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Certified Association Executive (CAE)

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. Founded in 1960, the CAE program stands as a mark of excellence and has evolved to reflect what it takes to manage an association in today's challenging climate. Getting the CAE isn't simply a one time thing, but an ongoing commitment to professional growth. Professionals hold the designation pledge to continually advance their knowledge and achieve higher levels of excellence in association management. CAEs must also actively advance, support, and promote association membership and the association profession as a whole. 

Benefits to obtaining your CAE

  • Expanded knowledge. Gain in-depth insights into every aspect of association management.
  • National professional recognition. Peers, staff, and volunteer leaders all value the CAE designation.
  • Extensive peer-level communication. Increase networking opportunities as a result of participating in study groups and CAE events.

What is my first step I need to take to getting my CAE?

Contact ASAE to download an instruction booklet and application from their website. Here are some other helpful resources on your CAE journey:

When can I apply for my CAE?

In order to sit for the exam, you must:

  • Be currently employed - or have been employed with in the last seven years - by a trade association, professional society, individual membership organization, philanthropic organization or association management company.
  • Be either a chief executive officer with three years of experience as CEO and a bachelor's degree - or five years of experience without a degree - or be working at the staff level in association management with five years of experience and a bachelor's degree - or seven years of experience with out a degree.
  • Have made the decision to make association management your career.
  • Be willing to commit yourself to career-long professional development.
  • Have completed 100 hours of broad-based association management-related professional development activities within the five years preceding your application.  Within those 100 hours, no more than 20 can be from any one domain topic.

Those who are or would be classified as an association professional or staff specialist are eligible for the CAE credential.  Those who are or would be classified as a supplier, vendor or consultant are not eligible for the CAE credential. 

How do I earn education hours?

Accumulating hours to sit for the CAE exam is easy.  Here's a list of hour ratings for continuing education, either face-to-face or online.  Please use these hour ratings in the appropriate portions of the application.

Program Length
Hour Rating
1 hour
2 hours
3 hours or half-day 3
6 hours of full-day 6

Is Associations North a CAE Approved Provider?

Yes, Associations North is a CAE Approved Provider. Every program that we offer which qualifies for CAE credit will clearly identify the number of CAE credits granted for full participation, and we will maintain records of your participation in accord with CAE policies.

Note: Associations North programs are not endorsed, accredited, or affiliated with ASAE or the CAE program. Applicants may use any program that meets eligibility requirements in the specific timeframe towards the exam application or renewal. There are no specific individual courses required as part of the applications – selection of eligible education is up to the applicant based on his/her needs.

Here is a guide to Associations North program hours:

Program CAE Hours
Networking Group Discussions 1-1.5 hours
Networking Group Day
2 hours
Associations North Webinars 1 hour
Women's Leadership Connection 1.5 hours
Speakers Showcase 4 hours
Annual Meeting & Expo
3.5 hours
Marketing & Sales Symposium 4.5 hours
Leadership Conference 7 hours
Leadership Academy 21 hours

If you have any questions regarding education hours from Associations North, please
contact us.  

How long does the application take to complete?

The CAE application process can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days to complete.  The time required depends on your ability to track the accomplishments of your career.  It is advisable to allow plenty of time to complete the application.  One reason why many qualified association executives do not go for their CAE is that they wait until the last minute to complete the application form, then realize it takes a lot of work and decide to wait until next year.

What type of information does the application require?

 The application will ask for:

  • Your years of experience in the association management profession
  • Information about your formal education
  • A record of your association management continuing education (you'll be asked to record your attendance at ASAE and Associations North, as well as other continuing education programs that help you in your career). 

When is the application due?

The CAE application is always due (postmarked) on the first Tuesday of February for the Spring Exam and by the first Tuesday in September for the Fall Exam. Click here for exam dates.

How much will getting my CAE cost?

There is a one-time application fee of $500 for ASAE members and $700 for non-ASAE members.  Books cost approximately $200. (Associations North members are eligible to check out CAE materials through Associations North complimentary). Associations North also has a CAE study guide available for purchase. Associations North member cost is $100. Non-member cost is $150, click here to purchase.

What books and materials do you recommend I purchase for studying?

To access a list of recommended references by CAE domain, contact ASAE

What is the CAE exam like?

The CAE exam is a knowledge-based, paper-and-pencil exam consisting of 200 multiple-choice questions.  Questions were written by CAEs under the direction of exam-writing experts called psychometricians.  The content outline is derived from a role delineation study conducted by ASAE that forms the body of knowledge for the association management profession.

How long does the exam take to complete?

The exam is administered in a single four-hour time frame.

When is the exam administered?

Exam dates are the first Tuesday in May and the first Friday in December beginning at 9 AM local time.

How is the exam scored?

The passing standard is a pre-determined standard of knowledge set by criterion-referenced methodology - similar to setting par in golf - using the combined judgments of the Examination Committee and resulting in a recommendation to the CAE Commission for final review.  There is no curve and candidates do not compete against each other.  There is no limit on the number of candidates who pass or fail the exam.

When will I know if I passed?

All candidates will be notified in writing of their examination results within eight weeks of taking the exam.  Unsuccessful candidates will receive a summary report that lists potential and actual points.  Successful candidates receive notification of their passing status only.  No results are reported over the telephone.

What if I don't pass?

Unsuccessful candidates may file a written petition to the CAE appeals committee.  Although a candidate may only take the exam once in a given year, there is no limit on the number of times candidates may take the examination.

For more information on the CAE exam, visit ASAE's website.  If you are interested in a CAE study group, contact Associations North

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