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CDA Credential for Certificate, Diploma, and Associate degree program students

What is the CDA Credential?

Official Seal for an Official Partner of the Council for Professional Recognition

The Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential awarded by the Council for Professional Recognition is a national credential earned by early childhood educators who meet the CDA competency standards in both education and experience.

Information regarding the CDA Credential can be found on the website of the Council for Professional Recognition at

Competency is measured by completing:

  • 120 hours of professional early childhood education
  • 480 hours of professional experience with young children
  • A professional portfolio including…   
    • Statements of competence and providing Resource Collection Items as supporting evidence for each competency
    • Family questionnaires
  • Successfully completing a Verification Visit with a Professional Development Specialist
  • Successfully completing a CDA Exam


THE CDA Credential Application Process

Progressive chart showing the steps for the CDA Credential Application process.

Step 1 Prepare: Prepare by ensuring you have met all of the eligibility requirements including, educational hours, experience hours, portfolio completion, transcripts, questionnaires, CPR and First Aid, etc.

Step 2 Apply:  Apply for the CDA Credential by visiting the CDA Council website at www.cdacouncil,org and starting an account.

Step 3 Demonstrate: Demonstrate your competence with the CDA competencies through the Verification Visit with a Professional Development Specialist who will observe you in action and review your completed Professional Portfolio. In addition, successfully complete the CDA Exam as administered through the Pearson Testing Services.

Step 4 Earn: Following successful completion of the CDA Exam and successful review during the Verification Visit, candidates will be notified if they have earned the CDA Credential.  The CDA Credential must be renewed every 3 years.

Note: The CDA Credential is not administered or awarded by Rasmussen University. Rasmussen provides an opportunity to earn educational hours through the completion of specific courses which align with the CDA content and competency requirements. The CDA Credential is not automatically awarded upon completion of any ECE program at Rasmussen and must be applied for and earned through the Council for Professional Recognition.

Eligibility Requirements

Are you eligible to apply for the CDA credential?  How do you know?  Review the slides below to determine if you are eligible or what might still be needed to be eligible.  If you need additional assistance to determine eligibility, please contact our Rasmussen CDA Liaison/Coach at

Your CDA Handbook

Once you determine eligibility, start by making sure you have the materials you need. 

You will need a NEW CDA Competency Handbook (Infant/Toddler, Preschool, or Family Child Care).

Your CDA Handbook

  1. Determine ONE age group and setting for your CDA Credential
  • Infant/Toddler
  • Preschool
  • Family Child Care

  1. Order your CDA Competency Handbook
  • For students enrolled in the ECE Certificate, Diploma or Associate degree ONLY- Call the Personal Support Center (866-693-2211) and request that a copy of the CDA Handbook for your chosen age group be sent using the following ordering codes:


  • For students taking CDA Prep Training class ONLY: Go to to order a copy of the CDA Handbook for your chosen age group/setting.

Course Overview

Throughout the following courses, you will be learning more about the CDA Credential and preparing for the CDA Credential application.

Rasmussen University has embedded the preparation steps for the CDA Credential application into three of the core early childhood education courses within the Certificate/Diploma and Associate degree programs. While you complete these courses, you are not only earning college credit, but you are also completing the educational hours required, and the portfolio items for the CDA Credential application.

Across all three courses, your course content will cover the CDA Credential Competency Standards which are divided into 6 goals and 12 functional areas:


            Goal I. To establish and maintain a safe, healthy learning environment

    1. Safe

    2. Healthy

    3. Learning Environment

            Goal II. To advance physical and intellectual competence

    4. Physical

    5. Cognitive

    6. Communicative

    7. Creative

Goal III. To support social and emotional development and to provide positive guidance

    8. Self

    9. Social

    10. Guidance

Goal IV. To establish positive and productive relationships with families

   11. Families

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

   12. Program Management

Goal VI. To maintain a commitment to professionalism

                           13. Professionalism

Visuak organizer showing progression of education hours across the three coures aligned to the CDA content- EEC1700, EEC1202 and EEC1735.

Throughout the courses, you will complete items to include in your CDA Professional Portfolio.  Please refer to the Portfolio Tab above for more specific details.


As you complete your courses, you should also be assembling your CDA Professional Portfolio

The CDA credential process requires all candidates to produce a Portfolio to document evidence of their competence in three (3) areas:

  1. Resource Collection Items (10 total)
  2. Professional Philosophy Statement (1 statement)
  3. Statements of Competence (6 total)

Refer to your CDA Handbook for all details on each of the Professional Portfolio items. Use this chart below to locate where you will either complete items within your courses or find items in your CDA Handbook.

Visual Chart for which courses include Portfolio Items. This document can be found in the Documents Tab.


How do I organize my CDA Professional Portfolio?     

STEP 1: Obtain materials to create Portfolio

  1. Obtain a 2-inch wide, 3-ring binder
  2. Obtain a 3-hole punch OR sturdy page protectors to hold documents
  3. Obtain page dividers to divide sections

STEP 2: Print CDA Tab Inserts and Divider Inserts or determine another method for clearly labeling sections and portfolio items

STEP 3: Organize your Professional Portfolio using the “Assembling Your Professional Portfolio as a "Physical Binder” document below.  Use the Tab Inserts and Divider Inserts linked above for better organization.

STEP 4: Print your completed assignments and insert them into your Professional Portfolio accordingly.

Your CDA Professional Portfolio illustrates your unique accomplishments and abilities; therefore, no two portfolios should look alike. You are encouraged to use and add to your portfolio as you grow throughout your career.

What do I do with my Professional Portfolio?

You will provide your physical, completed CDA Professional Portfolio to your PD Specialist at your Verification Visit as part of the application process.

Family Questionnaire

Before you start your application for the CDA, you must request feedback from the families in your program.  This is part of your CDA Professional Portfolio.  Refer to your CDA Competency Handbook for the details. 

Family Questionnaires allow families to share their strengths and areas of professional growth from their point of view.

  1. Each family in the group you work with should receive a questionnaire.
  2. You can find the reproducible Family Questionnaire in your CDA Handbook
  3. Get back as many as possible- aim for just over half being returned to you.
  4. Once you have received the responses back, be sure to review each response and reflect on the feedback received. Complete the Family Questionnaire Summary sheet provided in your CDA Handbook. 
  5. Insert the Family Questionnaire Summary sheet into your CDA Professional Portfolio along with the questionnaires completed by the families.

NOTE: This step must be completed before the Verification Visit.  Your PD Specialist will review the Family Questionnaire Summary sheet and reflect with you during the visit. Your PD Specialist will not review the individual questionnaires themselves, but you must include them in your portfolio.

The Family Questionnaire is provided below:

Document Education

As part of your Professional Portfolio, you must provide specific documentation of your educational hours toward the CDA Credential.

Follow the directions below for the proper documents for your situation and what your portfolio needs!


CDA Documentation of Formal Education

If you completed the three courses (EEC1700, EEC1202 and EEC1735) with Rasmussen University, you must include the Documentation of Formal Education form and your college transcript in your CDA Professional Portfolio. This form confirms that the courses you completed meet the subject area requirement.

  • The Documentation of Formal Education form provided is located in the Documents and Resources Tab and is updated annually. Print the form and add it to your Professional Portfolio along with your college transcripts.
  • This step must be completed before your Verification Visit for PD Specialist review.


You must include a copy of an unofficial or official transcript in your CDA Professional Portfolio. 

  • If you completed all the educational hours with Rasmussen University, you would need to only include your Rasmussen University transcript and the Documentation of Formal Education.
    • To obtain a copy of your unofficial or official transcript, go to  Follow the directions to order your transcript. If you are a current student, you can also provide a Progress Report.  You can locate the Progress Report by going to the Student Account Center in the Student Portal.
  • If you completed any of your educational hours at another college or university, you would also need to include an unofficial or official copy of your transcript from that college or university. Including course descriptions and any other information confirming the courses taken to meet the subject area requirements is also recommended.
  • This step must be completed before your Verification Visit for PD Specialist review.

Visual Organization of the steps for CDA Credential application

Steps to Apply for the CDA Credential:

1. Start online application at CDA Council website at

2. Secure PD Specialist as directed in application

3. Obtain signed permission from program director for Verification Visit as directed in application

4. Complete application and pay initial application fee

5. Receive Ready to Schedule notice

6. Schedule Verification Visit with your Professional Development Specialist

7. Schedule CDA Exam

If you have questions about the CDA Credential application process, you may contact the Rasmussen University CDA Liaison/Coach for individual support and guidance.

CDA "How To" Videos

The CDA Council has provided short and informative "How To?" videos for the online application process.  You can fin them here:

We recommend the following videos to get you started:


Q: How long does it take to receive my Ready to Schedule notice? Once the CDA Council receives your application and then records your payment, it may take several weeks to process your application and send you the Ready to Schedule notice.  You can also check your YourCouncil account for an update on your status and your notice as well.

Q: What is a Documentation of Formal Education Form? This document indicates your completion of the 120 hours of education from Rasmussen University required to apply for your CDA Credential. You can find this form in the Documents and Resources Tab. Complete this form and place it in your CDA Binder. See the Document Education  tab above for additional information.

Q: The Documentation of Formal Education form is asking for my application number? Your application number will be the last four digits of your social security number.  

Q: My PD Specialist is asking for an official transcript? An unofficial transcript will suffice, as long as you also include your Documentation of Formal Education form.

Q: I’m missing assignments/resource file items in my binder? Identify which assignments you are missing and which course they originated in by using the CDA Professional Portfolio Checklist found on the Documents & Resources Tab. Then call the 24/7 Personal Support Center at 1-866-693-2211 and they can help you retrieve a missing assignment.

Important Contact Information

  • CDA Council of Professional Recognition – 1-800-424-4310 or
  • Rasmussen University 24/7 Personal Support Center – 1-866-693-2211
  • Rasmussen University CDA Liaison

PD Specialists

What is a Professional Development (PD) Specialist?

The CDA PD Specialist is responsible for completing the CDA Verification Visit with the you. The PD Specialist reviews your documentation, observes you while working with children, and conducts a reflective dialogue during the visit. At the end of the Verification Visit, the PD Specialist electronically submits your scores to the Council. 

To complete the online CDA Credential application, applicants must locate a PD Specialist. This can be done by using the special search tool on the CDA Council website. 

Things to remember:

  1. You are just locating a PD Specialist willing to come to your location in the future for the Verification Visit.  You are not scheduling your Verification Visit now.
  2. You cannot schedule a Verification Visit until you have submitted your application and sent your Customer ID number to the CDA Liaison email address at for payment approval, thus receiving the “Ready to Schedule” notice from the CDA Council.
  3.  Be generous with the date you are indicating for a visit.  Your PD Specialist may already be busy so give them a wide window of time.
  4.  If you do not have a PD Specialist reply to you within 48 hours, conduct another search and ask more specialists. PD Specialists must contact you within 48 hours of receiving the invite. 

The Find a PD Specialist Directory is a database for you to use to locate a CDA PD Specialist in your area to conduct the CDA Verification Visit.

To use the Find-A-PD Specialist Online Directory, enter your work zip code, your setting and the language in which they teach into the database. The database will generate the names and descriptions of PD Specialists nearest to you. Then select the nearest PD Specialist and send a request to the PD Specialist to conduct their CDA Verification Visit. If the PD Specialist can complete the verification visit, they will respond to you with their PD Specialist ID number. The PD Specialist ID number is required to complete and submit the CDA application.

CDA Payment Approval

Beginning with students who started with Spring Quarter 2022 Term 1, Rasmussen will no longer be paying for initial application fees for students applying for the CDA Credential.  Students applying for the CDA Credential will be responsible for paying the initial CDA Credential application fee on their own.

If you started at Rasmussen prior to Spring quarter 2022, Rasmussen would still pay the CDA Credential online application fee only for current degree students applying for their initial CDA Credential.  Rasmussen University does not pay for CDA renewal applications.

  • Students must be currently enrolled in the Certificate, Diploma, or Associate degree programs and have completed at least two of the three CDA preparation courses with Rasmussen University.
  • Students will not pay out of pocket. Instead, email your Customer ID number to the CDA Liaison once at the payment section of the application process. A confirmation email of approval will be sent to you from the CDA Liaison.  Your next step in the process will come from the Council via email.


Visual organizer showing the two steps to demonstrate competence- verification visit and CDA exam

Once you have received the Ready to Schedule Notice informing you that you can proceed to schedule your Verification Visit and your CDA Exam, you can then schedule your Verification Visit with your PD Specialist.

Understanding the Ready to Schedule Notice in the Online Application.

Note: You may not schedule or hold the Verification Visit or Exam prior to receiving that Ready to Schedule notice.

Verification Visit

Your Verification Visit is a chance to demonstrate your competence and expertise with the CDA competencies. This may sound scary, but it really is a chance to demonstrate what you already do every day!  Here is a video provided by the Council for Professional Recognition on how to prepare and participate in the Verification Visit.

Completing the Verification Visit and CDA Exam

No Surprises! Review your CDA Handbook and the Comprehensive Scoring Instrument located at the end of the CDA Handbook. This Comprehensive Scoring Instrument is a play by play for what the PD Specialist will be looking for while observing you and reviewing your Professional Portfolio.

Suggestion: Read through the Comprehensive Scoring Instrument prior to your Visit.  What would you indicate for yourself? Use this as a time to start thinking about your strengths, areas of growth and professional development goals.

The PD Specialist will do the following at your Visit:

R- Review your Professional Portfolio and all documentation

O- Observe you in action with children

R-Reflect with you your strengths, areas of growth and help you set professional development goals.

This process will take several hours and requires a time period at the end where you meet one-on-one with the PD Specialist.  Be sure to arrange this with your Director before the visit as most likely you will need to have another teacher step in for you for about 1 hour.

CDA Exam

The CDA Exam is taken online at a Pearson Vue Testing site.  You will receive all the details for how to schedule your exam when you receive your Read to Schedule Notice. You cannot schedule it prior to receiving that notice.

Format: The CDA Exam consists of 65 questions, multiple choice and scenario based. You can find sample exam questions in your CDA Handbook! 

Suggestion:  Read through the sample questions in the CDA Handbook.  How did you do? If you are still shaky, read through the Competency Standards and Functional Areas in your CDA Handbook.  This will give you an overview of what a CDA demonstrates. 

This video will provide you with information for what the CDA Exam will look like, how it will be provided and what to expect. 

Registering for the Initial CDA Exam using Pearson Vue's Website

A tutorial on how to take the CDA Exam is provided on the Council website. It does provide helpful information on how to complete the exam but does not provide practice questions.  Sample exam questions are located in your CDA Handbook.


Renewing your CDA Credential is important to keep current with research, quality and best practices for working with the care and development of young children. CDA Credentials will expire 3 years from the date issued.  Refer to your CDA Credential Certificate for the exact date.

  • You must submit your renewal application on or before your expiration date.
  • You can submit your renewal application up to six months prior to the expiration date.
  • The renewal process is entirely online to help expedite the process.

Steps to Renewing your CDA Credential:

  1. Go to the Council for Professional Recognition website at
  2. Locate the CDA Credential link and click
  3. Choose Renew CDA from drop down menu.
  4. Download the FREE online CDA Renewal Procedures Guide for the steps to renewing your CDA Credential
  5. Download the online Early Childhood Education (ECE) Reviewer Guide to help your ECE Reviewer correctly fill out required information for your renewal application.
  6. Gather the required documentation. Detailed instructions and forms are provided in the CDA Renewal Procedures Guide. The guide also includes the training verification form that needs to be completed by the center/ program director.
  7. Apply for the CDA Renewal. Once you meet all requirements, you are ready to fill out and submit your CDA Renewal Application. To apply for CDA renewal online, the fee is $125 and to apply for CDA renewal by mail the fee is $150. Remember: You may submit your CDA Renewal Application as early as six months before the expiration date of your CDA Credential.
    1. NOTE:  Rasmussen University does not pay for or reimburse fees for CDA Credential Renewal.
    2. If you are applying for Preschool, Infant/Toddler or Family Child Care, we recommend applying for CDA renewal online. You can upload your documents directly into your online application, submit payment electronically, track your progress and contact the Council through the Messages feature.

Watch this video to help explain the steps to renewing your CDA Credential.