There are clear differences between Professional associations and Regulatory Colleges in terms of both their purpose and governance. Today we will be clarifying the main aspects and difference between these often-confused institutions.
Professional associations are voluntary organizations that ultimately exist to serve the interest of their members. Membership is not mandatory for professionals but is encouraged. The association helps to organise networking events, training and even job opportunities. This helps to promote best practice and to increase standards within their profession.
In many regards, professional associations resemble labor unions. To form, however, they do not require permission from their employers or indeed from the government. They provide many professions with a united front under which they can lobby governments and employers. They are often found in service professions, rather than industry and are not typically linked to a single or group of large employers.
They are non-voluntary associations that are established to protect the public from bad practices within a particular profession.
Regulatory colleges are only found where the safety of the public is of the utmost importance. Health professions make up the majority of colleges as, for obvious reasons, their workers need to adhere to strict standards. Membership is mandatory, and professionals are not allowed to work in their respective profession without membership. They ensure that all members comply with strict codes of practice and are up-to-date with the latest mandatory training.
While the safety of the public is their main goal, they also help to further their respective professions by organising networking events and optional training.
The Core Difference – For the Members vs For the Public
This is ultimately the core difference between the two, colleges require government oversight and exist for the safety of the public. In contrast, professional associations are founded by members to help other members of their profession. While their roles overlap in many regards, the need for government oversight separates them considerably. While a professional association may take pride in ensuring that their members follow strict practices, they are not forced to do so.
Regulatory colleges, on the other hand, are required have government-appointed officials working on the council. This ensures that the government is kept updates as to the goings on in all of the various colleges and can adjust safety policies and legislature accordingly.
Governance & Election Process
Both associations are required to have hold elections for their board of directors (regulatory college – council). Their election procedures are extremely similar, with each member receiving one vote for bylaw changes and board (council) elections. Government-appointed officials serve similar term limits as normal council members but are reviewed by a panel, rather than by the members at large.
Aside from non-elected positions, the election processes are very similar, with a wide variety opting to simplify their traditional voting methods by switching to online voting.
Learn more about online voting in Professional Associations & Regulatory Colleges