All About CDA

Child Development Associate Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is Child Development Associate?

 Child Development Associate training is offered twice annually by WomenSource, the training institute of The Women’s Center.  CDA is for early childhood education professionals interested in broadening their education, or someone who is interested in eventually working in the early childhood education field.  The CDA is a nationally recognized credential for early childhood educators, and is awarded through The Council for Early Childhood Professional Recognition in Washington, DC (also known as The CDA Council.  More information at

Where and When is the CDA Held?

 The training is more than 60 hours and generally provided in a hybrid online learning environment, weekly.  It is held at the training site of The Women’s Center, WomenSource Training Institute, at the Cornerstone Commerce Building in Linwood.  CDA instructors and advisors are early childhood educators focused on teaching the fundamental principles of nurturing and developing physical and intellectual growth in children.  CDA candidates chose from four different settings, or child care types, when entering the CDA.  They are: Infant/Toddler, Preschool and Family Day Care.  There is also a Home Visitor setting.

 Do I Qualify for CDA Training?

 CDA candidates must have completed or are planning on completing 480 hours of hands on childcare within the last five years.  In addition, they must be 18 years or older, be high school graduates or hold a GED, they must read and write adequately, and they must be willing to sign a statement of ethical conduct assuring their commitment to early childhood education.

 What happens after the training?

 After a student has completed the 120 clock hours of training, which must include 10 hours each in eight subject areas, the student is observed by an Advisor.  An advisor can be either a designated employee of The Women’s Center or a candidate’s peer with specific early childhood education and experience.  The advisor completes the Assessment Tool and sends it the Council.  Within three months, a Council representative provides a verification visit to the candidate to complete the written review and oral interview.

 What are the scholarship options?

Beginning in 2010, The Women's Center started to award scholarships on a first come, first serve basis.  Atlantic County residents will have first priority for the scholarships, with out of county residents taking any additional scholarships.  Additional information about the CDA Scholarship Program is available by coming to an Informational Session or getting in contact with the CDA instructor. There is a $150 initial fee that is returned to the candidate upon successful completion of the CDA course.  There are additional fees associated with the CDA, including the purchasing of an application packet, textbook and materials for class. 

Please Note—The scholarship funds are limited and not guaranteed.  If a scholarship is applied for and not rewarded, payment plans must be set up with WomenSource.

Incremental Payment Schedule

IF A SCHOLARSHIP IS NOT AVAILABLE -- The total fee payable to The Women’s Center is $975.  This breaks down to 5 monthly payments of $195.  Students will be responsible for these amounts in cash or check the first week of every month of class during the length of the training.  The student is responsible for paying separately the Assessment Fee.

Why do I have to do a personal orientation?

 A new step in the CDA process this year is a personal orientation.  It is conducted with the instructor to provide additional information about the CDA process and to complete additional paperwork.  At the the personal orientation specific course information is provided and a determination regarding your scholarship and enrollment status are completed.  Contact the instructor for additional information on the personal orientation.  These are typically set up after attending an Informational Session.

 What are the competency goals that make up the CDA curriculum?

 The competency goals are:

1. To establish and maintain a safe, healthy learning environment

2.  To advance physical and intellectual competence

3. To support social and emotional development and to provide positive guidance

4. To establish positive and productive relationships with families

5. To ensure a well-run, purposeful program responsive to participant needs

6. To maintain a commitment to professionalism

 When is the next CDA class?

CDA is usually offered twice a year, in the Fall and Spring.  To find out for sure when the next training is and when the next Open House or Informational Night is to find out more information, contact the The Women's Center at 609-601-9925, ext. 201.  You can also email Erin O'Hanlon at

How can CDA help me?

Having a child development associate certification is an important step in professional development for early childhood educators.  It is a national certification, so once you obtain it, it is recognized nationally and internationally.  Having a CDA or 9 college credits is required to be the lead teacher in a classroom in a preschool or early childhood education center in New Jersey.  For more information about this and other regulations, please review the Manual of Requirements for Child Care Centers.*

Also, please take a minute to look at Professional Impact New Jersey and their information about professional development for early childhood educators.

Digital CDA Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is Digital CDA Right for Me?

What is the CDA?

The Child Development Associate certification, or CDA, is a comprehensive, national certification for early childhood educators.  It is recognized in every state in the country, and many international countries.   Once you receive the certification, it is renewable every 3 years. 

What are the criteria to be eligible to get a CDA?

In order to obtain the CDA, you must be:

  • 18 years old
  • have a high school diploma or GED
  • speak and read English
  • have 120 classroom hours of instruction
  • 480 hours of hands-on work with children. 

Each CDA candidate focuses on a specific setting:

  • Infant/Toddler
  • Preschool
  • Family Daycare
  • Home Visitor


Your CDA setting should correspond to the type of work you do with young children. 

What are the CDA settings?

For example, if you work with kids ages newborn to 2 and a half, your CDA setting would be infant/toddlers.  If you work in a classroom with 3 to 5 year old children, your CDA setting would be preschool.  If you are a registered family childcare provider and watch up to 5 children in your home, your setting would be family childcare.  If you are a home visitor, family worker, or parent support person in a childcare center, your setting would be home visitor.  More information about all of these settings are available online at

How can I use the CDA?

The CDA can be taken anywhere in the country as an entry level certification into the early childhood education field.  In New Jersey, you can be a group teacher in a classroom with the CDA.  The CDA is the minimum education required by many HeadStart programs and public schools for staff in classroom aide positions.  In conjunction with other regulations, a person holding  a CDA can be an owner/operator of a licensed childcare center.

What are the steps I have to take to get my CDA?

To obtain the CDA certification, you must prepare a resource portfolio consisting of 17 researched items, distribute and collect parent questionnaires to the families of the children you serve, and be observed working with children by an early childhood education professional.  In addition, you will have a multiple choice test at the verification visit and an oral interview.  It is mandatory for you to have a CPR and First Aid certification before applying for your CDA.

What if I’m not working with young children right now?

If you have worked with young children in the last 5 years, those hours count towards your 480 total hours that are required of hands-on work.  However, the parent questionnaires and observation of you working with children should happen after you have completed your training hours.  This means you will need to begin working with young children again, either in a paid position or a volunteer role.  This work must be done at a licensed childcare center or registered family daycare home.

How will the CDA help me in my career?

Once you have obtained the CDA, you may be able to advance in your current employment.  The CDA can be the start of college coursework for you as well – in New Jersey, Thomas Edison University recognizes the CDA as nine college credits.  They have additional programs for people interested in an Associates or Bachelors Degree.  The best part is that most of their coursework is distance learning.  Completing the digital CDA will be a great start to understanding whether distance learning is the right method of education for you.

Where can I find out more information about the CDA Certification and Process?

The Women’s Center has a website that goes into more detail about how to obtain your cda.  It is available at  In addition, the Council for Professional Recognition in Early Childhood Education is available online at  It is the organization that certifies the CDA, sets the standards for what will be learned, and facilitates the verification visit.  Both of these websites are a great source of information on the CDA.

Who teaches the CDA?

At The Women’s Center, the digital CDA is taught by Erin O’Hanlon, Coordinator of Community Initiatives.  Erin has taught the CDA for over 6 years, and has fostered many candidates through the CDA application process.  Erin has a Masters in Instructional Technology and is an experienced online instructor.  In addition to teaching the course online, she provides technical assistance to the CDA candidates about what their portfolio should contain, what the next step in the process will be, and preparation for the verification visit.

How is the CDA offered digitally?

At The Women’s Center, we offer a Digital CDA.  This is an online learning course that uses online tools to facilitate learning.  If you are in the South Jersey area, it is recommended that you attend the In-person orientation, so that you can meet the instructor and your fellow classmates.  If you are not in South Jersey, an online orientation will be hosted in an online live classroom. 

Where will I get my assignments and materials?

Once you have completed the mandatory orientation for the Digital CDA and paid the tuition, you will be enrolled in the course learning system, called Moodle.   This is the main access area to the course.  It is where discussions are posted, chats occur, and how you access the online live classroom each week at the designated time.  It is also the starting place for how you contact the instructor and other classmates.  Moodle is where you will find the links to your quizzes and tests, as well as track your independent assignments.

How will class happen?

Each week, all the students and the instructor will meet online in an online live classroom during the 20 weeks that you are enrolled in the course.  The web tool used for this is Vyew, a conferencing and education site.  Not only will you be able to view all the materials for the online live classroom, but you will be able to discuss them with the instructor and other students.  In addition, the instructor has the capability to send information directly to your computer for you to view, such as videos or webpages.  It is important that you attend these online live classroom sessions, as much learning happens here.  It is also where you can access the instructor and other classmates for their life experiences in early childhood education. 

How will I be able to ask questions of the instructor one-on-one?

While it is not mandatory to have a webcam, it is helpful for technical assistance via Skype or Oovoo.  Skype and Oovoo are additional web tools that allow you to chat via video live with your instructor or other students.  Much technical assistance is provided this way, and you will be supported in signing up for a free skype account if you have a webcam.   Don’t worry if you have never done this before, its easy to learn and quick to become use to.  If you don’t have a webcam, the next best thing for one-on-one communication is email and online chatting.

What will I need to do to prepare for the CDA?

Any CDA student has a few things they need to do to prepare for the course.  First of all, makes sure that you meet the criteria set forth by the CDA Council in Washington, DC about what is required to be eligible for the CDA.  Again, this includes being 18 years of age, having a high school diploma or GED, and a CPR/First Aid certification.  During the course of the CDA, you will complete your 120 instruction hours, and your Resource Portfolio File.  You will need to complete your 480 hours of hands-on with young children, parent questionnaires and be observed working with young children by an early childhood education professional.  

Don’t worry if you still have questions about these last things – we review the CDA application process during class frequently.   You will also need to order the application packet specific to your setting, and you will need to order the textbook.  Both of these can be ordered from the CDA Council in Washington, and cost around $60 combined.  Your setting is the specific area or age group that you are working with – infant/toddlers, preschool, family daycare or home visitor.

What will I need to do to prepare for the Digital CDA?

To prepare for the Digital CDA, you will need some specific things.  You will need access to a computer with internet service and a web browser like Internet Explorer or Google Chrome on a daily basis.  It should have a printer as well, though that is not mandatory.  You must purchase a headset with a built in mike.  It can be purchased for approximately $20 at most electronics stores like Radio Shack or Best Buy.  It plugs into your computer and allows you to listen and talk in the online live classroom each week.


 If you have a webcam and a Skype or Oovoo account, you will be able to receive technical assistance from the instructor during her virtual office hours.  If you have a webcam but not a Skype or Oovoo account, don’t worry, it’s easy to sign up for one.  In addition, it is recommended that you get a Google account online to be able to use Google Docs.  In Google Docs you can type essays and assignments, develop presentations and send information easily to the instructor for editing and feedback.   Best of all, its free and easy to use.

Do my computer skills have to be great to do the Digital CDA?

You should be familiar with a computer, how to surf the world wide web, and how to use the internet to be successful  in the Digital CDA.  You should be comfortable with typing, though you don’t have to type a certain word per minute count.  For many people, distance education will be a new and different experience.  It may take a few weeks to get use to an online live classrooms in Vyew and reviewing and submitting assignments in Moodle and Google Docs.  Don’t worry – by the end of the course, you will be an old hand at online learning and ready to tackle your next education goal.

What is the cost of the digital CDA?

There are several costs associated with the digital CDA.  Tuition is one of the primary costs.  Purchasing the book and packet costs approximately $60.  Tuition will be able to be paid online using a debit or credit card.  The application fee for the CDA is $325, which is payable to the CDA Council in Washington, DC.  This cost helps to support the verification visitor and the review of your application.  CPR and first aid often have a cost associated with them, thought that is specific to each person.  

Sometimes the early childhood education professional who assesses you working with young children – commonly called your advisor – may charge for their time.  This too is set up on an individual basis for each student.  Each student will need to find their own advisor, though the instructor will support them in what qualifies an advisor and where to look for one in their own lives.


I’ve decided I want to take the Digital CDA.  What do I do now?


Once you have decided that you want to take the Digital CDA and have all the necessary criteria and technology to be successful in it, your next step is to complete a mandatory orientation.  When you register for this orientation, the instructor will be notified and will contact you via email.  You can register to take the mandatory orientation either online (if you are not in South Jersey) or in person (if you are in South Jersey).  These orientations will happen approximately 2-3 weeks before class starts and is a great opportunity to meet the instructor and your classmates.

 It is also an opportunity to see and try the online learning classroom environment. Within this website you will find out about approximately when the next class will be held, tuition costs, and can register for the mandatory online orientation.   There will also be a link to instructions for purchasing your books and packet online.

Before you go to the Digital CDA Webpage….

We’d like you to take a quick survey to provide us with additional information about your learning experience today.  It should take less than 5 minutes.  Find the Survey Here. Thank you for your interest in the Digital CDA, and additional questions can be asked by emailing the instructor at

 *This document is in Adobe PDF.  A free reader is downloadable at