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Complete Guide to Professional Associations

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Most established fields of work have one or more professional associations that you can join. While membership in a professional association is not required to be successful in your career, it can provide useful networking tools and other resources. This article explores the functions and benefits of professional associations across various industries.

What is a professional association?

A professional association is an organization of people who work within the same field and collaborate to make advancements in their field. Most professional associations are nonprofit organizations with a mission to create and maintain high standards for their industry. Professional associations oversee the knowledge and resources necessary to be successful and balance the interests of workers with the interests of the general public. 

Key functions of professional associations

The key functions of professional associations include creating a community, setting standards for excellence and promoting professional development. Professional associations create a formal space where people can network with others in their industry, find jobs or employees, learn new skills and gain certifications. Many professional associations will provide additional services and partnerships that support people with jobs in a particular field.

Why you may want to join a professional association

Joining a professional association can provide you with useful resources to set and accomplish goals in your career. Members of professional associations include both experienced professionals and people at the beginning of their career, so you can become a mentor or find a mentor. People who join a professional association related to their career may also be able to access additional benefits such as exclusive seminars or free training.

Popular professional associations by industry

Here is a list of popular professional associations by industry:

Agriculture

Professional associations for agriculture include specialized groups that focus on one aspect of food production as well as associations for any type of agricultural work. 

Examples of agricultural associations:

  • Agriculture Council of America
  • Agribusiness Council
  • American Farm Bureau

Animal care

People who work with animals from livestock to pets have several options for professional associations to join. These organizations help promote the well-being of animals within their area of expertise. 

Examples of animal care associations:

  • National Animal Care and Control Association
  • National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America
  • American Professional Pet Distributors

Arts

There are many national and international associations for people working in the arts. Whether you are a graphic designer, a photographer or an actor, you will likely be able to find a professional association suited to your artistic career. 

Examples of associations for art professionals:

  • Graphic Artists Guild
  • American Federation of Musicians
  • Professional Photographers of America

Business and finance

You can grow your business or finance career by joining a variety of professional associations and learning about the industry. Whether you are a small business owner or pursuing a career in corporate finance, connecting with other professionals in your field can increase your business knowledge. 

Examples of business and financial associations:

  • National Association of Stockbrokers
  • Association of Finance Professionals
  • American Payroll Association

Communications

Media and communications professionals can find a valuable network by joining a professional association. 

Examples of communications associations:

  • National Communication Association
  • Association of American Publishers
  • Editorial Freelancers Association

Construction

There are many associations that focus on different types of construction careers. These associations support construction workers at every level of expertise. 

Examples of construction associations that focus on a single profession:

  • American Welding Society
  • Association of Construction Inspectors
  • National Association of Home Builders

Education

Educators are often members of multiple associations ranging in order to benefit from both local and national organizations. Some associations include broad education resources while others focus on a subject area or teaching style. 

Examples of education associations:

  • Association of American Educators
  • National Art Education Association
  • National Education Association

Engineering

Because engineers can work with a wide variety of industries, most engineering associations are specialized around one type of engineering. 

Examples of engineering associations:

  • Association of Energy Engineers
  • American Society of Civil Engineers
  • National Society of Professional Engineers

Healthcare

Just as many doctors specialize in one type of medicine, healthcare professionals can choose from a range of associations depending on their skills and interests. All healthcare workers from administrators to nurses can benefit from joining a professional association in their area of expertise. 

Examples of healthcare associations:

  • American Academy of Pediatrics
  • American Medical Association
  • American Psychological Association

Hospitality

For those working in the hospitality industry, professional associations can provide valuable business connections as well as tools for career development. These associations help maintain high standards in the hospitality industry.

Examples of associations in the hospitality industry:

  • American Hotel and Lodging Association
  • Club Managers Association
  • National Restaurant Association

Social services

Associations for social services focus on upholding a high standard of care for groups such as families and children. Social workers and other professionals can learn about sociological trends and new research through joining a professional association. 

Examples of associations in the field of social services:

  • American Sociological Association
  • National Association of Social Workers
  • Center for the Child Care Workforce

Technology

Technology professionals can encourage innovation and promote their own career growth by joining a professional association in their field. 

Examples of technology associations:

  • Association for Computing Machinery
  • Association of Software Professionals
  • International Webmasters Association

Transportation

The transportation industry includes a wide range of careers from postal work to piloting an aircraft. In order to keep informed about trends in the transportation industry, many people with jobs in transportation join a professional association. 

Examples of transportation associations:

  • American Public Transportation Association
  • Fleet Management Association
  • Institute of Transportation Engineers

Benefits of professional associations

Here are some of the benefits of being a member of a professional association:

  • Networking with other like-minded professionals
  • Setting high standards for a profession
  • Improving the quality of work conditions in a field
  • Encouraging research
  • Providing career opportunities
  • Creating certifications
  • Hosting conferences
  • Advancing the welfare of the general public

Take advantage of all the benefits offered by your professional associations in order to get the most out of your experience. Participating in industry activities and upholding high standards in your career will give you opportunities to increase your influence within your profession.