How to Become a CAWA

In order to achieve CAWA Certification, all applicants must meet the eligibility requirements demonstrated through an online application process and pass the written CAWA Exam. The applicant should determine his/her own eligibility before applying to the program. 

For complete program details, please download our Applicant Guide (updated 3-20-20).
Our updated and upgraded CAWA program opened in March 2020! 

Eligibility Requirements

Eligibility requirements must be met, without exception in any circumstances. To be eligible to take the CAWA exam, applicants must satisfy all of the following requirements by the date of application:

1. Possess a minimum of 5 years of work experience which must have been acquired within 10 years prior to the date of CAWA Program application, as a high-level manager of a not-for-profit or government organization. At least 3 years of work experience must have been acquired at an organization that provides sheltering and/or field services.

A “high-level manager” is either a CEO or other paid staff who are within the following degrees of separation from the CEO:

  • 2 Degrees, in organizations with fewer than 250 full-time equivalents (FTEs)
  • 3 Degrees, in organizations with 251-500 FTEs; and
  • 4 Degrees, in organizations with 501 or more FTEs.

2. Possess a minimum of 5 years of work experience managing paid staff in any field.  

Work experience satisfying requirements above can be concurrent. 
Educational experience may not be used to substitute for any of the work experience eligibility requirements.

3. Agree to abide by The Association of Animal Welfare Advancement Code of Ethics.

There is no requirement of an academic degree or continuing education activity for initial certification eligibility.
Eligibility to take the CAWA exam shall be valid for one year from the date of the eligibility notice.

Applicants are encouraged to review the eligibility requirements thoroughly and ask us questions before submitting your application if you are unsure whether you are eligible. Review the Applicant Guide for more information.

How to Apply for CAWA

If you meet the eligibility requirements, start the application process at our Certification Portal – click the “Register as an Applicant” button.

After you activate your account, you will fill out a short form. (All information remains strictly confidential.) Then click the orange Apply for Certification button. Scroll down to add your Employment Experiences and request references. After this process is complete, we will review your application. Once you are approved, the next step is to take the exam, once it is available. You may begin preparing in the meantime.

The exam beta closed in August and we will have a final, psychometrically verified exam in late fall.  Applicants will be notified as soon as the exam is open for scheduling.

How to Prepare for the CAWA Exam

​CAWA Exam Fees

2020 Regular Exam Fees:

  • Member rate:  $365   
  • Non-member rate:  $730
  • Re-examination (retest) fee (if you re-test within 12 months of a failed beta or verified exam):  $265 member / $630 non-member

To take advantage of the Member rate, applicants must be a Member of The Association in good standing when the application is submitted; the difference between the Member and nonmember rate will not be refunded if a membership is subsequently purchased by an applicant who was a nonmember at the time of application. For more information regarding membership in The Association, please visit The Association Membership page.

If you do not pass the exam on your first attempt you may retake the CAWA certification exam up to three times within one calendar year, with a thirty-day waiting period each time, and you must pay the current retesting exam fees each time. If an applicant wishes to retest outside of their original twelve month eligibility period, they must reapply, pay new application fees, and must meet the eligibility requirements in effect at that time, unless otherwise specified by The Association staff.

The CAWA Certification Exam Fee is not refundable under any circumstances. Once you schedule an exam time, you may change the appointment but not within 24 hours of the appointment. The Association is charged a sizable no-show fee by our vendor when test-takers do not take their scheduled exam.

​Special Accommodations

Reasonable special accommodations for administration of the CAWA exam will be made for eligible candidates with documented disabilities in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA.)  Only those accommodations that do not, in The Association’s sole discretion, compromise the validity of the exam results will be approved.  If circumstances indicate that administration of the CAWA certification exam would jeopardize the security of exam materials or the integrity of exam results, The Association may cancel the administration of the exam. 

If special accommodation is requested, supporting documentation from a licensed or otherwise properly credentialed healthcare professional who possess expertise in the disability for which the modifications or accommodations are sought, must accompany the application.  For accommodation requests based on mental or cognitive impairment, supporting tests must have been conducted within five years prior to the date of the accommodations request.  Review the Applicant Guide for more information on special accommodations.