CDA Credential

Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential

A Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential is the most widely recognized credential in the early childhood field and is a key stepping stone on the path to career advancement. The CDA Credential is based on a core set of competency standards that guide early learning professionals in their work to build on their professional experience and expertise.

As a nationally recognized credential, a CDA Credential enables early learning professionals to work in Head Start and Early Head Start classrooms, in addition to early learning programs across the United States of America. Several topics are studied in a CDA program, including, but not limited to:

  • A healthy and safe learning environment
  • Physical, cognitive, language and creative development
  • Social and emotional development
  • Positive guidance
  • Creating positive relationships with families
  • Program and classroom management
  • Observation and assessments
  • Professionalism in early childhood education

By earning a CDA Credential, early learning professionals strengthen their professional skill sets, gain opportunities to advance their careers, increase their confidence in the classroom, and reinforce their commitment to support young children and families. 



Trying Together CDA Credential Preparation Program

Trying Together’s Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential Preparation Program offers 135 hours of professional development over the course of approximately six months, focused on practice knowledge and skills early learning professionals need to become credentialed. Program participants can matriculate up to nine course credits at Carlow University or Community College of Allegheny College (CCAC) once they obtain their CDA credential. 

This program is intended for early learning professionals in Southwestern Pennsylvania. Trying Together offers this program at a community-based level with the support of various funding and development partners including the PDO at PASSHE, The Buhl Foundation, and The Pennsylvania Key.

Program Details

Through the program, early learning professionals choose the CDA Credential in their desired age group. 

  • Center-based Infant and Toddler CDA The Infant-Toddler CDA is for educators who work with children from birth through 36 months. 
  • Center-based Preschool CDA The Preschool CDA is for educators who work with children 3 to 5 years of age.
  • Family Child Care CDA The Family CDA is for educators who work with children ages birth through 5 in a family child care home setting.
  • Home Visitors CDA The Home Visitor CDA is for educators who visit with families of children age 5 and younger in their homes. They support parents, meet the needs for their child, and visit regularly to provide early education to the child and family.

Through the Trying Together CDA preparatory course, educators  attend live Zoom sessions and complete self-paced online coursework,  receive support from an experienced instructor, and are eligible to apply to receive a nationally recognized credential after their exam and observation. 

A limited number of computers are available through the Trying Together technology lending program for individuals who qualify. These devices must be returned at the end of the program.

Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for this program, individuals must:

    • reside in the state of Pennsylvania,
    • have obtained a high school diploma or GED,
    • work in a Keystone STARS early learning program, and
    • work a minimum average of 25 hours per week over an entire work year (during non-COVID times).

Request More Information

If you are interested in participating in Trying Together’s CDA Credential Preparation Program, please complete our CDA Credential Program Interest Form. Please note that this form is utilized for inquiry purposes only and is only available to professionals in Pennsylvania.

After completing the form, a member of our staff will contact you to determine your eligibility and identify a CDA pathway that works best for you. Requests for information are answered on a first-come, first-served basis.


For general questions about the program, contact Judy Graca at or Mikaela Nagg at

CDA Credential Renewal Program

Trying Together offers guidance to questions that support the CDA Credential Renewal by visiting the The Council for Professional Recognition website. If you have any additional questions, contact Judy Graca at or Mikaela Nagg at 

Professional Development Organization (PDO)

The Professional Development Organization (PDO) is a grant-funded educational collaboration among four universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) and numerous partner universities, colleges, and community programs across the state to advance the career pathways of the early childhood workforce. PDO funding covers tuition, expenses, and other supports to help eligible early childhood educators earn credit-bearing Child Development Associate (CDA) Credentials, Associate’s Degrees, and Bachelor’s Degrees.

Tuition-Free Courses

Tuition-free courses are eligible for early childhood professionals who:

  • are Pennsylvania residents,
  • work in a Keystone STARS program, and
  • work a minimum average of 25 hours per week over an entire work year (during non-COVID times).

To determine your eligibility, complete the online application. Once your eligibility is confirmed, a PDO Liaison from your region will contact you to discuss your professional development options.

Our Work

Trying Together and ELRC Region 5 are partnering with the Early Childhood Education PDO at PASSHE to provide community-based CDA programming. Trying Together provides an Early Childhood Liaison as a member of the PDO Liaison Network to establish and maintain relationships and connections with our region’s early childhood educators, programs, and professional preparatory organizations.

More Information

For more information, contact Lindsey Vicoria-Bucki at

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All projects featured on this webpage are supported by the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) of Pennsylvania’s Department of Human Services (DHS) and Pennsylvania’s Department of Education (PDE). For more information, visit and