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Despite an ever-expanding catalog of professional learning opportunities, over 400 association professionals choose to take the Certified Association Executive exam every year. While the raw data regarding the number of individuals that pursue the certification is illustrative of its significance in the association management world, this data alone does not provide a complete picture of exam takers and their motivations. 

Little is still known regarding the reasons association professionals choose to sit for the CAE exam. While research exists regarding the motivations of professionals pursuing certification, none of that research is focused on the association management world nor on the CAE exam. 

Understanding Testing Motivations

There’s a lot we know and a lot we don’t. In an attempt to remedy this lack of research and gain some clarity, I have designed a study to identify and classify the motivations of association professionals that choose to sit for the CAE exam using Cyril Houle’s typology of adult learners. 

Houle’s research determined the motivations of adult learners fell into three distinct categories: 

  1. Goal-oriented learners – participate in continuing education programs as a means of accomplishing clear-cut objectives.
  2. Activity-oriented learners – motivated by the amount and kind of human relationship the learning activity provides. 
  3. Learning-oriented learners – driven by a genuine love for learning and view it as a habitual activity.

The Survey

The purpose of this study is to identify the most significant motivations that lead association professionals to sit for the Certified Association Executive certification, and the relationship of those motivations to certain demographic variables including gender, race, and career stage. 

Using Houle’s typology and categorizing participants based on the three learner types will allow us to develop a better understanding of CAE candidates and the requisite modernization of the certification and potential marketing strategies that will best reach today’s association management professionals. 

Participate Today!

To gain some clarity into the motivations for association management testing, I have developed the following survey. The questions are related to adult motivation and are not specific to the CAE or professional certification. 

The survey's target audience is association professionals who have taken the CAE and are 100% anonymous and voluntary. It should only take 5 minutes to complete and will offer important insights into the data behind association management testing. 

Thank you for being willing to participate in this research and, if you are willing and able, please be sure to share the survey with your networks.

Amy Farmer
Post by Amy Farmer
February 6, 2022
Amy Farmer is an association professional working as the Director of License Mobility for the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB), an active volunteer with the Kansas City Society of Association Executives (KCSAE) - she is also a doctoral candidate at the University of Missouri - Columbia researching the motivations of association professionals who choose to sit for the CAE.