Joining a professional body has a range of career benefits from training to networking and sharing expertise explains Charlotte Ashley-Roberts

Q: I am a member of the RSC but I don’t feel that I am making the most of my membership in terms of career development. I also want to know if it is worth being a member of more than one professional body?

A: A professional body is a society or institution that promotes a specific sector or industry, and there are lots of them about, from those dealing with broad chemistry like the RSC to more niche areas such as the British Pyrotechnists Association. There are also organisations that span a range of sectors such as the Chartered Management Institution or the Institute of Directors. 

Some professional bodies will set the formal route for qualifications, cover assessments and ensure that members have the experience and competence needed to practice and they will also set the standards for professional ethics. For some professions, membership of a professional body is a requirement. This usually depends on whether you need a licence to practice or need to be on a professional register – as for qualified persons, accountants and many other professions such as patent lawyers. 

The benefits

Joining a professional body is excellent for your career development and can help in a number of ways:

1. It shows you are committed and serious about your profession; that you are willing to develop yourself professionally and this looks good on your CV.

2. It acts as an extended contact list, giving you a network to work with in your field of expertise, as well as helping you meet likeminded professionals in related fields. Remember that networking is just another word for talking, enabling you to discuss ideas, get support, and share knowledge and expertise. You may even be able to call on fellow members for references.

3. Being part of a professional body allows you to formally continue and maintain your professional development. For example, by completing Chartered Chemist or Registered Technician programmes, which allow you to develop no matter what stage you are at.

4. You can show the world you are a member of your chosen professional body using designatory letters; this shows professionalism to employers and peers. At the RSC you start at AMRSC and move up through MRSC to FRSC.

5. If you are a student, a professional body can help you to kickstart your career. Even if a professional body doesn’t have a dedicated careers adviser like the RSC, they can still help you find out more about the different roles within your area or put you in touch with some of their members to find out more.

6. Many professional bodies provide key information and knowledge relevant to their members through publications, journals and training or workshops, and some of these will be freely available.

7. It gives you the opportunity to showcase your experience, talent, knowledge, company or sector through local and national talks, events and conferences. You may be involved in peer to peer reviews or even public speaking, if that’s something you would like to do. 

8. Professional bodies keep you up to date with changes relevant to your sector or profession in academia, industry and government. You can keep in touch with both niche areas and broad sectors through publications such as RSC News or Chemistry World. This not only keeps you abreast of the specialist news but also allows you to identify trends as well as any opportunities and challenges that you may face as an individual in your career. The RSC actively engages with its members and you can stay in touch through our website and MyRSC or at physical events, as well as through social media such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Joining more than one professional body may be a good idea if this is relevant to your career. For example, I am a member of the RSC as well as being a member of the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services.

Finally, professional bodies will often offer benefits to their members such as discounts on products and services. You can find out more about the RSC member benefits online through the RSC’s membership pages.