Puneet Varma (Editor)

Honor society

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit
Honor society

In the United States, an honor society is a rank organization that recognizes excellence among peers. Numerous societies recognize various fields and circumstances. The Order of the Arrow, for example, is the national honor society of the Boy Scouts of America. Chiefly, the term refers to scholastic honor societies, those that recognize students who excel academically or as leaders among their peers, often within a specific academic discipline.


Many honor societies invite students to become members based on the scholastic rank (the top x% of a class) and/or grade point averages of those students, either overall, or for classes taken within the discipline for which the honor society provides recognition. In cases where academic achievement would not be an appropriate criterion for membership, other standards are usually required for membership (such as completion of a particular ceremony or training program). It is also common for a scholastic honor society to add a criterion relating to the character of the student. Some honor societies are invitation only while others allow unsolicited applications. Finally, membership in an honor society might be considered exclusive, i.e., a member of such an organization cannot join other honor societies representing the same field.

Academic robes and regalia identifying by color the degree, school and other distinction, are controlled under rules of a voluntary Intercollegiate Code. In addition, various colored devices such as stoles, scarfs, cords, tassels, and medallions are used to indicate membership in a student's honor society. Of these, cords and mortarboard tassels are most often used to indicate membership. Most institutions allow honor cords, tassels and/or medallions for honor society members. Stoles are less common, but they are available for a few honor societies. Virtually all, if not all honor societies have chosen such colors, and may sell these items of accessory regalia as a service or fundraiser.

Many fraternities and sororities are referred to by their membership or by non-members as honor societies, and vice versa, though this is not always the case. Honor societies exist at the high school, collegiate/university, and postgraduate levels, although university honor societies are by far the most prevalent. In America, the oldest academic society, Phi Beta Kappa, was founded as a social and literary fraternity in 1776 at the College of William and Mary and later organized as an honor society in 1898, following the establishment of the honor societies Tau Beta Pi for Engineering (1885), Sigma Xi for Scientific Research (1886), and Phi Kappa Phi for all disciplines (1897).

The honor society standards set by the Association of College Honor Societies are recognized by the U.S. government's Office of Personnel Management for entry into government employment at GS-7 Level: "Applicants can be considered eligible based on membership in one of the national scholastic honor societies listed... by the Association of College Honor Societies. Agencies considering eligibility based on any society not included in the following list must ensure that the honor society meets the minimum requirements of the Association of College Honor Societies." As such, the Association of College Honor Societies is the nation's only certifying agency for college and university honor societies.

List of scholastic examples

Notable national and international honor societies based in or at schools include the following:

General scholastic honor societies

  • Alpha Chi, ΑΧ (all academic fields), colors:      Emerald Green and      Sapphire blue
  • Alpha Kappa Mu, ΑΚΜ (all academic fields)
  • Alpha Lambda Delta, ΑΛΔ (freshman scholarship)
  • Alpha Sigma Lambda, ΑΣΛ (Non-traditional students)
  • Alpha Sigma Nu, ΑΣΝ (Scholarship, Loyalty and Service at Jesuit institutions of higher education), colors:      Maroon and      Gold
  • Delta Epsilon Sigma, ΔΕΣ (all academic fields at traditionally Catholic colleges and universities)
  • Golden Key International Honour Society (academics)
  • National Society of Collegiate Scholars, NSCS (scholarship/leadership/service), colors:      Burgundy and      Gold
  • Phi Eta Sigma, ΦΗΣ (freshman scholarship)
  • Phi Kappa Phi, ΦΚΦ (all academic fields)
  • Phi Tau Phi, ΦΤΦ (all academic fields)
  • Tau Sigma, ΤΣ (transfer students)
  • Lambda Sigma, ΛΣ (student leadership, scholarship, and service)
  • Order of Omega (fraternities and sororities)
  • Discipline-specific scholastic honor societies

    Liberal arts and sciences
  • Alpha Kappa Delta, ΑΚΔ (sociology), color:      Teal
  • Alpha Upsilon Alpha, ΑΥΑ (reading and language arts)
  • Beta Beta Beta, ΒΒΒ (biology)
  • Beta Kappa Chi, ΒΚΧ (natural sciences/mathematics)
  • Gamma Theta Upsilon, ΓΘΥ (geography)
  • Eta Sigma Phi, ΗΣΦ (classics)
  • Theta Alpha Kappa, ΘΑΚ (religious studies/philosophy)
  • Theta Chi Beta, ΘΧΒ (religious studies)
  • Iota Sigma Pi, ΙΣΠ (chemistry and related fields, women's)
  • Kappa Mu Epsilon, ΚΜΕ (mathematics)
  • Kappa Omicron Nu, KON (human sciences), colors:      Burgundy and      Cream
  • Lambda Alpha, ΛΑ (anthropology)
  • Lambda Iota Tau, ΛΙΤ (literature)
  • Mu Alpha Theta, ΜΑΘ (mathematics)
  • Mu Sigma Rho, ΜΣΡ (statistics)
  • Pi Gamma Mu, ΠΓΜ (social sciences)
  • Pi Mu Epsilon, ΠΜΕ (mathematics)
  • Pi Sigma Alpha, ΠΣΑ (political science)
  • Sigma Zeta, ΣΖ (natural sciences/mathematics/computer science)
  • Sigma Pi Sigma, ΣΠΣ (physics), colors:      Forest Green and      Ivory
  • Sigma Tau Delta, ΣΤΔ (English)
  • Upsilon Pi Epsilon, ΥΠΕ (computer information systems, computer science)
  • Phi Alpha Theta, ΦΑΘ (history)
  • Phi Beta Kappa, ΦΒΚ (undergraduate arts and sciences), Colors:      Pink and      Sky blue
  • Phi Lambda Upsilon, ΦΛΥ (chemistry)
  • Phi Sigma, ΦΣ (Biological sciences)
  • Phi Sigma Tau, ΦΣΤ (philosophy)
  • Chi Beta Phi, XBΦ (science and mathematics)
  • Psi Chi, ΨΧ (psychology), colors:      Navy blue and      Platinum
  • Engineering
  • Alpha Epsilon, ΑΕ (agricultural/food/biological engineering)
  • Alpha Eta Mu Beta, ΑEΜΒ (biomedical engineering)
  • Alpha Nu Sigma, ANΣ (nuclear engineering)
  • Alpha Pi Mu, ΑΠΜ (industrial engineering)
  • Alpha Sigma Mu, ΑΣΜ (metallurgy/materials engineering)
  • Chi Epsilon, ΧΕ (civil engineering), colors:      Purple and      White
  • Eta Kappa Nu, ΗΚΝ (electrical engineering, computer engineering), colors:      Navy blue and      Scarlet
  • Pi Tau Sigma, ΠΤΣ (mechanical engineering), colors:      Teal and      Maroon
  • Sigma Gamma Tau, ΣΓΤ (aerospace engineering)
  • Tau Alpha Pi, ΤΑΠ (engineering technology)
  • Tau Beta Pi, ΤΒΠ (engineering), colors:      Brown and      White
  • Tau Sigma Delta, ΤΣΔ (architecture), colors:      White and      Gold
  • Phi Alpha Epsilon, ΦΑΕ (architectural engineering)
  • Omega Chi Epsilon, ΩΧΕ (chemical engineering), colors:      Maroon and      White
  • Upsilon Pi Epsilon, ΥΠΕ (computer science/computer engineering)
  • Health sciences
  • Alpha Epsilon Delta, ΑΕΔ (pre-medical), colors:     Red and      Violet
  • Iota Tau Alpha, ΙΤΑ (Athletic Training)
  • Nu Rho Psi, ΝΡΨ (Neuroscience)
  • Rho Chi, ΡΧ (pharmacy), colors:      Purple and      White
  • Sigma Theta Tau, ΣΘΤ (nursing), colors:      Orchid and      White
  • Sigma Phi Alpha, ΣΦΑ (dental hygiene)
  • Upsilon Phi Delta, YΦΔ (health administration)
  • Agriculture
  • Gamma Sigma Delta, ΓΣΔ, (Honor Society of Agriculture) colors:      Sand and      Forest Green
  • Delta Tau Alpha, ΔΤΑ, (Honor Society of Agriculture)
  • Law
  • The Order of Barristers (law)
  • Order of the Coif (law)
  • Phi Delta Phi, ΦΔΦ (law), colors:      Garnet and      Pearl Blue
  • Alpha Phi Sigma, (Criminal Justice, law)
  • Journalism and communications
  • Kappa Tau Alpha, ΚΤΑ (journalism/mass communication), colors:      Light blue and      Gold
  • Lambda Pi Eta, ΛΠΗ (communication)
  • Society for Collegiate Journalists, (SCJ) (journalism)
  • Languages
  • Alpha Mu Gamma, AMΓ (foreign language), color:      Gold
  • Delta Phi Alpha, ΔΦΑ - (German), colors:      Black,      Red and      Gold
  • Pi Delta Phi, ΠΔΦ (French), colors:      Blue,      White and      Red
  • Sigma Delta Pi, ΣΔΠ (Spanish and Portuguese), colors:      Red and      Gold
  • Phi Sigma Iota, ΦΣΙ (foreign language, linguistics, literature), colors:      Purple and      White
  • Fine arts
  • Alpha Psi Omega, ΑΨΩ (theatre)
  • Kappa Pi, ΚΠ (art)
  • Kappa Kappa Psi, ΚΚΨ (music - band)
  • Mu Beta Psi, ΜΒΨ (music)
  • Pi Kappa Lambda, ΠΚΛ (Music)
  • Pi Nu Epsilon, ΠΝΕ (music)
  • Tau Beta Sigma, ΤΒΣ (music - band)
  • Theta Alpha Phi, ΘΑΦ (Theatre)
  • Business
  • Alpha Iota Delta, ΑΙΔ (decision sciences)
  • Alpha Mu Alpha, AMA (marketing), color:      Red
  • Beta Gamma Sigma, ΒΓΣ (AACSB accredited business programs), colors:      Gold and      Yale Blue
  • Delta Mu Delta, ΔΜΔ (ACBSP accredited business programs)
  • Mu Kappa Tau, ΜΚΤ (marketing)
  • Omega Rho, ΩΡ (operations research, management science)
  • Omicron Delta Epsilon, ΟΔΕ (economics), colors:      Blue and      Gold
  • Sigma Beta Delta, ΣΒΔ (business, management and administration)
  • Education
  • Kappa Delta Pi ΚΔΠ (education), colors:      Jade Green and      Violet
  • Pi Lambda Theta ΠΛΘ (education)
  • Pi Omega Pi, ΠΩΠ (business education)
  • Phi Beta Delta ΦΒΔ (international education)
  • Eta Sigma Gamma ΗΣΓ (health education)
  • Leadership
  • Order of The Key Honor Society (leadership)
  • Mortar Board (leadership), colors:      Gold and      Silver
  • National Residence Hall Honorary, NRHH (Residence hall leadership/service)
  • Omicron Delta Kappa, ΟΔΚ (leadership and academic; juniors, seniors, graduate students, alumni, faculty and staff, honorary)
  • Sigma Alpha Lambda, ΣΑΛ (leadership)
  • Phi Kappa Alpha, ΦΚΑ (leadership)
  • Military
  • Arnold Air Society, (United States Air Force cadets)
  • Pershing Rifles (United States armed forces)
  • Scabbard and Blade (ROTC cadets and midshipmen)
  • Other
  • Beta Phi Mu, ΒΦΜ (library science/information science/information technology)
  • Chi Epsilon Pi, ΧΕΠ (meteorology)
  • Chi Sigma Iota, XΣΙ (counseling)
  • Epsilon Pi Tau, ΕΠΤ (technology)
  • Epsilon Tau Pi, ΕΤΠ (Eagle Scouts)
  • Gamma Nu Eta, ΓΝΗ (information technology)
  • Nu Rho Psi, NΡΨ (neuroscience)
  • Order of the Sword & Shield, ΟΣΣ (homeland security, intelligence, emergency management, and all protective studies)
  • Phi Tau Sigma, ΦTΣ (Food Science and Technology)
  • Phi Upsilon Omicron, ΦΥΟ (Family and consumer science), colors:      Violet,      Gold and      Cream
  • Pi Alpha Alpha, ΠΑΑ (public administration)
  • Pi Epsilon, ΠΕ (environmental sciences)
  • Pi Theta Epsilon, ΠΘΕ (occupational therapy)
  • Sigma Gamma Epsilon, ΣΓΕ (geology/Earth sciences)
  • Sigma Iota Rho, ΣΙΡ (international relations)
  • Sigma Lambda Alpha, ΣΛΑ (landscape architecture), colors:      Gold and      Green
  • Sigma Lambda Chi, ΣΛΧ (construction management technology)
  • Sigma Phi Omega, ΣΦΩ, (Gerontology)
  • Theta Alpha Kappa, ΘAK, (Religious Studies/theology)
  • Xi Sigma Pi, ΞΣΠ (forestry), colors:      Green and      Gray
  • Independent societies

    Some universities have their own independent, open honor societies, which are not affiliated with any national or international organization. Such organizations typically recognize students who have succeeded academically irrespective of their field of study. These include:

  • Aquinas Honor Society at University of St. Thomas
  • Bisonhead at the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York
  • Burning Spear Society at Florida State University
  • Cap and Skull at Rutgers University
  • Florida Blue Key at University of Florida
  • Friar Society at the University of Texas at Austin
  • Iron Arrow Honor Society at the University of Miami
  • Lion's Paw (honor society)|Lion's Paw at the Pennsylvania State University
  • Matteo Ricci Society at Fordham University
  • Owl and Key at the University of Utah
  • Phalanx Honor Society and White Key Society at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
  • Quill and Dagger at Cornell University
  • Raven Society at the University of Virginia
  • Society of Innocents at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • Skull and Bones (Penn State) at the Pennsylvania State University
  • Skull and Dagger at University of Southern California
  • Sphinx Head Society at Cornell University
  • Tiger Brotherhood (Clemson University) at the Clemson University
  • Post-graduate

  • The Order of Barristers (law)
  • Order of the Coif (law)
  • Phi Delta Phi, ΦΔΦ (law)
  • Alpha Omega Alpha ΑΩΑ (medicine)
  • Phi Zeta ΦZ (veterinary medicine)
  • Delta Omega ΔΩ (public health)
  • Chi Sigma Iota, ΧΣΙ (counseling)
  • Kappa Psi ΚΨ (pharmacy)
  • Phi Kappa Phi ΦΚΦ (all academic fields)
  • Pi Epsilon ΠΕ (environmental science)
  • Sigma Sigma Phi ΣΣΦ (osteopathic medicine) or (medicine)
  • Sigma Xi, ΣΞ (Research in Science and Engineering), colors:      Blue and      Gold
  • Upsilon Phi Delta, YΦΔ (health administration)
  • Secondary school societies

  • California Scholarship Federation
  • Cum Laude Society (general)
  • German National Honor Society-Delta Epsilon Phi (Deutsche Ehrenverbindung) (German)
  • International Thespian Society (theatre), colors:      Blue and      Gold
  • Key Club
  • Mu Alpha Theta, ΜΑΘ (mathematics)
  • National Art Honor Society (visual arts)
  • National Beta Club
  • National Forensic League (public speaking), colors:      Red and      Silver
  • National Honor Society (high school general)
  • National Honorary Beta Club (high school general)
  • National Honorary Junior Beta Club (middle school general)
  • National Junior Honor Society (middle school general)
  • Quill and Scroll (journalism)
  • Science National Honor Society (science)
  • Société Honoraire de Français (French)
  • Spanish National Honor Society (Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica) (Spanish)
  • Technology Student Association (STEM), colors:      Red      blue      White
  • Tri-M Music Honor Society (music), colors:      Pink
  • Vocational, technical and workforce education

  • National Technical Honor Society
  • Two-year colleges and community colleges

  • Alpha Beta Gamma, ΑΒΓ (business at two-year colleges)
  • Alpha Gamma Sigma, ΑΓΣ (California community colleges)
  • Phi Theta Kappa, ΦΘΚ (All academic fields at community and junior colleges)
  • Psi Beta, ΨΒ (psychology at two-year colleges)
  • Sigma Kappa Delta, ΣΚΔ (English at community and junior colleges)
  • Sigma Zeta, ΣΖ (natural sciences/mathematics/computer science - Associate membership available for community and junior colleges)
  • Boy Scouts

  • Order of the Arrow, National BSA Honor Society
  • Tribe of Mic-O-Say, Heart of America Council and Pony Express Council
  • Firecrafter, Crossroads of America Council
  • References

    Honor society Wikipedia