A program of Lutheran Social Services in western North Dakota and Lakes & Prairies Community Action Partnership in eastern North Dakota

Steps to Earning Your CDA

A person must hold a high school diploma or equivalent, or be a junior or senior in a high school vocational program in early education to complete the CDA process. A Child Care Aware® of North Dakota Professional Development Coordinator can review your past training/experience and create a plan to help you meet the following requirements:

  • Candidate Credentialing Checklist

    Keep track of your progress as you complete the credentialing process.
    Credentialing Checklist
    CDA Credentialing Process

  • Complete 120 Hours of Approved Training

    Training must be earned through an institution, agency or setting approved by the National Council. CDA Training Options. offer candidates a way to complete required training for college credit or non-credit clock hours. There is no time limit on training and education, however the training needs to match the CDA setting for which you are applying.

  • Complete 480 Hours of Work Experience

    A candidate must be working directly with children age birth to 5 years in a licensed, state-approved child care setting for hours to qualify as work experience. Work experience must occur within three years prior to submitting your CDA Credential Application, and must match the CDA setting for which you are applying.

  • Create a Professional Portfolio

    Candidates are required to put together a Professional Portfolio that includes six reflection statements, a personal philosophy statement, and a collection of specific resource materials. This must be completed within six months prior to applying for CDA Credentialing.

  • Distribute and Collect Family Questionnaires

    These questionnaires offer parents an opportunity to give their opinion on your work with their children. Candidates must complete this step within six months prior to submitting CDA Direct Assessment Application.

  • Apply for CDA Credentialing

    A candidate can apply for national CDA Credentialing once they have completed the prerequisites. A $425 application fee must be submitted with the application. Once accepted and processed, the candidate will receive information to schedule the Verification Visit and CDA Exam.
    CDA Application Instructions

  • Verification Visit by National Council Professional Development Specialist

    At this visit, the Professional Development (PD) Specialist will use the R.O.R. Model to review, observe, and reflect. The PD Specialist will review the candidate’s Professional Portfolio, training documentation, and proof of work experience. She or he will then conduct a 2 hour observation of the candidate working directly with children. The visit will end with a one-on-one session to reflect on the candidate’s strengths, areas for improvement, and goals. At the end of the visit, the PD Specialist will send recommended scores to the national CDA Council.
    Find a PD Specialist

  • CDA Exam

    The candidate will complete a computerized exam at a local Pearson VUE testing center. The exam includes 65 multiple choice questions including five that are based on scenarios. The test is designed for those with little or no computer experience. Following completion of the exam, the Pearson VUE center will send scores to the national CDA Council.
    Find a Test Site
    CDA Exam Tutorial

  • Review and Award of CDA Credential

    The National Council reviews the scores from the Verification Visit, the CDA exam, and other documentation of competence to determine whether to issue the CDA Credential. An official CDA credential is mailed to candidates who meet all requirements. A recommendation is offered to those who need additional training.

  • Credential Renewal

    Renewal ensures that associates are maintaining current knowledge and skills in their work with young children and families. A CDA credential is valid for three years each time it is renewed.