What Constitutes a Profession?

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Haili Jiang
GE6 The Professions and Public Interest in American Life
Midterm paper 1
Instructor: Shyam
During normal usage, it seems that the terms “profession” and “occupation” are almost identical and are interchangeable. Generally they both define the work people do for a living. However, after delving into their meanings, one can easily notice that the word profession is a bit more advanced than occupation. In other words, there are peculiar criteria or characteristics that an occupation has to meet in order to qualify as a profession. In this essay, I will apply three different markers to identify whether an occupation is a profession: 1. A profession needs extensive intellectual training and usually has some type of credentials as proof(in the form of college degree or work certificate) 2. A professional is paid for his/her knowledge, not paid to produce tangible goods or do errands. 3. A profession must have a community orientation and must serve the public. Now in the same order as listed above, I’m going to explain why these markers should be adopted for examining professions. Firstly, it is self-evident that the training and formal credentials are important for determining whether an occupation is a profession. The word profession itself already manifests a sense of expertise, so specialized education is a prerequisite for practicing a profession. For example, if there’s something wrong with your sewage system, it is possible for you to simply google the instructions and fix the problem on your own within short period of time. However, if you want to win a case for the custody of your child, it is wiser to hire a professional lawyer who received years of education on law than read through all the necessary law materials yourself, which can be extremely intellectually challenging and time-consuming for amateurs. Also in this example, it is also notable that this attorney you hire should have formal credentials---the required bachelor and master degree in law and the certificate in legal practice. The second marker, which states that professionals do not get paid for producing tangible goods or delivering non-intellectual services, is also obvious. The term profession literally means “to profess”. So professionals are the ones that offer guidance and advisement rather than produce actual products or deliver service that are not intellectual. For instance, designing a building would be a profession while constructing a building is definitely an occupation. This is because architects offer designs and guidelines as to how to build, while the constructors simply offer manual labor. The third marker is also indispensable because professionals are the ones that contribute to the well-functioning of society with their expertise---doctors heal the ill, attorneys defend the innocent, architects design the buildings that provide shelter. It is this helpfulness to the public that affirms a profession’s value. Hence the three most important markers for profession are intellectual training, systematic knowledge, intangibility of service and community orientation. And based upon these three markers, I will prove that business administration is a profession whereas photography is not. Now let’s consider the work of business administration. Business administration is a profession because it clearly matches with the characteristics I have listed earlier. People may often have a biased view that business administrators are merchants who simply are involved in the trade of merchandise and only care about making money. This stereotypical impression is clearly a false depiction of business administration and is clearly neglecting the professionalism required for this profession. Firstly, business administration requires extensive knowledge in various fields of studies. The last century witnessed the trend for business administration to become a combined, applied science and the establishment of business schools across...
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