Joining an engineering professional institution as a student is a really good idea, but taking advantage of your membership is the most important part. There are a number of ways that joining a professional body can bolster your studies, social life, job hunt and future career – as long as you are prepared to put in the effort and engage with the opportunities it opens up to you. We asked Laura Hoang, a member of the Royal Aeronautical Society, and Steve Feeley, the director of membership recruitment at the Institution of Civil Engineers, to tell us more.
Why join an engineering professional body?
Laura: When I first joined my engineering professional body, I knew about the obvious perks such as attending careers fairs and receiving industry magazines, but it was only really when I looked into what else student membership offered that I recognised the real benefits: being able to speak to experts in the industry and attend lectures and conferences on topics that were relevant to my university work. The networking opportunities on offer are so crucial. Plus, being a member of a professional body shows prospective employers that you are dedicated to your career development and interested in the industry.
Steve: Joining a professional body opens up a vast network of knowledge and expertise that is much wider than your immediate university community. You’ll gain access to those who are one or two steps ahead of you and it helps you feel part of a community of like-minded people. Student membership is often free so why wouldn’t you join?
Ways to get the most out of your student membership
Steve: Being a member of a professional body can boost your job hunt and enhance your employability. For example, you can make contact with potential employers at networking events and get application advice from staff at your professional institution. Many professional bodies also have a graduate and student network that you can join.
There are also a host of events run by professional bodies that can complement and broaden your studies, including online webinars and evening lectures in your local area. Student members will have access to industry magazines, keeping you up to date with the latest news and important industry issues. You could also apply for scholarships and awards to help you stand out from the crowd and many professional bodies host UK-wide events and competitions for students, including:
- Engineering competitions – such as Make and Break, where teams of students compete by designing, constructing and testing a structure.
- Sport events, such as five-a-side football and netball competitions.
- Communications competitions where you can test out your presentation skills in front of a live audience.
- Papers competitions where you can be judged on a technical paper and win a cash prize and recognition by your professional body.
Laura: Membership includes access to a whole variety of resources, including journals, magazines, lectures and ebooks. Talks and networking events are held locally by branches of the professional body and there will also be conferences and careers fairs. There are plenty of opportunities to network and build relationships with people in the field, both face to face and virtually. Your professional body may have a dedicated job site where you can find opportunities and most also run a STEM ambassador programme of some sort, where you are able to get involved with educational outreach activities.
Should you mention membership of a professional body on your CV?
Laura: I think that you should mention it on your CV. You should also elaborate on anything you’ve been involved in that can be linked to the job you’re applying for, such as a conference or event you attended on a relevant topic.
Steve: We would recommend that you highlight your membership on your CV and in your applications. If you’ve been involved with activities that your professional body has offered, say so. For example, you may have been a student representative on one of its committees, won a competition or helped organise an event. This will show employers that you are committed and you have transferable skills that are highly sought after in the workplace.
Which engineering professional institution should you join?
There are 35 professional engineering institutions registered with the Engineering Council. The one you choose to join will likely be influenced by: a) which one is most aligned with your studies and your career ambitions, and b) which one makes you feel most welcome.
Your options include the following:
- Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE)
- Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM)
- Energy Institute (EI)
- Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE)
- Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE)
- Institution of Engineering Designers (IED)
- Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET)
- Institute of Marine Engineering, Science & Technology (IMarEST)
- Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE)
- Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3)
- Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE)
- Royal Aeronautical Society (RAes)
You can find a full list of professional bodies on the Engineering Council’s website.
Laura: Some engineering professional bodies are more general and some are more specialised. While some students just look at which professional body accredits their degree course, I think you should do a bit more research before deciding which one to join. Look at which area(s) you’re interested in, the different professional bodies and what they have to offer.