Professional associations are non-profit organizations committed to furthering a specific profession. These organizations provide a vast array of benefits, and UMUC Career Services recently hosted a webinar to discuss why students or alumni should consider joining professional associations from several of their leaders. The webinar featured the following panel of experts:
- Liliya Roberts, program chair for UMUC’s Health Services Management and Management Studies undergraduate program who spoke about the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE).
- Kathleen Sindell, professor and program chair of UMUC’s Certified Financial Planning Program who spoke about the Financial Planning Association (FPA).
- Teresa Skehan, the senior managing consultant and Lead Security Risk advisor, Cyber & Biometrics for IBM Global Business Services who is also a leader in ISACA, an association for information security professionals.
Although these panelists represented organizations for very different professions, all of these organizations offered similar member benefits such as:
- Networking opportunities. Whether it is attending a local mixer or a large annual conference, a primary reason to consider joining a professional association is to expand your network. For students, there may be a significant discount to attend these events. For example, to attend the FPA Annual Conference in Nashville, TN this year, students can receive a waiver for their $2,500 conference fee if they volunteer at the event. Additionally, different chapters offer different events, so joining a local chapter can provide some extra networking opportunities.
- Training materials for certifications. Many career fields have industry certifications that can be important for one’s professional development. ISACA offers several well-known industry certifications for information security professionals including CISM and CISA. To help its members prepare for these certification exams, ISACA offers seminars, webinars, courses, and other training materials and events.
- Scholarship opportunities. Looking for financial assistance to help offset the cost of your tuition? A professional association may be able to help. Many provide scholarships to its student members, and some may even have special types of scholarships for students who meet certain criteria. For example, ACHE has scholarship programs for minority students and graduate students.
- Jobs and internships. To be competitive with other job seekers, gaining experience through internships and other jobs can be vitally important for students and recent graduates. All of the organizations represented offered access to an industry-specific job and internship board. FPA even has a program where students can get pro bono work experience to gain the hours needed to qualify for the CFP certification. ACHE offers a particularly robust array of career services that includes resume services specific for the healthcare industry.
- All of the organizations featured in the webinar also offered its members a chance to connect with a mentor. In addition to one-on-one mentorship connections, FPA has a “Knowledge Circle” where members can share best practices and ask questions all via phone or online. This can be a great way to stay current in your field and learn from those who may be experiencing similar professional challenges at their organizations.
- Discount memberships for students. If you are a current student who has not yet joined a professional association for your field, then joining one before you graduate is a very good idea for one major reason: the cost! Membership fees for professional associations are typically hundreds of dollars. However, most offer current students a sizable discount. Student members of ACHE pay $75/year, a 50% discount from its professional membership fee. FPA student fees are $119, but joining the UMUC student chapter may allow you access to additional funding to further subsidize that fee. And for ISACA, the annual fee for students is only $25!
If you are not sure about what professional associations exist for your career field, check out the US Department of Labor Professional Association Finder. Current students are also encouraged to join the UMUC student chapter of your professional association if one is available to access additional resources. Click here for a list of UMUC Clubs and Student Organizations.
To learn more about what was discussed during this informative conversation, click here to watch the recording of the presentation. If you are looking for a way to strategically grow your network, access resources to help you obtain an industry certification, or find additional job or internship opportunities, then consider joining a professional association. As Panelist Teresa Skehan said during the webinar, “Careers are jungle gyms, but joining professional organizations can help you figure it all out.”
Kristin Schrader is the Assistant Director of InternPLUS at University of Maryland University College. She has a background in human resources and has worked in career services at four universities. Most recently, she was the Lead Trainer in Europe for the U.S. Department of Labor Employment Workshop teaching transitioning service members about the civilian job search. Kristin is a proud military spouse and is passionate about helping others obtain their professional goals.