List of MBA Associations and Organizations
Success in business strongly correlates with success in networking. A recent study published in the Harvard Business Review found that executives who consistently rank among the top 20 percent of their companies, both in well-being as well as performance, have “diverse but select networks made up of high-quality relationships with people who come from several different spheres and from up and down the corporate hierarchy.”
The study’s authors found that these top performers tap into six critical connection types that enhance their careers and lives in various ways. The connections offer expertise, information, resources, political support, feedback, and encouragement. The study also found ties among the most satisfied executives to colleagues who provide broader support. These connections offer executives personal support from a friendship, add a sense of larger purpose or worth by validating their work, and promote their work-life balance by encouraging sports, hobbies, or spiritual well-being.
Likewise, the networking success students experience in business school can impact their careers for years after graduation. According to admissions consultant Sherry Holland in Poets & Quants, “the network you build during business school is one of the top benefits of earning an MBA degree. An ideal network should include a mix of mentors, colleagues, and people who can connect you to an array of professional opportunities.”
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Reasons to Join Business School Clubs
Consider this excerpt from the candid MBA student blog The Brain Dump about a student’s experiences at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business:
Student groups aren’t really optional. If you’re going to search for summer internships and full-time employment, the student groups are often the first line of recruiting. Many events are members only. If I want to interact with my target companies, I need to join the clubs.
Club membership also directly impacts the quality of your resume. You want to make the switch from accounting to doing marketing for the NFL, but there’s nothing on your resume to suggest that you even know what a touchdown is? Then you better be in the Media, Entertainment, and Sports group to show that you have some sort of interest in this area.
Even better than being a member is holding a leadership position. But guess what? You can’t hold a leadership position without first being an active member in your first year. Being an active member requires consistent event attendance and volunteering wherever there’s a need.
The blog makes a convincing argument for participating in a school’s student clubs. First, student clubs host many of the information sessions and networking events at which recruiters speak. Second, career changers—a large segment of the student body at many full-time and some part-time MBA programs—can use affiliations with student clubs to convince potential employers they have sufficient knowledge of their target industry. And third, these clubs offer opportunities for second-year students to demonstrate leadership capabilities.
Reasons to Join Professional Associations
Students should not limit themselves by relying exclusively on their school’s clubs for networking opportunities. Compelling arguments also exist for joining local chapters of global, national, and regional professional organizations while students are still in business school.
For example, potential employers can recognize MBA students who regularly volunteer or attend a professional organization’s events. Moreover, instead of relying exclusively on recruiters and clubs at their business school, ambitious students can directly introduce themselves to the business leaders who appear on the professional association’s member list.
Besides offering additional leadership opportunities, joining professional organizations and listing them on a resume demonstrates special dedication to potential employers. These memberships usually give student members access to prominent conferences and conventions. They may also enable access to career resources unavailable through the business school, such as seminars, publications, and exclusive job postings.
Considering that most professional associations offer MBA students yearly memberships for free or at fire-sale prices compared to the hundreds of dollars most associations require after graduation, there is little financial risk to joining several of these organizations.
MBA Associations and Organizations
Divided into three categories, below are examples of professional associations that offer free or deeply-discounted memberships to MBA students.
General MBA Associations
The association, which also publishes the well-known AMACOM series of management books, offers a student membership that provides real-world information directly from leading business and management experts. The package includes member-only subscription content plus discounts on books and seminars. Student membership costs $95 per year.
Specialized MBA Associations
The AFA is an academic organization devoted to the study and promotion of knowledge about financial economics. The organization has published the Journal of Finance since 1946 and sponsors an annual meeting with speeches and presentations of papers on financial topics. Online student memberships are free.
An IMA student member can learn about the accounting and financial management profession, explore future career options, and build his or her resume and professional network. Student members receive access to many IMA membership benefits at significantly reduced rates. The annual IMA student membership fee costs $39 (regularly $230) and provides discounts on the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) certification and exam fees along with other benefits.
The AICPA is the largest professional association of CPAs in the United States. Membership enables students, while still in school, to grow their professional networks. Joining as a student affiliate member is free and includes discounts and scholarship opportunities.
Founded in 1916, the American Accounting Association is the largest community of academic accountants. The association shapes the future of accounting through teaching, research, and networking. Student memberships cost $50.
PASA works with college students to ensure that they receive an education in the real world of public accounting. The association helps collegiate members find the best job opportunities, employment information, and industry contacts to make career decisions easier. PASA provides students with a variety of member benefits, and memberships are free.
Membership in the AMA connects students to marketers across all specialties to collaborate, network, and gain practical experience. Students benefit from industry sector knowledge and insights combined with additional academic resources. AMA annual dues cost $50 a year, plus the cost of collegiate chapter dues, where applicable.
Based in San Francisco, the Social Media Club’s mission is to expand digital media literacy, promote industry standard technologies, share best practices, and encourage online ethics. SMC enables members to explore personal and professional interests by helping them connect with a community of peers based on both location and interest. Annual student memberships cost $25.
SMEI is the only global professional association for sales and marketing executives. Members access online forums, educational webinars, and peer connections for knowledge sharing. SMEI’s professional certification programs create a worldwide standard for individuals seeking recognition for professional competencies. Starter memberships cost $10 per year.
Full-time university students interested in pursuing careers in supply chain, logistics, or operations management may qualify for the association’s free membership program. APICS offers their 10,000 student members access to scholarships and other programs so that they can develop skills and build professional networks.
The largest global HR professional society, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) represents 285,000 members in over 165 countries. Within the United States, SHRM has over 575 affiliated chapters. For nearly 70 years, the association has been a leading resource provider advancing the practice of HR management and serving the needs of human resource professionals. Student benefits and resources include scholarships, conferences, HR news, research reports, and networking events. Membership costs $40 per year.
The Gardena, California-based PIHRA is the largest affiliate of the Society for Human Resources Management. The association represents more than 4,000 individual members in Southern California with 17 chapters in the counties of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ventura. Like SHRM, PIHRA dedicates efforts to the continuous enhancement of human resources through networking, learning, and advocacy. Student memberships cost $30 annually.
The AAHAM is the premier professional organization in healthcare administrative management, a national membership association that represents a broad constituency of healthcare professionals. Professional development of members comprises one of the primary goals of the association. Publications, conferences, seminars, benchmarking, professional certification and networking offer numerous opportunities for increasing members’ skills and knowledge. Student memberships are free.
Demographic MBA Associations
The Accounting & Financial Women’s Alliance enables women in financial and accounting fields to contribute to their profession as well as achieve their potential. The association welcomes university students attending at least half-time and majoring in accounting or finance. Student memberships cost $45 annually.
A nonprofit membership association, the NABA dedicates its mission to bridging the opportunity gap for black professionals in careers related to accounting and finance. NABA student chapters operate on more than 150 campuses across the U.S., offering the opportunity to network with the professional community, enhance the student community, and build leadership skills. Annual student memberships cost $35.
With 8,000 members and 32 chapters in both Puerto Rico and the United States, Prospanica (formerly the National Society of Hispanic MBAs) was created to nourish Hispanic leadership through professional development and graduate management studies. Prospanica helps prepare Hispanics for leadership roles throughout the U.S. to provide sensitivity and cultural awareness in management positions. Student members receive resources, educational tools and scholarship eligibility for the $30 annual fee.
Reaching Out focuses on educating, inspiring and connecting the student and alumni lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender MBA & graduate communities in an ongoing effort to create the next generation of business leaders. The Reaching Out Connect web portal is free to join.