How to Earn the Certified Association Executive Credential

by Caitlin Smith, Account Associate

The process of becoming a Certified Association Executive (CAE) is no easy feat and takes a lot of hard work and dedication to achieve. It’s for individuals ready to take the next leap in developing their professional career.

The CAE program is designed to elevate professional standards, enhance individual performance, and designate association professionals who demonstrate the knowledge essential to the practice of association management. Earning the CAE is the hallmark of a committed association professional.

Earning and maintaining the CAE is a three-part process. One must first meet the strenuous and extensive eligibility requirements. These requirements include:

  • 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.
  • Must be currently employed by a qualifying organization or have been employed by one within the last five years. 
  • 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 you submit your application.
  • A bachelor’s degree or higher or, in lieu of a degree, eight additional years of professional work experience.

Once you have determined that you meet the requirements, the next step is to apply for the exam. Once your application has been approved, the next step is to sit for and pass the exam.

The CAE exam is offered twice a year, in May and December, at test centers throughout the U.S. and is based on anticipated candidate concentration. The cost to apply is $500 for ASAE members and $750 for nonmembers.

The exam is designed to test the ability of test-takers to apply fundamental knowledge to scenarios drawn from real-world association management challenges. It’s four hours long and includes 200 multiple-choice questions on the following topics:

  • Strategic Management 16-18%
  • Governance and Structure 10-12%
  • Membership Development 7-9%
  • Programs, Products, and Services 9-11%
  • Leadership 16-18%
  • Administration 15-17%
  • Knowledge Management & Research 2-4%
  • Public Policy, Government Relations, and Coalition Building 7-9%
  • Marketing, Public Relations, & Communications 6-8%

Once you have earned the credential, you must maintain it by fulfilling certification renewal requirements every three years.

If you’re interested in learning on the benefits of earning your CAE, see our other blog posts on How CAE Certification Expanded Linda Owens’ Professional Knowledge and  How CAE Certification Changed Lee Claassen’s Career.

Are you looking for a certified professional who can take your association to the next level? Contact IMI Association Executives! We’re a firm of skilled professionals who have provided association management expertise to clients since 1986. Submit an RFP today!

Leave a Reply