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A profession is a vocation
Vocation
A vocation , is a term for an occupation to which a person is specially drawn or for which they are suited, trained or qualified. Though now often used in non-religious contexts, the meanings of the term originated in Christianity.-Senses:...

 founded upon specialized educational training
Training
The term training refers to the acquisition of knowledge, skills, and competencies as a result of the teaching of vocational or practical skills and knowledge that relate to specific useful competencies. It forms the core of apprenticeships and provides the backbone of content at institutes of...

, the purpose of which is to supply disinterested counsel and service to others, for a direct and definite compensation, wholly apart from expectation of other business gain.

History


Classically, there were only three : divinity
Divinity (academic discipline)
Divinity is the study of Christian and other theology and ministry at a school, divinity school, university, or seminary. The term is sometimes a synonym for theology as an academic, speculative pursuit, and sometimes is used for the study of applied theology and ministry to make a distinction...

, medicine
Medicine
Medicine is the science and art of healing. It encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness....

, and law
Law
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...

—the so-called "learned professions." The main milestones which mark an occupation being identified as a profession are:
  1. It became a full-time occupation;
  2. The first training school was established;
  3. The first university
    University
    A university is an institution of higher education and research, which grants academic degrees in a variety of subjects. A university is an organisation that provides both undergraduate education and postgraduate education...

     school was established;
  4. The first local association
    Voluntary association
    A voluntary association or union is a group of individuals who enter into an agreement as volunteers to form a body to accomplish a purpose.Strictly speaking, in many jurisdictions no formalities are necessary to start an association...

     was established;
  5. The first national association was established;
  6. The codes of professional ethics
    Professional ethics
    Professional ethics encompass the personal and corporate standards of behaviour expected of professionals.- Professional ethics :Professional people and those working in acknowledged professions exercise specialist knowledge and skill...

     were introduced;
  7. State licensing laws were established.


With the rise of technology and occupational specialization in the 19th century, other bodies began to claim professional status: pharmacy
Pharmacy
Pharmacy is the health profession that links the health sciences with the chemical sciences and it is charged with ensuring the safe and effective use of pharmaceutical drugs...

, veterinary medicine
Veterinary medicine
Veterinary Medicine is the branch of science that deals with the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease, disorder and injury in non-human animals...

, nursing
Nursing
Nursing is a healthcare profession focused on the care of individuals, families, and communities so they may attain, maintain, or recover optimal health and quality of life from conception to death....

, teaching, librarianship, optometry
Optometry
Optometry is a health care profession concerned with eyes and related structures, as well as vision, visual systems, and vision information processing in humans. Optometrists, or Doctors of Optometry, are state licensed medical professionals trained to prescribe and fit lenses to improve vision,...

 and social work
Social work
Social Work is a professional and academic discipline that seeks to improve the quality of life and wellbeing of an individual, group, or community by intervening through research, policy, community organizing, direct practice, and teaching on behalf of those afflicted with poverty or any real or...

, all of which could claim, using these milestones, to be professions by 1900.

Just as some professions rise in status and power through various stages, so others may decline. This is characterized by the red cloaks of bishops giving way to the black cloaks of lawyers and then to the white cloaks of doctors. More recently formalized disciplines, such as architecture
Architecture
Architecture is both the process and product of planning, designing and construction. Architectural works, in the material form of buildings, are often perceived as cultural and political symbols and as works of art...

, now have equally long periods of study associated with them.

Although professions enjoy high status and public prestige, not all professionals earn high salaries, and even within specific professions there exist significant inequalities of compensation; for example, a trial lawyer specializing in tort
Tort
A tort, in common law jurisdictions, is a wrong that involves a breach of a civil duty owed to someone else. It is differentiated from a crime, which involves a breach of a duty owed to society in general...

 litigation on a contingent-fee
Contingent fee
A contingent fee or conditional fee is any fee for services provided where the fee is only payable if there is a favourable result...

 basis may earn several times what a prosecutor
District attorney
In many jurisdictions in the United States, a District Attorney is an elected or appointed government official who represents the government in the prosecution of criminal offenses. The district attorney is the highest officeholder in the jurisdiction's legal department and supervises a staff of...

 or public defender
Public defender
The term public defender is primarily used to refer to a criminal defense lawyer appointed to represent people charged with a crime but who cannot afford to hire an attorney in the United States and Brazil. The term is also applied to some ombudsman offices, for example in Jamaica, and is one way...

 earns.

Provincial colour


The ranking of established professions in the United States based on the above milestones shows surveying
Surveying
See Also: Public Land Survey SystemSurveying or land surveying is the technique, profession, and science of accurately determining the terrestrial or three-dimensional position of points and the distances and angles between them...

 first (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln were all land surveyors before entering politics), followed by medicine
Medicine
Medicine is the science and art of healing. It encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness....

, actuarial science
Actuarial science
Actuarial science is the discipline that applies mathematical and statistical methods to assess risk in the insurance and finance industries. Actuaries are professionals who are qualified in this field through education and experience...

, law
Law
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...

, dentistry
Dentistry
Dentistry is the branch of medicine that is involved in the study, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of diseases, disorders and conditions of the oral cavity, maxillofacial area and the adjacent and associated structures and their impact on the human body. Dentistry is widely considered...

, civil engineering
Civil engineering
Civil engineering is a professional engineering discipline that deals with the design, construction, and maintenance of the physical and naturally built environment, including works like roads, bridges, canals, dams, and buildings...

, logistics
Logistics
Logistics is the management of the flow of goods between the point of origin and the point of destination in order to meet the requirements of customers or corporations. Logistics involves the integration of information, transportation, inventory, warehousing, material handling, and packaging, and...

, architecture
Architecture
Architecture is both the process and product of planning, designing and construction. Architectural works, in the material form of buildings, are often perceived as cultural and political symbols and as works of art...

 and accounting.

List of professions


Professions include:
  • Accountant
    Accountant
    An accountant is a practitioner of accountancy or accounting , which is the measurement, disclosure or provision of assurance about financial information that helps managers, investors, tax authorities and others make decisions about allocating resources.The Big Four auditors are the largest...

    s
  • Actuaries
    Actuary
    An actuary is a business professional who deals with the financial impact of risk and uncertainty. Actuaries provide expert assessments of financial security systems, with a focus on their complexity, their mathematics, and their mechanisms ....

  • Advocate
    Advocate
    An advocate is a term for a professional lawyer used in several different legal systems. These include Scotland, South Africa, India, Scandinavian jurisdictions, Israel, and the British Crown dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man...

  • Architect
    Architect
    An architect is a person trained in the planning, design and oversight of the construction of buildings. To practice architecture means to offer or render services in connection with the design and construction of a building, or group of buildings and the space within the site surrounding the...

  • Pilot
    Aviator
    An aviator is a person who flies an aircraft. The first recorded use of the term was in 1887, as a variation of 'aviation', from the Latin avis , coined in 1863 by G. de la Landelle in Aviation Ou Navigation Aérienne...

    s
  • Chef
    Chef
    A chef is a person who cooks professionally for other people. Although over time the term has come to describe any person who cooks for a living, traditionally it refers to a highly skilled professional who is proficient in all aspects of food preparation.-Etymology:The word "chef" is borrowed ...

    s
  • Dentist
    Dentist
    A dentist, also known as a 'dental surgeon', is a doctor that specializes in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of diseases and conditions of the oral cavity. The dentist's supporting team aides in providing oral health services...

    s
  • Engineer
    Engineer
    An engineer is a professional practitioner of engineering, concerned with applying scientific knowledge, mathematics and ingenuity to develop solutions for technical problems. Engineers design materials, structures, machines and systems while considering the limitations imposed by practicality,...

    s
  • Financial analyst
    Financial analyst
    A financial analyst, securities analyst, research analyst, equity analyst, or investment analyst is a person who performs financial analysis for external or internal clients as a core part of the job.-Job:...

    s
  • Journalist
    Journalist
    A journalist collects and distributes news and other information. A journalist's work is referred to as journalism.A reporter is a type of journalist who researchs, writes, and reports on information to be presented in mass media, including print media , electronic media , and digital media A...

    s
  • Lawyer
    Lawyer
    A lawyer, according to Black's Law Dictionary, is "a person learned in the law; as an attorney, counsel or solicitor; a person who is practicing law." Law is the system of rules of conduct established by the sovereign government of a society to correct wrongs, maintain the stability of political...

  • Optometrists
  • Nursing
    Nursing
    Nursing is a healthcare profession focused on the care of individuals, families, and communities so they may attain, maintain, or recover optimal health and quality of life from conception to death....

  • Pharmacist
    Pharmacist
    Pharmacists are allied health professionals who practice in pharmacy, the field of health sciences focusing on safe and effective medication use...

    s
  • Philosophers
  • Physician
    Physician
    A physician is a health care provider who practices the profession of medicine, which is concerned with promoting, maintaining or restoring human health through the study, diagnosis, and treatment of disease, injury and other physical and mental impairments...

    s
  • Professor
    Professor
    A professor is a scholarly teacher; the precise meaning of the term varies by country. Literally, professor derives from Latin as a "person who professes" being usually an expert in arts or sciences; a teacher of high rank...

    s
  • Psychologist
    Psychologist
    Psychologist is a professional or academic title used by individuals who are either:* Clinical professionals who work with patients in a variety of therapeutic contexts .* Scientists conducting psychological research or teaching psychology in a college...

    s
  • Quantity Surveyor
    Quantity surveyor
    A quantity surveyor is a professional working within the construction industry concerned with building costs.The profession is one that provides a qualification gained following formal education, specific training and experience that provides a general set of skills that are then applied to a...

    s
  • Scientist
    Scientist
    A scientist in a broad sense is one engaging in a systematic activity to acquire knowledge. In a more restricted sense, a scientist is an individual who uses the scientific method. The person may be an expert in one or more areas of science. This article focuses on the more restricted use of the word...

    s
  • Surgeon
    Surgeon
    In medicine, a surgeon is a specialist in surgery. Surgery is a broad category of invasive medical treatment that involves the cutting of a body, whether human or animal, for a specific reason such as the removal of diseased tissue or to repair a tear or breakage...

    s
  • Veterinarian
    Veterinarian
    A veterinary physician, colloquially called a vet, shortened from veterinarian or veterinary surgeon , is a professional who treats disease, disorder and injury in animals....

    s

Formation of a profession


A profession arises when any trade or occupation transforms itself through "the 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 monopoly rights."

Regulation



Professions are typically regulated by statute
Statute
A statute is a formal written enactment of a legislative authority that governs a state, city, or county. Typically, statutes command or prohibit something, or declare policy. The word is often used to distinguish law made by legislative bodies from case law, decided by courts, and regulations...

, with the responsibilities of enforcement delegated to respective professional bodies, whose function is to define, promote, oversee, support and regulate the affairs of its members. These bodies are responsible for the licensure of professionals, and may additionally set examinations of competence and enforce adherence to an ethical code
Ethical code
An ethical code is adopted by an organization in an attempt to assist those in the organization called upon to make a decision understand the difference between 'right' and 'wrong' and to apply this understanding to their decision...

 of practice. However, they all require that the individual hold at least a first professional degree
First professional degree
A professional degree prepares the holder for a particular profession by emphasizing competency skills along with theory and analysis. These professions are typically licensed or otherwise regulated by a governmental or government-approved body...

 before licensure. There may be several such bodies for one profession in a single country, an example being the accountancy bodies
British qualified accountants
British qualified accountants are full voting members of United Kingdom professional bodies that evaluate individual experience and test competencies for accountants....

 (ACCA
Association of Chartered Certified Accountants
Founded in 1904, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants is the global body for professional accountants offering the Chartered Certified Accountant qualification . it is one of the largest and fastest-growing global accountancy bodies with 147,000 members and 424,000 students in 170...

, ICAEW, ICAI
Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland
Members of the Institute use the designatory letters ACA. Senior members may be elected Fellows and use the designatory letters FCA....

, ICAS
Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland
The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland is the Scottish professional body of Chartered Accountants . It is a regulator, educator and influencer.ICAS act as a thought leader and voice of the professional business community...

, CIPFA
Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy
The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy is a professional institute for accountants working in the public services.CIPFA has 14,000 members who work throughout the public services, in national audit agencies, in major accountancy firms, and in other bodies where public money...

, AAPA
Association of Authorised Public Accountants
The Association of Authorised Public Accountants is a British professional body for public accountants.The AAPA was formed in 1978 as a professional body for auditors recognised individually under the Companies Act 1948. AAPA achieved formal recognition by the Department of Trade and Industry in...

, CIMA
Chartered Institute of Management Accountants
The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants is a United Kingdom-based professional body offering training and qualification in management accountancy and related subjects, focused on accounting for business; together with ongoing support for members.CIMA is one of a number of professional...

, IFA
Institute of Financial Accountants
The Institute of Financial Accountants is a professional body representing financial accountants in the United Kingdom as well as abroad....

, CPA
Association of Certified Public Accountants
The Association of Certified Public Accountants is an amalgamation of The Society of Public Accountants which was founded in 1989, and the Association of Certified Public Accountants which was formed in 1991...

) of the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, all of which have been given a Royal Charter
Royal Charter
A royal charter is a formal document issued by a monarch as letters patent, granting a right or power to an individual or a body corporate. They were, and are still, used to establish significant organizations such as cities or universities. Charters should be distinguished from warrants and...

 although not necessarily considered to hold equivalent-level qualifications.

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
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 (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.

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 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.

Status and prestige


Professions enjoy a high social status, regard and esteem conferred upon them by society. This high esteem arises primarily from the higher social function of their work, which is regarded as vital to society as a whole and thus of having a special and valuable nature. All professions involve technical, specialised and highly skilled work often referred to as "professional expertise." Training for this work involves obtaining degrees and professional qualifications (see Licensure
Licensure
Licensure refers to the granting of a license, which gives a "permission to practice." Such licenses are usually issued in order to regulate some activity that is deemed to be dangerous or a threat to the person or the public or which involves a high level of specialized skill...

) without which entry to the profession is barred (occupational closure). Training also requires regular updating of skills through continuing education
Continuing education
Continuing education is an all-encompassing term within a broad spectrum of post-secondary learning activities and programs. The term is used mainly in the United States and Canada...

.

Power


All professions have power. This power is used to control its own members, and also its area of expertise and interests. A profession tends to dominate, police and protect its area of expertise and the conduct of its members, and exercises a dominating influence over its entire field which means that professions can act monopolist, rebuffing competition from ancillary trades and occupations, as well as subordinating and controlling lesser but related trades. A profession is characterised by the power and high prestige it has in society as a whole. It is the power, prestige and value that society confers upon a profession that more clearly defines it.

Characteristics of a profession


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 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; 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 behaviour, 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."

See also

  • Professional
    Professional
    A professional is a person who is paid to undertake a specialised set of tasks and to complete them for a fee. The traditional professions were doctors, lawyers, clergymen, and commissioned military officers. Today, the term is applied to estate agents, surveyors , environmental scientists,...

  • First professional degree
    First professional degree
    A professional degree prepares the holder for a particular profession by emphasizing competency skills along with theory and analysis. These professions are typically licensed or otherwise regulated by a governmental or government-approved body...

  • Professional body
    Professional body
    A professional association is usually a nonprofit organization seeking to further a particular profession, the interests of individuals engaged in that profession, and the public interest.The roles of these professional associations have been variously defined: "A group of people in a...

  • Professional class
  • Professional development
    Professional development
    Professional development refers to skills and knowledge attained for both personal development and career advancement. Professional development encompasses all types of facilitated learning opportunities, ranging from college degrees to formal coursework, conferences and informal learning...

  • Professional responsibility
    Professional responsibility
    Professional responsibility is the area of legal practice that encompasses the duties of attorneys to act in a professional manner, obey the law, avoid conflicts of interest, and put the interests of clients ahead of their own interests....

  • Professional ethics
    Professional ethics
    Professional ethics encompass the personal and corporate standards of behaviour expected of professionals.- Professional ethics :Professional people and those working in acknowledged professions exercise specialist knowledge and skill...

  • Professionalization
    Professionalization
    Professionalization is the social process by which any trade or occupation transforms itself into a true "profession of the highest integrity and competence." This process tends to involve establishing acceptable qualifications, a professional body or association to oversee the conduct of members...

  • Semiprofession
    Semiprofession
    A semiprofession, as opposed to a true profession, refers to a type of work similar in some respects to those commonly regarded as professional but still different in more than a few important areas...