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Child Development Associate (CDA®) Program

Child Development Associate (CDA®) Program

Gain the tools to achieve your early childhood education credential goals and improve early educational success for all students.

Child Development Associate (CDA®) Program

Gain the tools to achieve your early childhood education credential goals and improve early educational success for all students.  

Submit the form below for more information about earning your Child Development Associate (CDA®) credential.

Child Development Associate Credential
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Program Overview

American University’s School of Education offers fully online, self-paced coursework toward the Child Development Associate (CDA®) credential—the most widely recognized credential in early childhood education. Our program is framed from a critical literacy, social justice, and anti-racist perspective, making use of culturally responsive and culturally sustaining pedagogy.

The program consists of five courses that can be completed in four to eight months. It’s self-paced and fully online, meaning you can complete it entirely on your own schedule. Already taken certain courses toward the credential? You can register for individual courses to complete missing education hours or to renew a Preschool, Infant-Toddler, or Family Child Care CDA® credential.

Our program is a 135-hour course of study, fulfilling the 120 hours of education required by the Council for Professional Recognition for the Preschool, Infant-Toddler, or Family Child Care CDA® credential. This program also partially fulfills the education requirement for the Home Visitor CDA® credential.

While completing your coursework, you even have an opportunity to work on most of the required portfolio components for a variety of credentials. You can also earn Preschool or Infant-Toddler professional work experience through our partnership with Martha’s Table, a nonprofit organization in Washington, DC.

When you finish the program, you’ll have all the knowledge you need to pass the CDA® Exam and advance your career in education.


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If you have specific questions about the program or its requirements, please email Kara Lawrence at klawrence@american.edu.

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Our five-course program is designed to meet nearly all of the requirements needed for your CDA® portfolio, including the 120 hours of formal education in specific competency areas, in as little as four months. 

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This program offers dedicated academic support, personalized career guidance, volunteer work opportunities, and professional portfolio assistance (for students who complete all five courses at AU).

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Students who complete all five courses at AU can transfer up to 6 credits toward an associate degree in early childhood education at Trinity Washington University. 

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This open-enrollment program is offered in a completely online, self-paced format with a dedicated, personalized student portal.

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Learn more about American University’s Child Development Associate® program.

About American University’s School of Education

American University’s School of Education has built a reputation as an innovator in education curriculum, research, leadership, and service—with partnerships with organizations such as City Year, the Peace Corps, Teach For America, and the renowned Lab School of Washington. It has established a tradition of excellence by creating teachers, education leaders, and policy makers who are committed to social justice and building equitable and inclusive learning environments for everyone. School of Education alumni have a 91% Praxis pass rate and go on to work at school districts, public and private schools, charter schools, and organizations across the country, including District of Columbia Public Schools, TNTP, New America, KIPP public charter schools, the Department of Education, E.L. Haynes, and the Rand Corporation.

Founded in 1893, American University is a student-centered research institution located in Washington, DC, and is ranked in the top 100 universities in the nation.

About American University’s School of Education

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can I transfer courses taken elsewhere into the CDA® program at AU? 
A: AU does not transfer coursework from other programs.  

Q: Can I register for individual courses, or do I have to commit to the entire program?
A: You can register for individual courses or groups of courses at a time. If you want to register for multiple courses, our program coordinator will work with you on determining the right number of courses each semester.

Q: What will I receive after I complete a course? 
A: Students who complete a CDA® course will receive an AU CDA® certificate of course completion that includes the CDA® hours /CEUs fulfilled by the course, along with a transcript for passing the course. Students who complete the full CDA® program at AU (five courses /135 CDA® hours) will receive an AU CDA® certificate of program completion that includes the 135 CDA® education hours completed at AU, along with a transcript for passing the courses in the program.

Q: What is the course schedule?  
A: You will have access to your course(s) as soon as your registration is processed. You can then work toward completing the course at a pace that suits you.

Q: Can I complete my CDA® portfolio at AU without taking any AU courses? 
A: No. Since the AU CDA® program is framed from a critical and culturally sustaining perspective, and portfolio elements, based on this perspective, are completed as part of the CDA® coursework, only students who register for the complete program at AU, or complete all of their coursework at AU, will receive guidance from a faculty coach on creating and organizing their CDA® portfolios.

Q: Can I complete my CDA® Exam requirement at AU? 
A: No. You can complete your education requirement at AU, but you will need to take your exam as part of the application process established by the Council for Professional Recognition, which is located at https://www.cdacouncil.org. The PD Specialist you choose will help you through the process of scheduling your exam. You can search for a PD Specialist on the Council for Professional Recognition site: 
www.cdacouncil.org. You can find more information in your CDA® Competency Standards book (Infant-Toddler, p. 21; Preschool and Family Child Care, p. 20).

Q: Who can transfer credits into Trinity Washington University’s AA program? 
A: If you complete your CDA® coursework at AU, you can transfer the equivalent of up to 6 credits to Trinity Washington University toward an Associate of Arts (AA) in Early Childhood Education (ECE). If you complete your AA at Trinity, you can then transfer credits toward a Bachelor of Arts at Trinity Washington University or American University.

Q: Do I have to complete all of my CDA® hours at AU to be eligible for Trinity Washington University’s AA in ECE program?  
A: Yes. If you complete your CDA® coursework at AU, you can transfer the equivalent of up to 6 credits to Trinity Washington University toward an AA in ECE.

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