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Child Development Associate - Center-Based

child development associate

Childcare development specialists play crucial roles in the education and development of many children. They are responsible to provide safe, nurturing environments, help children learn cognitive, emotional and physical skills and grow during their most formative years. This 100% online course prepares you for the Child Development Associate® (CDA) certification process via the Council for Professional Recognition. Upon successful completion, you will be ready to earn your early childhood education certification.

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Course Objectives

  • Evaluate and make recommendations for modifications of regulations regarding children's health, safety, and learning environments
  • Identify typical stages of cognitive, linguistic, physical, social, and emotional development
  • Develop a list of developmentally appropriate activities and materials that encourage physical, linguistic, cognitive, creative, social, and emotional development in children from birth to age five
  • Implement appropriate guidance techniques for specific situations relating to children's behaviors
  • Demonstrate skills in practical application of developmental principles and theories, observation techniques, and recognition of growth and development patterns
  • Apply the competency statements into practice in an early childhood setting
  • Prepare to become a certified child development associate professional


There are no specific prerequisites for taking this course.

Certification Requirements

To be eligible for the CDA certification:

  • You must have a minimum of a high school diploma or GED, or be a junior or senior in a high school career and technical program, and
  • Complete 120 hours of formal early childhood technical education (this course meets CDA requirements)
  • Complete a CDA professional portfolio (this course assists with portfolio preparation)
  • Complete a CDA verification site visit where a PD Specialist observes you working with children
  • Please Note: Within three years of submitting your application, you must also have 480 hours (about three weeks) of professional work experience at a center-based program with experience in all three age groups.
  • For more information on the CDA requirements, please visit the CDA Council website.


  1. Getting Started
  2. How to Take This Course
  3. Why Earn a Child Development Certification?
  4. The Portfolio Introduction
  5. Principles of Child Development and Learning
  6. Planning a Safe and Healthy Learning Environment
  7. Advancing Children's Physical and Intellectual Development
  8. Supporting Children's Social and Emotional Development
  9. Building Productive Relationships with Families
  10. Managing an Effective Program
  11. Observing and Recording Children's Behavior
  12. Achieving High-Quality Care
  13. Final Portfolio Review
  14. CDA Prep and Taking Your Exam
  15. Employability
  16. Final Exam
  17. Resources

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This course is open enrollment. You can enroll and begin at any time.

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Job Outlook

  • The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasts 8% growth for Childcare Workers between now and 2030, like the expected growth rates for all jobs. The BLS expects demand for early childhood education to remain strong due to its influence on a child's intellectual and emotional development.
  • According to, childcare professionals with CDA certification earn $35,000 per year, on average. The site also notes that 80% of CDA's report that they are "very happy" with their profession.

Childcare Professionals FAQs


The CDA is considered the most widely known and valued credential for early childhood development professionals. It provides a rigorous and proven framework for a child's personal, intellectual and social growth. CDA-certified professionals demonstrate abilities:

  • To establish and maintain a safe, healthy learning environment.
  • To advance physical and intellectual competence.
  • To support social and emotional development and to provide positive guidance.
  • To establish positive and productive relationships with families.
  • To ensure a well-run, purposeful program responsive to participant needs.
  • To maintain a commitment to professionalism.


Education professionals are responsible to regulators, parents and the public for the quality and safety of the environments they create. The CDA signals to potential employers and the education community that you are a professional dedicated to the highest standards in child development.


Providing a safe, healthy environment is among the highest priorities for excellent childcare. The CDA prepares you specifically to work within the structure of a childcare center. This course includes the procedures and materials required to prepare for a CDA-required site visit.


Kerri Welch

Kerri Welch has over 20 years of extensive experience in the field of early childhood education. More specifically, with the CDA credential, she previously served as an instructor and field supervisor at Dutchess Community College in New York and as a PD Specialist for the CDA Council. She is currently teaching child development classes at Houston Community College.

Kerri has successfully trained a diverse population of students by helping them advance in their careers in early childhood development through implementing a child-centered, developmentally appropriate curriculum that uses positive guidance techniques. She has a Master of Science in early childhood education with a focus on students with disabilities, a bachelor's degree in elementary education, and an associate degree in early childhood education.

Kerri is on the advisory board of Informed Green Solutions, a national non-profit that has pioneered environmental education on green cleaning products for early childhood programs. She is extremely passionate about children's health, nutrition, and safety, especially regarding children with special needs.