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Membership in the IEEE and ACM is sometimes portrayed as a sign of professionalism. But all that is involved, as far as I can tell, is sending them your money. In return, besides the potential resume line, these organizations sponsor conferences and journals.

I can always attend a conference or subscribe to or submit a paper to a journal, whether I am a member or not. If being a member makes some of that cheaper, or is a prerequisite for admission then OK, but I still don't see the purpose of these organizations.


The answer, as far as I can gather, is that their most important value is to provide some reading material. I'd suggest that this is not worth the money given the wide availability of other valuable reading materials.

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I paid to download a paper from the ACM library a few months ago, and they haven't stopped pestering me about membership since. +1, I've been meaning to ask this very question, since membership is a bit pricey. –  Tim Post Jan 30 '11 at 8:07

6 Answers 6

up vote 11 down vote accepted

IEEE
1. IEEE email alias
2. Magazine Subscriptions
3. Access to huge digital library (including books, articles, etc)
4. As a student member you get many MS products for personal use (for free).
5. As a researcher you definitely should be a member.

ACM
Haven't used it that much. From what I know it also provides an access to their digital library

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+1. The huge digital library is a great plus. This should make you more than just a member of an organization. Your conduct should reflect this fact. –  Programming Enthusiast Jan 26 '11 at 11:22
    
ACM has pretty much the same benefits. I'm a student member mainly because I like to read the magazines and keep up to date. –  rmx Jan 26 '11 at 11:27
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You do need to pay separately for access to the Digital Portal. –  Frank Shearar Jan 26 '11 at 11:51
    
Thanks for your answer. You can get huge amounts of reading material elsewhere, for free. Unless the ACM/IEE materials are generally better, or better organized, or if a specific item is essential for a research project, is paying really worthwhile? In any case, I'm also wondering about the benefit of signalling that you are a professional. This is sometimes claimed to be a benefit of membership in professional societies, but I don't know if that is true here. –  Joshua Fox Jan 27 '11 at 11:24

Einstein wasn't a chair at any fancy Physics Dept. when he submitted his paper on relativity. That still holds true. Thankfully.

Now coming to your question, ACM/IEEE do have a fair bit of things going for them:

  1. A vast digital library that's well indexed and easily searchable
  2. Access to continuous learning resources like Safari Books at no extra (or pretty low) rates
  3. Access to Brainbench Exams
  4. Mail aliases

Other than that the 2 magazines Communications of the ACM and ACM Queue do have a fair bit of information that helps me keep abreast of whats going on in the world of computing.

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Thanks for your answer. So you're saying that it is a discounted way to get access to reading material and Brainbench. In any case, I'm also wondering about the benefit of signalling that you are a professional. This is sometimes claimed to be a benefit of membership in professional societies, but I don't know if that is true here. –  Joshua Fox Jan 27 '11 at 11:27
    
@Joshua -- That you are striving for continuous development implies that you are motivated to excel in your field. That kind of implies that you should be good in related profession. –  Fanatic23 Jan 27 '11 at 14:32
    
Sure, you want to signal that you are striving to learn. But there are many ways to learn. Is dropping some money on an organization the best way to do that? –  Joshua Fox Jan 30 '11 at 7:51
    
@Joshua -- In this case, access cost to sum of parts > access cost to the whole package. I rest my case. –  Fanatic23 Jan 30 '11 at 12:35

I've found little benefit in all these organisations over the years.

However I recently joined ACM. I'm finding well written, interesting papers coming out in the monthly "Communications of the ACM". These are not like so many papers - where the aim seems to be to present as much maths as possible in order to baffle. They have a wide range of topics which suits my general interest in pretty much everything.

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Thanks for sharing, I've been contemplating membership. –  Tim Post Jan 30 '11 at 8:09

Something else worth noting is that professional organizations such as the IEEE Computer Society and ACM tend to have local chapters that allow members to meet, collaborate, and engage in networking opportunities. As is sometimes pointed out, your next job might not be based upon what you know, but who you know and being a member of a professional society may give you a chance to build a positive reputation that may get you an job offer at some point in the future.

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Have you actually seen people meeting, collaborating, and engage in networking opportunities? That would be really wonderful if it happens, but in my professional experience, I have very rarely seen it happen. –  Joshua Fox Jan 27 '11 at 11:27
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We've had a couple IEEE meetings here in Toledo. I'm actually not a member, but went as a guest. It could be of value to those that would have the time to participate on a regular basis. Unfortunately for me, I don't have enough time to get really involved, so it's not worthwhile to spend the money for the membership. –  Brian Knoblauch Jan 27 '11 at 13:47
    
@Brian Knoblauch. " I don't have enough time to get really involved." I think that your prioritization decision is the one which almost all committed serious professionals make. Based on this, we conclude that IEEE and similar meetings are NOT useful. Agreed? –  Joshua Fox Jan 30 '11 at 7:52
    
@Joshua Fox - Blanket statements really aren't going to work very well in this case as it depends upon if you can make it to the meeting and that the local community has useful meetings as well. Some people might find them useful, others may not, but it's subjective at this point. The fact that they do have chapter meetings is one of the benefits of membership though. –  rjzii Jan 30 '11 at 17:07
    
@Joshua Fox - It just doesn't work well for me. My primary job is about 20 miles (35 minute commute) from the common meeting places (which are actually right by where I live), and I don't have enough vacation time to use a half-day for meeting very often. Evening meetings are sometimes done, but I work other jobs at night. With the amount of time I spend working, I really don't have any free time to speak of. It's not like I'm choosing to hang out at a bar instead. :-) I don't think it would pay to quit my job so I can make meetings... –  Brian Knoblauch Jan 31 '11 at 14:39

I signed for ACM to get access to their training resources.

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What's special about those training resources ? –  Matthieu Dec 17 '11 at 5:09
    
Special? Not much I suppose, except there's a lot of them and of decent quality. –  Mchl Dec 31 '11 at 13:55

I haven't tried the IEEE, but for ACM, it's useful for the huge library and for Siggraph.

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