Answering All Your Questions About CDA Certification in Missouri

Child care provider helping a student, using her CDA certification in MissouriBecoming more highly qualified as a child care provider has so many benefits — benefits for you, for the children you care for, for their parents, and for society at large. Those are some big incentives. Even if you want to advance your knowledge and career, though, it might be hard to find somewhere to start. That’s where a CDA certification in Missouri comes in. 

If you’re asking, “What is a CDA in child care?” then we probably need to start at the very beginning. CDA stands for Child Development Associate. A national organization called the Council for Professional Recognition sponsors this prestigious certification, and it’s recognized worldwide. We’re here to answer all your questions about this certification, going far beyond just, “What is a CDA in child care?” 

Embarking on a journey like achieving your CDA certification in Missouri can be a little daunting, but hopefully, having all the relevant information will make the process slightly less intimidating. We’ve attempted to compile some of the most common questions about the certification, from basics like, “What is a CDA in child care?” to more in-depth questions like how long the process takes and how often you have to renew a CDA certification in Missouri. We’ll even direct you to more resources, where appropriate.

Okay, without further ado, let’s get into it. Here’s your (mostly) complete guide to achieving your CDA certification.

What is a CDA in Child Care?

A CDA in child care is a certification that proves you have what it takes to be a successful early childhood care provider. It’s a way to quantify your knowledge and expertise in this very complex field. Earning your CDA certification in Missouri is going to be a major boost toward advancing your career in early childhood education. 

Because the process of earning a CDA has multiple steps, there are several different pieces involved in answering the question, “What is a CDA in child care?” There are three main elements: An exam, an observation, and a professional portfolio. We’ll give you more detail on those in the “How do I earn my CDA certification in Missouri?” section a little later on, but the goal right here is to provide a high-level overview of the certification. 

The bottom line is that the CDA is a well-respected credential, and if you’re interested in furthering your career in early childhood education, it’s definitely something you should look into.

Do I need child care experience to apply for a CDA? 

Yes. Before you can even start the process, you need to complete 480 hours of experience working with young children and 120 hours of formal training. The specific requirements for that training will depend on which track you’re choosing. You can pick from Center-Based Preschool, Center-Based Infant-Toddler, Family Child Care, and Home Visitor. No matter which track you choose, you need that training to cover eight different areas. They are:

  • Planning a safe and healthy learning environment
  • Advancing children’s physical and intellectual development
  • Supporting children’s social and emotional development
  • Building productive relationships with families
  • Managing an effective program operation
  • Maintaining a commitment to professionalism
  • Observing and recording children’s behavior
  • Understanding principles of child development and learning

There will be slight variations depending on the track you’ve chosen. In terms of experience, you also need to keep the observation component of the CDA in mind. You’ll need to be actively working or volunteering in a child care job in your chosen track in order for the CDA PD specialist to observe you working with children. We’ll dive deeper into the exact requirements of the different stages of the process in the next section. For now, it’s just important to note that you do need a fairly significant amount of child care experience and training before you can begin pursuing your CDA.

How do I earn my CDA certification in Missouri?

To earn your CDA certification in Missouri (or in any other state, but since we’re located in Missouri, that’s where we’ll keep our focus), you need to prove that you’re a qualified child care provider. There are several steps to this process. You can view them all in detail on the Council for Professional Recognition’s site, but we’ll give you a brief overview here. We touched on the three main components of the CDA in the “What is a CDA in child care?” section earlier, so now, let’s get a little more detailed. 

The Exam

This test consists of 65 multiple-choice questions, and they’ll be a lot tougher than, “What is a CDA in child care?” You’ll take the exam on a computer at a testing center. It covers different aspects of child care. You might leave your test anxiously wondering whether you passed or not, but that’s not how this exam works. The Council takes your exam results and weighs them with the other aspects of your application, and you’ll only hear if you achieved the credential or not. You won’t know if you “passed” the exam or not. So, take all the different components seriously, and one you’re stronger in might balance out your weaker spots.

The Observation

A CDA PD specialist will visit the place where you work or volunteer with children and assess how you do. Before they can do that, though, you’ll need to find a PD specialist in your area and contact them — you can start that process here

Once you’ve found a PD specialist to conduct the observation, they’ll look over your professional portfolio, which we’ll touch on in the next section. They’ll also speak to you in a reflection period, discussing your different strengths and weaknesses that they’ve identified from their observations. 

The Portfolio

The professional portfolio is the final piece to the CDA certification in Missouri. You will need to submit several different kinds of documents as part of your portfolio: Education documentation, family questionnaires, reflective statements of competence, resources, and a professional philosophy statement. Remember that the PD specialist will review your portfolio as part of your observation.

Who recognizes a CDA certification in Missouri?

CDA enjoys worldwide recognition, so any child care provider worth their salt in Missouri should be duly impressed by your CDA certification. They’ll know all the steps you had to take to go from learning what a CDA in child care is to earning one for yourself.

What kind of barriers to entry are there?

There are definitely financial barriers to completing your CDA certification in Missouri. The application for the test alone costs upwards of $400, and that’s not factoring in any training or studying costs. You’ll have to buy the CDA Competency Standards book when you apply for your initial credential, and there are two other books the Council offers to help you prepare for your portfolio and exam.

Depending on your area and circumstances, you might struggle with other aspects of the process, too — you might have trouble locating a suitable PD specialist, or you might face difficulties scheduling training and work experience hours. Fortunately, there are other organizations that can help you diminish these barriers to entry, specifically the cost.

Can I get help paying for my CDA certification in Missouri?

Yes. There are definitely CDA scholarship opportunities out there to help you earn that credential. For example, Child Care Aware® of Missouri offers a CDA Scholarship Project, paying for your application fee, a bonus once you complete your CDA certification in Missouri, and supporting you along the way. If you’re interested in earning a CDA certification in Missouri, Child Care Aware® of Missouri is definitely the place to go for assistance. 

However, if you live in a different state, you should check with your local child care resource and referral agencies. You should be able to find assistance with earning your CDA no matter what state you live in.

How long does it take to achieve a CDA certification?

It will depend. If you’re counting from when you find out what a CDA in child care is to the time you’ve completed your certification, it can be quite some time. You have to rack up all those training and experience hours before you can apply, take the exam, and complete your observation, after all. You’ll definitely want to take your time studying for the exam and compiling your portfolio items. But once you’ve completed all of the components, it shouldn’t take more than a handful of business days to find out whether you’ve achieved the certification or not.

When do I have to renew my CDA certification in Missouri?

A CDA is valid for three years. That might not sound like very long, but with a field this complex, it’s important to stay up-to-date. You won’t be asking basic questions like, “What is a CDA in child care?” anymore, but you might still have questions about that important renewal process. 

There are certain requirements you have to meet before you can apply for renewal. You need to have completed a certain amount of training, including approved first aid and pediatric CPR training (check out this PDF for more specifics). You’ll also have to be a current member of an early childhood education professional organization when you apply for renewal, and you’ll need someone to serve as your verifier. The last component (other than the $125 fee) is verification of 80 hours of work in your chosen child care setting.

Do make sure you renew your CDA before it expires — you can submit your renewal application as much as six months before that expiration date. If you want to change the track you chose for your CDA, you’ll have to go through the regular process again, not the renewal process.

If you have any more questions about the process, you can get free renewal guides from the Council for Professional Recognition. 

Where can I go for more help in this process?

Like we said at the beginning, the Council’s website is a great resource for more in-depth information on all the different steps in the process. There, you can also look up organizations that offer further assistance. Plus, we’ve also mentioned Child Care Aware® of Missouri as a good place to go for more help, specifically if you’re trying to earn a CDA certification in Missouri.

How will I benefit from achieving my CDA certification in Missouri?

We’ve already touched on how you’ll benefit in the “What is a CDA in child care?” section — namely, through opportunities for career advancement. Having this sort of well-recognized credential to add to your resume can open up all kinds of new career opportunities. 

Not only will you benefit, but so will the children in your program. Through the training, exam, and reflection components, you’ll grow as a child care provider. You’ll have the skills to give the children in your care an even better jump start on their futures. It doesn’t get much better than that!

Now you know the answer to, “What is a CDA in child care?”

We’ve answered that question quite thoroughly — at least, we hope we did! To dive into all the intricacies of a CDA certification, we answered that initial question as well as a lot of other, supplementary ones. We went through the initial process of earning a CDA as well as the basics on how to renew the credential before it expires. Now, you should know how to set off on your CDA journey, what resources you’ll need, and how you’ll benefit once you achieve your CDA certification in Missouri. 

From “What is a CDA in child care?” to “How will I benefit form a CDA?” all your most pressing questions about this certification should have been addressed here. If not, we also directed you toward other resources to help you along the CDA process, and they’ll be more help than a simple blog post ever could be. 

You may have started out by asking, “What is a CDA in child care?” We hope you’ll end up earning that credential and spreading the wealth, explaining what a CDA in child care is to the next group of interested child care professionals.