• Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) provides industry professionals the opportunity to apply experiential and Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) allows industry professionals to apply work and academic experience toward completing Certified Association Executive (CAE) courses. PLAR saves time and money on your path toward CAE certification.

    Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR) Process

    Process Under the Original CAE Program

    CAE 100 – Association Leadership, Change, Strategy & Structure 

    CAE 200 – Association Membership Services

    CAE 300 – Association Operations I – Operations Support 

    CAE 400 – Association Operations II – Products & Services 


    All applicants must pass all CAE course(s) for which they were not granted PLAR credit, complete the CAE 500 course and the CAE final exam, as well as join CSAE as a member to earn and retain the designation.

    The supporting evidence log allows you to provide background on your personal acquisition of the competencies related to each course. After registration, you’ll receive a log in and password that will allow you to upload your log along with any supporting documents to our Learning Management System for review by our assessors. 

    Eligible Courses in the Restructured Program

    Begin your journey by applying for the PLAR process. This initial step is your opportunity to express your interest and initiate the formal evaluation of your professional learning and experiences.

    Eligible Courses

    Optimize Governance

    As a senior staff leader, you are critical in ensuring your governance structures are currently suited to your organization’s needs and reviewed regularly. Help your board identify the strategic goals for your organization – the role they are best suited to provide – while you facilitate putting in place the checks and balances that will steward your association into the future.

    Establish Direction

    As an Association Executive, you are responsible for implementing the board’s vision and goals into concrete, actionable, timely objectives. Translating a strategic plan into measurable outcomes is a critical task of leadership, as is setting the plans, targets, and partnerships to ensure success. The Establish Direction competency area explores everything from financial planning, budgeting, annual planning, maintaining brand and reputation and partnering for success.

    Lead People

    Whether you have one direct report or 100, leading people is an art and a science. Clearly defined roles and metrics are critical to an association’s success. Ensuring you have the human resources to execute your organization’s objectives, training your staff, and managing individuals and teams are all critical components of leadership. As a leader, you also want to ensure that you are constantly improving your performance. The Lead people competency area covers everything from evaluating what you need, hiring, onboarding, creating a solid team and leading through change.

    Managing Operations

    Day-to-day operations might not carry the same shine as a carefully presented strategic plan, but they are essential to that plan’s success. Managing cash flows, facilities, and technological requirements is critical to your association’s success.

    Deliver Value

    Delivering value to your members and constituents is the heartbeat of your association. The best governance and planning won’t save an organization that has lost sight of what its members want, need, and value. Whether your organization focuses on lobbying, professional development, affinity programs or an endless variety of additional possibilities, we all seek to improve our industries, professions, or special interests. Defining, implementing, and improving your products, services, and benefits are the keys to your association’s success.

    Note: Available January 2026


    Five years or more of senior management experience in the not-for-profit sector

    Application Requirements

    • Be an active CSAE member
    • A current resume which clearly demonstrates five years of senior management experience
    • Two professional references
    • A current job description
    • Supporting evidence which demonstrates mastery of the course competencies
    • Apply here


    Candidates may take several months to compile their evidence log, given the detailed and personalized nature of the process. Your timeframe should allow for the thorough documentation of competencies and experiences, ensuring the evidence log accurately reflects your qualifications and outcomes. Early start and diligent preparation are crucial, as the complexity of the competency being assessed and the amount of evidence to be organized can significantly influence the time required​​​​​​. An average time of 12 – 14 hours per competency is the minimum recommended preparation time.

    Portfolios are accepted and assessed on a rolling basis. Results are available within 2-4 weeks of submission.


    Don’t hesitate to contact us for a consultation before starting your PLAR application. We’ll be happy to pre-qualify you to ensure you are a good candidate for this option and to provide feedback on completing the necessary documentation. You can reach us at:

    CAE Department

    416.363.3555 x 242

    1.800.461.3608 x 242

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