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 online CAWA Exam. The applicant should determine his/her own eligibility before applying to the program. 

For complete program details, please download our Applicant Guide (NEW updated 6-07-21).
Please review this Definition of A Minimally Qualified CAWA Candidate, as defined by the CAWA Exam Committee. This document explains what knowledge a CAWA should have and be able to do or explain on the job.

Eligibility Requirements (updated 5-18-21)

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.

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 submittal. Within 10 years prior to the date of CAWA Program application submittal, you must have:

UPDATED 1. A minimum of 5 years of work experience as a full-time manager for a not-for-profit or government organization. At least 3 years of this nonprofit/government work experience must be at an organization that provides sheltering, spay/neuter services, and/or field services for companion animals.

2. A minimum of 5 years of work experience managing/supervising paid staff in any field. Work experience satisfying requirements above can be concurrent.    

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

Educational experience may not be used to substitute for any of the work experience eligibility requirements. 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 application approval 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.

How to Apply for CAWA

Submit your CAWA application here. (New as of 6-7-21)  


Complete the application. You will include relevant supervisory employment experience (within the past 10 years) and attach one reference for each supervisory employment position - we require a supervisor or board member's reference. You may save your application without submitting it for up to 30 days, but file uploads do not save and will need to be resubmitted. 

Once your application has been submitted, it will be reviewed. If your eligibility is verified, you will be approved for testing by The Association certification staff. You will receive an email verifying your application status with instructions on how to proceed – the next step is to purchase the CAWA Exam Prep Package which will provide access to an exam scheduler.

How to Prepare for the CAWA Exam

CAWA Exam Preparation Resources

If you meet the eligibility requirements, submit an application. Once your application is approved, you will purchase the CAWA Exam Prep Package which includes:

  • 100-question practice exam
  • Flashcards of terms from the Exam Specifications/References List
  • Invitation to a private Facebook group for others preparing for the exam
  • Proctored online exam scheduling tool and resources, including up to two exam attempts within the one-year window

​CAWA Fees

NEW 2021 CAWA Application Fees:

  • Member rate:  $395  
  • Non-member rate:  $790

Includes access to the CAWA Exam Prep Package and access to the CAWA Exam scheduler for one year.

Fee does not include a $34 per-exam attempt fee payable to the proctored exam vendor.

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 one additional time within the one-year window of your application, with a thirty-day waiting period between exams. You must pay the current exam fees each time. If an applicant wishes to retest outside of their original one-year 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.

​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.