Interested in learning more about earning your Certified Association Executive credential?

Here's a great place to start!


  • Professional Experience/Tenure
    • 3 years – Chief Staff Officer at a nonprofit or AMC; or
    • 5 years – Staff level at a nonprofit or AMC; or
    • 10 years – Employee, independent contractor, or consultant with professional involvement within the association community (5 years of such service if substantially all of your work is devoted to nonprofits or AMCs)
  • Bachelor's degree or up to 8 additional years of professional experience if no bachelor's degree
  • 100 hours of qualifying professional development within the last 5 years preceding the application (note, for certification renewal, 40 hours of continuing professional development is required every 3 years)

Exam Dates

  • ASAE offers the CAE exam online during the first two weeks of May and December each year
  • Note, the exam cannot be taken for renewals

Exam Locations

  • The test is administered at scheduled test sites throughout the U.S., including in and around Indianapolis, and internationally at Scantron testing centers. Candidates also have the option of taking the exam from their home or other suitable location with a live online proctoring option (LOP).
  • For more information on the exam format and testing sites, visit ASAE The Center for Association Leadership


  • Must be submitted, along with all qualifying professional development, 10 weeks prior to the exam; exact dates are published at ASAE
  • The exam must be taken within 12 months of submitting your application
  • Current application fees: $500 (ASAE members); $750 (Nonmembers)
  • Note: Renewal fees are $350 for ASAE members and $500 for nonmembers. Renewal fees are reduced to $275 for members and $425 for nonmembers if the renewal application is received by October 31 of the year certification is due for renewal. CAE Renewal Information

ISAE Resources to Help Prepare and Earn Hours

  • ISAE App – Download the ISAE app to your phone/tablet and click on “CAE Center” for a number of resources to help prepare for the CAE exam
  • Study Groups – Each spring and fall ISAE offers a facilitated study group that meets weekly (usually Wednesdays 4:00-6:00pm) for the 6 weeks leading up to the exam; ISAE study groups are free to ISAE members, and each session provides 2 CAE hours (12 total) toward your professional development requirement. You may participate in the study group as many times as you would like, so you are encouraged to participate the spring or fall prior to your anticipated test date to maximize the eligible CAE hours prior to your application deadline.
  • CAE Hours – Through event options such as our Legislative Luncheon, Women’s Forum, CAE Luncheon, Lunch & Learn Webinars (live and archived), ISAE Strategy Academy, Annual Convention, CEO/CSE Summit and Trend Camp, ISAE offers opportunities to earn more than 50 CAE hours of qualified professional development each year to be used toward earning or renewing your CAE credential.
  • E-Learning Portal – Through ISAE’s partnership with SeminarWeb, there are 100+ webinar programs on-demand providing more than 100 additional CAE hours of qualified professional development to be used toward earning or renewing your CAE credential.
  • QAS Program – ISAE has partnered with the Florida Society of Association Executives for ISAE members to earn the Qualified Association Specialist designation. The program consists of 12 one-hour online modules that will earn you 12 CAE hours while earning your QAS designation.
  • IOM – Through our partnership with the Institute for Organization Management, ISAE offers two partial scholarships to new students enrolling in the IOM program. Completion of the program, typically done over a four-year period, earns you 96 CAE hours.
  • Tracking Your Hours: Download an example of a CAE hours tracking spreadsheet template here.

Pathway to Your CAE

  1. Determine which Professional Experience eligibility applies to you
    • Do you already qualify based on your tenure (including additional years if needing to subsidize a bachelor’s degree)?
  2. Track your CAE hours, keeping in mind that all hours need to have been earned within the 5-year period immediately preceding your application
    • How many more do you need?
    • Determine how long, realistically, it will take to earn the additional hours needed. There should be more than enough opportunity within ISAE alone to earn the difference. Keep in mind that webinars are a great way to earn a few hours on your own schedule!
    • Download an example of a CAE hours tracking spreadsheet template here.
  3. Begin studying
    • ASAE recommends a number of texts to study. At minimum, consider purchasing or borrowing the most current editions of:
    • Review the 9-domain CAE Exam Content Outline to determine which areas you feel stronger or weaker in: Strategic Management; Governance and Structure; Membership Development; Programs, Products and Services; Leadership; Administration; Knowledge Management & Research; Public Policy, Government Relations, and Coalition Building; Marketing, Public Relations & Communications. To the extent possible, seek professional development opportunities that apply to those domains you feel weakest in.
    • Join a study group. In addition to ISAE’s study group, the Michigan Society of Association Executives offers a couple of different options to join national study groups for a fee, and ASAE itself offers a 3-day CAE Kickoff course at their office in Washington, DC.
  4. Complete your application
    • Depending on your specific timing, you may want to do this before you start your study program.
    • Keep in mind that the application is due to ASAE approximately 10 weeks prior to the exam date.
    • The link to the application can be found here.
  5. Take the exam!
    • The exam is a four-hour, 200 multiple choice question exam
    • Results are sent to your home four to six weeks following the exam

 Download Pathway to the CAE as a PDF 

Please visit ASAE's CAE Certification site for additional details.