An academic usually is a member of a professional association. E.g., a professor in meteorology can be a member of American Association of Meteorology. Sometimes, the fee can be something like $300 per year. Is it always the case, that such membership fees are covered by the University (department) or a research institute? Are there exceptions?

The goal is to understand the prevailing norm (e.g., 40% (or 60? or 80?) of universities usually cover single association membership up to $500/year).

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    In my field such fees are paid by the individual. You could possibly get away with using grant money but certainly not departmental or univesity funds. Mar 26, 2013 at 21:42
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    Accounting rules depend very heavily, almost completely, on where the money comes from and who handles it.
    – F'x
    Mar 26, 2013 at 22:04

3 Answers 3


I am at an American private research university.

There is no general university or department pool of money that I can use to pay for professional association or conference registration.

However, I am given both an annual conference travel fund as well as individual research funds. I am free to use those as I see fit within reason for purposes that promote my research and scholarship. That would include association registration as well as annual meeting registration.

Fine print: There are some restrictions. For example, I am affiliated with some programs on campus that provide research funds but I am supposed to use those funds for those research categories. Thus, I could use the research funds given to me by the fictive Elbonian Studies Program for registration with the American Association of Elbonian Studies as well as for their annual meeting; I could use it for my general Anthropology association registration, but I shouldn't use it for a conference/association that has no connection to Elbonian Studies.

  • I thought there were tax implications for personal memberships.
    – StrongBad
    Aug 13, 2015 at 17:06
  • How so? The only tax implication I can think of is the limitation of tax deductibility as a charitable donation for membership in not-for-profit associations. I'm assuming you don't mean that.
    – RoboKaren
    Aug 13, 2015 at 18:48
  • I thought it was considered a taxable benefit or some such nonsense similar to if the university gave you money to join directly.
    – StrongBad
    Aug 13, 2015 at 19:06
  • It's intimately job related so I don't see how it's a personal benefit (as in paying for my dry cleaning or a gym membership).
    – RoboKaren
    Aug 13, 2015 at 20:44
  • Point 11 of policy.tennessee.edu/fiscal_policy/fi0900 addresses the issue. My understanding has always been that while membership in Society of My Field and Licensing Body of My Field are both intimately job related, only the licensing membership is a requirement.
    – StrongBad
    Aug 13, 2015 at 22:14

As you've already seen from the comments, there is no single solution to this problem. The rules vary greatly from country to country, institution to institution, and even department to department. You will have to check with the specific rules for your funding agencies, department, and other "revenue sources" to determine precisely which sources of funding can be used to pay for these.

(For instance, in Germany, a professor's "discretionary budget" could definitely be used to pay for such things; in the US, this may or may not be the case.)

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    wrt Germany: "could" maybe, but OTOH discretionary money is very valuable, so you may not want to spend it on membership fees. People I know (including me) pay membership fees ourselves, and then go for income tax deduction (Germany). The only way to ask the institute for refunding where I see chances to get it would be showing that the institute has higher savings (reduced conferene fees) than the membership fee is. Similar approaches are sometimes possible e.g. with Bahncard (railway discout program). Mar 27, 2013 at 13:25
  • @cbeleites: "The only way to ask the institute for refunding where I see chances to get it would be showing that the institute has higher savings (reduced conferene fees)" - that is indeed how almost all of these memberships are paid for among my acquaintances (Germany, too). The fascinating thing is that for once, this is even a benefit that is readily granted by the (non-scientific, bureaucratic) travel expenses department. Jan 18, 2017 at 16:44

As others have noted, you are generally not allowed to use department funds for membership dues. However, some societies allow discounted membership for the remainder of the year (sometimes, even free) if you register for one of their flagship conferences (usually the spring/summer conference), especially if you're a student or an early career scientist. The registration charges can be easily paid via grants/department funding and you just need to fork up the rest yourself.

I have done this successfully for a few years now (with the department's knowledge). I do not know what ramifications this might have as to the "continuity of membership". In other words, I'm not sure if they count the past six years as a single block from 2007–2013 (i.e. member for 6 yrs) or six blocks of memberships ranging from between 6–10 months each. At this point in my career, I do not care for length of membership (it really doesn't count for squat), but I can imagine that if you're a senior researcher, the length might matter if you're being reviewed for possible election to the Fellowship of the society.

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