DECA members can begin their experience as early as the ninth grade by enrolling in a marketing, finance, hospitality, business management or entrepreneurship course. They can retain their membership in DECA as long as they are actively pursuing courses in one of the content areas. As part of a high school chapter, DECA members can take full advantage of DECA activities while preparing themselves to be college and career ready upon graduation.

High school students join DECA through their high school chapter, often advised by a faculty member responsible for course content in one of the related career areas. High school chapters are recognized and chartered by the state or provincial association.

DECA membership is open year-round; however, members and advisors should note eligibility deadlines to participate in conferences and competitive events. The deadline for all DECA International Career Development Conference competitors is March 1.