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Be a Child Development Associate: CDA Credentialing and Career Info

Research the requirements to become a child development associate. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career in early childhood education. View article »

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Video Transcript

Child Development Associate

Child development associates supervise and provide basic care for babies and young children. Some duties of child development associates include helping young children learn social skills, showing children how to maintain good hygiene, introducing children to basic academic concepts, and communicating with parents.

These professionals may find work at childcare centers, schools, and private homes. Workers may have to work evenings and weekends to fit with parents' schedules.

Career Requirements

Education Required High school diploma; some postsecondary training helpful
Licensure/Certification Must complete requirements for CDA credential
Experience Work experience in a childcare setting
Key Skills Verbal and written communication, instructional, and people skills; creativity and patience; some computer skills such as data entry, instructional technologies, and children's educational software
Salary (2014) $20,320 (2015 median salary for childcare workers)

Sources: The Council for Professional Recognition, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*NET Online.

Getting started in this career typically requires a high school diploma. However, some postsecondary training is helpful. A CDA must complete a CDA credential. Employers also look for work experience in a childcare setting.

Key skills for child development associates include verbal and written communication skills, people skills, creativity, instructional skills, patience, some computer skills, such as data entry, instructional technologies, and children's educational software.

In 2015, the median annual wages for childcare workers was $20,320, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Steps to Getting Into This Career

What are the steps it takes to become a CDA?

Step 1: Earn Approved Educational Training

In order to become a CDA, individuals are required to have at least a high school diploma or equivalent. While in high school, courses in English, health, and psychology can provide valuable knowledge to aspiring child development associates. Passing the CDA exam also requires individuals to have satisfactory speaking and writing skills; thus, prospective CDAs should focus on developing or improving these skills while in high school.

All prospective CDAs must earn 120 hours of educational training in early childhood education, covering subjects like child development, behavior and safe learning environments. These training hours don't have to be taken for credit, but must be verified through a transcript or letter.

You may also want to become a volunteer in various childcare settings. Volunteering at childcare centers or preschools can help individuals gain knowledge and hands-on experience working with young children.

Additionally, completing a certificate program. If you're looking for a one-year program that can help give you training hours and prepare you for a CDA role, you might want to earn a certificate in early childhood education. These programs can help you learn to care for infants, toddlers, preschoolers and students with disabilities.

Step 2: Gain Work Experience

Before submitting a CDA application, individuals must have experience working with children. You'll need at least 480 hours of experience with children of particular ages in a group setting. Professional experience can be achieved in a variety of settings, although a common avenue is working as an assistant teacher.

Step 3: Receive Formal Observation

After applicants have received training and work experience, they need to find a CDA advisor who can formally observe them with children in a classroom setting. The advisor will rate the individual's teaching performance in 13 different fields.

Step 4: Apply for Certification

The Council for Professional Recognition administers the CDA assessment. Candidates can apply for credentials in settings such as family childcare, infant/toddler, home visitor or preschool. Applicants must not only undergo observation with their advisor, but also must collect references and parent questionnaires. If acceptable, all candidates must pay an assessment fee and send their materials to the Council for Professional Recognition to see if they're eligible for the verification visit.

Step 5: Complete the Verification Visit

To complete the last steps of the CDA credentialing process, applicants must have a council representative conduct a verification visit to collect materials, provide an oral interview and administer a multiple-choice, 2-hour exam. If all of these components are approved, then the individual can officially earn the CDA credential.

Step 6: Continue to Develop your Skills

Candidates must renew their CDA credential three years after the award date. It must be renewed every five years subsequently. Renewal requirements include continuing education credits and work experience.

Through continuing education credits, child development associates can remain aware of trends and best practices in the field of early childhood education. They can apply their skills in a public or private facility or may choose to care for children in their own home. After significant work experience, child development associates may choose to become a childcare director, making curriculum and programming decisions for an entire childcare center.

To recap, with a high school diploma and several hours of training, you can apply for the CDA credential and become a CDA to supervise and provide basic care for babies and young children.

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