How-to Articles

Why Join a Professional Association

Professional associations exist for just about every industry and profession. For some professionals, there are several related professional associations. Many are international or national in scope, with regional or statewide chapters, and some with student chapters.

Professional associations offer a variety of benefits when you are job searching or exploring careers.

Networking

Opportunities abound to meet people who are working in the field in which you are interested. By attending meetings and/or serving in a leadership position, you will be able to build relationships with other members. Just by attending regularly, you’ll be able to meet people. There is always time before and after the formal part of the meeting to talk informally. Use this time to find out about current needs in the field and where your skills might fit best.

You can maximize the value of your membership by volunteering to help out on a committee or with the registration process at events. Keep in mind that people doing registration tasks are quite visible to attendees and often are asked to introduce speakers -- both are great opportunities to meet people and to get known to others!

Continuing Education

Associations provide a variety of ways to help you keep up with trends in the field. These include training workshops and seminars, guest speakers, and conferences. Some offer discounts on books.

Information

Additional information including changes in businesses and in the marketplace, product development, new/emerging services, and key leaders is also available through membership in a professional association. The more you know about what’s happening in the industry and profession in which you want to be employed, the more knowledgeable and credible you will appear when networking, writing cover letters, or interviewing. You can gain this information in a variety of ways:

  • Newsletters
  • Industry publications (magazines and journals)
  • Articles posted on websites
  • Research reports

Scholarships

Some associations offer scholarships or awards to student members. This is an often overlooked source of funding for tuition support.

Remember…

People most often want to hire people they know and people who are recommended by people they know. Professional association meetings offer consistent and ongoing opportunities for you to become known in your field. Joining is also a way to demonstrate your commitment to the field. The more people you know, and the more you know, the more effective your job search or career transition will be.

How to find professional associations in your field

If you can't locate an association/organization related to your major, ask professors or see a career counselor to help you identify professional associations for your field.