Sarah: Why you need to join a professional association

Sarah Mitchell

Sarah has worked as a Career Development Practitioner at USQ since May 2014 and has vast experience supporting and coaching others to make lifestyle, health and career choices.

Have you heard the term ‘professional association’ thrown around during your study journey and wondered whether it applies to you or your career? If you have ever wondered what a professional association is; why they are important; or how to join one, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s explore how joining a professional association can help you build a successful career.

So, what exactly is a professional association? And how do you get in?

Nearly every industry will have some form of professional association you can join; in fact, some will even have more than one.

Simply put, a professional association is an organisation, generally not-for-profit, which brings together people from similar professions and interests. These people will come from similar industries and backgrounds, and often have completed or are in the process of completing similar degrees. There are usually specific criteria related to your industry and the Association that will need to be met to become a member. In some cases employers may require you to be a member or eligible to be a member of a specific association for you to be employed.

What are the key benefits?

There are many benefits to you joining a professional association and these benefits may vary depending on where you are at in your career journey. However, there are specific benefits to joining as a student. If you join a professional association as a student, you will be exposed to opportunities to build a network early in your career, develop your professional identity and learn about your industry from experienced professionals.

Professional associations are filled with members who are passionate about the industry they work or study in and are happy to share useful information. Learning about the different roles and responsibilities involved in your industry can help you develop a clearer picture as to the specific area you would like to enter in your professional field.

There are many benefits to you joining a professional association ... depending on where you are at in your career journey.

Perhaps even more exciting is the opportunity professional associations give you to learn about and be considered for work experience opportunities. All of these benefits can boost your employability skills and help launch your career in your chosen industry.

How time consuming are they?

Between juggling study, work, and life, a student’s free time can be scarce. So, it is only natural to wonder how much time being a member of a professional association will take and to question adding another commitment to your load. The reality is that the time you spend on being a member in a professional association will really be dependent on what you want to gain out of your membership.

If you are simply looking to stay connected and informed about industry news, it can be as easy as connecting with the professional association through social media and keeping up-to-date with the posts shared.

However, the more time you invest into the experience, the more value you will get out of your membership. So, for example, if you take the opportunities to attend any of the student or professional events you will have more exposure to networking opportunities and gain more career advantages. It is important to note that these events are sometimes online, as well as in person.

What’s the catch?

There is a catch, there is a cost. The cost of joining a professional association can vary and ranges anywhere from $60 to $400. However, students are often eligible to receive a discounted or free membership if they are enrolled in an accredited course related to the profession.

Where can I find a professional association that suits me?

A great way to start your search is by visiting the USQ program page for your degree. If your course gives you eligibility into an association, it will be listed on that page.

Google search is always an option too. If you simply search the area of work you are interested in, or your study area, along with ‘professional association’, you should find an association related to your career.

Most of the lecturers at USQ will already be a member of an association themselves, so another option is to ask your lecturer for their advice and they can point you in the right direction.

Otherwise, you can always contact the Careers and Employability team. We can assist you to find the right association for you as well as give you more information about the career benefits and how to join.

Contact the Careers and Employability team for more information that will help you launch a successful career now.