Definition of a Profession

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Definition of a Profession

What is a profession? In simplest terms the word profession means: "a vocation requiring extensive education in science or the liberal arts and often specialized training" (Costella, R. (Ed.), et al. (1995) Random House Webster's College Dictionary. New York: Random House). Joseph T. Catalano (2000) defined a profession as, "A type of occupation that meets certain criteria...that raise it to a level above that of an occupation." Many educators, social scientists, and organizations have attempted to develop a universal definition of profession without success. Each differentiates a profession from an occupation stating specific criteria. What is the common denominator? One common theme is that a profession has higher level of functioning than an occupation because of education and experience.

Several common elements are often used to differentiate a profession from an occupation. These elements are usually accepted throughout the business and academic communities. The population claiming to be professionals shares these characteristics.

Listed below are some of the common characteristics of a profession:

A body of knowledge derived from research, education, and training at a higher level.

Preparedness to use the specialized knowledge and skills in the interest of others.

Guidelines for behavior and ethics other than the personal morals of the individual.

Autonomy to practice skills and knowledge.

Organizational representation. Proactive membership within the organization.

Licensure provided by the government and recognized by the public as minimal level of functioning.

Changes in consumer demands, technological advances, and general resistance have made it nearly impossible to universally define profession. The characteristics, previously listed, refine the definition of a profession as: a group of people that live and work by a code of ethics and a higher standard of functioning. People that are accepted by the public as having special knowledge and skills and are prepared...