Characteristics Of A Profession
The members of the Carnegie task force believed that reaching has nor been viewed or treated as on par with professions, such as medicine or law. They and others have observed that the field has lacked an agreed-on base of knowledge, shared standards of excellence, and career pathways that formally reward the accumulation of skill and experience and allow teachers to progress professionally. But what is a profession? Teaching is not the only field in which the distinction between profession and other occupational categories has been an issue; social scientists have identified several features that characterize professions.
One set of characteristics relates to the knowledge that practitioners hold. Professionals generally have command of a body of technical expertise that is not shared by those outside the profession. They obtain this knowledge through a long period of intensive training that is provided by experts in their field. Moreover, professionals develop expertise over time: skills and judgment that allow them to draw on and apply their theoretical knowledge in response to circumstances, to evaluate and make decisions about problems, and to develop strategies for addressing them. In many cases, acquisition of this body of knowledge and expertise is marked by some form of licensure or certification, which also provides a public signal of the adequacy and validity of the training. Professional associations and the state are most often responsible for awarding the license or certificate and for overseeing the validity of the process. Often the licensure or certification system gives those who have the credential a monopoly, or near monopoly, in offering the services associated with the profession. For example, physicians who are not board-certified in cardiology are not generally granted privileges to practice cardiology in a hospital. These systems also contribute to the professions’ latitude in policing themselves, both by defining and enforcing codes of ethics and by controlling entry into the profession.
Other factors relate to the way in which the members of a profession go about their work. In contrast to other kinds of workers, professionals are expected to have a strong personal commitment to their work, which some describe as a sacred calling and others as simply an ethic of service. Members of a profession often define their calling or commitment in terms of service to a particular group such as patients or students but other considerations such as respect for the law, journalistic integrity, or principles of design might also play a part in the definition of the profession.
A commitment to serve the group and other ideals of the profession is expected to override considerations of financial and personal gain. Professionals are also generally granted a high level of autonomy and discretion in carrying out their work and a large measure of control over the conditions in which they carry it out, by contrast with other workers.
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