Professional Association - Adult Worker Attitudes
Professional organizations are groups that can be voluntarily joined by adult workers, usually centered around a particular field. These organizations may provide benefits to members, such as training, professional networking, information about the industry, or other benefits. For many, payment is required to become a member, and this may be a disincentive to join.
Prevalence and Cost
The following study was conducted in 2015 but is extremely relevant to this topic and there is little reason to expect statistics have changed in the intervening years. For this study, it was assumed that professional memberships in this case are fee-based. The study found the professional organizations are still relevant and desired by people in industries possessing these associations.
This study found that, in general, professional organizations are considered to be useful. However, there is a financial downside that turns many away. 74% of respondents in the survey under 40 years of age believed that professional associations and communities were useful and 92% believed that such organizations provided strong opportunities for networking. However, 45% left an organization because membership was too expensive. Generally, professionals intended to stay for a significant amount of time; 78% planned to remain in the group for at least two years. The social capital gained from such organizations is also considered very important; 93% of respondents reported that such social capital was important to their working lives.
The cost of membership for professional organizations can vary depending on the organization itself. For example, the Society of American Archivists charges a variety of fees depending on the member’s earnings per year. These range from $80 per annum to $275. This staggered fee system seems to be common, with the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics (APPE) also charging differing amounts based on income. Their fees range from $50 to $250. For the National Association of Professional Child Photographers, the fee is $175 per year with a $25 application surcharge. These costs may or may not be prohibitive based on the worker’s individual circumstances, but as they are optional many may choose to forego them, seeing them as an unnecessary expense. This seems likely considering almost one in two professionals choose not to join.
Reasons for Membership
There are several reasons for professionals to remain in organizations and associations related to their industry. These organizations can give several benefits such as networking with other professionals, social capital, and training.
The Society of American Archivists (SAA) published a survey enumerating the reasons that their members belong to the organization. These reasons can be expected to be similar across industries. The first and foremost reason that members remained in the organization was to stay current on information about profession, due to the organization publishing materials, running meetings and conferences, and offering education. The survey also highlighted the members’ use of the organization to network and build professional relationships as these are considered important. The third reason the survey highlighted was the ability to receive the SAA’s publications, journals, and newsletters.
The reasons for remaining in the organization are echoed in the APPE’s annual survey. In 2017, 76% of members believe that the most important reason for remaining the organization was to learn from others in the same subject area or a different one, making this the most commonly cited reason. The second, which 70% believed was the most important reason, was networking and building relationships with other professionals. These were by far the most important concerns and are also cited as the best benefits of membership.
While these benefits and reasons for joining professional organizations are the same between different industries, there are some industries that may create professional organizations for other concerns. A prime example is the National Association of Professional Child Photographers; one of the most valued benefits of joining this professional organization is increasing credibility and assuring customers, with 42% naming this as the reason for joining the organization.
Overall, professional organizations are considered by professionals to provide many benefits. Chiefest among these are the ability to network, the ability to learn from other professionals, being able to remain updated on their industry, and access to specialized publications. Most of the surveys gathered were organization-specific but the reasons for membership were echoed among them all. However, many may consider them too expensive and decline membership. This may affect them negatively professionally considering the high importance generally given to networking and social capital, both of which are facilitated via professional organizations.