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A profession is a field of work that has been successfully '' professionalized''. It can be defined as a disciplined group of individuals, '' professionals'', who adhere to ethical standards and who hold themselves out as, and are accepted by the public as possessing special knowledge and skills in a widely recognised body of learning derived from research, education and training at a high level, and who are prepared to apply this knowledge and exercise these skills in the interest of others. Professional occupations are founded upon specialized
education Education is a purposeful activity directed at achieving certain aims, such as transmitting knowledge or fostering skills and character traits. These aims may include the development of understanding, rationality, kindness, and honesty ...

education
al
training
training
, the purpose of which is to supply disinterested objective counsel and service to others, for a direct and definite compensation, wholly apart from expectation of other business gain. Medieval and early modern tradition recognized only three professions: divinity,
medicine Medicine is the science and Praxis (process), practice of caring for a patient, managing the diagnosis, prognosis, Preventive medicine, prevention, therapy, treatment, Palliative care, palliation of their injury or disease, and Health promotion ...

medicine
, and law,Perks, R.W.(1993): ''Accounting and Society''. Chapman & Hall (London); . p.2. which were called the learned professions. A profession is not a trade and not an industry. Some professions change slightly in status and power, but their prestige generally remains stable over time, even if the profession begins to have more required study and formal education. Disciplines formalized more recently, such as architecture, now have equally long periods of study associated with them. Although professions may enjoy relatively high status and public prestige, not all professionals earn high salaries, and even within specific professions there exist significant differences in salary. In law, for example, a corporate defense lawyer working on an hourly basis may earn several times what a prosecutor or public defender earns.


Etymology

The term "profession" is a truncation of the term "liberal profession", which is, in turn, an Anglicization of the French term ''profession libérale''. Originally borrowed by English users in the 19th century, it has been re-borrowed by international users from the late 20th, though the (upper-middle) class overtones of the term do not seem to survive re-translation: "liberal professions" are, according to the
European Union The European Union (EU) is a supranational union, supranational political union, political and economic union of Member state of the European Union, member states that are located primarily in Europe, Europe. The union has a total area of ...

European Union
's Directive on Recognition of Professional Qualifications (2005/36/EC), "those practised on the basis of relevant professional qualifications in a personal, responsible and professionally independent capacity by those providing intellectual and conceptual services in the interest of the client and the public". Under the
European Commission The European Commission (EC) is the Executive (government), executive of the European Union (EU). It operates as a cabinet government, with 27 European Commissioner, members of the Commission (informally known as "Commissioners") headed by a P ...

European Commission
, liberal professions are professions that require specialized training and that are regulated by "national governments or professional bodies".


Formation

A profession arises through the process of professionalization when any trade or occupation transforms itself:
"... hroughthe development of formal qualifications based upon education, apprenticeship, and examinations, the emergence of regulatory bodies with powers to admit and discipline members, and some degree of rights.
Major milestones which may mark an occupation being identified as a profession include: # an occupation becomes a full-time occupation # the establishment of a training school # the establishment of a
university A university () is an educational institution, institution of higher education, higher (or Tertiary education, tertiary) education and research which awards academic degrees in several Discipline (academia), academic disciplines. Universities ty ...

university
school # the establishment of a local association # the establishment of a national association of professional ethics # the establishment of state licensing laws Applying these milestones to the historical sequence of development in the United States shows
surveying Surveying or land surveying is the technique, profession, art, and science of determining the land, terrestrial Two-dimensional space#In geometry, two-dimensional or Three-dimensional space#In Euclidean geometry, three-dimensional positions of ...
achieving professional status first (note that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln all worked as land surveyors before entering politics), followed by medicine, actuarial science, law,
dentistry Dentistry, also known as dental medicine and oral medicine, is the branch of medicine focused on the Human tooth, teeth, gums, and Human mouth, mouth. It consists of the study, diagnosis, prevention, management, and treatment of diseases, dis ...
,
civil engineering Civil engineering is a Regulation and licensure in engineering, professional engineering discipline that deals with the design, construction, and maintenance of the physical and naturally built environment, including public works such as roads ...
,
logistics Logistics is generally the detailed organization and implementation of a complex operation. In a general business sense, logistics manages the flow of goods between the point of origin and the point of consumption to meet the requirements of ...
,
architecture Architecture is the art and technique of designing and building, as distinguished from the skills associated with construction. It is both the process and the product of sketching, conceiving, planning, designing, and construction, constructin ...
and
accounting Accounting, also known as accountancy, is the measurement, processing, and communication of financial and non financial information about economic entity, economic entities such as businesses and corporations. Accounting, which has been calle ...
. With the rise of technology and occupational specialization in the 19th century, other bodies began to claim professional status:
mechanical engineering Mechanical engineering is the study of physical Machine, machines that may involve force and movement. It is an engineering branch that combines engineering physics and engineering mathematics, mathematics principles with materials science, to d ...
,
pharmacy Pharmacy is the science and practice of discovering, producing, preparing, dispensing, reviewing and monitoring medications, aiming to ensure the safe, effective, and affordable use of medication, medicines. It is a miscellaneous science as it ...
,
veterinary medicine Veterinary medicine is the branch of medicine Medicine is the science and Praxis (process), practice of caring for a patient, managing the diagnosis, prognosis, Preventive medicine, prevention, therapy, treatment, Palliative care, palliatio ...
,
psychology Psychology is the science, scientific study of mind and behavior. Psychology includes the study of consciousness, conscious and Unconscious mind, unconscious phenomena, including feelings and thoughts. It is an academic discipline of immens ...
,
nursing Nursing is a profession within the health care sector focused on the care of individuals, families, and communities so they may attain, maintain, or recover optimal health and quality of life (healthcare), quality of life. Nurses may be diffe ...
,
teaching Teaching is the practice implemented by a '' teacher'' aimed at transmitting skills ( knowledge, know-how, and interpersonal skills) to a learner, a student, or any other audience in the context of an educational institution. Teaching is cl ...
, librarianship,
optometry Optometry is a specialized health care profession that involves examining the eyes and related structures for defects or abnormalities. Optometrists are health care professionals who typically provide comprehensive primary eye care. In the Un ...
and
social work Social work is an academic discipline and practice-based professional learning, practice-based profession concerned with meeting the basic needs of individuals, Family, families, social group, groups, communities, and society as a whole to enhan ...
, each of which could claim, using these milestones, to have become professions by 1900.


Regulation

Originally, any regulation of the professions was self-regulation through bodies such as the College of Physicians or the Inns of Court. With the growing role of government, statutory bodies have increasingly taken on this role, their members being appointed either by the profession or (increasingly) by the government. Proposals for the introduction or enhancement of statutory regulation may be welcomed by a profession as protecting clients and enhancing its quality and reputation, or as restricting access to the profession and hence enabling higher fees to be charged. It may be resisted as limiting the members' freedom to innovate or to practice as in their professional judgement they consider best. An example was in 2008, when the British government proposed wide statutory regulation of psychologists. The inspiration for the change was a number of problems in the
psychotherapy Psychotherapy (also psychological therapy, talk therapy, or talking therapy) is the use of Psychology, psychological methods, particularly when based on regular Conversation, personal interaction, to help a person change behavior, increase hap ...
field, but there are various kinds of psychologists including many who have no clinical role, and where the case for regulation was not so clear. Work psychology brought especial disagreement, with the British Psychological Society favoring statutory regulation of "occupational psychologists" and the Association of Business Psychologists resisting the statutory regulation of "business psychologists" – descriptions of professional activity which it may not be easy to distinguish. Besides regulating access to a profession, professional bodies may set examinations of competence and enforce adherence to an ethical code. There may be several such bodies for one profession in a single country, an example being the accountancy bodies of the
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a country in Europe, off the north-western coast of the European mainland, continental mainland. It comprises England, Scotlan ...
( ACCA, CAI, CIMA, CIPFA, ICAEW and ICAS), all of which have been given a
Royal Charter A royal charter is a formal grant issued by a monarch under royal prerogative The royal prerogative is a body of customary authority, privilege and immunity, recognized in common law and, sometimes, in Civil law (legal system), civil law ...
, although their members are not necessarily considered to hold equivalent qualifications, and which operate alongside further bodies ( AAPA, IFA, CPAA). Another example of a regulatory body that governs a profession is the Hong Kong Professional Teachers Union, which governs the conduct, rights, obligations, and duties of salaried teachers working in educational institutions in Hong Kong. The
engineering Engineering is the use of scientific principles to design and build machines, structures, and other items, including bridges, tunnels, roads, vehicles, and buildings. The discipline of engineering encompasses a broad range of more specializ ...
profession is highly regulated in some countries (Canada and USA) with a strict licensing system for Professional Engineer that controls the practice but not in others (UK) where titles and qualifications are regulated Chartered Engineer but the practice is not regulated. Typically, individuals are required by law to be qualified by a local professional body before they are permitted to practice in that profession. However, in some countries, individuals may not be required by law to be qualified by such a professional body in order to practice, as is the case for accountancy in the
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a country in Europe, off the north-western coast of the European mainland, continental mainland. It comprises England, Scotlan ...
(except for auditing and insolvency work which legally require qualification by a professional body). In such cases, qualification by the professional bodies is effectively still considered a prerequisite to practice as most employers and clients stipulate that the individual hold such qualifications before hiring their services. For example, in order to become a fully qualified teaching professional in Hong Kong working in a state or government-funded school, one needs to have successfully completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Education ("PGDE") or a bachelor's degree in
Education Education is a purposeful activity directed at achieving certain aims, such as transmitting knowledge or fostering skills and character traits. These aims may include the development of understanding, rationality, kindness, and honesty ...
("BEd") at an approved tertiary educational institution or university. This requirement is set out by the Educational Department Bureau of Hong Kong, which is the governmental department that governs the Hong Kong education sector.


Autonomy

Professions tend to be autonomous, which means they have a high degree of control of their own affairs: "professionals are autonomous insofar as they can make independent judgments about their work". This usually means "the freedom to exercise their professional judgement." However, it also has other meanings. "Professional autonomy is often described as a claim of professionals that has to serve primarily their own interests...this professional autonomy can only be maintained if members of the profession subject their activities and decisions to a critical evaluation by other members of the profession." The concept of autonomy can therefore be seen to embrace not only judgement, but also self-interest and a continuous process of critical evaluation of ethics and procedures from within the profession itself. One major implication of professional autonomy is the traditional ban on corporate practice of the professions, especially accounting, architecture, medicine, and law. This means that in many jurisdictions, these professionals cannot do business through regular for-profit corporations and raise capital rapidly through initial public offerings or flotations. Instead, if they wish to practice collectively they must form special business entities such as partnerships or professional corporations, which feature (1) reduced protection against liability for professional negligence and (2) severe limitations or outright prohibitions on ownership by non-professionals. The obvious implication of this is that all equity owners of the professional business entity must be professionals themselves. This avoids the possibility of a non-professional owner of the firm telling a professional how to do his or her job and thereby protects professional autonomy. The idea is that the ''only'' non-professional person who should be telling the professional what to do is the ''client''; in other words, professional autonomy preserves the integrity of the two-party professional-client relationship. Above this client-professional relationship the profession requires the professional to use their autonomy to follow the rules of ethics that the profession requires. But because professional business entities are effectively locked out of the stock market, they tend to grow relatively slowly compared to public corporations.


Status, prestige, and power

Professions tend to have a high
social status Social status is the level of social value a person is considered to possess. More specifically, it refers to the relative level of respect, honour, assumed competence, and deference accorded to people, social group, groups, and organizations in a ...
, regarded by society as highly important. This high esteem arises primarily from the higher social function of their work. The typical profession involves technical, specialized, and highly skilled work. This skill and experience is often referred to as "professional expertise." In the modern era, training for a profession involves obtaining degrees and certifications. Often, entry to the profession is barred without licensure. Learning new skills that are required as a profession evolves is called
continuing education Continuing education (similar to further education in the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a country in Europe, off the north-western coas ...
. Standards are set by states and associations. Leading professionals tend to police and protect their area of expertise and monitor the conduct of their fellow professionals through associations, national or otherwise. Professionals often exercise a dominating influence over related trades, setting guidelines and standards. Socially powerful professionals consolidate their power in organizations for specific goals. Working together, they can reduce bureaucratic entanglements and increase a profession's adaptability to the changing conditions of the world.


Sociology

Émile Durkheim argued that professions created a stable society by providing structure separate from the state and the military that was less inclined to create
authoritarianism Authoritarianism is a political system characterized by the rejection of political plurality, the use of strong central power to preserve the political ''status quo'', and reductions in the rule of law, separation of powers, and democratic votin ...
or anomie and could create altruism and encourage social responsibility and altruism. This functionalist perspective was extended by Parsons who considered how the function of a profession could change in responses to changes in society. Esther Lucile Brown, an anthropologist, studied various professions starting the 1930s while working with Ralph Hurlin at the Russell Sage Foundation. She published ''Social Work as a Profession'' in 1935, and following this publications studying the work of engineers, nurses, medical physicians and lawyers. In 1944, the Department of Studies in the Professions was created at the Russell Sage Foundation with Brown as its head. Theories based on conflict theories following Marx and Weber consider how professions can act in the interest of their own group to secure social and financial benefits were espoused by Johnson (''Professions and Powers,'' 1972) and Larson (''The Rise of Professionalism'', 1977). One way that a profession can derive financial benefits is limiting the supply of services. Theories based on discourse, following
Mead Mead () is an Alcoholic drink, alcoholic beverage made by fermenting honey mixed with water, and sometimes with added ingredients such as fruits, spices, grains, or hops. The alcoholic content ranges from about 3.5% Alcohol by volume, ABV to mo ...
and applying ideas of Sartre and Heidegger look at how the individual's understanding of reality influence the role of professions. These viewpoints were espoused by Berger and Luckmann ('' The Social Construction of Reality'', 1966).


System of professions

Andrew Abbott constructed a sociological model of professions in his book ''The System of Professions''. Abbott views professions as having ''jurisdiction'' over the right to carry out tasks with different possession vying for control of jurisdiction over tasks. A profession often possesses an ''expert knowledge system'' which is distinct from the profession itself. This abstract system is often not of direct practical use but is rather optimized for logical consistency and rationality, and to some degree acts to increase the status of the entire profession. One profession may seek control of another profession's jurisdiction by challenging it at this academic level. Abbott argues that in the 1920s the psychiatric profession tried to challenge the legal profession for control over society's response to criminal behavior. Abbott argues the formalization of a profession often serves to make a jurisdiction easier or harder to protect from other jurisdictions: general principles making it harder for other professions to gain jurisdiction over one area, clear boundaries preventing encroachment, fuzzy boundaries making it easier for one profession to take jurisdiction over other tasks. Professions may expand their jurisdiction by other means. Lay education on the part of professions as in part an attempt to expand jurisdiction by imposing a particular understanding on the world (one in which the profession has expertise). He terms this sort of jurisdiction ''public jurisdiction''. ''Legal jurisdiction'' is a monopoly created by the state legislation, as applies to law in many nations.


Characteristics

There is considerable agreement about defining the characteristic features of a profession. They have a "professional association, cognitive base, institutionalized training, licensing, work autonomy, colleague control... (and) code of ethics", to which Larson then also adds, "high standards of professional and intellectual excellence," (Larson, p. 221) that "professions are occupations with special power and prestige", (Larson, p.x) and that they comprise "an exclusive
elite In political theory, political and sociology, sociological theory, the elite (french: élite, from la, eligere, to select or to sort out) are a small group of powerful people who hold a economic inequality, disproportionate amount of wealth, pr ...
group," (Larson, p. 20) in all societies. Members of a profession have also been defined as "workers whose qualities of detachment, autonomy, and group allegiance are more extensive than those found among other groups...their attributes include a high degree of systematic knowledge; strong community orientation and
loyalty Loyalty, in general use, is a Fixation (psychology), devotion and faithfulness to a nation, cause, philosophy, country, group, or person. Philosophers disagree on what can be an object of loyalty, as some argue that loyalty is strictly interpers ...
; self-regulation; and a system of rewards defined and administered by the community of workers." A profession has been further defined as: "a special type of occupation...(possessing) corporate solidarity...prolonged specialized training in a body of abstract knowledge, and a collectivity or service orientation...a vocational sub-culture which comprises implicit codes of behavior, generates an esprit de corps among members of the same profession, and ensures them certain occupational advantages...(also) bureaucratic structures and monopolistic privileges to perform certain types of work...professional literature, legislation, etc." A critical characteristic of a profession is the need to cultivate and exercise professional ''discretion'' - that is, the ability to make case by case ''judgements'' that cannot be determined by an absolute rule or instruction.


See also

* Anticipatory socialization *
Professional A professional is a member of a profession or any person who works in a specified professional activity. The term also describes the standards of education and training that prepare members of the profession with the particular knowledge and sk ...
* First professional degree *
Professional association A professional association (also called a professional body, professional organization, or professional society) usually seeks to advocacy, further a particular profession, the interests of individuals and organisations engaged in that professio ...
(or body) * Professional boundaries * Professional class *
Professional degree A professional degree, formerly known in the US as a first professional degree, is a degree that prepares someone to work in a particular profession, practice, or industry sector often meeting the academic requirements for licensure or accreditatio ...
* Professional development * Professional responsibility *
Professional ethics Professional ethics encompass the personal and corporate standards of behavior expected of professionals. The word professionalism originally applied to vows of a religious order. By no later than the year 1675, the term had seen secular applic ...
* Professionalization * Semiprofession * Norwegian
Centre for the Study of Professions Oslo and Akershus University College ( no, Høgskolen i Oslo og Akershus, abbr. HiOA) was the largest state University college (Scandinavia), university college in Norway from its establishment in 2011 until 2018, when it was transformed into Oslo ...
* List of occupations


References

Cruess, S. R., Johnston, S. & Cruess R. L. (2004). "Profession": a working definition for medical educators. Teaching and learning in Medicine,16(1): 74–76. Freidson, E. (1994). Professionalism reborn: Theory, prophecyand policy. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Gailmard, S. & Patty, J. W. (2007). Slackers and zealots: Civil service, policy discretion, and bureaucratic expertise. American Journal of Political Science, 51(4), 873–889. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-5907.2007.00286.x Gulick, L. (1937). Notes on the theory of organization. In J. Shafritz & A. Hyde (Eds.), Classics of public administration, eighth edition (pp. 105–114). Boston, Massachusetts: Cengage Learning. Howlett, M., McConnell, A., and Pearl, A. (2014). Streams and stages: Reconciling Kingdon and policy process theory. European Journal of Political Research, 54(3) 419–434. doi: 10.1111/1475-6765.12064 Lindblom, C. E. (1959). The science of "muddling through". In J. Shafritz and A. Hyde (Eds.), Classics of public administration, eighth edition, (pp. 172–182). Boston, Massachusetts: Cengage Learning. Niskanen, Jr. (1971). Bureaucracy and Representative Government. New York: Imprint Routledge. doi: 10.4324/9781315081878 Sinek, S. (2019). The Infinite Game. New York: Random House Surowiecki, J. (2005). The wisdom of crowds. New York: Random House. Taylor, F. W. (1912). The principles of scientific management. New York: Harper and Brothers. Taylor, E. B. (1878). Researches into the early history of mankind and the development of civilization. Boston: Estes and Lauriat.


Further reading

* Abbott, A. (1998). The theory of professions. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. *Brint, Steven. 1994. ''In an Age of Experts: The Changing Roles of Professionals in Politics and Public Life''. Princeton University Press. *Penelope J. Corfield, ''Power and the Professions in Britain, 1700–1850,'' Routledge, London, 1995. * Yves Dezalay and David Sugarman, ''Professional Competition and Professional Power,'' Routledge, 1995, . * Eliot Freidson, ''Professional Powers: A Study of the Institutionalization of Formal Knowledge,'' Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986, . * Joseph M. Jacob, ''Doctors and Rules: A Sociology of Professional Values,'' Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick and London, 1999. * {{Authority control