In a more restrictive sense, profession often refers specifically to fields that require extensive study andmastery of specialized knowledge , such as law , medicine , the military , nursing , the clergy or engineering . In this sense, profession iscontrasted with occupation, which refers generally to the nature of a person's employment .
Terms such as occupational serve the purpose of upholding the distinction between professionals and otherswho for their living are dependent on their work rather than on their economic wealth. Such usage avoids the confusion caused byvague usage of the words professional and professionalism to express prestige, approval or a sense ofexclusivity.
Sociologists have been known to define professionalism asself-defined power elitism or as organised exclusivity along guild lines, much in the sense that George Bernard Shaw characterised all professions as "conspiracies against the laity". Sociologicaldefinitions of professionalism involving checklists of perceived or claimed characteristics ( altruism , self-governance, esoteric knowledge , special skills, ethical behaviour, etc) became less fashionable in the late 20th century.
The distinction between laypersons and professionals denotes the critical aspect of more liberal definitions of a profession:being paid for the work. As such, ball players and movie makers may be professionals, although their work does not fit the strictdefinition offered above.
Historically, few professions existed: members of the clergy , medical doctors , and lawyers held the monopoly on professional status and on professionaleducation, with military officers occasionally recognised as social equals. Self-governing bodies such as guilds orcolleges, backed by state-granted charters guaranteeing monopolies , limited access to and behaviour within such professions.
With the rise of technology and occupational specialisation in the 19th century, other bodies began to claim "professional"status: engineers , paramedics , educationalists and even accountants , until today almost any occupational group can -- at least unofficially -- aspire to professional rank and cachet , and popular recognition of this trend has made possible the widespread recognition of prostitution as "the oldest profession".
A profession is always held by a person , and it is generally that person's way ofgenerating income . Some historians believe that the foundation of modern civilization is division of labourinto different professions, thus increasing the level of expertise held by professionals.
The existence of a traceable historical record of notable members of the profession can serve as an indicator of a profession.Often, these historic professionals have become well known to laypersons outside the field, for example, Clarence Darrow (law), Edward Jenner (medicine), and FlorenceNightingale (nursing).
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