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For association professionals, credentials are the pinnacle of success – and nothing says you made it quite like adding CAE to your bio. The Certified Association Executive certification is one of the highest standards in the association management industry and requires passing an exam and a dedication to continuing education. 

So how do you get it, and what role do CAE credits play?  

The CAE Credential

Established in 1960 by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), the CAE program helped set and elevate the standards for association professionals. Their goal was to encourage continuing education while also setting a benchmark for what knowledge was required for association management. 

Today, the CAE credential is one of the most respected in the industry and, as of October 8, 2021, includes 4,644 certified association professionals, according to ASAE.

How Do You Become CAE Certified?

The CAE exam is only offered twice a year – in May and December – for a two-week window. But before you can even sit for the exam, there are a few requirements. 

Work Experience

To qualify for the exam, you must have five years of experience as a staffer or one year in the C-suite of a qualifying organization. This includes nonprofits such as philanthropic organizations or trade associations or a role in an association management company. 

For those who aren’t employed by qualifying organizations, all is not lost. You can also leverage ten years of paid experience within the association community. Although, you will need to be able to provide details when applying for the exam. 

When applying, you also need to be currently employed by a qualifying organization or have been within the last five years to sit for the exam. 


In terms of education, applicants should have a bachelor's degree or higher, and for those without, you can leverage eight additional years of association-specific experience. It’s also important to note that your experience as a volunteer or intern does not apply to this portion. 

Professional Development

The last qualifier for the CAE exam is professional development. All applicants need to have 100 hours of professional development in association-management-related coursework. This may seem like a lot, but the benefit here is that it covers a five-year period. 

So if you’re applying in 2022, you can include any professional development done from 2017 to 2022 – so be sure to find out what coursework qualifies from ASAE’s Exam Content Outline

How Many CAE Credits Do You Need?

The journey is not over for association professionals who have passed their exam (congratulations). Instead, committing to your status as a CAE-certified association professional means committing to continuing education. 

To renew, you need a minimum of 40 CAE credits, or a combination of 30 professional development credits and ten credits focused on leadership, instruction or writing in the association management space. 

As of 2020, one of your CAE credits also needs to be ethics-focused, with ethics either in the title or within the course description – so be sure you add that to your to-do list when applying for renewal.   

Tips for Choosing CAE Courses

A little math may be needed when looking for coursework to earn your CAE credits. To keep things simple:

  • 30 minutes = .5 CAE Credits
  • 1 hour = 1 CAE Credit

Professional development includes: 

  • Live courses, webinars and workshops – these courses must be instructor-led and should fall within the content outline. 
  • College coursework – you must submit your transcripts when applying for renewal. 
  • In-depth group study – must have a minimum of three participants from different organizations and can only be used for a maximum of 20 CAE credits. 
  • Mentoring or coaching – minimum of 10 hours for 1 CAE credit; mentor or coach has to be CAE certified, and the mentor/mentee cannot work within the same organization. 
  • Leadership, instructional time or writing – maximum of 10 hours.

It’s also important to note that your professional development is not limited to ASAE or CAE-Approved Providers. As long as the training you’re completing covers association or non-profit topics and falls within the CAE exam content outline, you can include it for recognition. 

Sidecar Can Help!

At Sidecar, education is our bread and butter. We offer unique learning opportunities that not only relate to the association space but interest-specific courses that help build leaders at every level. 

We’re also an ASAE-approved provider, so there’s never any guesswork when getting your CAE credits after our events! 

Some upcoming opportunities for CAE credits include SURGE Explore, where you can earn up to 8.5 hours of CAE credits. You can also always check our events tab to see and register for any upcoming webinars. Looking for more? Feel free to reach out at if there is something you’d like to see on our platform or if you need help with your CAE credits.

Jose Triana
Post by Jose Triana
April 14, 2022
Jose Triana is a writer and creative focused on helping purpose-driven organizations learn and find value online. When he isn't working on content, you can catch him going for a run or resting with a good book.