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What is a Professional Membership Check and why conduct one?

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Surgeons must be certified by a professional body before they can legally work

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Professional bodies or institutes are organisations that act as the peak body for a profession. This means they maintain an oversight of the members of the profession. This includes monitoring and fostering the skills, code of conduct, knowledge and professional development of members of that occupation. By upholding standards, professional bodies help maintain the reputation of the profession as well as advocate the public benefit it offers.

Many, if not most, industries have a professional body, ranging from the arts to individual scientific fields, such as environmental science, and everything in between. One of the core purposes of a professional body is to foster and facilitate the career development of members of that profession. 

This is achieved in a number of ways, such as:

  • Access to industry-specific information and resources - membership in an industry body may include access to industry journals, research material, training courses and industry-specific insights. Many of these may be only available to members.
  • Events and networking - professional bodies may host events to educate and help members, as well as give them opportunities to network with their peers.
  • Industry-specific qualifications or certifications - many industries, such as medical professionals or accountants require certification from a governing body to be able to work as a certified professional. The professional body certifies that the professional meets the standards, both professional and ethical of the industry.
  • Continuing professional development - in addition to vocational qualifications, industry bodies keep up to date with changes and advancements in the profession. Most offer services including ongoing training and professional development in the career path.

What is a Professional Membership Check?

When looking to employ new talent in some industries, it is important to know whether or not the candidate has been fully certified by their governing body. This form of professional qualification may not be needed in some fields. 

Professional Membership Checks allow organisations to check whether a job candidate is a member of a governing professional body. This ensures that candidates are legally allowed to perform the needed tasks or fill a professional role.

The National Association of Visual Arts (NAVA) is an Australian professional body representing visual arts professionals with mandated payment standards, awarding grants and maintaining a code of conduct. While membership in this professional body may be beneficial to visual arts professionals, it is not necessary for them to work in the field.

Australian accountants can work without being a member of a professional body. Training and experience are required to become a member of one of the three main accounting industry associations, Chartered Accountants Australia & New Zealand, CPA Australia or the Institute of Public Accountants. These associations maintain ongoing annual professional development for members.

This means that an accountant who is a member possesses more technical skill and is more up to date with accounting best practices than an accountant who is not. To charge a fee to prepare and lodge tax returns in Australia, an accountant must also be a registered tax agent and not just a member of one of the industry associations. 

This is similar to the UK, where accountants can perform many tasks that a Chartered Accountant can. Those who are members of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) or the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) have studied accounting to a high level and have gained professional experience in the industry. In addition, they are required to stick to a strict ethical and professional code of conduct.

In the USA, accountants can prepare financial statements, ensure the accuracy of financial documents and returns and offer guidance to small businesses, yet a CPA can do much more. American CPA qualifications are issued on a state-by-state basis meaning that a CPA from one state may not be able to offer services in another state.

Some occupations explicitly require a professional membership to be eligible for a job as the professional body is responsible for qualifications and licensing. The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) oversees the training of doctors to become surgeons in Australia and New Zealand. Once this training is completed they are admitted to the Fellowship of the College of Surgeons. This only happens once doctors have passed their prevocational training, a surgery traineeship and completed a thorough sign-off process. 

The American College of Surgeons (ACS), the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) in the UK and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada have similarly strict rules for the certification of surgeons.

A cropped picture of a man and woman sitting across a table and shaking hands, with text from above to its left.

How do I perform a Professional Membership Check?

It is possible to perform a Professional Membership Check in-house, but doing so may be time-consuming. It would involve collecting details from the candidate, then contacting the professional body to enquire about membership status and certification.

Third-party platforms, such as Fit2Work by Equifax and CVScreen can perform single or bulk Professional Membership Checks against both local and international professional organisations.

The process for performing a check varies slightly between platforms but essentially involves gathering identifying information from the candidate, such as name, date of birth and contact details. These details are entered into the platform, and once permission is granted by the candidate and any extra information that may be needed is entered. The platform then runs the check with the relevant professional body. 

Do you need permission to perform a Professional Membership Check?

Yes, permission is needed to perform a Professional Membership Check. Either the employer or the membership verification platform needs to collect relevant data from the candidate prior to performing the check.

How long does a Professional Membership Check take? 

The turnaround time for a Professional Membership Check may vary depending on a number of factors. These include whether the professional institution is local or international, or how responsive the organisation is to information requests. As a result, membership checks could take five days or more.

What other pre-employment background checks can be conducted? ‍

Professional Membership checks may be performed in conjunction with a number of other pre-employment background checks, such as:


Professional Membership Checks are important in a number of industries as membership in a governing body may be required in order for a candidate to work in that profession. A number of industries require certification from a professional body before they can legally work on certain tasks. Even if a profession doesn’t specifically require certification, knowing a candidate is a member of their professional body means that they have access to the latest industry information and training, and abide by a professional code of conduct. 

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