No matter what your chosen field of study, as a graduate student you want to remain in the mainstream of your desired field. Of course there are numerous ways that this could be accomplished - networking, trade and professional journals, etc. However, one great way to draw on all of those resources is to join a professional association.
Professional organizations are available for almost any career field. You may join while enrolled in school or after graduation. However, fees are greatly reduced for students who are still in college. In addition to providing information about your chosen field, professional organizations enhance your professional development and provide endless networking opportunities. Associations may also provide monetary returns such as tuition assistance through private grants and fellowships.
Thanks to ever-growing digital technologies, information abounds. But sometimes sifting through the tons of information available can be mind-boggling, not to mention time consuming. Professional associations publish journals, newsletters, and websites with invaluable information on up-to-date issues and developments in your specific field of interest. Professional associations frequently also coordinate professional development conferences replete with industry related trade shows and facilitated networking opportunities.
Further, prospective employers seek out individuals whose field knowledge is not solely dependent on college studies; therefore, association memberships are excellent supplements for your resume. Memberships convey to an employer that you are dedicated to your field of study, just as your savoir-faire during an interview will have you shining above other applicants. Your membership could also open doors of opportunity as you are provided with greater exposure to the job market - many organizations provide "members only" job listings in their publications.
Professional organizations are easy to find if you know where to look. Your career center and campus library can normally provide you with resources for on-campus and local chapters. One resource you may want to ask them for is the National Trade & Professional Associations Directory (published by Columbia Books). The latest 2010 edition presents detailed contact and background information on over 7,800 trade associations, professional societies, technical organizations, and labor unions in the United States.
Recalling the adage "knowledge is power," even membership in professional associations tangential to your field may be beneficial. Case in point: One organization with which GradSchools.com has developed a professional relationship is The National Association of Graduate Admissions Professionals (NAGAP). NAGAP is committed to serving the needs and interests of graduate admissions professionals; the symbiotic nature of the relationship is fairly obvious.
A teeny sampling of prominent professional associations will show you the breadth, and possible overlaps, available:
- American Medical Association
- American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)
- American Psychological Association
- American Marketing Association
- The American Institute of Architects
- American Society of Mechanical Engineers
- Society of Women Engineers
- Society of Automotive Engineers
- American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
And there are international professional associations as well
SDA Bocconi MIHMEP Program: The SDA Bocconi MIHMEP is the only programme so far that trains a new cadre of professionals by providing an interdisciplinary and international programme specifically focused on healthcare management and policy. Through an itinerary comprising 9 months of classroom activities and a three-month internship, participants will develop theoretical and practical skills in health care management, health economics, policy analysis and formulation, and epidemiology.
Whether you are looking to become part of a community within your chosen field of study, or you are searching for professional development to enhance your career opportunities locally or abroad, professional organizations are most certainly the way to go!
Photo by Jack Newton