The Royal Ulster Academy has, essentially, four categories of membership – Academician (RUA), Senior Academician (SRUA), Associate Academician (ARUA) and Honorary Member (HRUA).
Membership is attained by invitation only and by admission to one of two categories; Associate Academician or Honorary Member.

Associate Academicians are invited to join owing to the excellence of their work as visual artists. There are thirty Associate Academicians. There are stringent criteria for the admission of any new Associate including professional status, exhibition of work at the Academy’s annual show, international standing and critical acclaim.

Honorary Members are invited to join owing to their contribution to artistic and cultural life. They are not usually visual artists and have no voting rights. There is no upper limit to the number of members in this group.

There are thirty Academicians (a number that is decreed in the constitution) elected from the group of Associate Academicians. An Academician becomes a Senior Academician following their seventy fifth birthday. There is no upper limit to the number of members in the Senior Academician category.

All changes within the membership are overseen by the Membership Committee. The Membership Committee maintains a comprehensive and current list of prospective new members to both categories which is compiled from nominations by the existing members.

The admission of new members is by election at a General Meeting only where all members of the Academic Body (RUAs, SRUAs and ARUAs) are entitled to vote. The elevation of Associate Academicians to Academicians is by election at a General Meeting where Academicians only (RUAs and SRUAs) are entitled to vote.