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What is a profession?

The benefits of professions

An important feature of professions is that individual professionals benefit from the respect and community trust in their expertise. However, we believe that the benefits of professions also encompass the following areas:

The community – Consumers face a complex array of professional services choices, from medical and health to business and financial services. Professions play a vital role in providing trusted expertise founded on established standards that are policed to ensure community expectations of good practice and social purpose are met.

As the Professional Body Sector Review 2014 points out, “widespread support for trustworthy professionalism generated for individual professions can act collectively as a form of social infrastructure for society”.1

The economy – Professions improve consumers’ access to services and support economic activity by encouraging confidence and trust in the services offered by professionals. This is increasingly important in our services-oriented economy where knowledge forms the basis of many transactions.

Regulators – The burden of regulation and supervision by government can be reduced by improving the standards of practice of professionals and the regulatory capacity of professional communities. It has been argued that professionalism represents a distinct form of regulation in itself.2 “Professions create and maintain distinct professional values or moral obligations (e.g. codes of ethics)” according to Julia Evetts.3 Indeed, professionalism can be seen as a method of regulating and monitoring the provision of complex services to the public.4

Professionals – Professions not only improve employment and career longevity, but can also provide an important community purpose and empowerment, allowing people’s careers to contribute to the social good. Professionals enhance their reputations and skills by adhering to the professional standards and requirements of their professional bodies.

(Parts of this have been previously published in 21 years of regulatory innovation through professional standards.)

1 PARN, Professional Body Sector Review 2014, PARN UK, 2014, 6.

2 Evetts, J., ‘Sociological Analysis of Professionalism: Past, Present and Future’, Comparative Sociology 10, 2011, 10; and E. Freidson, Professionalism: The Third Logic, Polity Press, London, 2001.

3 Evetts, J., ‘Sociological Analysis of Professionalism’, 10.

4 Evetts, J., ‘Sociological Analysis of Professionalism; and E. Freidson, Professionalism: The Third Logic.