The Marks of a Profession

The skills possessed by individuals as they carry out economic activities have varied characteristics that qualify them as either professions or occupations. An occupation is defined as the type of moneymaking activity or service-provision in which an individual is involved. For each service provided, a certain level of competency is required, competency that is acquired from a wide range of sources.

The multiplicity of occupations and service-providers creates a need for people to discern the reliability and quality of services offered by the specific individual or entity. Owing to this fact, most people have come to differentiate between mere occupations and professions as postulated hereunder. The many definitions of occupations have little to do with the characteristics of services provided unless defined as a ‘profession’. As postulated by Cheetham (2005), a profession is any vocation or calling involving aspects of highly developed learning or scientific principles.

The existence of a universal code of ethics is often regarded as one of the most important characteristics which distinguish the occupations known as professions from others. The ability to abide by a code of ethics separates those involved in profession and mere occupations. The code of conduct clearly outlines the boundaries within which they operate. Such a code of conduct outlines the principles, responsibilities, scope and nature of services, independence, advertising, fees, public interest, commissions, compliance, integrity and objectivity (Giove, 1992).

Hillman (2005) is of the view that these clear guidelines are necessitated by the fact the practicing member of the profession is entrusted with the duty of guiding the public towards achievement of necessary aspects of life. The code of conduct is directed towards adjusting the balance of power to protect the public from the professional who has colossal advantage owing to his proficiency in the subject matter.

As asserted by Giove (1992), integrity is preserved by adherence to the specific code of conduct. As a result, each profession has a specific set of rules to which each member has to abide to. Similarly, most institutions heading professionals have a committee charged with the duty to investigate and review any reported contravention of conduct among the members.

However, other occupations need necessarily not abide to a specific code of conduct. Some occupations are not based on any specific code of conduct but rely on their objectives (Ackroyd et al, 2006). The rules to which they abide are stipulated by the individual members of the occupation and are meant to ease performance of their duties. The codes of ethics for occupations vary depending on the objectives of the entity, since they are crafted locally. The scope of the code also varies unlike that of professionals.

As postulated by Athanasou and Esbroeck (2008), all professions are characterized by adherence to a specific body of knowledge. Such knowledge or skills are based on a theoretical body of facts developed over a period and tested such that they are not limited in applicability. The theories are applicable in a multiplicity of instances since their basis has been tried and tested scientifically. The body of knowledge is defined as theoretical owing to the reason and rationale behind the postulations according to Curren (2007). For example, in medicine, treatment of diseases is based on diagnosis of the recognition features of the condition, which are drawn from the reaction of the body towards pathogens. Thus, for professionals, lessons are learnt on the way in adherence to the laid-down principles.

Every challenge provides an opportunity to learn and improve the existing body of knowledge. As observed, professions are dynamic towards making life easier through standard models. However, occupations not classified as professions need not base their assumptions and facts on ideas based on research and scientific propositions. The main idea about these occupations is to find a model that works and provides a solution to the problem at hand. Each situation is treated in seclusion without reference to the past.

The skills observed in a professional are achieved through training and educational processes in formal scenarios (Hillman, 2005). The specialized skills are only available after training in accredited institutions. As a result, proficiency in a certain art or practice is not sufficient to qualify one as a professional since his principles may not converge towards the same destinations as the other members of the profession. For example, most individuals are able to fight but few are recognized as boxers owing to the lack of formal training.

However, some aspects of an occupation are based on natural characteristics. However, the intricate nature of most professions requires the educational portion to ensure uniformity of service delivery. Thus, the skills, comprehension, conduct and competencies possessed by professionals are not duplicated in non-professionals (Ackroyd et al, 2006). The rationale behind the training is the continuity of competence. The skills acquired in the initial training form a basis for graduation to a higher level of proficiency. The increase in competency over the years is what feeds new findings and improvements in the service-delivery.

Most occupations are composed of individual who have skills and abilities that are not specifically aligned with the professionals. Thus, their skills are not acquired through formal training. As a result, improvement of such skills to cater for changes in society. Occupations are bound the lifespan of the individuals involved (Athanasou and Esbroeck, 2008).

Certification and examinations

Professionals are admitted to the professional body only upon passing the examination offered. Testing and assessment forms the crest of qualification as a professional. An institution that is entrusted with examination and certification of aspiring professionals heads all professions (Curren, 2007). The stipulated standards of admission are set by the professionals in order to maintain acceptable level of service delivery. As common among professions, periodic training is necessary, through which members earn credits used to grade the professional.

Such trainings are aimed at updating the members regarding new procedures in addition to improving service delivery through ideas sourced from the members. The trust appended to profession by the public originates from the demonstrated competence by the professionals under different circumstances (Ackroyd et al, 2006). As a result, the proficiency acquired during the training sets a basis for lifetime engagement to the profession in most instances. As outlined earlier, other occupations are not bound by qualification.

As a result, his proficiency can be used to take advantage of the public. Subsequently, such rules are aimed at streamlining the conduct of the professions (Hosford-Dunn et al (2000). Similarly, they are aimed at socializing the members of the profession as to the expectations and therefore revamp public trust and confidence. Professionals are however guided by the code of conduct during decision-making and rather than instructed on how to make decisions.

Public good

As outlined by Giove (1992), the services offered by professionals are available in line with the needs of public. Thus, they are aimed at contributing to the public good. If services are not offered to the public without discrimination, then the organization is not considered professional. Their services should be available to the public as and when needed. Dispensation of services should be uniform in quality and characteristics. As a result, professionals are not motivated by profits or gains. The code of conduct specifically outlines the quality of service and charges to accrue for their service.

In order to protect the public, such charges are meant to calibrate the quality of service and protect the profession and professionals from exploitation for the services provided. On the other hand, mere occupations are aimed at benefiting the individual offering the service. This leads to variation in quality and charges accruing for the service. The commissions charged vary according to place and season.

Organizations and associations

Hosford-Dunn et al (2000) posited that professions have a specific level of organizations. Such organizations are affiliated to similar professional bodies, which are all under the oversight of one umbrella body. The members of the numerous bodies should be well represented in societies and academic institutions to augment the continuity of the profession. Each profession should also have a bonding mechanism with other professions as well as system to enable it function smoothly.       

Among the organizations, autonomy enables the members of the profession to exercise their knowledge and skills to better the lives of the public (Giove, 1992). Professionals are members of bodies constituted and managed to offer indispensable services to people in society. Thus, all professions emerged on a need basis owing to the presence of a faculty that required constant maintenance, for example preservation of health, rights of people in society and learning. People involved in other occupations are not represented by any specific body. As a result their action, are not sanctioned by a universal body.

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