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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A little math may be needed when looking for coursework to earn your CAE credits. To keep things simple:
Professional development includes:
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org if there is something you’d like to see on our platform or if you need help with your CAE credits.
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Jose Triana joined the Sidecar team as the Content Manager in 2021. He 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.
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