School of Education

School of Education

Child Development Associate (CDA®) Program Overview

The School of Education at American University now offers coursework towards Child Development Associate (CDA®) Program, the most widely recognized credential in early childhood education. At American, the 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. This self-paced program is fully online, enabling it to be completed around a schedule that meets the student’s needs.

The CDA® is a credential that early childhood educators can apply for from the Council for Professional Recognition after completing a series of required elements. 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. Our CDA® program is a 135-hour course of study which fulfills the educational component needed to obtain a CDA® credential. 

While completing your coursework you will also have an opportunity to work on most of the required portfolio components and you will have the option of obtaining some professional work experience through AU’s 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 of studies that can be completed in 4-8 months.

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 CDA® Credential™ is welcome to register. 

    • The CDA® program is a 135-hour course of study which fulfills the educational component necessary to obtain the CDA® Credential™.

    • Program will address various theoretical, research-based, and practitioner-oriented issues concerning children from birth through age 5

    • Emphasis on anti-racism in the early childhood development years

    • Course is fully online and self-paced, with assigned advisor and faculty support  

    • Students may also register for individual courses to complete missing education hours or to renew a CDA® credential.

    • Admission to AU is not required, simply complete registration form.

Frequently Asked Questions

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

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

CDA® program overview
Course Title

CDA®

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

12-16 weeks

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

4-6 weeks

$260
Child Development and Learning* 30.0

10-12 weeks

$520
Program Management in ECE 15.0

4-6 weeks

$260
Professionalism and Community Building 30.0 10-12 weeks $520
Total Courses 5**

135.0

N/A

$2340

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.

CDA® Credential Requirements

The Council for Professional Recognition offers several kinds of CDA® certificates, each with its own set of requirements. AU's CDA® coursework will fulfill the hours of training needed for all of these pathways. Below are the steps to obtain the CDA® credential. 

The CDA® and Elevate Early Education pathway:

Elevate Early Education pipeline

  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.
      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 operation
      6. Maintaining a commitment to professionalism
      7. Observing and recording children's behavior
      8. Understanding principles of child development and learning
  2. Within 3 years of submitting your CDA® application to the Council for Professional Recognition:
    1. 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:
    1. Prepare your CDA® Professional Portfolio. Many of the components for the Portfolio are completed as part of the course work at AU.
    2. 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)

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 CDA® 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®
    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 0 to 36 months, 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.
      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 operation
      6. Maintaining a commitment to professionalism
      7. Observing and recording children's behavior
      8. Understanding principles of child development and learning
  2. Within 3 years of submitting your CDA application to the Council for Professional Recognition:
    1. Obtain 480 hours of professional work experience in a center-based setting with children ages 0 to 36 months.
  3. Within 6 months of submitting your CDA application to the Council for Professional Recognition:
    1. Prepare your CDA® Professional Portfolio. Many of the components for the Portfolio are completed as part of the course work at AU.
    2. 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)

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®
    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 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.
      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 operation
      6. Maintaining a commitment to professionalism
      7. Observing and recording children's behavior
      8. Understanding principles of child development and learning
  2. Within 3 years of submitting your CDA application to the Council for Professional Recognition:
    1. 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:
    1. Prepare your CDA® Professional Portfolio. Many of the components for the Portfolio are completed as part of the course work at AU.
    2. 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

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 CDA® 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®
    1. 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.
      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 operation
      6. Maintaining a commitment to professionalism
      7. Observing and recording children's behavior
      8. Understanding principles of child development and learning
  2. Within 3 years of submitting your CDA® application to the Council for Professional Recognition:
    1. 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:
    1. Prepare a Professional Portfolio
      1. CDA® Professional Portfolio cover sheet
      2. Summary of My CDA® Education cover sheet
      3. Training transcripts, certificates and or letters
      4. Family Questionnaires summary sheet
      5. Reflection on the feedback received from the Family Questionnaires
      6. Areas of Strength and Areas for Professional Growth in boxes A and B on the Reflective Dialogue worksheet
      7. Parent Observation Permission Form (completed and signed) from the family where the Observation will take place
      8. Assessor's Recommendation Form (in a sealed envelope)
      9. Resource Collection Items
      10. Six Reflective Statements of Competence
      11. Professional Philosophy Statement

The Application Process

  • Select Home Visitor Professional Development (PD) Specialist and confirm availability.
  • Have your program director complete the Director's Permission Statement as part of the application.
  • Submit your PAPER application and pay the assessment fee.
  • Once you receive your Ready to Schedule notification from the Council you can schedule your Home Visitor CDA® Verification Visit™. Make sure to bring your Professional Portfolio and Competency Standards book to your CDA® Verification Visit™.

Contact Us

If you are interested in signing up for the CDA® program, please contact Vivian Vasquez and Kara Lawrence.

Elevate Early Education

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

Learn more here