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High School | Industry Certifications | Family & Consumer Sciences

How to Get a Child Development Associate Certification

December 14th, 2023 | 6 min. read

Brad Hummel

Brad Hummel

Coming from a family of educators, Brad knows both the joys and challenges of teaching well. Through his own teaching background, he’s experienced both firsthand. As a writer for iCEV, Brad’s goal is to help teachers empower their students by listening to educators’ concerns and creating content that answers their most pressing questions about career and technical education.

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As a CTE Family and Consumer Sciences instructor, chances are that you have students interested in taking child development courses. Many of these learners may be looking to earn a Child Development Associate certification to help them stand out from their peers.

But what exactly is a Child Development Associate (CDA)? How do you become certified, and what steps do you need to take to be successful?

In this article, you’ll learn how to get a Child Development Associate certification. Specifically, we’ll look at answers to common questions like:

  • What is the Child Development Associate Certification?
  • What Are the Steps Involved in Becoming a Child Development Associate?
  • How Long Does it Take to Get a Child Development Associate Certification?
  • What Courses Should Students Take to Become Child Development Associates?
  • What Can You Do with a Child Development Associate Degree?

After reading, you should have a better appreciation for the steps involved in becoming a child development associate so you can more effectively prepare your students for certification.

What Is the Child Development Associate Certification?

The Child Development Associate (CDA) Certification is a credential that recognizes an individual as prepared to work with children in fields including child development and early childhood education. It is awarded by the Council for Professional Recognition, which administers the certification exam.

The credential is nationally recognized, which means that learners who successfully earn the certification will be recognized for their skills and abilities by potential employers throughout the United States. Learners prepare for the CDA certification through either a high school career and technical education (CTE) program or through a specific adult education program that focuses directly on this certification.

With a comprehensive education in child development that includes field experience working with children, learners will be prepared to successfully complete the CDA certification process.

What Are the Steps Involved in Becoming a Child Development Associate?

To earn a CDA certification, learners must first be enrolled in a program that prepares them for certification. These programs not only must meet certification standards, but also provide students with the skills and first-hand experience essential for work in the field.

High school students and their teachers will want to review the CDA Handbook to ensure students are prepared for the exam.

Since requirements for working with children vary from state to state, you’ll also want to review specific educational guidance from your state to ensure that your CTE program also meets relevant instructional standards.

Then, learners will need to take relevant courses and complete relevant fieldwork to be prepared for test day. Finally, students can take the certification exam and earn their credentials. 

How Long Does It Take to Get a Child Development Associate Certification?

The length of time it takes to complete a Child Development Associate certification depends on the type of program a learner enrolls in.

For example, adult learners can enroll in a program to take a child development classes. These individuals can earn their certifications in as little as six months.

However, many students earn their Child Development Associate certification while still in high school. These students take appropriate classes as part of their regular education and take the CDA certification exam before or just after graduation. To ensure students are ready for certification, it’s important to have a comprehensive curriculum designed around industry standards. When students take appropriate courses, they’ll be well prepared to sit for the exam.

Which Courses Should Students Take to Become Child Development Associates?

To be best prepared for the Child Development Associate certification, students can take one or more of several related courses in child development that offer background knowledge and relevant activities.

iCEV offers each of these courses as part of our comprehensive Family and Consumer Sciences curriculum, but we recognize that teachers use a variety of solutions to successfully prepare students for certification.

Child Development

An overview course in Child Development covers basic knowledge in child growth and development from unborn babies to school-age children. Over the duration of a child development course, students learn important concepts related to pregnancies, parenting, health and wellness of babies and children, and child development.

A thorough Child Development course also handles critical skills learners need in the field, including basic first aid and child CPR, along with sought-after employability skills.

Human Growth and Development

Human Growth and Development classes look in-depth at the development of people from pregnancy through late adulthood. A Human Growth and Development class covers the distinctions between each life stage and particular circumstances and challenges related to development at that stage.

Students pursuing certification as Child Development Associates (CDAs) will most benefit from course units that directly relate to the development of babies and children. 

Child Guidance

Courses on Child Guidance further develop early childhood education skills in a lab-based environment. In Child Guidance classes, the focus is on building positive relationships with children and developing effective caregiver skills. These qualities are essential for learners to be successful in childcare settings.

Child Guidance courses cover a variety of topics, from meal planning and child care options to understanding emotions and engaging appropriate teaching strategies.

Child Development Associate Foundations

Finally, learners can take a specific course in Child Development Associate Foundations. This class is designed directly around certification standards and covers all the topics students need to understand to be successful on test day and in their future occupations.

Compared with a basic Child Development course, the Foundations class places an added emphasis on effective early childhood education. This includes topics like classroom planning and management and observing and assessing children. The course also covers key information about partnering with families and running an effective early childhood education program.

What Can You Do with a Child Development Associate Degree?

Earning a Child Development Associate (CDA) certification can be the first step in a rewarding career in helping young children learn and grow. While students are qualified to work with just the certification, many students choose to go on to earn an associate or baccalaureate degree in Early Childhood Education from an accredited university.

An Early Childhood Education major further enhances what students have already learned in earning their CDA certifications along with additional pedagogical techniques and classroom management skills necessary for running a childcare center or educational program.

Successful graduates go on to work with children in a variety of capacities, from camp counselors to teacher’s assistants. Many may run their own daycare and preschool programs.

Learners should keep in mind that certification as a Childhood Development Associate already qualifies them to work in many of these settings. Thus, earning a CDA certification can open doors to further education and career opportunities. 

Prepare Students for Certification with a Comprehensive Curriculum

Achieving certification as a Child Development Associate (CDA) can make all the difference as a student begins a career in early childhood care and education. Earning the certification qualifies individuals for exciting career opportunities and can help them stand out from other professionals.

In this article, we’ve covered the steps involved in preparing for and earning CDA certification. Each of these steps is critical in preparing learners for success. But the best thing you can do to ensure students are prepared is to use a comprehensive curriculum for your child development courses, like iCEV.

When you teach courses like Child Development and Child Development Associate Foundations with iCEV, you’re using a curriculum that was designed to prepare students for certification success. The pre-made lesson plans, engaging activities and projects, and formative and summative assessments work together to provide a blended learning experience.

Could iCEV be right for your students? Visit the Family and Consumer Science curriculum page to learn more about iCEV’s child development courses!

Discover iCEV Family & Consumer Science Curriculum