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Getting Your CAE

You 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.

Those qualifying under the “in lieu of employment” alternative must upload the Association Community Employment Form within the CAE exam application

You are 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.

You have a bachelor's degree or higher, or in lieu of a degree, you have 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 service as a volunteer are not applicable to the employment experience requirements.

You are committed to upholding the ASAE Standards of Conduct and have no felony convictions related to the practice of association management.

You have completed 100 hours of broad-based qualifying professional development within the last five years preceding the application submission.

Qualifying Professional Development Activities

Any continuing professional education offered by any professional entity may be acceptable toward the professional development requirement as long as it is directly related to either 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 proportion to the weighting of each content area on the exam content outline. Please see the CAE Approved Provider page for a list of organizations, in addition to ASAE, that offer education that is eligible for CAE credit.

Acceptable professional development activities include:

1. Live conferences, workshops, seminars, or classes (including face-to-face, audio/videoconference, and online delivery) offered by ASAECAE Approved Providers, societies of association executives, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for Organization Management, or other providers, earn CAE credit for actual clock time of qualifying education including partial hours, up to a maximum of 8 CAE credits per day. Staff-to-staff/in-house training taken after July 1, 2017, may be acceptable if it meets all criteria for credit. (Ex. 1½ hours of qualifying education equals 1.5 CAE credits.) (Note: Online courses must be instructor-led, or meet the criteria outlined 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 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 3-credit semester course would earn 45 CAE credits.
  • A 2-credit quarter course would earn 20 CAE credits.

Documentation Required: Copy of a transcript and a course description

3. Preplanned in-depth group study of specific association management topic(s) with interaction between 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. An educational program used for individual, self-paced study may be recognized for CAE credits if it meets the following criteria:

  • 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 application. Self-study credits (including ASAE-facilitated virtual courses) may only account for one-half of any applicant’s education hours.

5. 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 clock hours can qualify for up to a maximum of 10 CAE credits towards the exam application under the professional development category. Two hours of receiving mentoring/coaching equal one CAE credit, up to a maximum of 10 CAE credits. The mentor or coach must be a CAE or CAE (Ret.). The mentor/coach and the mentee/individual being coached cannot be employed by the same organization.

  • 0–9 hours receiving mentoring/coaching = 0 CAE credits
  • 10 hours receiving mentoring/coaching = 5 CAE credits
  • 12 hours receiving mentoring/coaching = 6 CAE credits
  • 14 hours receiving mentoring/coaching = 7 CAE credits
  • 16 hours receiving mentoring/coaching = 8 CAE credits
  • 18 hours receiving mentoring/coaching = 9 CAE credits
  • 20 hours receiving mentoring/coaching =10 CAE credits

Download a PDF of the CAE Mentoring Form.

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

Learn more information