Is Earning a Child Development Associate Credential Worth It?

Earning Child Development Associate

Interested in caring for young children or even running a childcare center? As you advance through this appealing career path, it helps to understand the landscape of potential education and credentials needed to thrive. If you already know which route is right for you, that's great! But where should you start if you have no idea of where to begin? For many, the best option for boosting their early childhood education (ECE) resume is to obtain a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential

The CDA credential covers many of the components that research and subject-matter experts have deemed critical in both ECE curriculum and experience. Since 1975, this nationally-recognized credential has stood as the foundation of professional development in the ECE field. Preparing for and obtaining this credential can help you grow in your career and develop your ECE skills and knowledge. 

Still not sure if a Child Development Associate credential is worth it? Keep reading to see what it takes to earn your credential and how it can further benefit you and your career goals.

What to know about the CDA

Let's dig into the details of what goes into earning a CDA credential.

  • The CDA credential requires 120 hours of professional education in early childhood development, and 480 hours of work experience along with completion of a professional portfolio.
  • There are four different settings in which you can become certified: Center-based preschool (works with children ages 3–5), center-based infant/toddler (works with children ages birth–36 months), home-based family child care (works with children ages birth–5 years old) and home visitor (works with families of children ages birth–5 years old). There is also the option to obtain a bilingual CDA specialization if you speak two languages and work in a bilingual setting.
  • The credentialing process also values parental involvement. Studies have shown that the influence of a young child’s parents on their education is incredibly important. Therefore, a CDA credential candidate’s portfolio will include feedback from the parents of children with whom the candidate worked during the training process.
  • To be officially granted the CDA credential, you must pass an exam and participate in a verification visit. The verification visit is a direct observation of a CDA credential candidate by a Professional Development Specialist authorized by the CDA. This may seem a bit nerve-wracking, but it will give you more credibility and confidence knowing you were observed and approved by an ECE expert.

Why earn a CDA?

Now that you know a bit more about the details involved in earning a CDA credential, you’re probably wondering if it’s really worth it for you to obtain one.

In a nutshell — the answer is yes. So what makes a CDA credential worth pursuing? We enlisted Rasmussen College School of Education Department Chair Mary Muhs to weigh in on the importance of earning this credential. Read up on some of the benefits of acquiring a CDA credential.


The CDA credential requires you to not only learn about ECE best practices, but also gain hundreds of hours of hands-on experience and valuable feedback from expert observers. After being armed with this knowledge and experience, imagine the confidence you’ll have walking into a classroom full of young learners.

“The CDA credential shows that you already know so much about quality childcare and education before setting forth into a more formal higher education degree,” says Muhs. ”It gives you encouragement and a step up.”


There’s no denying that early childhood education is important. As the research supporting the importance of ECE increases, so does the demand for accredited and competent individuals with both academic training and applicable experience. Having a CDA credential helps qualify you for more jobs by showing potential future employers that you have reached a professional level of skill and knowledge.

Muhs explains that while a CDA credential may not always be required by employers, it holds great value. The fact that the credential is recognized nationwide means that it can serve an individual well in the future. “It is highly respected and shows that you are committed to quality programs for children,” Muhs says.


Perhaps you’re hoping that your childcare experience acts as a stepping stone toward a more advanced ECE career. Think of the CDA Credential as a ticket into the ECE world. The hours of education and hands-on experience you get with your CDA credential will help launch you to the next level.

If you decide to advance your education further in the future, many degree programs will offer credits for individuals who have acquired the CDA credential.

“We know the importance of the CDA Credential as the foundation for future education,” Muhs says.

Because of this, Rasmussen College allows up to 12 credits to be waived for verification of a current CDA credential—and for those who’ve completed the three-course, fully-online CDA Prep training through Rasmussen College the transition is seamless.

Take a step toward success

So whether you aspire to climb the ranks of the ECE world or you want to gain experience working with children before committing to anything else, the CDA credential is worth it. The value and relevancy will help you begin your journey into the field of early childhood education, and that is just the beginning. Once you have acquired the CDA Credential, you can apply those credits towards a degree in Early Childhood Education as you grow in your career and education.

If you’re ready to get started on the path to earning a CDA credential, the Rasmussen College CDA Prep training—offered fully online in English and in a bilingual Spanish/English format—can help get you there. Visit the Rasmussen College CDA Prep training page to learn more.

Anna Heinrich

Anna is a Copywriter at Collegis Education who researches and writes student-focused content on behalf of Rasmussen College. She believes the power of the written word can help educate and assist students on their way to a rewarding education. 

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