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CAE: The Power of 3 Letters

Posted by Jay Dziwlik, MBA, CAE on Feb 24, 2016 12:00:00 PM

When I first heard the initials CAE, my mind took off. Canoli Appreciation Eaters. Canine Affection Equipment. Casual Apartment Engineers. The list goes on and gets weirder. Certified Association Executive did not make my initial list. I was not a huge fan of letters behind my name. I had come across so many people who were more interested in pointing out the letters than the character they hoped the letters would give them.


My own pursuit of the CAE grew out of my love to learn and spend time trying to improve my effectiveness in my own association. After attending enough lectures, seminars and lunches I discovered a pattern of wanting to hear from those with the letters. They seemed to have insight, experience and advice that paid off when I tried earned my own. 

The official CAE description from the ASAE CAE Certification website states, “The Certified Association Executive (CAE) program is designed to elevate professional standards, enhance individual performance and designate association professionals who demonstrate the knowledge essential to manage an association in today’s challenging environment.” CAE is a tough designation with a rigorous body of knowledge to learn and frankly one of the hardest exams I have ever taken. But I wouldn’t want it any other way. Think about it. If you want a credential that means something, it should be one that has a process that means something. The body of knowledge covers nine domains essential to association management. Here are what some of your other colleagues had to say about the credential:

“It offered a significant and primary way to distinguish myself, from a more academic perspective, in the field of association management.”—Blake Jeffery, CAE

“Earning my CAE was important to me as a professional because it offered others a measurement of my professional competency in the areas of association management, membership, education, public policy and communication. It also gave me access to an incredible network of other CAEs and aspiring CAEs who have a wealth of professional knowledge. It was a specific goal of mine which was supported by my employer when I interviewed for my current position. As an organization representing members with a professional designation, it has been important for our staff to be association management professionals.”—Sherrill M. Rude, CAE, VP-Advocacy Indiana CPA Society

“The CAE was viewed as a more distinguished achievement and widely recognized by the association industry. It indicated proficiency in many aspects of the industry. Achieving and maintaining my CAE has been important to demonstrate more industry knowledge. It provides a well-rounded educational base of all aspects of the industry and keeps me updated on developments and trends within the industry. The continuing education component of the certification enhances one’s skills, knowledge and leadership in our industry.” —Thomas M. Popcheff, CAE, Director of Administration, Sigma Theta Tau International

Interested in learning more about how you can earn your CAE? Here are some helpful resources:

Leading Your Association in a Fast-Paced Changing World with Mary Byers, CAE


Topics: Association, CAE, Certified Association Executive Exam

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