To be eligible to take the CAE exam, you must meet work experience, bachelor’s degree, and professional development criteria, as well as commit to upholding the ASAE Standards of Conduct and pay an application fee ($500 for ASAE members; $750 for nonmembers). Once you have fulfilled the requirements, you may submit your exam application. Find more details below.
Candidates who apply to take the CAE exam must have five years of experience as an employee at the staff level or one year employed as a chief staff executive or C-suite-level executive at a qualifying organization. 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 10 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.
Candidates must be currently employed by a qualifying organization or have been employed by one within the last five years. If qualifying under “in lieu of employment” requirements, you 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.
Candidates must have a bachelor's degree or higher or, in lieu of a degree, eight additional years of professional work experience.
Work experience can be substituted for a degree on a calculated basis. Each year of completed undergraduate studies may be substituted for two years of professional work experience. Internship experience and volunteer service are not applicable toward the employment experience requirements.
Candidates must have completed 100 hours of broad-based, association management-related professional development, as defined by the exam content outline, within the last five years of the month in which they submit their application to be eligible to sit for the CAE examination. For example, an application submitted in September 2023 would have professional development completed between September 2018 through September 2023.
Continuing education offered by a professional entity may be applied toward the professional development requirement of the CAE exam or renewal application as long as it is directly related to 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 each domain area on the exam content outline.
Please see the CAE Registered Provider page for a list of organizations, in addition to ASAE, that offer education that is eligible for CAE credit. Only CAE Registered Providers can publicize courses for CAE credit.
Acceptable professional development activities include the following:
1. Live conferences, workshops, seminars, or classes (including face-to-face, audio/videoconference, and online) offered by ASAE, CAE Registered Providers, societies of association executives, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for Organization Management, or other providers that are directly related to association or nonprofit management as defined by the CAE exam content outline earn CAE credit for actual clock time of qualifying education, including partial credits, up to a maximum of 8 CAE credits per day. (For example, 1½ hours of qualifying education equals 1.5 CAE credits.) Online courses must be instructor-led or meet the criteria outlined below for self-study credit.
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, directly related to association or nonprofit management as defined by the CAE exam content outline, earn CAE credits as follows:
- 15 CAE credits per earned college semester credit
- 14 CAE credits per earned college trimester credit
- 10 CAE credits per earned college quarter credit
- A three-credit semester course would earn 45 CAE credits.
- A two-credit quarter course would earn 20 CAE credits.
A copy of a transcript and a course description must be submitted with the exam application.
3. Preplanned in-depth group study of specific association management topic(s) with interaction among 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.
4. Individual self-paced study. An educational program used for individual, self-paced study may be recognized for CAE credits if it meets the following criteria (self-study credits, including ASAE Learning Online courses, may account for only one-half of any applicant’s education hours):
- 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 exam application.
5. Mentoring/coaching. 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 hours can qualify for CAE credits toward exam eligibility, up to a maximum of 10 CAE credits:
- 0-9 hours = 0 CAE credits
- 10 hours = 5 CAE credits
- 12 hours = 6 CAE credits
- 14 hours = 7 CAE credits
- 16 hours = 8 CAE credits
- 18 hours = 9 CAE credits
- 20 hours =10 CAE credits
The mentor or coach must be a CAE or CAE (Ret.). The mentor/coach and the mentee/individual being coached may not be employed by the same organization.
The CAE Mentoring Form [PDF] must be submitted with the exam application.
Ineligible activities. 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
- Job-related duties
ASAE Standards of Conduct
Candidates must be committed to upholding the ASAE Standards of Conduct and have no felony convictions related to the practice of association management.
Candidates must disclose all felony convictions to the CAE Commission using the Felony Disclosure Form [PDF]. 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.
A fee of $500 for ASAE members and $750 for nonmembers must be submitted with the application. The application fee, minus a $150 non-refundable processing fee, will be refunded only if a candidate fails to meet the eligibility requirements.
Once a CAE exam application is accepted, the candidate can test once within the next 12 months (or within two test administrations) at no additional charge. If a candidate wishes to retake the exam within the 12-months, an additional fee of $250 will be assessed.
If the candidate does not sit for the exam within two test administrations from the time the application is approved, then the application becomes invalid, and a new application must be submitted, along with a new application fee.