Professional Associations vs Regulatory Colleges
There remains a great deal of confusion regarding the difference between professional associations and regulatory colleges. The terms are often used interchangeably, with regulatory colleges in particular simply being seen as a type of professional association. Indeed, while there are similarities between the two, they differ in terms of purpose, structure, and governance.
The key difference between professional associations and regulatory colleges lies in their purpose. The main purpose of a regulatory college is to protect the public. This is done by licensing members and ensuring that they adhere to a certain set of professional and ethical standards. Take the example of dentistry: if a patient enters a dentist’s practice, they want to make sure that the person filling their teeth is fully qualified. Therefore, the dentist will have to be registered with their provincial regulatory college.
A professional association, on the other hand, exists to act in the best interest of its members. An association will attempt to promote its profession by lobbying policy makers, offering courses, job boards, and networking opportunities. Membership is also voluntary but encouraged.