Skip to main content

What is a profession?

The historical view

Traditionally, the path to professional status has been grounded in the quarantining of expertise by a specific community, which:

  • Defined how aspiring professionals gained recognised knowledge and qualifications
  • Controlled entry to employment
  • Developed standards for practice in that expertise.

Professional knowledge was generated exclusively in the academic environment of universities, and led to those who received this training having an expert monopoly. The ultimate goal was to have this expertise recognised by the community, and often formally by the state.

The evolution of professions

While these systems are still evident today, the public’s perception of an occupational group is now a significant factor when it comes to whether this group is regarded as a profession.

As well as demanding new areas of expertise to meet changing social and service demands, the public is also playing an increasingly important role in whether a new or even established group is accepted and trusted for its professionalism.

Indeed, public respect and trust in professionals is often strongly connected to how well associations do their job of developing good professionals, helping the public find the expertise they need – and protecting consumers and clients from poor practice and incompetence.