Why Writing Works

Disciplinary Approaches to Composing Texts

Professional Associations

by Dr. Amanda Bemer

Has your instructor asked you to find a professional association in your field? Do you have no idea what a “professional association” is?

Broadly speaking, professional associations are groups of people in a particular field, profession, or discipline who have joined together to advance the profession, regulate the profession, and support one another. Often professional associations create a code of ethics by which its members abide. They might also publish position statements or other types of reports on issues relevant to their profession's interests and values. 

Professional associations can also be called professional organizations or professional societies. Using the term “society” helps us to understand that a professional association isn’t really a business—while they may sell certain products or services, their main function is to support the field of professionals itself, not to create a profit. 

Professional associations are useful for college students. First, they can help you explore a profession and decide if it’s a good fit for you and your goals. Second, they often post job lists (where you might find an internship opportunity!). Third, many associations publish scholarly and/or trade journals you can use in your research. Fourth, they are a great way to stay up to date with the current issues in your field.

How to find a professional association

If you’re looking for a professional association in your field, a good place to start is with professors and people working in the field. Ask them about their memberships. They can likely point you in the right direction. You can also try searching online with your field’s title and “professional association.” Most professional associations have a ".org" web address, though some might also use ".com." 

There are also sites out there that list professional associations across a variety of fields. Try these!