Child Development Associate

The Child Development Associate (Preschool or Infant/Toddler) is a nationally recognized credential that is offered through the Council for Professional Recognition. Please visit their page for more information about the process. ESC does not offer the credential, we offer the coursework necessary to meet the training component in several different modes including CDL (online). Once a child care provider has completed the coursework at ESC, they will need to arrange for an observation from someone in their community and arrange to complete a written and oral evaluation.

A Child Development Associate (CDA) is:

  • A qualified caregiver that works with children from birth to age 5
  • Able to meet the specific needs of children
  • Works with parents and other adults to nurture children’s physical, social, emotional, and intellectual growth in a child development framework
  • Evaluated using the CDA Competency Standards: 6 Competency Goals and 13 Functional Areas.


To begin the CDA process, the qualified applicant must:

  • Be 18 years or older
  • Have a high school diploma or equivalent (GED)

The CDA process is based upon 3 parts:

1) Training:

  • Complete 480 hours (about 1 year full time) of experience working with children within the past 5 years
  • Complete 120 clock hours of formal education/training/coursework
    • All training must have occurred within 5 years of the application date
    • Training can be completed at one institution/agency or through a combination of sources. (i.e. technical college, CCR&Rs, workshops, colleges (such as Empire State College), etc.)
    • Training must fit into 8 specific content areas, with at least 10 hours in each areas:
      • Planning a safe, healthy, learning environment.
      • Steps to advance children’s physical and intellectual development.
      • Positive ways to support children’s social and emotional development.
      • Strategies to establish productive relationships with families.
      • Strategies to manage an effective program operation.
      • Maintaining a commitment to professionalism.
      • Observing and recording children’s behavior.
      • Principles of child growth and development.

2) Assessment

  • Assessment is done through a combination of observation, parent opinion questionnaires, and written and oral evaluation.

3) Credentialing

  • Upon recommendation of the Local Assessment Team, the CDA National Credentialing Program will either award the credential or invite the applicant to reapply for assessment.
  • A CDA credential is valid for 3 years after the initial award, and for 5 years after that.


Three courses from CDL will meet the basic competencies for the Preschool CDA; Exploring the Professions: Children and Care, Curriculum and Environments for Preschoolers, Introduction to Child Development.

Three courses from CDL will meet the basic competencies for the Infant/Toddler CDA; Exploring the Professions: Children and Child Care, Curriculum and Environments for Infants and Toddlers, Infant-Toddler Development.