AskDefine | Define professions

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  1. Plural of profession

Extensive Definition

This article is about work professions. For religious profession, see Profession (religious).
A profession is an occupation, vocation or career where specialized knowledge of a subject, field, or science is applied. It is usually applied to occupations that involve prolonged academic training and a formal qualification. It is axiomatic that "professional activity involves systematic knowledge and proficiency." Professions are usually regulated by professional bodies that may set examinations of competence, act as a licensing authority for practitioners, and enforce adherence to an ethical code of practice.

Examples of the professions

Professions include, for example: Dentists, Doctors/Surgeons, Lawyers, Accountants, Vets, Pharmacists, Nurses, Engineers, Teachers, Diplomats, Commissioned Officers, Professors, Priests, Town & Transport Planners, Architects, Pilots, Physical Therapists, Librarians and some other specialized technical occupations.

Formation of a profession

A profession arises when any trade or occupation transforms itself through "the development of formal qualifications based upon education and examinations, the emergence of regulatory bodies with powers to admit and discipline members, and some degree of monopoly rights."
The process by which a profession arises from a trade or occupation is often termed professionalization and has been described as one, ''"starting with the establishment of the activity as a full-time occupation, progressing through the establishment of training schools and university links, the formation of a professional organization, and the struggle to gain legal support for exclusion, and culminating with the formation of a formal code of ethics."''
An important example of a profession is teaching.


Regulation enforced by statute distinguishes a profession from other occupations represented by trade groups who aspire to professional status for their members.. In all countries, professions have their regulatory or professional bodies, whose function is to define, promote, oversee, support and regulate the affairs of its members. For some professions there may be several such bodies.


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) without which entry to the profession is barred (occupational closure). Training also requires regular updating of skills. (see continuing education)


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. This is why Judges, Lawyers, Clerics, and Medical personnel enjoy this high social status and are regarded as true professionals.



  • P.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, ISBN 0203977211
  • Eliot Freidson, Professional Powers: A Study of the Institutionalization of Formal Knowledge, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986, ISBN 0-226-26225-1
  • Joseph M. Jacob, Doctors and Rules: A Sociology of Professional Values, Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick and London, 1999
  • Jonathan Montgomery, Medicine, Accountability, and Professionalism, 1989


professions in Bulgarian: Професия
professions in Czech: Profese
professions in Danish: Profession
professions in German: Beruf
professions in Spanish: Profesión
professions in Esperanto: Profesio
professions in French: Métier (activité)
professions in Italian: Professione
professions in Korean: 직업
professions in Croatian: Zanimanje
professions in Indonesian: Profesi
professions in Hebrew: מקצוע
professions in Latin: Munus
professions in Dutch: Beroep
professions in Japanese: 専門職
professions in Norwegian: Profesjon
professions in Polish: Zawód
professions in Portuguese: Profissão
professions in Russian: Профессия
professions in Simple English: Profession
professions in Slovak: Povolanie
professions in Slovenian: Poklic
professions in Finnish: Professio
professions in Swedish: Yrke
professions in Ukrainian: Професія
professions in Chinese: 職業
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