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6 Certifications Required to Open a Daycare Business (2023 Update)

Starting a daycare business is a rewarding venture for those who have a love for children and a passion for their development. However, opening a daycare involves more than a suitable space and an abundance of toys. Ensuring the safety and wellbeing of the children under your care is paramount, and that involves obtaining specific certifications. This article will guide you through the necessary certifications required to open a daycare business.

Below are the required certifications for opening a daycare: 

1. Childcare license

The first and most important certification you need to open a daycare is a childcare license. This license is issued by the state and signifies that you’ve met all the necessary standards and regulations to operate a daycare business. The process typically involves an application, a background check, an inspection of the facility, and possibly a personal interview.

2. First aid and CPR certification

When working with children, it’s crucial to be prepared for emergencies. Therefore, having a First Aid and CPR certification is typically a requirement for running a daycare. These certifications ensure that you and your staff have the skills necessary to respond effectively in case of a medical emergency. Various organizations offer these certifications, including the Red Cross.

3. Child development associate credential (CDA)

While not always required, obtaining the Child Development Associate credential is highly beneficial. This nationally recognized credential demonstrates your competence in the childcare field and your commitment to the professional development of children. To earn a CDA, you must meet certain educational and experiential criteria and pass an assessment.

4. Special needs care certification

This certification is not required, but you may want to consider it. In an increasingly inclusive world, having a Special Needs Care Certification can significantly improve the appeal of your daycare. This certification equips you with the skills needed to care for children with various special needs, making your facility accessible to more children and parents.

5. Food handling certification

If you plan on providing meals at your daycare, a Food Handling Certification may be required. This certification ensures you know how to safely store, prepare, and serve food to prevent foodborne illnesses. Check your local health department for the specific requirements in your area.

6. State-specific certifications

Each state has its own set of rules and regulations for daycare providers. Therefore, you may need to obtain additional certifications depending on where you live. Always check with your local licensing agency to ensure you meet all the requirements.

In addition to the general certifications listed above, you may also need to obtain additional certifications depending on the specific type of daycare business you are opening. For example, if you are opening a preschool, you may need to be certified to teach specific subjects such as math or science.

Specific certifications that are required for home-based daycares

Home-based daycares are the most common type of daycare business. They are typically small, with a maximum of 12 children. The requirements for home-based daycares vary from state to state, but some common requirements include:

  • A high school diploma or GED
  • First Aid and CPR certification
  • A background check
  • A home inspection
  • A state-approved training program

>> Learn more: How Much Does It Cost to Open a Daycare?

Specific certifications that are required for center-based daycares

Center-based daycares are larger than home-based daycares and typically have more than 12 children. The requirements for center-based daycares vary from state to state, but some common requirements include:

  • A high school diploma or GED
  • First Aid and CPR certification
  • A background check
  • A state-approved training program
  • A license from the state

Specific certifications that are required for preschools

Preschools are similar to center-based daycares, but they are typically designed for children who are 3-5 years old. The requirements for preschools vary from state to state, but some common requirements include:

  • A high school diploma or GED
  • First Aid and CPR certification
  • A background check
  • A state-approved training program
  • A license from the state

Understanding the importance of certifications in daycare business

Certifications in the daycare industry are vital. They ensure the safety of the children, validate the competence of the daycare provider, and uphold professional standards in the industry. These certifications are not just essential legal requirements; they provide parents peace of mind, knowing that their children are in safe, capable hands.

Basic requirements to open a daycare business

In addition to these necessary certifications, it’s important to understand the basic requirements to open a daycare business. These usually include adequate indoor and outdoor space, safe and age-appropriate toys and equipment, necessary safety measures like fire extinguishers and first aid kits, and maintaining a suitable staff-to-child ratio. The specific requirements may vary from state to state, so it’s essential to check with your local licensing agency.

How to obtain the necessary certifications? 

Embarking on the path to acquiring the necessary certifications for your daycare business might seem overwhelming, but it’s a vital process to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the children under your care. This section aims to demystify this process, breaking down each certification into actionable steps. We’ll guide you on how to obtain each certification, making it simpler to navigate through the requirements and procedures.

Childcare license

Obtaining a childcare license typically involves several steps. You will need to complete an application, which you can usually find on your state’s Department of Child Services website. The application will ask about your qualifications, the details of your daycare facility, and the number of children you plan to accommodate. After your application is submitted and reviewed, a representative from the department will likely visit your facility to ensure it meets all safety and health requirements. If everything is in order, you will receive your license.

First aid and CPR certification

First Aid and CPR certifications are offered by various organizations, including the American Red Cross and the American Heart Association. These organizations provide courses that you can usually complete within a day. After finishing the course, you will have to pass an exam to receive your certification. Keep in mind that these certifications have to be renewed every two years.

Child Development Associate credential (CDA)

To earn a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential, you’ll first need to meet the eligibility requirements, which include a certain amount of education and professional experience in childcare. Then, you will need to complete a CDA competency standards book relevant to your work setting. Once you’ve done that, you can apply for the CDA credential through the Council for Professional Recognition, who will review your application and schedule an observation of you working in your daycare. After successful completion of all these steps, you will earn your CDA credential.

Special Needs Care Certification and Food Handling Certification

Special Needs Care Certification is typically obtained through specialized training programs offered by various institutions and organizations. Similarly, Food Handling Certification can be obtained by completing a course and exam offered by your local health department or an accredited online source. Make sure any program you choose is recognized by your state’s licensing agency.

State-specific certifications

The process to obtain state-specific certifications varies from state to state. You will need to check with your local licensing agency for specific information. This could involve additional training courses, background checks, and facility inspections.

Remember, while obtaining these certifications might seem like a daunting process, they are crucial in ensuring the safety and well-being of the children in your care and the successful operation of your daycare business.

How to maintain and renew certifications

Certifications aren’t a one-time thing. Most of them need to be renewed periodically to ensure you stay updated with the latest safety standards and practices. Always keep track of the renewal dates and start the renewal process well in advance to avoid any lapse in certification.

Some additional tips for opening a daycare business:

  • Do your research and create a business plan.
  • Get to know the laws and regulations in your state.
  • Find a suitable location and get the necessary permits.
  • Obtain required and necessary daycare insurance coverage 
  • Hire qualified staff.
  • Market your daycare business.
  • Provide high-quality care.


Opening a daycare business is a significant responsibility, but the reward of making a positive impact on children’s lives is immeasurable. Ensuring you have the proper certifications not only keeps you legally compliant but also builds trust with parents. By maintaining high standards and continually improving your skills, you can provide a safe, nurturing environment where children can learn and grow.

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