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CAE Frequently Asked Questions

What is the value of having the CAE(R) designation?
Becoming a Certified Association Executive shows your commitment to the association profession. As a CAE, you commit yourself to lifelong learning and an ongoing pursuit of knowledge in the profession. Among association leaders, the CAE designation has become known and appreciated as a mark of distinction that offers a wide range of benefits. 

Individuals pursue the CAE for a variety of reasons, including professional development, career planning and professional pride, dedication to their career, a personal belief in the association profession, and self-fulfillment.

When was the CAE program established, and why?
ASAE founded the CAE program in 1960. The program was designed to elevate professional standards, enhance individual performance, and designate those who demonstrate knowledge essential to the practice of association management.

Is the CAE an accredited program?
The CAE program was granted accreditation by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) in 2010. The announcement of accreditation coincided with the 50th anniversary of the CAE program.

NCCA accreditation provides independent validation that the CAE program meets or exceeds twenty-one standards concerning various aspects of the certification program including its purpose, structure, governance, psychometric foundation, policies and procedures.

Accreditation is a mark of quality and validates the integrity of the program. Earning accreditation is a public demonstration of ASAE and the CAE Commission’s commitment to the CAE credential as a true professional certification.

How is the CAE program governed?
The CAE program is governed by the CAE Commission, an independent certifying body of the American Society of Association Executives.  The CAE Commission awards the Certified Association Executive (CAE) credential and is responsible for setting policy and standards related to the CAE program.  

Who is eligible for the CAE?

  • Chief executive officers with at least three years of employment as CEO at a qualifying organization and a bachelor's degree or higher.
  • Association staff with at least five years of employment at a qualifying organization and a bachelor's degree or higher.
  • A combination of staff and CEO positions with at least five years combined employment at a qualifying organization(s) and a bachelor's degree or higher.
  • Qualifying organizations are trade associations, professional societies, individual membership organizations, philanthropic organizations, or association management companies.
  • Those who pledge to adhere to the ASAE code of conduct and disclose any felony convictions.
  • Those who have made the decision to make association management their career and are willing to commit to career-long professional development.  


 What are the eligibility requirements for the CAE exam?

To qualify to take the CAE exam, you must:

  • Be employed (currently or within the past five years) in a qualifying nonprofit organization or association management company.
  • Have sufficient qualifying association management experience (three years as a CEO or five years as an employee at a qualifying organization).
  • Have a bachelor’s degree or higher, or fulfill professional equivalency requirements.
  • Applicants without a qualifying degree must submit eight additional years of professional work experience to qualify to take the exam. Each year of completed undergraduate studies may be substituted for two years of professional work experience.
  • Have completed a minimum of 100 hours of broad-based association management related professional development activities within the five years preceding the application.
  • Sign an attestation to uphold ASAE’s Standards of Conduct.
  • Disclose any felony convictions related to the practice of association management.
  • You will remain eligible to sit for the CAE exam for one year after your application is accepted.

What is the cost?
The application fee is $500 for ASAE members and $700 for nonmembers.  The fee must be submitted with the application. If you do not sit for the exam within the next 2 tests after your application has been accepted, your application will expire and all fees forfeit.  Once your application expires, you would need to reapply in order to sit for the exam. 


 When is the examination?
The CAE examination is offered twice annually -- on the first Friday in May and on the first Friday in December. See the exam schedule for upcoming exams and deadlines.

Where do I get help in preparing for the CAE exam?
Following currently accepted practices for certifying bodies, the CAE Commission believes it to be a conflict of interest to develop materials to assist candidates in preparing for an exam designed and administered by the Commission. Therefore, the CAE Commission is not involved in CAE candidate preparation.

Many allied societies offer study groups or other support for CAE candidates. A CAE Candidate group for networking and sharing study tips is available on ASAE's Collaborate site (ASAE members only). Contact your local society of association executives to determine what assistance might be available. A list of study resources is available at

How can a multiple-choice exam assess communication skills?
The exam does not test communication skills or behavior. It emphasizes the application of the concepts and principles of sound association management practices. High-level cognitive skills, such as data interpretation and problem solving, are assessed in multiple-choice questions that pose management dilemmas and situations requiring resolution. Some of these questions will be derived from a case set, which develops a scenario and asks questions based on that scenario. Other questions will be presented as individual items.

How can multiple-choice questions test the ability to solve real-world problems?
Psychometricians - experts in test development - prefer this form of question to the less sophisticated and more subjective essay question.

Who writes the CAE exam?
The CAE Item-Writing Committee, composed of qualified CAEs, writes the exam questions on the competencies in the CAE exam content outline.

The CAE Exam Committee, composed of qualified CAEs, uses the content outline to develop each CAE examination. Following the content outline, they use questions from a question bank to develop each examination.

How will the passing score be set?
The pass-fail cut-off will be determined using a criterion-referenced method.

What is the criterion-referenced method?
This is a method where candidates are evaluated against a predetermined standard rather than relative to each other.

Who sets this predetermined standard?
Your peers, the CAE Commission and its committees. The group judges the difficulty of each test question against the content and the degree to which the incorrect responses are difficult to distinguish from the correct response. They use a mathematical formula derived from a modified Angoff method (comparable to par on a golf course) to perform this analysis. This procedure is used before and after the exam is administered.


How soon after I take the exam will I receive my results?

Exam results are mailed approximately six to eight weeks after the exam.  Exam results are mailed via first-class mail to the CAE candidate preferred address.  For security reasons, the credentialing department cannot release results via e-mail, fax, or over the phone.


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