Understanding the Certified Association Executive Program

One way to show that you’re not only committed to your profession but also an all-star in the field is to become certified. Accountants have the CPA, meeting planners can achieve the CMP, and association professionals have the opportunity to earn the CAE—the Certified Association Executive designation.

“Just by preparing for the exam, doing the things that are required to become eligible for the credential, demonstrates that you are an association professional,” says Steven Echard, IOM, CAE, executive director of the Rheumatology Research Foundation and chair-elect of the CAE Commission. “From the continuing education to the professional development to studying and preparing for the actual exam, it’s an immense learning process, and you can gain a lot of insight and knowledge and expand your network just from that experience.”

To be eligible for the CAE, an individual must

  1. Be or have been employed at a qualifying nonprofit organization or association management company within the last five years
  2. Have three years of experience as a CEO and a bachelor’s degree or higher, or five years’ experience working at the staff level and a bachelor’s degree or higher
  3. Commit to upholding the ASAE Standards of Conduct
  4. Have completed 100 hours of broad-based qualifying professional development within the last five years.

Once all requirements are met, an association professional can complete the application process and take the CAE exam.

“What may be a misconception among many of the young professionals is that this credential is only for people who want to become a CEO or an executive director,” Echard says. “There are a lot of people in senior positions—whether it’s communications, IT folks, government affairs, accounting, and so on—who have earned the credential because they want to know more about association management.”

The value of the credential goes beyond just the knowledge gained.

“You’re demonstrating to everyone—your peers where you work, the volunteers you work with—that you have a certain level of expertise,” says Echard. “The CAE is highly revered in the association community, and having those three letters at the end of your name can make a big impact on how those people perceive you.”

Visit to learn more about the CAE program and how you can become a Certified Association Executive.

(Corbis RF)

Rob Stott

By Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. MORE

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