

The CDA® is a credential that early childhood educators can apply for from the Council for Professional Recognition after completing a series of requirements. The required elements include the completion of at least 120 hours of formal early childhood education coursework, preparing a professional portfolio, and obtaining professional work experience.

The CDA® program at American University is a 135-hour course of study, which fulfills the 120-hour educational component required by the Council for Professional Recognition for the Preschool, Infant-Toddler, and Family Child Care CDA® credential and some of the educational component hours required for the Home Visitor CDA® credential. While completing your coursework, you will also have an opportunity to work on most of the required portfolio components as well as the option of obtaining some Preschool or Infant-Toddler professional work experience through our partnership with Martha’s Table, a non-profit organization in Washington, D.C., as a volunteer in one of their high-quality education programs.

The CDA® program consists of 5 courses that can be completed in 4-8 months. It is self-paced and fully online, enabling it to be completed around a schedule that meets your needs. While taking CDA® courses you will have access to an academic advisor and faculty coach.

You may also register for individual courses to complete missing education hours or to renew a Preschool, Infant-Toddler, or Family Child Care CDA credential.

Pathways to Early Development and Learning Success (PEDALS)

PEDALS is an initiative between the School of Education, Trinity Washington University, and Martha’s Table.

The aim of the partnership is to provide students with a seamless academic pathway across institutions with affordable tuition. There is also the potential for high school dual enrollment. The Child Development Associate (CDA®) Program is a key steppingstone on the path of career advancement in ECE with further educational opportunities at Trinity University and American University.

Students who complete courses at AU can transfer the equivalent of up to 6 credits to Trinity Washington University’s AA in Early Childhood Education. . These students can then transfer credits to Trinity Washington University’s BA in Early Childhood Education or American University’s BA in Elementary Education.

The AU advantage is having access to distinguished faculty and staff members who work every day to achieve our vision of an antiracist and equity-driven community in which all students are given the support they need to realize their unique potential.

Eligibility

This program is available with an open enrollment format. Anyone that is looking to fulfill the 120-hour educational component, necessary to obtain the Preschool, Infant-Toddler, and Family Child Care Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential™ is welcome to register. We also offer courses that fulfill the commitment to professionalism, and understanding child development and learning subject areas for the Home Visitor CDA Credential™.

    • The CDA® program is a 135-hour course of study which fulfills the 120-hour educational component required by the Council for Professional Recognition for the Preschool, Infant-Toddler, and Family Child Care CDA® credential and some of the educational component hours required for the Home Visitor CDA® credential.
    • The program will address various theoretical, research-based, and practitioner-oriented issues concerning children from birth through age 5
    • Emphasis on critical literacy, culturally sustaining and anti-racism in the early childhood development years
    • Course is fully online and self-paced, with assigned advisor and faculty support 
    • seamless academic pathway towards an AA in ECE and then a BA in ECE or Elementary Education

Frequently Asked Questions

There is no enrollment deadline. Admissions are done on a rolling basis.

The total cost for all five courses is $2,340. The breakdown by course is listed below, and there are scholarships available. Please contact Kara Lawrence at klawrence@american.edu for more information.

The courses are self-paced, meaning the material is completed on your time. The suggested time to complete each of the 5 courses for the CDA program is listed below.

CDA® program overview
Course Title

AU Credit

Equivalency

CDA®

Hours Equivalency
Suggested Time to Complete Cost
EDU 072 Culturally Responsive Learning in Early Childhood Education* 3 45.0

16 weeks

$780
EDU 073 Health, Safety, and Nutrition in the Early Years  1 15

6 weeks

$260
EDU 071 Child Development and Learning* 2 30.0

12 weeks

$520
EDU 075 Program Management in ECE 1 15.0

6 weeks

$260
EDU 074 Professionalism and Community Building 2 30.0 12 weeks $520
Total Courses 5** 9

135.0

N/A

$2340

There are scholarships available. For more information, please contact Kara Lawrence at klawrence@american.edu.

The following courses, offered at AU, will fulfill the 120 hour educational component for the Preschool, Infant-Toddler, and Family Child Care Credential.

Culturally Responsive Learning in Early Childhood Education
Exploration of strategies, and practices for advancing young children’s physical, cognitive, communicative, creative and intellectual development from a culturally responsive, anti-racist and critical literacy perspective.

Health, Safety, and Nutrition in the Early Years
Exploration of culturally responsive strategies, policies and practices for creating, establishing, and maintaining the health, safety, and nutrition of children in the early years.

Child Development and Learning
Understanding principles of child development, including social development, emotional development, and learning, using the cultural resources (language, cultural traditions, heritage, knowledge) children bring to the learning community.

Program Management in ECE
Exploration of various forms of program management in early childhood settings including observation, documentation, planning, evaluation, record keeping, and building community, from a culturally responsive and anti-racist perspective.

Professionalism and Community Building
Exploration of the role early childhood educators play in community building to support the needs of young children and in engaging in courageous and professional leadership.

The following courses will fulfill the commitment to professionalism, and understanding child development educational component for the Home Visitor CDA® Credential™.

Professionalism and Community Building
Exploration of the role early childhood educators play in community building to support the needs of young children and in engaging in courageous and professional leadership.

Child Development and Learning
Understanding principles of child development, including social development, emotional development, and learning, using the cultural resources (language, cultural traditions, heritage, knowledge) children bring to the learning community.


The following courses will fulfill the commitment to professionalism, and understanding child development educational component for the Home Visitor CDA Credential™.

Professionalism and Community Building
Exploration of the role early childhood educators play in community building to support the needs of young children and in engaging in courageous and professional leadership.

Child Development and Learning
Understanding principles of child development, including social development, emotional development, and learning, using the cultural resources (language, cultural traditions, heritage, knowledge) children bring to the learning community.

CDA® Credential Requirements

The Council for Professional Recognition offers several types of CDA certificates, each with its own set of requirements.

PEDALS Image

1. Before Applying for a CDA

  1. Earn a high school diploma, GED or be enrolled as a junior or senior in a high school career and technical program in early childhood education.

  2. Complete 120 hours of formal early childhood education training, covering the growth and development of children ages 3 to 5 years old, with no fewer than 10 training hours in each of eight CDA subject areas. These subject areas are integrated into the AU CDA courses and are listed below.

  • Planning a safe and healthy learning environment

  • Advancing children's physical and intellectual development

  • Supporting children's social and emotional development

  • Building productive relationships with families

  • Managing an effective program operation

  • Maintaining a commitment to professionalism

  • Observing and recording children's behavior

  • Understanding principles of child development and learning

2. Within 3 years of submitting your CDA application to the Council for Professional Recognition:

  • Obtain 480 hours of professional work experience in a center-based setting with children ages 3-5 years old.

3. Within 6 months of submitting your CDA application to the Council for Professional Recognition:

  • Prepare your CDA Professional Portfolio. Many of the components for the Portfolio are completed as part of the course work at AU.

  • Find a CDA Professional Development (PD) Specialist. The Specialist will conduct your Verification Visit when you will be observed and evaluated working with children in a specific age group. (CDA PD Specialist Directory https://www.cdacouncil.org/pd-specialists/role-a-responsibilities/354-pd-specialist-directory)

The Application Process

  • Apply to the Council for Professional Recognition online or complete a paper application provided in the CDA Preschool CDA Competency Standards Book.

  • Submit the non-refundable / non-transferable application fee with your application.

  • Once your CDA application has been reviewed and accepted you will receive a Ready to Schedule notification from the Council.

  • Once you receive your Ready to Schedule notification from the Council, you are ready to schedule your CDA Verification Visit with a CDA PD Specialist and CDA Exam. (Scores are electronically submitted to the Council by the CDA PD Specialist and Pearson Vue testing center.)

  • A Council committee will review the results of your assessment and render a decision whether to award you the CDA Credential. If your credential is awarded, the official Child Development Associate® credential will be mailed to you. If the committee decides you need more training, the Council will let you know the next steps to take to earn the Credential.

1. Before Applying for a CDA

Earn a high school diploma, GED or be enrolled as a junior or senior in a high school career and technical program in early childhood education.

Complete 120 hours of formal early childhood education training, covering the growth and development of children ages birth to 36 months, with no fewer than 10 training hours in each of the eight CDA® subject areas. These subject areas are integrated into the AU CDA courses and are listed below.

  • Planning a safe and healthy learning environment

  • Advancing children's physical and intellectual development

  • Supporting children's social and emotional development

  • Building productive relationships with families

  • Managing an effective program operation

  • Maintaining a commitment to professionalism

  • Observing and recording children's behavior

  • Understanding principles of child development and learning

2. Within 3 years of submitting your CDA application to the Council for Professional Recognition:

  • Obtain 480 hours of professional work experience in a center-based setting with children ages birth to 36 months, including experience in all three sub-age groups – young infants (birth to 8 months), mobile infants (9-17 months), and toddlers (18-36 months).

3. Within 6 months of submitting your CDA application to the Council for Professional Recognition:

  • Prepare your CDA Professional Portfolio. Many of the components for the Portfolio are completed as part of the course work at AU.

  • Find a CDA Professional Development (PD) Specialist. The Specialist will conduct your Verification Visit when you will be observed and evaluated working with children in a specific age group. (CDA PD Specialist Directory https://www.cdacouncil.org/pd-specialists/role-a-responsibilities/354-pd-specialist-directory)

The Application Process

  • Apply to the Council for Professional Recognition online or complete a paper application provided in the Infant-Toddler CDA Competency Standards Book.

  • Submit the non-refundable / non-transferable application fee with your application.

  • Once your CDA application has been reviewed and accepted you will receive a Ready to Schedule notification from the Council.

  • Once you receive your Ready to Schedule notification from the Council, you are ready to schedule your CDA Verification Visit with a CDA PD Specialist and CDA Exam. (Scores are electronically submitted to the Council by the CDA PD Specialist and Pearson Vue testing center.)

  • A Council committee will review the results of your assessment and render a decision whether to award you the CDA Credential. If your credential is awarded, the official Child Development Associate® credential will be mailed to you. If the committee decides you need more training, the Council will let you know the next steps to take to earn the Credential.

1. Before Applying for a CDA

  • Earn a high school diploma, GED or be enrolled as a junior or senior in a high school career and technical program in early childhood education.

  • Complete 120 hours of formal early childhood education training, covering the growth and development of children ages birth to 5 years old, with no fewer than 10 training hours in each of eight CDA subject areas. These subject areas are integrated into the AU CDA courses and are listed below.

  • Planning a safe and healthy learning environment

  • Advancing children's physical and intellectual development

  • Supporting children's social and emotional development

  • Building productive relationships with families

  • Managing an effective program operation

  • Maintaining a commitment to professionalism

  • Observing and recording children's behavior

  • Understanding principles of child development and learning

2. Within 3 years of submitting your CDA application to the Council for Professional Recognition:

  • Obtain 480 hours of professional work experience in in a group setting with children ages birth to 5 years old.

3. Within 6 months of submitting your CDA application to the Council for Professional Recognition:

  • Prepare your CDA Professional Portfolio. Many of the components for the Portfolio are completed as part of the course work at AU.

  • Find a CDA Professional Development (PD) Specialist. The Specialist will conduct your Verification Visit when you will be observed and evaluated working with children in a specific age group. (CDA PD Specialist Directory https://www.cdacouncil.org/pd-specialists/role-a-responsibilities/354-pd-specialist-directory)

The Application Process

  • Apply to the Council for Professional Recognition online or complete a paper application provided in the CDA Family Child-Care Competency Standards Book.

  • Submit the non-refundable / non-transferable application fee with your application.

  • Once your CDA application has been reviewed and accepted you will receive a Ready to Schedule notification from the Council.

  • Once you receive your Ready to Schedule notification from the Council, you are ready to schedule your CDA Verification Visit with a CDA PD Specialist and CDA Exam. (Scores are electronically submitted to the Council by the CDA PD Specialist and Pearson Vue testing center.)

  • A Council committee will review the results of your assessment and render a decision whether to award you the CDA Credential. If your credential is awarded, the official Child Development Associate® credential will be mailed to you. If the committee decides you need more training, the Council will let you know the next steps to take to earn the Credential

1. Before Applying for a CDA

  • Earn a high school diploma, GED (equivalent).

  • Complete 120 hours of formal early childhood education training, covering the growth and development of children ages birth to 5 years old, with no fewer than 10 training hours in each of eight CDA Home Visitor subject areas. 

-Promoting health and safety in the home environment

-Enhancing parents’ skills to advance children’s physical and intellectual development

-Promoting parents’ use of positive ways to support children’s social and emotional development

-Understanding family systems and development

-Managing an effective home visitor program operation

*Maintaining a commitment to professionalism

-Working across the child welfare continuum

*Understanding the principles of child development and learning

 

*These courses respectively fulfill the commitment to professionalism, and understanding child development educational component for the Home Visitor CDA Credential™.

2. Within 3 years of submitting your CDA application to the Council for Professional Recognition:

  • Obtain 480 hours of professional work experience in a Home Visitor program serving families with children aged birth to five years.

3. Within 6 months of submitting your CDA application to the Council for Professional Recognition:

  • Prepare your CDA professional portfolio.

  • Find a CDA Professional Development (PD) Specialist. The Specialist will conduct your Verification Visit when you will be observed and evaluated working with children in a specific age group. (CDA PD Specialist Directory https://www.cdacouncil.org/pd-specialists/role-a-responsibilities/354-pd-specialist-directory)

The Application Process

  • Apply to the Council for Professional Recognition online or complete a paper application provided in the CDA Home Visitor Competency Standards Book.

  • Submit the non-refundable / non-transferable application fee with your application.

  • Once your CDA application is approved, you will receive your Ready to Schedulenotice, and you can schedule your CDA Verification Visit®. 

  • A Council committee will review the results of your assessment and render a decision whether to award you the CDA Credential. If your credential is awarded, the official Child Development Associate® credential will be mailed to you. If the committee decides you need more training, the Council will let you know the next steps to take to earn the Credential

Contact Us

If you are interested in signing up for the CDA® program, please contact CDA@american.edu.

Pathways to Early Development and Learning Success

Pathways to Early Development and Learning Success is an initiative between the School of Education Trinity Washington University and Martha’s Table.

Learn more here