Should aspiring Criminologists join the prominent learned societies in their field of study?

Whether it’s the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, the Sunday church choir, or a pickup basketball game, many individuals enjoy participating in both formal and informal groups and organizations.

Being part of an entity can offer numerous direct and indirect benefits, including, but not limited to, a sense of affiliation, camaraderie, and personal meaning. Organizations also serve as social hubs where individuals can receive mentorship and reciprocate the same to others. Groups function as social units where like-minded people can experience a sense of community.

These dynamics are not exclusive to casual settings; they also occur when individuals become members of professional and learned societies. In most academic disciplines, whether in the hard sciences (e.g., chemistry, physics, etc.) or the soft sciences (e.g., anthropology, political science, sociology, etc.), learned societies play a pivotal role in providing support.

What benefits do learned societies provide their membership?

Learned societies, regardless of the subject matter specialization, and the country and region they operate in typically:

• communicate with their members (usually through social media, newsletters, a scholarly journal),
• advocate on their behalf,
• distribute information about new scholarship in the field,
• share job and grant opportunities,
• hold meetings (sometimes called conferences),
• but most importantly are places to network.

But not all learned societies are the same, nor represent the interests of all members. They vary based not just on subject matter members specialize in and relative expertise that the members possess, but in size, management, demographic composition of their members, geographic concentration/scope (international, national, regional, etc.), etc..

Which learned societies are relevant for aspiring Criminologists?

The scholarly field of Criminology/Criminal Justice is no different. And thus, it is important for graduate students contemplating becoming academic Criminologists, and untenured assistant professors in the field of Criminology/Criminal Justice to understand the breadth and depth of these learned societies.

How does one go about doing this?

A simple scan of the web will produce lots of organizations that specialize in the field of criminology and criminal justice.

Although there are professional organizations for criminal justice practitioners like the American Correctional Association, and the International Association for Chiefs of Police, in the academic field of Criminology/Criminal Justice almost each western country has their own Criminology/Criminal Justice learned society.

In the United States the two principle learned societies in the field of Criminology/Criminal Justice are American Society of Criminology (ASC) and the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS). Meanwhile there are a handful of regional Criminology/Criminal Justice learned societies (e.g., the Western Society of Criminology, Southern Criminal Justice Association, etc.) worth investigating.

If you live in the United States and intend to continue your career here, although it might be interesting joining the British Society of Criminology, or the Australian and New Zealand Society of Criminology, unless you intend to grow your career in those countries, attend a conference sponsored by these organizations, or are deeply interested in matters of concern to members of those organizations, you might not want to join these learned societies right now.

It’s important, however, to not only read the communications that ASC, ACJS, etc. produce, but to talk to your instructors and professors (or fellow colleagues) and ask them what they know about these learned societies, with the ultimate goal of determining which one/s you should join. In short, some (or none of them) may be more appropriate to you unique interests, needs, wants, and desires and at your particular stage in your career.

Ultimately, one of the best ways to figure out which group is most relevant to you is to join one or more of these organizations.

In many respects, it’s relatively low cost to join the ASC, ACJS, etc., especially if you are a graduate student or an untenured assistant professor. Some academic departments, colleges, and universities even pay this fee. Alternatively, membership fees are typically considered to be a tax deduction in most advanced industrialized countries.

The future of your membership

Joining one of the relevant criminology/criminal justice societies is a relatively low-cost endeavor. However, over time, you might want to experiment by attending one or more conferences held by these organization/s. This way, you can observe members up close and determine how comfortable you are in this type of setting. But more importantly, it’s not just about joining the ASC, ACJS, etc.; over time, it’s crucial to become actively involved in the activities that these societies conduct.

Photo Credit
Title: Auguste Rodin, The Thinker
Photographer: Sharon Mollerus