Professional Associations
Wednesday, 24 February 2010

The benefits of joining a professional body include access to information, discounts, networking and, of course, prestige. We look at the UK membership organisations relevant to developers and software architects.

In a climate where what you know and who you know really matters becoming a member of a relevant professional body would seem to be a worthwhile initiative to investigate.

The British Computer Society


The BCS describes itself as “the leading professional body for those working in IT”. It was formed in 1957 and encompasses all aspects of professional computing: hardware, software and IT management. Benefits of membership include networking opportunities afforded by 44 UK-based branches and over 40 BCS specialist groups plus events including The Lovelace Lecture, the BCS IT Industry Awards and the Turing Lecture. Other incentives to join are discounts on software, books and training services, access to the legal services, to, a jobsite for IT professionals, a weekly electronic newsletter and the bi-monthly magazine ITNOW.

There are three major membership categories of the BCS, Ordinary, Professional and Chartered. Professional Membership (MBCS) is available to those with typically five or more years’ IT work experience. Relevant qualifications (e.g. a degree in a computing related subject) reduce this requirement to two or three years’ experience and those with a BCS accredited first degree are eligible at the point of graduation. The Ordinary grades of Student and Associate are for those on their way to becoming Professional Members.

It is also possible to be an Affiliate, a category aimed at those with an interest in IT but lacking the qualifications for main membership. There’s a second level at Professional Grade: Fellow (FBCS) is open to senior practitioners and it can be combined with Chartered IT Professional (CITP) status, an award conferred by the BCS to demonstrate the highest level of professionalism. A 2008 survey conducted by salary survey specialists CELRE, indicated that BCS Chartered IT Professionals are the top earners in the UK ICT industry.

British Computer Society


Institution of Analysts & Programmers


Networking is considered an important issue by the IAP. Members can use the IAP coat of arms on letter headings and business documents and it provides all its members with an email address. This may not immediately strike you as a useful benefit but if you are trying to create the right impression when applying for job or looking for work then it is certainly has its uses. The opportunity to meet fellow professionals is another valuable benefit of membership. The IAP’s annual Symposium always attracts distinguished speakers and other events are occasionally organised. Other benefits include discounts on book purchases and the advantageous terms when making pension provision.

IAP membership is open to anybody involved in software development in the broadest sense. It covers those “working in the development, installation and testing of business systems and computer software”. It originated from a small Cambridge-based group that formed in the 1970s, grew into an open institution in the 1980s, adopting its present name in 1981 – at a time when “systems analyst”, “business analyst” and “programmer” were recognised job descriptions. “Although this sounds like a broad spectrum it is in fact much more focussed than any of the alternative membership organisations open to developers”, explains Robin Jones, the IAP’s Education Officer. “We can meet the needs of our members more precisely because we concentrate on the issues of interest to those working with enterprise systems and software.”

The IAP uses a points system for eligibility with working experience, academic qualifications and other relevant certification and training all being taken into account.

There are five grades of membership. Licentiate (LIAP, 150 points) is a category designed for students who can qualify after two years of a relevant degree; while Graduate membership (GradIAP, 250 points) normally involves completion of a relevant honours degree. To become an Associate member (AMIAP) you need 350 points and so requires at least a year’s workplace experience. To become a full Member you need 650 points with two years as an AMIAP or 700 points which could be made up of eight year’s professional experience or four coupled with a recognised degree. At this level you need at least 50 business related points to prove your professional expertise. The most senior grade, Fellow (FIAP), is reserved for “Outstanding professionals who exceed the requirements for Member by a substantial margin, and who have spent a considerable part of their working life in positions of substantial responsibility” and is conferred on the recommendation of the institution’s Council.

Institution of Analysts & Programmers


Institution of Engineering and Technology


The IET was formed in 2006 by the merger of the IEE, Institution of Electrical Engineers and the IIE, Institution of Incorporated Engineers. It has a wide remit covering the whole of the engineering and technology community and is licensed by the Engineering Council to award the EngTech (Engineering Technician), Incorporated Engineer (IEng) and CEng Chartered Engineer professional qualifications. Around a quarter of its members are IT professionals and its communities most relevant to software developers and architects are Application Development and Software Infrastructure and Business Applications.

The IET has five categories of individual membership. Student is for those undergoing a relevant programme of study. Associate is open to anyone whether actively involved in the industry or not including people who are unemployed and retired. Members, who are actively working or are qualified to do so, can put one of two sets of designatory letters after their names – TMIET for professional technicians, MIET for professional engineers.  To become a Fellow (FIET) involves demonstrating “successful leadership or outstanding service to the profession over an extended period, normally not less than five years” while Honorary Fellows, who are elected by the Board of Trustees to “distinguished individuals”.

Institution of Engineering and Technology


International Association of Software Architects


IASA is a worldwide association focussed on the IT architecture profession and has both global and local groups. The UK Region was set up in 2005 and the London chapter meets on a bi-monthly schedule to discuss topics relevant to the UK Architectural profession. Membership is open to anyone with a professional interest in software architecture. Matt Deacon, chair of IASA in the UK, considers the major benefit of joining to be networking, specifically “the ability to have a dialog with fellow architects on both a global and a local basis”. The IASA is an important platform for knowledge sharing and has built up an impressive repository of knowledge accessible through a variety of online resources such as wikis, blog and articles. Members can ask questions and exchange ideas either face to face in meetings or online and training materials are being developed by IASA with a view to establishing a certification program to meet the needs of the emerging profession of IT architect.

International Association of Software Architects

In a climate where what you know and who you know really matters, becoming a member of a relevant professional body would seem to be a worthwhile initiative to follow up.



Last Updated ( Tuesday, 12 May 2015 )