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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.

  1. You are currently employed by a qualifying nonprofit organization (trade association, professional society, individual membership organization, philanthropic organization, tribal organization) or association management company or have been employed by such within the last five years.
  2. 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.
  3. You have a bachelor's degree or higher, or in lieu of a degree, you have eight additional years of professional work experience.
  4. You are committed to upholding the ASAE Standards of Conduct and have no felony convictions related to the practice of association management.
  5. You  have completed 100 hours of broad-based qualifying professional development within the last five years.

Qualifying Professional Experience

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. 
  • '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.
  • 3 years experience as CEO with a bachelor's degree or equivalent OR
  • 5 years experience as staff with a bachelor's degree or equivalent


  • '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.


Qualifying Professional Development Activities

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:

1. Conferences, workshops, seminars, or classes (including face-to-face, audio/videoconference, and online delivery) offered by ASAE, 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. General software training courses are NOT acceptable.)

2. 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).

Hours Approved:
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.
Documentation Required: Copy of a transcript and a course description

3. Preplanned in-depth group study of specific association management topic(s) with interaction between a minimum of three participants from different organizations earn 1 CAE credit for each clock hour, up to a maximum of 20 hours per CAE application.

4. 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 facilitated virtual courses) may only account for one-half of any applicant’s education hours. 

 5. Certificants providing and/or 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 hours towards renewal under the professional development category.  Two hours of mentoring/coaching or two hours being mentored/coached equals one CAE hour, up to a maximum of 10 CAE hours. The individual providing mentoring/coaching must be a CAE or CAE (Ret.). The mentor/coach & mentee/individual being coached cannot be employed by the same organization.

  • 0-9 hours mentoring/coaching /being mentored/being coached = 0 CAE hours
  • 10 hours mentoring/coaching /being mentored/being coached = 5 CAE hours
  • 12 hours mentoring/coaching /being mentored/being coached = 6 CAE hours
  • 14 hours mentoring/coaching /being mentored/being coached = 7 CAE hours
  • 16 hours mentoring/coaching /being mentored/being coached = 8 CAE hours
  • 18 hours mentoring/coaching /being mentored/being coached = 9 CAE hours
  • 20 hours mentoring/coaching /being mentored/being coached =10 CAE hours

 Download a PDF of the CAE Mentoring Form.


Upholding ASAE's Standards of Conduct

The current Standards can be found at


No Felony Convictions

Applicants must attest that they have not been convicted of a felony related to the practice of association management as defined by the body of knowledge; and that they have not 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.



Click here to download a CAE Exam Application 


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