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I understand honour societies have been around for years and it is a tradition more prevalent in the western world to recognise outstanding academic talent.

The largest honour society is perhaps the Golden Key which operates worldwide and has over 2 million members. It provides a range of services to members, including leadership training, networking and the opportunity to do good. Membership is by invitation only and only those who are in the top 15% of their class or high performing graduate students are eligible. The eligibility is based solely on academic performance.

I presume being invited to join a honour society is an 'honour' in itself, as the mere mention of this affiliation on the CV would indicate that you are a top achiever.

Question 1: Does membership of honour society carry any professional weight?

(i.e. does it give any additional advantages?)

Note: Honour society is not the same as professional society. The latter, as I understand it, is open to all persons in a particular field (irrespective of their academic achievement but as long as certain criteria are met, e.g. successful registration as a teacher to join a teacher's union).

Question 2: Are there other honour societies in addition to the Golden Key (which seems to be the most dominant one)?

PS: I am unsure of the tag, so putting CV. Please update!

Disclaimer: I am not associated with Golden Key.

  • I am not associated in any way with Golden Key. I have put a disclaimer. – Javeer Baker May 22 '13 at 23:55
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    Top 15% in your class is very different from "the best of the best". – JeffE May 23 '13 at 0:01
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    Top 15% of your class is also very different from "top achiever". – JeffE May 24 '13 at 12:05
  • "top 15% of their class" - given that class can be ill-defined depending on the university system, note that internationally, this sounds like a somewhat arbitrary criterion. – O. R. Mapper Apr 23 '16 at 11:55
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Does membership of honour society carry any professional weight?

No, not in general. At a very early stage in your career, for example when applying to graduate school, it may be useful as a quick indication that you have received high grades. However, the grades themselves are more meaningful than the honor society membership, and in any case grades only matter so much. It's worth mentioning the honor society on your CV, but it won't make a big difference.

Once you are more than a few years past undergraduate studies, neither grades nor honor societies matter.

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In general, I think honor societies (including Golden Key) carry very little weight. One exception is Phi Beta Kappa, which (unlike Golden Key) does not require paying a fee to be inducted. I would be suspicious of any honor society that requires payment for membership.

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    What is the significance of Phi Beta Kappa? – Dave Clarke May 23 '13 at 0:11
  • Alpha Chi is another. The significance of Phi Beta Kappa and Alpha Chi is as Aaron says, purely academic with no dues. Further, the cutoff point is top 10% rather than 15%. Additionally, chapters for these academic honor societies exist at more elite schools, ones where it's much more difficult to be a top performer. – Jonathan Landrum May 23 '13 at 13:41
  • But what does membership buy you? – Dave Clarke May 24 '13 at 6:36
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    I think they are mostly a North American thing. As an European, I have hardly ever heard of them, and they wouldn't impress me at all on a CV. In fact, whenever I read a three-greek-letter-acronym, I can't help mentally associating it with John Belushi at a toga party. – Federico Poloni May 24 '13 at 7:54
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    @FedericoPoloni sure, and so the Belushi image would make you much more likely to hire, right? Just think of the lift in mood at work socials. – EnergyNumbers May 24 '13 at 8:38
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Listing "prestigious" societies like Phi Beta Kappa or Tau Beta Pi is perfectly acceptable. While it probably won't do a whole lot of good, it also won't do any harm. Do avoid listing any societies where you have to pay dues or pay to be inducted: they are a double-whammy since they give the perception that 1) you are padding your CV with inconsequential honors, and 2) are exhibiting poor judgment by paying to do so.

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    "it also won't do any harm" - in an international setting, I'd be careful with that assumption. – O. R. Mapper Apr 23 '16 at 11:53

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