professional


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professional

a person with a recognized set of skills and knowledge which qualifies them to practise a certain occupation. Usually this knowledge is gained from lengthy TRAINING and is certified by examination, often by a professional association. This pattern of entry to an occupation is similar to that of apprenticeships; however, the professions are usually understood to be those occupations which are located at the top of the occupational structure in terms of status, for example doctors, architects, lawyers etc. In so far as professional associations (for example the Law Society) stipulate the form and content of training and examination, they define the nature of the job tasks and the work standards that should be achieved and they control entry into the profession. Once individuals have been admitted to the profession it is customary in most instances for them to join the association. Professional associations are similar to craft unions (see TRADE UNION) in that they seek to maintain high incomes for their members by restricting entry to these occupations. Some associations (especially those governing public-sector professionals) are registered as trade unions and have become more similar to other unions in recent years, in that they have felt forced to mount industrial action or publicity campaigns to influence government and management policy decisions.

The notion of professionalism, i.e. that professional workers are special by virtue of their knowledge, has been much criticized in recent years. Critics have claimed that it is used to advance sectional interests, for example high income levels, and to prevent regulation by government or employers of the way tasks are carried out. Attempts have been made to weaken the power of certain professions; for instance, the recent trend in the UK Health Service for the allocation of resources to be determined on grounds of efficiency and effectiveness by management teams rather than on medical grounds as defined by doctors and consultants.

MANAGEMENT per se has generally not been viewed as a profession in the UK because there has been little agreement on the skills and knowledge which are integral to management, and no professional body has been able to enforce mini-mum standards. However, numerous associations concerned with particular aspects of management, for example the INSTITUTE OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT, have identified training requirements and hold examinations in an attempt to achieve professional status. Recently the MANAGEMENT CHARTER initiative has attempted to identify core ‘competencies’ of management as a first step to creating a profession of management.

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