Stack OverflowIs it worthwhile for programmers to join professional organisations?
[+36] [14] Dan Dyer
[2008-09-09 17:54:50]
[ career-development ]

Are you a member of a professional organisation such as the ACM [1], IEEE [2], or BCS [3]/ ACS [4] (or equivalent in your country)?

How does it benefit your career and continuing education? What are the key benefits and do they justify the membership fees?

It took 3 years to close this as off-topic. Probably would have been better to migrate it to (which didn't exist when the question was asked). - Dan Dyer
[+30] [2008-09-09 18:05:49] Scott W [ACCEPTED]

I am a member of both the ACM and IEEE Computer Society [1]. Here are some of the benefits that I enjoy:

1) Access to hundreds (thousands?) of training courses and books online at no additional cost. (e.g. ACM Professional Development [2], IEEE Computer Society e-learning campus [3])

2) Many [4] of the [5] periodicals [6], especially offered by the ACM, are beneficial to practitioners, not just to "academia." They include articles on current/upcoming technologies and techniques and lots of great analysis on the "state of the art." You get an academic analysis/critique of current technologies, techniques and ideas to help you both understand what they do/how they work and whether it applies to your current situation.

3) I also enjoy the IEEE's Spectrum [7] magazine. It's like Popular Science [8], but geared more specifically to computer science, computer engineering and electrical engineering.

I agree that being a member probably won't help you get a job (outside of enabling some networking), but there is definitely educational benefit.


You should add appropriate links to the ACM / IEEE to this answer. - Wedge
Good idea. Added relevant links not already provided in the question. - Scott W
Many people argue that ACM is just a giant scam.…… - RegDwight
To be fair, the "scam" argument leveled against ACM in the above links is not unique or specific to the ACM, it applies equally to all scientific research publishers. - Scott W
[+12] [2008-09-09 17:58:41] DevelopingChris

I'm not a member. I've never met anyone who was. It might pay if you are in research and hard core computer science, as in the science of bettering computing, from a pure career perspective.

However, the importance of networking cannot be under emphasized, so if getting into a club and talking to people requires this, do it. Otherwise go to the free meetups.

Just to reiterate, no one from the ieee has come out of the woodwork and waved his badge and just gotten a job or gotten better, that I have ever met. This is really akin to certifications, they only bolster you, but if you are not getting better without them, you won't get better with them.

I'd implicitly give more technical respect to someone who was an IEEE/ACM member than I would to someone with entry-level certifications, honestly. - Dean J
(1) maybe but its meta data, not substance. If you aren't good and are a member, you are not made better by the membership fees. - DevelopingChris
[+4] [2008-09-09 17:59:44] Thomas Owens

I'm a member of both the IEEE and ACM, and I would recommend it. The magazines (IEEE Computer, especially) are nice. And I've used the ACM Books 24/7 subscription several times to learn about a technology or tool.

[+4] [2008-09-09 18:03:39] Adam Davis

A club is a club is a club. You don't join because you think it'll look good on your resume, you join because they have something to offer you that you want (access to papers, books, standards, discounts, other artificially scarce information) or because you want to meet people with similar backgrounds and participate in the community.

Go to you local chapter meetings and see if they have anything of use for you. If so, then join and get the ancillary benefits. If not, don't join unless the extras really are worth what they're asking.

There are times I wish I had access to the various vaults of information they hold, but not enough to pay the dues. That may change when I have more money and less time, or when I find that the local chapter is quite active and useful.

[+4] [2008-09-09 18:10:51] jj33

I was required to join the ACM to do some adjunct C++ teaching at a technical school 7 years ago. I've kept my membership up for the heck of it, but aside from reading about neat new stuff (years removed from practical application in my career) I've never gotten anything out of it.

I was a member of the IEEE for a while, and at its core it was a much better fit for me (I'm more of a sysadmin who writes some code these days than a professional coder). In fact, at the time I joined, I was working on designs for a new data center for my company and the IEEE had some very valuable resources. The problem for me was that my $100 for a membership didn't seem to get me access to anything except abstracts. Want to learn about cooling strategies and the latest in efficient cabinet layout and design? $100 to join the cooling SIG and another $100 to join the cabinet SIG and while we're at it, how about $100 for the "efficiency" SIG and, we'll let you have the "layout" SIG for only $20. It was an incredibly frustrating experience to be that close to so much useful information and just keep getting gouged and gouged. In the end I couldn't justify the expense and let it lapse.

[+3] [2008-09-09 18:14:53] DGentry

I'm an IEEE member, because I used to actively participate in one of their standards committees (IEEE 802.3, the Ethernet standards group). It is worthwhile joining an organization if you're going to actively do something: standards committees, peer review or editing for one of their publications, etc. You'll learn new skills, make contacts, and have an interesting bullet item on your resume.

Joining just for the sake of being a member is probably not worthwhile. A subscription to the journals might be interesting, but frankly at this point continuing education for engineers is more effectively done online than via journals. Simply listing a society membership on your resume is not particularly compelling.

[+3] [2008-09-12 11:33:41] Darren Greaves

It's worth mentioning that you may be able to get your employer (assuming you have one) to pay the fees for you.
That may in itself be a reason to join as you get all of the benefits but none of the costs.

[+2] [2009-07-09 09:16:50] Calanus

I was a member of the BCS for about 7 years, but this year didn't bother renewing. I guess that in all those years I can't really think of one thing that it was any use for, although I it could be argued that I didn't investigate its benefits effectively enough.

Yes, exactly same with me. I'm a BCS member as well but besides the magazine they send (that's not even good as bogside reading) and sending spam, they don't really do a lot, do they? I won't renew it this year either. - DrJokepu
[+2] [2009-07-29 18:29:49] pbailey19

I'd say that it depends on your level of participation in the club/organization. If you simply join because you think "IEEE" makes your resume, then no, I would say there's no value in it. I've never thought that a society membership, or even a Java (or other) certification, was particularly useful. HOWEVER, if you're an active participant in IEEE or ACM, then the very act of interacting with the community at large will make you a better developer. And as you've noted, keeping abreast of industry news is necessary in our business. If you're not moving forward, then you're falling behind. Like all things in life, you get out of it what you put into it.

[+1] [2011-03-28 06:26:09] David Bolton

I joined the British Computer Society as a student at University in 1978. I went to one meeting which was full of Data Processing Managers discussing Squash or Golf and that put me off. I stayed as a student member but when I graduated in 81, I left as I felt it offered nothing. I used to get the two UK weekly computer mags (Computer Weekly and Computing) free and one or t'other carried bits about the BCS that convinced me that it was still a waste of time.

In those 30 years we've seen Britain going from being a manufacturer of computers (ICL), through several pioneering home computers and they all went belly up. Those are things you'd think the BCS would have taken an interest in, but they did not; they were never on their radar. From what I saw of the BCS for most of the 80s and 90s, it was stuck in the 70s! Totally irrelevant and very much behind the times! Best avoided!

[+1] [2009-03-03 19:47:11] Brian Carlton

I stayed a member of IEEE for the life insurance. I also get disability and dental from them. Good for consultants/contractors and freelancers.

[+1] [2009-04-25 13:04:30] McGovernTheory

I recently dropped my membership in IEEE and ACM but still am a member of OWASP [1] as it adds value in the material it produces and the numerous chapter meetings it holds all over the planet...


[+1] [2008-09-09 18:32:41] Dan Dyer

I should admit to being a member of the ACM. I'm asking the question because I'm genuinely interested in whether people see any value in it.

I'm also keen to know whether I picked the right organisation to join. I basically had a choice between the ACM, IEEE and BCS. I decided against the IEEE because it didn't seem such a good fit. The BCS seemed a bit more focused on networking (the people kind) and struck me as being a little bit masonic. However, if you want to gain Chartered Engineer status in IT in the UK, you have no choice other than to join the BCS.

As for the ACM, if you want access to all their resources there are a lot of additional fees ($100 for digital library access, fees for joining special interest groups). I only tend to read a few of the articles in the magazines that they send me. The online books service is excellent though (and the ACM membership costs less than an O'Reilly Safari subscription).

[0] [2011-03-28 22:59:27] Tim Williscroft

ACM member. I oppose IEEE's position of software patents, wouldn't join.