CAE Eligibility Requirements
If you've decided to pursue the CAE credential, it helps to adopt a structured approach to fulfilling the eligibility requirements and preparing for the exam, regardless of your academic background and professional experience. The CAE Exam Content Outline can be a useful resource for you to identify areas in which you want to undertake more extensive study or professional development activities. In addition, the CAE Commission's Core Resources provides a helpful reading list for CAE exam preparation, organized by the nine domains of the CAE exam outline. It's a concise yet detailed guide to informative association management books in key knowledge areas.
If the following statements describe you, then you should make attaining the Certified Association Executive credential your goal.
- You have three years of experience as a CEO at a qualifying organization* or you have five years of experience working at the staff level at a qualifying organization.
**Also, see "in lieu of" options.
- You are currently employed by a qualifying organization or have been employed by such within the last five years.
***Also, see "in lieu of" options.
- You have a bachelor's degree or higher, or in lieu of a degree, you have eight additional years of professional work experience.
- You are committed to upholding the ASAE Standards of Conduct and have no felony convictions related to the practice of association management.
- You have completed 100 hours of broad-based qualifying professional development within the last five years.
*A qualifying organization is a nonprofit organization (trade association, professional society, individual membership organization, philanthropic organization, tribal organization) or an association management company (AMC).
**In lieu of employment at a qualifying organization, an applicant may have ten years paid service as an employee, independent contractor, or consultant with demonstrated professional involvement within the association community by providing services as defined by the CAE exam content outline or five years of such service if substantially all of your work is devoted solely to qualifying organizations.
***If qualifying under in lieu of employment requirements, must be currently (or within the last five years) employed in paid service as an employee, independent contractor, or consultant with demonstrated professional involvement within the association community by providing services as defined by the CAE exam content outline.
At the time you submit your application, you must meet the following professional experience requirements:
- Be currently or recently employed in a qualifying nonprofit organization or association management company such as a trade association, professional society, individual membership organization, or philanthropic organization. Or, for in lieu of requirements, be currently or recently employed in paid professional service as an employee, independent contractor, or consultant with demonstrated professional involvement within the association community.
- 'Recently employed' is defined as having been a paid employee in a qualifying position within the past five years at time of application.
- Internship experience and service as a volunteer leader is not applicable toward the professional experience requirement.
- Have sufficient qualifying professional experience at a qualifying nonprofit organization or association management company or paid service with demonstrated professional involvement within the association community.
- Three years experience as CEO with a bachelor's degree or equivalent OR
- Five years experience as staff with a bachelor's degree equivalent OR
- Ten years of paid service as an employee, independent contractor, or consultant with demonstrated professional involvement within the association community by providing services as defined by the CAE exam content outline OR
- Five years of paid service as an employee, independent contractor, or consultant with demonstrated professional involvement within the association community by providing services as defined by the CAE exam content outline if substantially all of your work is devoted solely to qualifying organizations.
- 'CEO' refers to the chief staff executive of an association. All other association employees are classified as 'staff'.
- Applicants without a qualifying degree must submit 8 additional years of professional work experience to qualify to take the exam. Work experience can be substituted for a degree on a calculated basis. Each year of completed undergraduate studies may be substituted for 2 years of professional work experience.
Any continuing professional education offered by any professional entity may be acceptable toward the professional development requirement as long as it is directly related to either association or nonprofit management as defined by the CAE exam content outline, and meets the guidelines outlined below. The CAE Commission strongly recommends that you fulfill the professional development requirement by completing coursework in proportion to the weighting of each content area on the exam content outline. Please see the CAE Approved Provider page for a list of organizations, in addition to ASAE, that offer education that is eligible for CAE credit.
Acceptable professional development activities include:
- Live conferences, workshops, seminars, or classes (including face-to-face, audio/videoconference, and online delivery) offered by ASAE, CAE Approved Providers, societies of association executives, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for Organization Management, or other providers, earn CAE credit for actual clock time of qualifying education including partial hours, up to a maximum of 8 CAE credits per day. (Ex. 1½ hours of qualifying education equals 1.5 CAE credits.) (Note: Online courses must be instructor led, or meet the criteria outlined for self-study credit.)
- College or university courses (e.g., face-to-face, independent study/correspondence, online) taken for academic credit at a U.S. accredited academic institution earn 15 hours per earned semester credit, 14 hours per earned trimester credit and 10 hours per earned quarter credit (e.g., a three-credit semester course earns 45 CAE hours).
- 15 hours per earned semester credit
- 14 hours per earned trimester credit
- 10 hours per earned quarter credit
- A 3-credit semester course would earn 45 hours.
- A 2-credit quarter course would earn 20 hours.
- Copy of a transcript and a course description
- Preplanned in-depth group study of specific association management topic(s) with interaction between a minimum of three participants from three different organizations earn 1 CAE credit for each clock hour, up to a maximum of 20 credits per CAE application.
- An educational program used for individual, self-paced study may be recognized for CAE credits if it meets the following criteria:
- The program must be suitably recent, as defined by the oldest reference included in the CAE Core Resources.
- The program must have clearly identified learning objectives linked to the CAE Exam Content Outline.
- It must include an interactive component such as quizzes, post-tests, or other learning assessment exercises or activities by which participants apply and demonstrate comprehension of the covered content areas.
- The program must meet recognized standards for effective self-study programs.
Proof of completion (i.e. a certificate of completion) must be submitted with the application. Self-study credits (including ASAE facilitated virtual courses) may only account for one-half of any applicant’s education hours.
- Applicants receiving mentoring or coaching specifically focused on the field of association management and representative of the exam content outline for a minimum of 10 clock hours can qualify for up to a maximum of 10 CAE credits towards the exam application under the professional development category. Two hours of receiving mentoring/coaching equals one CAE credit, up to a maximum of 10 CAE credits. The mentor or coach must be a CAE or CAE (Ret.). The mentor/coach and the mentee/individual being coached cannot be employed by the same organization.
- 0–9 hours receiving mentoring/coaching = 0 CAE credits
- 10 hours receiving mentoring/coaching = 5 CAE credits
- 12 hours receiving mentoring/coaching = 6 CAE credits
- 14 hours receiving mentoring/coaching = 7 CAE credits
- 16 hours receiving mentoring/coaching = 8 CAE credits
- 18 hours receiving mentoring/coaching = 9 CAE credits
- 20 hours receiving mentoring/coaching =10 CAE credits
Download a PDF of the CAE Mentoring Form.
The following are NOT eligible to earn CAE credit:
- General software/training courses
- Expo hall hours
- Industry-specific programs (not general association management; e.g. physicians' CME courses)
- Networking receptions
- Breaks between educational sessions
- Product-specific promotional courses or training
- Staff-to-staff education
The current Standards can be found at www.asaecenter.org/standards.
Applicants must disclose if they have been convicted of a felony related to the practice of association management as defined by the body of knowledge; and if they have been convicted of a felony related to employment or contractual engagement by an association. Candidates must disclose all felony convictions to the CAE Commission using the Felony Disclosure Form. If the Commission determines the felony was related to the practice of association management or to employment or contractual engagement by an association the applicant may be ineligible.