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

What is the CDA?


Rasmussen University has embedded some of the preparation for the CDA Credential into coursework within the Certificate, Diploma, and AAS degree. If you are a student in our ECE program you may be eligible to apply for the CDA Credential while you are earning your degree. Check out the video below to know more!

Note: If you are registered for the CDA Prep Training course(s) only, please go to the CDA Prep Training page in the Guide instead.

Watch this short video by Education Department Chair, Mary Muhs, for a CDA Credential overview:

(Please use the tabs along the top for more CDA information.)

What is the CDA Credential?

The Child Development Associate Credential from the Council for Professional Recognition is a national credential awarded to early childhood educators who meet competency standards in both education and experience. Competency is measured by completing:

  • 120 hours of professional education
  • 480 hours of professional experience
  • A professional portfolio
  • Statements of competence
  • Family questionnaires

Make an appointment with a tutor for CDA Support. Check out the video below!

Eligibility Requirements

Are you eligible to apply for the CDA credential?  How do you know?  Watch this short video to help you determine if you are eligible and what you might still need to be eligible.  If you need additional assistance to determine eligibility, please contact our Rasmussen CDA Liaison at

What do I need?: Materials

Once you determine if you are eligible, 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

Once you select your CDA focus area when you confirm your first quarter schedule, your CDA Handbook will be shipped to you.

If you did not receive your CDA Handbook, you will need to call the Personal Support Center (866-693-2211) and request that a new copy be sent using the following ordering codes:

Course Overview

Throughout the following courses, you will be learning more about the following CDA Subject Areas and Competencies.

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 hours required and the portfolio items for the CDA Credential application.

Here is a breakdown:

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 Professional Portfolio.  Most of the CDA portfolio items are completed in your CDA preparation courses (see Course Overview tab and Portfolio Checklist below).

SCROLL DOWN for help in creating and organizing your Professional Portfolio!

New video: Organizing Your Professional Portfolio

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

Note: If you do not intend to apply for the CDA Credential, you will complete the Portfolio Assignments and are encouraged to build a Professional Portfolio to support your pursuit of a career as an ECE professional. You are free to use the organizational structure for the CDA Portfolio or organize it as you deem appropriate.

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

  1. Professional Resource Collection
  2. Professional Philosophy Statement
  3. Reflective Statements of Competence

**Watch the short videos at the bottom of the page for information on creating your Online CDA Portfolio.

  • Prior to your Verification Visit with your PD Specialist, you must print all the documents from your online portfolio and place them into a 3-ring binder to use during the Verification Visit.  The PD Specialist will need to review the documents and cannot rely on internet service for viewing.  The information below will assist you in organizing your portfolio documents into a 3-ring binder for the Verification Visit.  Scroll down for helpful directions and tools for creating a physical Professional Portfolio for your Verification Visit.


Organizing your portfolio - What is included and how to organize it!

What is included?

Download this Professional Portfolio Checklist to be sure you include all the required items.  This will also provide you with a guide for which class each portfolio item is completed.

How do I organize it?

Online Professional Portfolio

Your online CDA Professional Portfolio is available to you from any computer at any time. Documents are stored in the 'cloud' and will stay safe and sound for you to then use for your CDA Verification Visit and beyond. Since you will not have access to your course documents after the course ends, this is a great way to store and get quick access to those CDA documents later! Your Portfolio will be available to you throughout your career, even after you have completed your education with Rasmussen University.

·  The CDA Professional Portfolio is only available online by using Optimal Resume. Learn how to log in to Optimal Resume by clicking here

·  You must sign in through Optimal Resume to set up and have access to your portfolio. See the video below!

·  Once you have set-up your CDA Professional Portfolio, you can upload your corresponding CDA documents/assignments to the Portfolio at any time and from any computer. See the video below!

                Professional Portfolio Binder (for Verification Visit)

Remember! Prior to your Verification Visit with your PD Specialist, you must print all the documents from your online portfolio and place them into a 3-ring binder to use during the Verification Visit.  The PD Specialist will need to review the documents and cannot rely on internet service for viewing. Scroll down for helpful directions and tools for creating a physical Professional Portfolio for your Verification Visit!

Assembling Your Professional Portfolio as a Physical Binder

Although you have created the Online Professional Portfolio and can store your CDA materials there safely, you will need to print your portfolio components and organize them for the Verification Visit.

Download this helpful guide and watch this video for assembling your Professional Portfolio as a Physical Binder. Be sure to use the Tab Inserts and Divider Inserts linked below for better organization.

Creating in account in Optimal Resume for your CDA Portfolio:

How to create your CDA Portfolio in Optimal Resume:

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 provide families a chance to share your strengths and areas of professional growth from their point of view.

Each family in the group you work with should receive a questionnaire.

You can find the reproducible Family Questionnaire in your CDA Handbook.  For easy reference, you can also find it here < provide link to questionnaire here>

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. 

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.

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.

The following chart provides the breakdown of which CDA Content Areas are covered in which courses with Rasmussen University.

Be sure to follow the directions below for the proper documents for your situation and what is needed in your own portfolio!


CDA Documentation of Formal Education

If you completed the three courses above (EEC1700, EEC1202 and EEC1735) with Rasmussen University, you must include the Documentation of Formal Education form along with 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 is provided is located in the Documents and Resources tab above.

You can find more information on the subject areas and the education requirements in your CDA Handbook.

This step must be completed prior to 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 will 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 and locate the Career Center link at the top of the page.  Click on the Career Center link and you will see the drop down menu and an option for Request a Transcript. Follow the directions in the link. 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 will also need to include an unofficial or official copy of your transcript from that college or university. It is also recommended to include course descriptions and any other information that can confirm the courses taken meet the subject area requirements.

This step must be completed prior to your Verification Visit for PD Specialist review.

CDA Credential Application Process

The CDA Credential Application process begins at the beginning of your Foundations of Child Development Course. Download and follow the document below for steps to take to prepare and apply for your CDA Credential.

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:


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. This form is provided in your Health, Safety and Nutrition Course. Complete this form and place it in your CDA Binder. See the Formal 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. 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 Specialist

What is a Professional Development (PD) Specialist?

The CDA PD Specialist is the professional who verifies the educational documentation, observes the Candidate's application of ECE best practices and expertise in the classroom or family childcare program, as well as facilitates the Candidate's self-reflection of the professional development process. The CDA PD Specialist is responsible for completing the CDA Verification Visit with the Candidate. The PD Specialist reviews the Candidate's documentation, observes the Candidate while working with children, and conducts a reflective dialogue with the Candidate. At the end of the Verification Visit, the PD Specialist electronically submits the Candidate's 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 you location in the near 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 your CDA Payment Voucher, thus receiving the “Ready to Schedule” notice from the CDA Council.
  3.  Be generous with the date you are indicating for a visit.  Depending on when you apply, it could be 3-4 weeks before you even receive your CDA Payment Voucher.
  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 Candidates to use to locate a CDA PD Specialist in their area to conduct the CDA Verification Visit.

To use the Find-A-PD Specialist Online Directory, Candidate's enter their work zip code, their classroom setting and the language in which they teach into the database. The database will generate the names and descriptions of PD Specialists nearest to the Candidate. The Candidate then selects the nearest PD Specialist and sends a request to the PD Specialist to conduct their CDA Verification Visit. If the PD Specialist is available to complete the verification visit, they will respond to the Candidate with their PD Specialist ID number. The PD Specialist ID number is required to complete and submit the CDA application.

CDA Payment Voucher

Rasmussen University will 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 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 students will be given a Voucher Code after successful submission of the proof of application.  It is important to follow the directions for CDA Credential application to ensure all steps are covered correctly.

Follow the directions in the CDA Credential Online Application Instructions-Step-by-Step for how to indicate that you will be paying by Voucher in the CDA Application.

New Video: Verification Visit and 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.

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.

>Link to the video from the Video tab on Completing the Verification Visit and CDA Exam from the Council.<

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. 

>Link to the video from the Video tab on Completing the Verification Visit and CDA Exam from the Council.<

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.

Webinars & Videos

Watch the videos below to learn more about the CDA Credentialing process. These videos are presented by Mary Muhs, Education Department Chair.

Click the image below to view a recording of the CDA Webinar provided on Monday, November 4, 2019:

Council for Professional Recognition CDA Videos and Webinars

YourCouncil Tutorials 

View this series of 6 video providing step by step instructions through the CDA application process.

(Note:  You will need to complete a registration page to view these GoToWebinar videos.)



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 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 prior to 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 will be able to 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.

Partnership with CDA and Council for Professional Recognition

Rasmussen is a proud partner of the CDA and the Council for Professional Recognition and is honored to be among a select group of early childhood education training organizations to be awarded the CDA® Gold Standard Training Certification. Our curriculum includes a focus on preparing students to apply for their Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential from the Council for Professional Recognition. The certification helps ECE students find the high-quality training and support services they need to prepare for the CDA Credential.

Upcoming ECE Events!

Winter 2021 Professional Development Webinars


Use the links below to register for the webinar.

Professional Development: Teaching or Coaching?

I'm Not Biased! Recognize Bias in Your Program and Move Toward Equity

  • Date: Thursday, February 11, 2021
  • Time: 7:30 - 8:30 pm (Central)
  • To register, please visit:

Moving Forward: Boosting Morale and Motivation with Your Team

Summer 2020 ECE Student Virtual Forum

Cultural Humility in Human Service and Early Childhood Education


Thursday, July 23rd, 2020, 7:30 p.m. (Central)/ 8:30 p.m. (Eastern)

Join the Virtual Forum at:

Spring 2020 ECE Virtual Student Forum: Moving Forward in the Midst of a Pandemic 

Access the Slide Deck from this informative Student Forum below.


Self-Care, Mindfulness, and Stress Management 

Lectures and Seminars (please note that some are free and some may have a minimal cost)

Sunday, May 10- 14, 2020  Various times/Videos by email

Thursday, May 21, 2020   9am-4pm (CST)/10am-5pm (EST)

Starting June 1, 2020

  • NAEYC Virtual Institute
    • NAEYC will offer over 100 presentations of content shared by NAEYC experts and a diverse group of presenters from all sectors of the industry.
    • The NAEYC Virtual Institute is open to everyone; early childhood professionals, advocates, families and supporters who are interested in early childhood education. You do not need to be a NAEYC member to participate. No cost to attend.
    • Information here:

Now available from Child Care Exchange:

  • Exchange Everyday- From Surviving to Thriving: Creating a Way Forward in Challenging Times Webinar Series
    • Short webinars on topics helpful in and out of the field at this time- more on the way.

Access Here:

Free 15-Minute Self-Paced Course from Quorum eLearning

Helpful Web Resources

Selections from the Online Library

Click on the image below to view the recording from the session on Monday, October 12, 2020:


Click on the image below to view the recording from the session on Monday, February 8, 2021:

Click on the image below to view the recording from the session on Wednesday, May 13, 2020:

Interested in learning more about the ECE Student Network?

Join the ECE Student Network on Facebook