The Benefits of Membership

Julie Shenkman
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For most professionals, joining a professional association is an excellent way to make the most out of a career in a given industry. So why are so many accounting, finance and banking professionals turning to organizations like the American Bankers Association and the American Institute of CPAs, not to mention hundreds of other regional groups? The benefits of membership are endless, and they continue to multiply as organizations develop new programs and partnerships to better serve their members.

Networking Opportunities

Many people say that the most valuable benefit of being in a professional association is the opportunity to meet other members. By joining a network of peers, members have direct access to valuable insight as well as leaders in the field, an inner circle of professionals who provide support and motivation in each other's professional endeavors. Younger members often find guidance and mentor-like figures in the group; more experienced members have the opportunity to share their experience and wisdom with the younger professionals. In a time when many accounting and finance professionals are concerned about the future of the profession, associations serve the important purpose of developing tomorrow's industry leaders.

Professional associations and their programs promote a continual exchange of information and insight among members, providing the invaluable opportunity to learn from others in the field. Members often find new jobs, new employees, even new answers to professional challenges, with help from their fellow members.

More Education

The educational value of networking is an important aspect of professional growth in the industry, but associations also provide another benefit that fosters learning among members: continuing professional education (CPE). Most organizations offer a full schedule of CPE classes throughout the year, and often at a discounted rate for members. Because CPE classes are a requirement for many accounting and finance professionals, classes sponsored by the association are a valuable commodity that simplifies the process of completing the necessary credit hours.

Professional associations are also often an excellent source of information on the latest industry technologies. With the Internet changing the business world, an endless list of software programs and the emergence of technology consultants, staying on top of the latest technologies is crucial. Associations are a great source of tech-related information for their members, keeping them up-to-date and giving them access to the latest news, resources and contacts from the technology world.

Current Events

Technology is only one issue covered by associations for their members; there are many more. Associations provide a direct, comprehensive channel of all types of industry information, keeping their members up-to-date on pertinent news, industry trends and professional issues. They often publish magazines and newsletters, as well as sponsor presentations by industry leaders at special events. Most organizations also have a web site, providing information and resources on the industry and the association and making it available 24 hours a day.

In a time when the industry is experiencing dramatic change, professionals need to know about the news that is changing their profession. Membership in an association provides that inside link to the latest updates and happenings, from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley.

Discounts and Deals

In addition to the wealth of information membership provides, it may even provide a bit of real wealth. Members of professional associations are often given substantial discounts from a wide variety of companies who have agreements with the organization to promote products to its members. Companies that commonly offer discount prices to members include insurance companies, travel agencies, airlines, career-related consultants, a variety of publications and even web sites.

Giving Back

So membership in a professional organization gives its members quite a lot of value, but it also provides numerous opportunities for them to give back to the community and the profession. Members often volunteer time and resources with student affiliate groups, charitable causes (many associations have established educational foundations) and other volunteer events sponsored by the association.

On top of all of these advantages, there are the social benefits of membership: special events such as black-tie galas, golf tournaments and awards dinners give members the chance to relax and enjoy time with their peers. Some will say that these social events are their favorite part of membership.

There are others who can't decide which benefit they prefer. With so many, it's hard to pick a favorite. The benefits of joining a professional accounting, finance or banking association are truly invaluable, and those discussed here are only the tip of the iceberg. The personal connections and professional achievements of members are priceless. Not only do members get the tangible benefits of membership, they also become part of a group that brings professionals together with similar interests, similar challenges and the similar desire to have a positive effect on each other and the future of the profession.


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