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8 free online childcare training courses

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If you love spending time with kids, then a career as a child care provider might be right for you. Whether you work in a daycare center, preschool, or in a family’s home, you’ll get the opportunity to help young children learn and grow during their most formative developmental years. 

There are various certifications you can earn to enhance your skills as a child care provider and increase your earning potential. 

Keep reading to learn about popular child care certifications, how to meet the requirements for each one, how much you can expect to earn as a certified child care provider, and where to find free online child care training courses to see if this career is right for you:

To find quality child care jobs in your area, check out Care.com >> Care.com charges for posting jobs, increasing the quality of the positions.

Childcare certifications

There are several certifications for child care providers offered by different credentialing organizations.

Child Development Associate (CDA)

The CDA Certification is administered by the Council for Professional Recognition, a widely recognized national credentialing program in early childhood education.

Why should I get a CDA certificate?

The Council for Professional Recognition can help you stay up-to-date with industry best practices and advance your career. 

You can choose from four pathways to certification:

  • Infant/Toddler: For child care professionals in a state-approved child development center working with children from birth to 3 years old
  • Preschool: For child care professionals in a state-approved child development center working with children 3 to 5 years old
  • Family Child Care: For child care professionals in a family child care setting working with children from birth to 5 years old
  • Home Visitor: For child care professionals in a home setting working with children from birth to 5 years old

Requirements for CDA certification

You need a high school diploma or GED, or you must be enrolled as a high school junior or senior in an early education or child development career and technical program. 

You also must complete 120 hours of professional education covering the eight CDA subject areas before you apply. 

Within three years of applying, you have to register 480 hours working with young children, and within six months of applying, prepare a professional portfolio that meets the requirements outlined in the CDA Competency Standards Book

Once you meet the requirements, you can apply for certification from the Council online (for a $425 fee) or by mailing the paper application that comes with the CDA Competency Standards Book (for a $500 fee). 

After the Council receives your application, they’ll review it and assign you a designated Professional Development (PD) Specialist who will visit your workplace. They’ll observe you and assess your performance, then submit their evaluation. 

You’ll also have to complete the in-person CDA exam, which includes 60 multiple choice questions and five scenario-based questions. After the exam, a committee will review your application and decide whether to award you with the CDA certification. 

CDA certification is valid for three years. You can apply to renew your certification 90 days before it expires. It costs $125 to renew online or $150 to renew by mail. 

Certified Childcare Professional (CCP)

The Certified Childcare Professional (CCP) is administered by the National Early Childhood Program Accreditation (NECPA) Commission.

Who is the CCP designed for?

The CPP is a nationally recognized credential for teachers looking for professional development in early childhood education.

The CCP is ideal for teachers at center-based care facilities who haven’t completed a college degree or who have a degree in a different field. CCP certification can help you meet job requirements and advance your career in a child care facility.  

Requirements for CCP certification

You need a high school diploma or GED. You must also be 18 years or older and be able to read, write, and speak English well enough to perform your duties as a child care professional. 

You also need to accrue 720 hours working with children from birth to 6 years old at a child care center and complete 180 hours of education across nine professional ability areas

Additionally, you’ll have to pass the National Early Childhood Education accreditation exam, prepare a professional portfolio, be observed and assessed while on the job, get two letters of recommendation from a child care colleague or director, complete two parent evaluations, submit two writing samples, and outline your plans for continued professional development. 

Finally, you’ll have to complete the application review process through the NECPA Professional Standards Council. 

You can purchase a CCP enrollment packet that contains required documents and additional instructions for applying for CCP certification on the NECPA website. You’ll have to pay $350 to cover the costs of the packet, enrollment items, performance-based observation, and final exam. 

You can also choose a CCP Field Counselor, who will guide and evaluate you through the certification process. 

Once you meet the requirements, you will need to submit a CCP Observation and Assessment Request Form, in addition to copies of your enrollment packet documents. 

After you submit your paperwork and payment, a committee will review your application and decide whether to award you with the CCP certification, which is valid for two years. 

It costs $49.95 to renew your certification through NECPA before it expires. You also need to show proof you’ve completed 24 hours of continuing education for renewal. 

National Administrator Credential (NAC)

The National Administrator Credential (NAC) is administered by the NECPA Commission.

Who should seek NAC certification?

NAC certification is for directors and administrators who work in early childhood education, as well as those interested in pursuing a career as a director or administrator in a child care setting. 

During the certification process, you’ll learn about staffing and human resources, financial management, and marketing and advertising your business. 

Requirements for NAC certification

You don’t need a formal business degree or even a bachelor’s degree to get your NAC certification. 

You can take the NAC certification class online through NECPA’s website for $620. When you enroll, you’ll need to complete 45 hours of coursework in six months. 

A live instructor will grade your assignments and work with you to ensure your success in the program. Once you complete the course, it takes about four to six weeks for NECPA to process your approval documentation.

NAC certification is valid for two years. It costs $59.95 to renew your certification through NECPA before it expires. You also need to show proof you’ve completed 24 hours of continuing education for renewal. 

Where to complete childcare training online for a Child Development Associate (CDA) certificate

CareCourses.com

CareCourses.com offers a variety of online courses for early childhood professionals. 

They have an introductory, free child care training course called the Joyful Life of Caregiving, which explains how to create a joyful atmosphere for children and adults, why your work with children is important, and how to take care of yourself. 

If you decide to use CareCourses.com to complete your CDA certification coursework, you have four pathways to choose from: family child care, infant/toddler, preschool, and home visitor. 

Each certification course costs $398 and comes with a free online tutorial to help you understand the CDA process. 

Before enrolling in a course, check CareCourse.com’s Child Care Training Information by Location page to make sure your state accepts their courses. 

Child Care Education Institute

The Child Care Education Institute (CCEI) provides online child care training and certificates for people who work in early childhood education. 

CCEI offers a free online trial course so you can decide if CCEI is right for you. After taking the free online trial course, you can then enroll in a 120-hour course that counts toward CDA certification. 

CCEI offers three instructor-supported CDA certification classes: family child care, infant-toddler child care, and preschool. Each of these certification classes costs $1,300. There’s also an additional $100 application fee and a $75 fee for books.

CCEI also offers self-study CDA certification classes: family child care, infant/toddler child care, and preschool. Each of these certification classes cost $775. There’s also a $75 application fee and a $50 fee for books. 

Before enrolling in a course, check the map on CCEI’s website to make sure your state accepts their courses. 

ChildCareLounge.com

Child Care Lounge provides online child care classes, training, networking opportunities, and resources for child care professionals. 

They have an introductory, free online child care training class, Gather ‘Round for Circle Time, which explains how to plan an appropriate circle time for the students in your class. 

If you decide to complete your CDA coursework through Child Care Lounge, you can choose from three pathways: infant/toddler child care, preschool, or family child care. Child Care Lounge’s online CDA certification courses each cost $399.85. 

Before enrolling in a course, check the Child Care Lounge’s Online Child Care Classes State Approval page to make sure your state accepts their courses. 

Get $5 off when you spend $6 or more at ChildCareLounge.com >>

First Thing’s First

First Thing’s First is an organization that funds early education and health programs in the state of Arizona. 

Starting October 25, 2021, First Thing’s First offers free access to the entire CCEI training catalog for up to 15,000 subscribers. CCEI offers online courses you can use toward your CDA certification. 

To take advantage of this program, you need to register with the Arizona Early Childhood Workforce Registry, which you can do for free. You can then log into your account and go directly to the CCEI trainings. 

The majority of early childhood educators in Arizona are eligible for this free three-year pilot program.

H&H Childcare Training Center

H&H Childcare Training Center provides access to online continuing education courses for early child care professionals. 

For a limited time, they’re offering the 120-hour CDA Preschool Credential course for free with a certificate. The coupon will be applied automatically to your cart at checkout. 

Before enrolling in this course, check H&H Childcare Training Center’s What’s Approved in Your State page to make sure your state accepts their courses. 

Where to complete childcare training online for a Certified Childcare Professional (CCP) certificate

National Early Childhood Program Accreditation

The NECPA Commission awards CCP certificates. You can enroll in the CCP online course, which costs $350, through NECPA’s website. 

The CCP is self-paced, so you can complete your training on a timeline that works for you. It takes most people six months to a year to complete the online course. 

Because licensing requirements vary by state, the NECPA Commission recommends contacting your local child care licensing organization before enrolling in its certification program. 

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Where to complete childcare training online for a National Administrator Credential (NAC) certificate

National Early Childhood Program Accreditation

The NECPA Commission awards NAC certificates. You can enroll in the NAC online course, which costs $620, through NECPA’s website. This self-paced online class totals 45 hours and needs to be completed within six months of enrollment. 

Scholarships may be available, so contact your local child care resource and referral agency to see if you qualify. If you live in Louisiana, you may qualify for a scholarship through Louisiana Pathways

NAC also has a partnership with the State College of Florida for Florida residents. The Florida National Administrator Credential costs $1,050. 

In addition to the 45-hour course, you’ll also get 4.5 continuing education units (CEUs) issued by State College of Florida and your first NAC renewal for free as part of this program. 

Childcare training FAQ

What kind of childcare training does the American Red Cross provide?

The American Red Cross offers First Aid and CPR training courses online and in person. 

Once you complete the course, you’ll get certification credentials for two years, as well as free access to refresher materials during your certification period so you can practice as needed. 

The American Red Cross also offers an Advanced Child Care Training certification to help you build or refresh your child care skills. This course goes over basic care for infants and children, child behavior and discipline, safety, professionalism, and leadership. 

What are the benefits of becoming a certified childcare provider?

Becoming a certified child care provider can help you enhance your child care skills so you can advance your career.

With the right certification and experience, you may be qualified to become a head teacher at a preschool or manage a daycare center.

Becoming a certified child care provider can also instill trust in parents so they’re more likely to hire you as a private child care provider. 

How much can I expect to earn as a certified childcare provider?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary for a child care provider in the United States is $25,460 per year, or $12.24 per hour. 

The highest 10% of earners in the child care industry made more than $18 an hour, according to BLS. 

Becoming a certified child care provider may qualify you for jobs that pay on the higher end of the salary spectrum. According to ZipRecruiter, child care professionals with a CDA Credential make $19 per hour on average. 

How can I find out what the requirements are for a certified childcare provider in my state?

Licensing varies by state. You can find out the requirements for a certified child care provider in your state by visiting ChildCare.gov

Do I need to be licensed as a child care provider in my state?

According to BLS, many states require child care centers — including daycare centers in private homes — to be licensed. To qualify for a license, you may need to pass a background check, meet minimum training requirements, and be certified in first aid and CPR. 

Some states and employers also require employees to have nationally recognized credentials like the CDA. To get this credential, you’ll need to complete some coursework along with child care field experience. 

You can visit ChildCare.gov to find out the specific licensing requirements for child care providers in your state. 

Do I need a background check as a child care provider in my state?

According to ChildCare.gov, federal law requires all states to implement state and federal background checks for employees at licensed child care centers. 

You can visit the state resources section of ChildCare.gov to find out how your state has implemented these federal background check requirements. 

BLS also notes that many states require private, in-home daycare centers to become licensed — and to qualify for licensure, you’ll likely have to pass a background check. 

What resources are available for child care providers in my state?

Most states have a child services agency that can answer your questions about licensing requirements, provide assistance if you want to start your own childcare program, and more. 

The Office of Child Care within the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services has a database of agencies in each state with contact information. You can also visit the state resources section of ChildCare.gov for more resources in your state. 

Does my state have a referral agency for child care providers?

Many states have referral agencies, which can help childcare providers meet licensing requirements, find low-cost or free trainings that support professional development, and more. 

You can use the database on ChildAware.org to find referral agencies near you. You can also visit the state resources section of ChildCare.gov to find referral agencies in your area. 

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What kind of childcare training does the American Red Cross provide?

The American Red Cross offers First Aid and CPR training courses online and in person. The American Red Cross also offers an Advanced Child Care Training certification to help you build or refresh your child care skills. This course goes over basic care for infants and children, child behavior and discipline, safety, professionalism, and leadership.

What are the benefits of becoming a certified childcare provider?

Becoming a certified child care provider can help you enhance your child care skills so you can advance your career. With the right certification and experience, you may be qualified to become a head teacher at a preschool or manage a daycare center.

How much can I expect to earn as a certified childcare provider?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary for a child care provider in the United States is $25,460 per year, or $12.24 per hour.

How can I find out what the requirements are for a certified childcare provider in my state?

Licensing varies by state. You can find out the requirements for a certified child care provider in your state by visiting ChildCare.gov.

Do I need to be licensed as a child care provider in my state?

According to BLS, many states require child care centers — including daycare centers in private homes — to be licensed. To qualify for a license, you may need to pass a background check, meet minimum training requirements, and be certified in first aid and CPR.

Do I need a background check as a child care provider in my state?

According to ChildCare.gov, federal law requires all states to implement state and federal background checks for employees at licensed child care centers.

Christina Heiser is a New York City-based content marketer and freelance writer. She covers beauty, health, nutrition, fitness, and parenting for a variety of online and print publications. Her work regularly appears on websites including NBC News and A Sweat Life. Over her decade-long career, she's also held editorial positions at Everyday Health and Women's Health. When she's not working, you can find Christina checking out the latest boutique fitness classes, attempting to master gluten-free cooking, and watching reality TV.

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