Whether you’re looking to make a difference in an industry or simply want to be a part of a mission-driven organization, career opportunities in the association space can satisfy that need. But if you’ve never heard of the industry – and trust us, there are plenty who haven’t – how do you get started and what jobs are out there?
As part of our association newcomer series, we’ve tackled the foundational topics for those new to the space. However, what about professionals looking to do it for the long haul? While you may have aspirations for the C-suite, there are plenty of other stops along the way that can create a powerful and enjoyable association career.
What Jobs Do Associations Offer?
Like any organization, associations have various departments and categories with an association professional at the helm. That means there’ll likely be an opportunity based on your interest area. However, most roles and association career opportunities are based on organizational structure.
While your association’s mission and size can impact titles and responsibilities, most career opportunities fall into a few larger buckets.
- Association Management – Handling the day-to-day operations often falls in the hands of CEOs, executive directors and administrative support staff. They oversee things like marketing and conferences while working hand-in-hand with the board of directors.
- Member Services – A top priority for any organization is its membership. Roles in this department often tackle community building, chapter relations and credentialing as members complete coursework.
- Association Offerings – When discussing association offerings, these are the things your organization produces for members and the public audience. There are association roles that handle all aspects of offerings, including publications, educational programs and credentialing.
- Events – Whether it’s an annual in-person conference or a virtual event to engage with members, most associations have an event planner or team in charge. Not only do they need to handle these events, but also volunteer staff, vendors and speakers to name a few.
Related: Everything You Need to Know About Event Planning for Associations
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Top Association Job Descriptions
Whether you’re a recent graduate/young professional exploring your career path or an established professional looking to see what’s next, there are many career opportunities to explore. Some of the most popular roles and job descriptions include:
- Chief Executive Officer – Responsible for managing the association, overseeing its programs and facilitating relationships with the board of directors and committees, the CEO is one of the most critical roles in an organization. In addition to general management responsibilities, they’re also essential in strategizing and planning for future initiatives.
- Human Resources Manager – People are key to organizations. Finding the right ones, empowering them to grow within the organization and handling compensation and benefits are the top priorities for this role. Human resources managers are also responsible for maintaining and addressing organizational culture concerns.
- Education Director – For associations, professional development and educational training are likely one of the benefits your association offer members. Educational directors oversee and manage the development of educational programs while also designing certification programs and specialized training for roles in their industries.
- Director of Member Services – This role is responsible for driving membership and creating opportunities for existing members. Responsibilities include planning new membership drives, streamlining application processes and creating/managing existing membership programming like events and career growth opportunities.
- Director of Marketing and Communications – To grow your organization, marketing is critical. The marketing director oversees all marketing initiatives, tracks data to evaluate the success of marketing campaigns, and handles all external communications. Their efforts cover not only membership drives but also promotions for events and educational offerings.
- Managing Editor – Whether your organization has print publications or an online blog, the managing editor is responsible for creating the editorial calendar, managing writers and overseeing edits and designs for publication. They also often handle subject matter interviews and likely write articles as well.
While this list is by no means exhaustive, it does offer a glimpse into the variety of careers for an association professional. For those interested in exploring full job descriptions and open opportunities, we recommend:
- Association Forum’s job description career page
- Association Forum’s Career Center
- ASAE’s Association CareerHQ
- Nonprofit Leadership Center job board
Related: 6 Best Professional Development Resources for Association Pros
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Exploring Your Career Path
With over 1.9 million associations in the U.S. alone, chances are an organization that works in an area you’re interested in will have a role that caters to your professional skills – that’s the good news. The challenge, however, is often finding the right opportunity for you. In our next post, we’ll discuss how to move up within your organization, with insights from association professionals who have done it already.
Also, Sidecar is here to help. Not only does membership gain you access to excellent training for association professionals, but with bootcamps, plenty of events and a thriving community, you’ll have an opportunity to grow as a leader no matter where you are in your career path.
Unlock the power of Sidecar for your entire association.
Jose Triana joined the Sidecar team as the Content Manager in 2021. He is a writer and creative focused on helping purpose-driven organizations learn and find value online. When he isn't working on content, you can catch him going for a run or resting with a good book.