Factors Leading to Membership in Professional Associations and Levels of Professional Commitment as Determined by Active and Inactive Members of Delta Pi Epsilon

Article excerpt

Abstract

Purpose: This study was undertaken with grant funds provided by the Delta Pi Epsilon (DPE) Research Foundation, Inc., to assess the factors of professional commitment related to membership. Additionally, the respondents' perceptions about DPE affiliating with the National Business Education Association (NBEA) were investigated. Method: Of the 1,696 current and past members of DPE, 21% (357 respondents) completed the online survey. Results: A high affective commitment was held by the majority of respondents and a normative commitment was reported by approximately half. The respondents were evenly split about the costs of leaving one's profession being too high, but the majority believes few other employment options exist. Most respondents indicated that they a) believe data-driven (research) instruction/activities are important, b) value a DPE-NBEA affiliation, and c) would join a local/state DPE chapter if available.

One of the characteristics of a profession is the existence of a professional association (Gardner & Shulman, 2005). However, while the number of individuals in professional jobs is growing, most professional associations saw their memberships peak in the 1970's and 1980's and have been in decline since that time (Bauman, 2008; O'Neil & Willis, 2005). According to O'Neil & Willis (2005), issues and challenges facing professional associations include:

* Declining membership

* Members weighing membership costs versus benefits

* Decreased volunteerism among members

* Increased costs of providing member services

* Appropriate use of services offered via technology

* Competitiveness of membership recruitment

* Engagement in consortium endeavors with other organizations

* Less member involvement, commitment, and loyalty to a professional career

A professional association in this study represents a formal group of practitioners in a given profession (e.g., Delta Pi Epsilon (DPE), the National Business Education Association (NBEA)).

Professional commitment is the attachment individuals form to their profession and their identification with that profession (Blau, 2003). This commitment is important to organizations because it leads to desirable outcomes such as increased organizational commitment (Demir, Sahin, Teke, Ucar, & Kursun, 2009; Wang & Armstrong, 2004), decreased intent to leave their profession (Ladebo, 2005; Parry, 2008), decreased intent to leave their current employer (Parry, 2008), and better ethical choices (Greenfield, Norman, & Wier, 2008; Taylor & Curtis, 2010). Professional commitment is important to professional associations because it potentially leads to increased membership and volunteerism among members. Professional commitment has a positive impact on professional development activities (Blau et al., 2008). Professional development activities include continuing education, attending a workshop, or presenting a paper.

One would assume that a primary way a professional exhibits commitment to the profession would be through membership in a professional association. However, there is little empirical research as to this relationship. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the factors that lead to professional association membership, the factors for sustaining membership in a professional association, and the relationship between professional association membership and professional commitment.

Literature Review

This section addresses studies contributing to the literature related to professional commitment, in general, and specifically within the context of professional association membership. This review begins with an overview of professional commitment focusing on its meaning, the antecedents, and its consequences. The review ends with the discussion of professional commitment and professional association membership.

Professional Commitment

While commitment to an employing organization is the most studied of work commitments, commitment to one's occupation, or profession, has also received considerable attention. …