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Professional bodies and professional qualification

Professional institutions are much more than a source of 'letters after your name'. They can help you in your career both before and after you graduate.

Professional institutions are the societies and associations that promote and further a career and the people who practice in it. In the UK there are over 80 'chartered' professional institutions covering areas of work including finance, engineering, construction, health, law, journalism, personnel and management.

You may already be aware of professional bodies and institutions because they accredit your degree course. This is one of a range of important activities they undertake to protect their profession's reputation, its practitioners and the general public.

Professional bodies: their role in your future career

In some professions, for example accountancy, surveying and in many areas of engineering, a professional qualification can be essential to practice. The relevant professional body will set the formal route for qualification, covering examinations and assessment, competence and experience required, and standards for professional ethics.

If you join a graduate training programme that is accredited by a professional body, that institution will have assessed the employer to ensure that you receive the training, range of experience and support needed to give you every chance to qualify.

Once you have letters after your name you will need to maintain your standards to keep them. Your professional institution will then provide guidance to make sure you sustain your competence and continue to develop professionally through accredited courses, e-learning and other methods for gaining experience, knowledge and skills.

Benefits of belonging if you're a student

You don't have to wait until you are employed to benefit from the resources and knowledge base of a professional body. Many offer student memberships. For free, or a very low annual membership fee, student membership to a professional body can be great value in kick-starting your career.

Making connections and building a network of peers and experts is one of the biggests benefits of being in a professional association.

The benefits:

  • Kudos: being a student member of a professional body not only looks good on your CV, but also shows a level of early commitment to a career area, particularly if you get involved in the association's activities.
  • Advice: you can find out more about what working in the profession involves and find out more about the process for qualifying.
  • Information and resources: you're likely to get regular news updates, and many professional institutions disseminate key information and knowledge through publications and journals, online services and events.
  • Peer and professional networks: you'll have the opportunity to meet and network with like-minded students and experienced professionals through special interest groups, regional branch activities and student-focused services.
  • Lobbying: professional bodies work to represent all their members' interests in their relationship with the media and the government.