During a conference, an individual with pamphlets will approach you talking about the incredible opportunities you can get when acquiring a student membership for the “(insert discipline here) Canadian/American/International Society”. He/she will tell you that for a yearly fee, you can get access to incredible awards and contacts for your future professional life. However, you should be careful when selecting on who are you going to invest your precious stipend. In my case, I was somehow suspicious about spending any money on something without any immediate benefit. But after a year, I found interesting things. It is important to note that my personal experience is limited to Engineering societies, but some points could be shared with other disciplines. Here are the benefits that I know first hand:
- As a graduate student, you can obtain several benefits such as reduced conference registration fees or travel awards making it easier to attend these events to present your research subject.
- Some societies have even local student chapters, then it is a good idea to get involved in their activities to attend special speeches, workshops or even obtain awards.
- Regarding the latter, becoming an executive member of the chapter could also grant you some interesting opportunities.
- You could also receive a monthly publication from the society, where they discuss the State of the Art in your field, which is always an asset to keep up with the most recent scientific advances.
However, not everything is sweets and happiness. Here are some cons worth taking into account:
- Many societies are focused mainly on undergraduate students, so expect to find limited scholarships and internships for Master or D. level.
- Sometimes the fees are high with the promise to be enrolled in many societies with a single payment. However, you should think if this really works for you, especially if their research subjects are too far from yours.
- At some point you can get overwhelmed by a number of newsletters you receive, filling your inbox with non-relevant messages. More than just annoying, this could actually become a serious issue when you miss an important message from your supervisor among all the new emails (true story).
In summary, scientific societies memberships can be really useful as long as you know how to make use of them. Ask questions, read the newsletters when possible and get involved! And as always, the critical and objective thinking is the best choice for good choices.