ASAE: The Center for Association Leadership

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Earning your CAE isn't just passing another certification exam. It reflects a deeper understanding of how associations function and the knowledge can be directly applied to the work your organization does. Check out the following for must-know information about the credential.

Recommended Next Steps: 

1.  Learn more about the CAE and the benefits of earning it.
2.  Familiarize yourself with the eligibility requirements.
3.  Start earning CAE credits by participating in qualified events!

The CAE at a Glance

About the CAE

Becoming a Certified Association Executive (CAE) shows your commitment to the association profession. As a CAE, you commit yourself to lifelong learning and an ongoing pursuit of knowledge in the profession. Among association leaders, the CAE designation has become known and appreciated as a mark of distinction that offers a wide range of benefits.

Individuals pursue the CAE for a variety of reasons, including professional development, career planning and professional pride, dedication to their career, a personal belief in the association profession, and self-fulfillment.

ASAE founded the CAE program in 1960 to elevate professional standards, enhance individual performance, and designate those who demonstrate knowledge essential to the practice of association management.

The CAE program was granted accreditation by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) in 2010. The announcement of accreditation coincided with the 50th anniversary of the CAE program. The CAE Program was reaccredited in 2020.

As of February 7, 2023, there are 4,719 CAEs.



Candidates who apply to take the CAE exam must have:

1. 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 or an association management company (AMC).)  

2. A bachelor's degree or higher OR in lieu of a degree, eight additional years of professional work experience. 

3. 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 you submit your application to be eligible to sit for the CAE examination. 

4. Committed to upholding the ASAE Standards of Conduct and have no felony convictions related to the practice of association management. 

More details about eligibility can be found here.


Submit your application once you meet the application criteria and are prepared to sit for the exam within the next twelve months.

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 you have an approved application on file, you will be sent a notification to schedule from Scantron via email approximately 4 weeks before the examination date. Once you receive a notice to schedule you can select a site and date for your exam. Exam applications remain valid for one year after the date of approval.

Upcoming Exam Dates

Exam Date
Application Deadline
December 1-14, 2023
Friday, September 22, 2023


Your application must be received in the CAE Program office by close of business on the listed application deadline.

Exam Content 

The four-hour examination includes 200 multiple-choice questions across 8 domains:

1. Governance
2.  Executive Leadership
3.  Organizational Strategy
4.  Operations
5.  Business Development
6.  Member and Stakeholder Engagement and Management
7.  Advocacy
8.  Marketing and Communications

To see a breakdown of each domain, download the Exam Content Outline.


Core Resources and Exam Prep

This list of core resources has been compiled by the CAE Commission to reflect a sample of literature that is aligned with the CAE Exam Content Outline and would be useful in preparing to be a chief staff executive or preparing to earn the CAE. The list is reviewed and recent references may be added periodically.

While these resources are not required reading and should not be interpreted as constituting the sole source of all CAE exam questions, candidates may find them useful when preparing for the exam. Each candidate should develop his or her own personal reading list and study plan based on individual needs and knowledge.

1.   Association Law Handbook , 6th edition
2.   Professional Practices in Association Management , 4th Edition – Core resource for December 2021 Exam
3.   The Jossey-Bass Handbook of Nonprofit Leadership and Management , 4th Edition
4.   How to Read Nonprofit Financial Statements , 3rd edition
5.   Membership Essentials: Recruitment, Retention, Roles, Responsibilities, and Resources 2nd Edition
6.   ASAE ForesightWorks User’s Guide

In addition to the core resources, CAE exam items can be referenced to any ASAE-curated knowledge—defined as information published or disseminated by ASAE, such as books sold in the bookstore or articles published in Associations Now or newsletters.

The CAE program encourages candidates and CAEs to consider qualifying courses from CAE Approved Providers to meet the professional development requirements to earn or maintain the CAE credential. When selecting a CAE-eligible course from a CAE Approved Provider, CAEs and CAE candidates can be confident that the course will be recognized for CAE credit as advertised.

For more information

Click here to access additional details about the exam, eligibility requirements, renewal information, and more.