IT pros looking to expand their horizons or learn new skills can benefit from these professional groups.
According to the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), there are more than 92,000 trade and professional organizations currently active in the United States, and that number is growing on average by around 3.4% per year.
These organizations offer a number of benefits to their members. They provide networking and career advancement opportunities. They lobby government officials on issues of concern to their members. They publish scholarly journals and similar resources. They hold conferences, seminars and other educational events. They promote volunteerism and provide scholarships to students. They encourage industry cooperation by establishing standards for professional conduct or technology. And many recognize excellence in their professions through awards or certification programs.
IT professionals looking to take advantage of these benefits have literally dozens of different professional organizations to choose from. This slideshow features 10 of the largest and most well known. Some have a wide-reaching membership and a general mission, while others are focused more narrowly on a particular specialty, like networking or security. The list also includes two organizations dedicated to advancing the careers of women, who continue to be underrepresented in the technology industry.
IT professionals who would like to join a professional organization would do well to investigate their options carefully, including examining the potential benefits and the fees charged by various groups. In addition, they should consider whether a particular organization has a local chapter in their area, as the local organizations often offer the best opportunities for getting to know other people involved in IT.
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Founded "at the dawn of the computer age," the ACM is one of the oldest professional IT organizations. With more than 100,000 members, it also claims to be the largest computer society in the world. It has more than 860 local chapters that offer a variety of networking opportunities for members. The ACM also sponsors numerous conferences, workshops and symposia, and it has special interest groups dedicated to disciplines like high-performance computing (HPC), e-commerce, artificial intelligence, networking, programming and more.
The ACM's vision is to promote "a world where computing helps solve tomorrow’s problems – where we use our knowledge and skills to advance the profession and make a positive impact."
Calling itself the "leading worldwide society of professionals in information technology," the AITP offers its members benefits like webinars, conferences and job listings. It has more than 4,500 members in the US, and dozens of local chapters, many of them located on the East Coast. Several of the local groups have been around since the 1950s and 1960s and offer well-established programs for career development and networking with other professionals. It also partners with several organizations, including Adobe, CompTIA, Dell and Global Data Vault, which offer discounts to AITP members. In addition, it hands out annual awards to individuals who have excelled in the field of information technology.
One of two organizations on this list dedicated to helping women advance their IT careers, the AWC was founded in Washington, DC, in 1978. Its members are women who work as programmers, system analysts, operators, technical writers, Internet specialists, trainers, consultants or in other IT-related jobs.
People interested in joining the AWC can either sign up as independent members or join one of the ten local chapters scattered across the US. These local chapters host monthly meetings and seminars, as well as providing additional networking and career planning opportunities.
The AWC is a constituent society member of the Institute for Certification of Computer Professionals (ICCP), which makes an appearance later in our list.
Short for "Computer Trade Industry Association," CompTIA may perhaps be best known for its certification programs. It began offering vendor-neutral certifications in 1993, and today it offers a host of courses and exams related to networking, Linux, project management, security, mobility and other IT specialties.
CompTIA also offers a variety of online resources and research reports, including some that are only available with a paid premium membership. In addition, it has a very busy schedule of events, and it lobbies government officials on issues of interest to the technology industry. It also has a Trustmark program that allows computer-related businesses to demonstrate that they are delivering high-quality service and following best practices.
While many of the organizations on this list provide a variety of services to their members, the ICCP focuses almost exclusively on certification programs. It offers two entry-level certifications: Associate Computing Professional (ACP) and Information Systems Analyst (ISA). At the professional level, it offers certifications for the Business Data Management Professional (BDMP), Certified Computing Professional (CCP), Certified Business Intelligence Professional (CBIP), Certified Data Professional (CDP), Certified IT Consultant (CITC), Certified IT Compliance Professional (CITCP) and Certified IT Governance Professional (CITGP). It also offers training materials that can help IT professionals prepare for the various exams.
This security-focused organization boasts more than 10,000 members and chapters located around the world. It offers local chapter meetings, web conferences and International and European Conferences that can count as continuing education credits for professionals holding certifications. It also publishes the ISSA Journal. In addition, it has a career section on its website that has an extensive list of job postings.
The ISSA's mission includes three prongs: "Being a respected forum for networking and collaboration, providing education and knowledge sharing at all career lifecycle stages, and being a highly regarded voice of information security that influences public opinion, government legislation, education and technology with objective expertise that supports sound decision-making."
The IEEE calls itself "the world's largest professional association for the advancement of technology," and it currently has more than 430,000 members from more than 160 countries. Its focus is a little bit broader than just IT—it also contributes extensively to research and standards related to engineering and electronics. In fact, it claims that it "publishes a third of the world’s technical literature in electrical engineering, computer science and electronics and is a leading developer of international standards that underpin many of today's telecommunications, information technology and power generation products and services." Those who join the organization receive access to select content, member events, product discounts and more.
One of the younger organizations on our list, the NPA was founded in 1991. It offers the Certified Network Professional (CNP) credential, and it requires that its membership "adheres to a code-of-ethics, continual demonstrated professional development, adherence and knowledge of the latest best practice standards, and strives for continual growth." It publishes the Network Professional Journal (NPJ), as well as online articles and interviews. It hosts an annual awards event, and local chapters hold monthly meetings with education and networking opportunities. It also has a job board where members can post resumes or browse available positions.
Founded in 1989, WITI's mission is "to empower women worldwide to achieve unimagined possibilities and transformations through technology, leadership and economic prosperity." And it says that it reaches more than 2 million women worldwide through its programs and publications. It has local groups, referred to as "Networks," in all fifty states, the District of Columbia, and eleven other countries. In addition, it hosts a wide variety of events, webinars, conferences and teleclasses, in addition to promoting partner events. Its website has extensive sections dedicated to educational resources and career information, including job postings.