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A profession is the systematically learned, specialized, usually with a qualification , permanent and paid activity of a person within the framework of an economic system based on the division of labor due to particular aptitude and inclination . The term is to be distinguished from the colloquial term job , which describes an employment that is only exercised temporarily or is not tied to a special aptitude or training.

Word origin and history

Profession goes back to “berufen” (mhdt. Berufofen ), a prefix of the verb “call”.

The class theory of the Middle Ages knew the "vocatio interna" and the "vocatio externa". In the Middle Ages, theologians in particular looked at the profession under two aspects, the “internal profession” ( Latin vocatio spiritualis or vocatio interna ) and the “external profession” ( Latin vocatio externa ). Martin Luther translated the Latin vocatio as the calling of God. “Everyone should remain in the calling in which God's call met him” or “Everyone should remain in the calling in which he was called” ( 1 Cor 7.20  EU ). He also used the word profession for the class, office and work of people in the world. Luther summarized both aspects because for him Christians followed an internal and external calling in every activity . This inner calling turns every activity, including that in the family, into a profession. Vocatio interna is the divine internal vocation of a person to the holy office (priest or monk), which was given new weight by Gisbert Voetius in his "Politica ecclesiastica" (1663–1676). The internal vocation is the spiritual office taken, the external vocation concerned secular professions.

In the course of the later secularization , the religious elements disappeared, while the social obligation in the framework of the division of labor was retained. The craft activities in the guilds were controlled through occupation and vocational training and the corporate social order represented. Only since the transition into the 19th century has the term occupation been given the content of an activity that requires a professional qualification and is usually associated with an income. Occupation is “the group of activities with associated duties and rights which people fulfill as a permanent task within the framework of the social order and which mostly serve to earn a living ”. In 1925, the sociologist Max Weber saw the “specification, specialization and combination of services” in the industrial profession, which formed the “basis for continuous provision and employment opportunities” for people. Since Weber's definition, occupations have been officially surveyed and published in statistics. The official German statistics understand occupation as "the acquisition-oriented, special knowledge and skills as well as experience requiring and in a typical combination converging work tasks ... and which as a rule also form the livelihood for him and his non-working relatives."

In addition to earning income and the acquisition of pension entitlements , the occupation also includes personal life, interests, values ​​and goals, specific social appreciation and social standing. Occupations and occupational content are subject to a more or less pronounced change, especially with regard to working conditions . The vocational training was originally designed in such a way that people should pursue the profession they have learned for their entire professional life . However, technical progress, economic change and increasing division of labor have led to entire professional groups becoming superfluous and the profession as a "life's work" no longer being a conceptual content. This is related to the change from professional orientation to process orientation, which can force people to change jobs and retrain due to changes in job descriptions and requirements .

Socio-historical aspects

The skills and knowledge required to practice a profession are acquired through training , practice or self-study . Admission to a profession but can also be done by attribution ( adscription ), for example in succession (eg. As a farmer , hearty artisan), by vows ( soldiers ), oaths ( officials ) or by ordination ( clergyman ).

Most professions are the result of an increasing division of labor . They often have a centuries-old tradition, as many services required or desired by society have remained essentially constant. This is where the striking social appearance of professional inheritance comes from .

The oldest, prehistoric professions include blacksmith , carpenter , healer , priest , wanderer teller and singer and watchman . Since the Middle Ages , many professional groups have come together in guilds and guilds that also trained the next generation of professionals. “ Dishonest professions ” also formed their own organizations. In accordance with the rules of the class, the class literature records a variety of professions with very different qualification and activity characteristics as well as framework conditions that was established in the early modern period . The complexity of the professional concepts increases in line with scientific and technical progress.

In some professions, special emphasis is placed on the so-called calling of the individual (for example pastor , priest , but also doctor , teacher , pharmacist , judge ). A scientist receives a so-called " call" for a professorship if the university would like to have him among its colleagues. Noteworthy in this context is the obligation to work within the framework of the Ordo Socialis .

Legal issues

The Basic Law guarantees the basic right of free choice of occupation , because all Germans have the right to freely choose their occupation, workplace and training facility ( Article 12 (1) of the Basic Law ). Under constitutional law, a profession is understood to mean any long-term human activity that serves to generate income. Two elements are inherent in the constitutional concept of profession, namely life's work and livelihood . For a job as a life's work, it is essential that someone has an inner relationship with their job, for which they feel obliged and responsible. In turn, livelihood requires that an occupation is exercised for a certain period of time for remuneration. Gerhard Pfennig explains the professional status using the example of soldiers and points out that conscripted soldiers only perform a public service. Soldier service as a profession is only possible for professional soldiers whose military service has become a profession through their military career. The term occupation is not limited to certain traditional or legally fixed occupational profiles, but includes any freely chosen form of (permitted) employment and is therefore open to the development of new occupational profiles.

A job is therefore not just a short-term activity; he must also aim to earn an income ( gainful employment ). The term income is to be interpreted broadly; in addition to typical monetary income, this can also be understood as benefits in kind ( deputation wages such as free housing, food and drinks).


A distinction is made between the profession that has been learned and the profession practiced . The profession learned is based on completed vocational training and documented proof of qualification. Exercised occupation is the activity actually performed by an employee for which no completed vocational training can be proven. Anyone who practices the profession for which they have completed vocational training is working in the profession they have learned. On the other hand, if you work in a profession that you did not originally learn, you are working in a practiced profession. Liberal professions are predominantly independent activities that are not subject to the trade regulations . These are also designed for a certain duration and are based on prior professional training, but differ from the other professions in that they are economically independent.

Profession, identification and status

A working person can identify with both his employer and his profession. If an activity is considered to be important for a person's self-worth, one speaks of identification with the profession (“ job involvement ”). High occupational identification can contribute to higher job performance goals . While the work is linked to the technical-economic dimension of performance, the professional term characterizes their qualitative requirements as well as their social integration and the resulting identity.

Profession is also an important mechanism for determining a person's social status. In modern societies, professional status is the best single indicator of a person's social status . The prestige of professions depends on qualifications and the income earned. The formal status results from the division into workers , employees , civil servants and self-employed , while the material status is usually reduced to the income level.

Occupational classifications

The indication of the occupation is indispensable in all statistics and surveys on the labor market or on the socio-economic situation worldwide. The occupation is still a dominant aspect in the description of labor market developments. The indication of the occupation is also of central importance in the placement work of the employment offices. A professional classification creates the possibility for the mediation to have and use sensible and practical summaries of similar professional activities.

Internationally, the International Standard Classification of Occupations (ISCO) has been using a scheme for classifying occupations since 1957. In Germany, the Federal Employment Agency has been using a new systematization of occupations that is largely compatible with this scheme since January 2011, which has also been adopted by the Federal Statistical Office as a classification of occupations .

Regulation of professional practice

Today, vocational training (content, duration) is state- regulated in most European countries. In Germany and in most other countries, however, state regulation of career choices is limited by the fundamental right to freedom of occupation .

Who is allowed to practice which profession has been and is treated differently in different cultures. In Europe, in principle, the right to exercise one's profession freely applies, but this is subject to some restrictions. In so-called regulated professions, relevant training and for the exercise qualifications required: As a doctor or lawyer may for example only be active, who is a medical or legal higher education successfully completed, relevant work experience ( traineeship can prove) and the approval of a medical association or Bar Association owns. The exercise of skilled trades is also subject to certain restrictions: For example, in order to practice a craft independently in Germany, a technical college degree as a state-certified technician , a degree as a master craftsman (master craftsman's certificate ) or a university or university degree is required. (Amendment of the Crafts Code, Section 7.2)

Successfully socially trained professions develop a more or less pronounced professional ethic .


The demarcation to the job is usually made through the aspect of durability. Job is a temporary, short-term activity without an inner relationship or responsibility to the activity, casual work. This is expressed in the word “jobben”, which is used to describe a temporary activity for the purpose of generating income. This demarcation also occurs in Anglo-Saxon countries, where the term “profession” (Latin: professio ) or “occupation” is used and “job” is classified as a secondary activity.

The occupational term is also used to emphasize income generation and professional qualifications. Professional musicians (professional athletes, professional soldiers, professional judges ) are professionally trained and are paid for their work, while amateur musicians or lay judges more or less not.

Largest professional regulations in Germany

According to the Federal Statistical Office, the professions are divided into 369 so-called professional regulations , in which all existing professions are grouped, which results in a classification of the professions . See the proportion of women in the professional world .

Employed men in the most occupied occupational categories (2006)

  1. Professional drivers, 882,000
  2. Office workers, commercial employees, 499,000
  3. Entrepreneur, CEO, 460,000
  4. Soldiers, Federal Border Guard, police officers, 458,000
  5. Motor vehicle mechanic, two-wheel mechanic, 376,000
  6. Unemployed workers without further details of their activity, 357,000
  7. Electricians, electricians, 334,000
  8. Administrative professionals (intermediate service), 328,000
  9. Warehouse and transport workers, 317,000
  10. Construction mechanics and associated metal workers, 280,000

Employed women in the most occupied occupations (2006)

  1. Office workers, commercial employees, 1,368,000
  2. Building cleaners, 779,000
  3. Administrative professionals (intermediate service), 696,000
  4. Nurses and midwives, 677,000
  5. Office hours assistants (medical assistants), 552,000
  6. Shop assistants, 541,000
  7. Food and beverages sellers, 467,000
  8. Kindergarten teachers, 445,000
  9. Office and commercial clerks, 406,000
  10. Elderly Nurses, 370,000

See also


  • Günter Lanczkowski, Gustaf Wingren, Heinz-Horst Schrey: Art. Profession I. Religious history II. Historical and ethical aspects III. Protestantism and Catholicism of the Modern Era . In: Theologische Realenzyklopädie 5 (1980), pp. 654-676 (on the history of culture and concepts)
  • Werner Dostal, Friedemann Stooß, Lothar Troll: Profession - Dissolution tendencies and renewed consolidation. In: Mitteilungen zur Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung , No. 3, Nürnberg 1998, pp. 438–460 ( article ,; with an overview of definitions of the term profession).

Web links

Wiktionary: Profession  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations



Individual evidence

  1. Karin Rebmann / Walter Tenfelde / Tobias Schlösser, Vocational and Business Education , 2011, p. 92 .
  2. ^ ARSP, Ulfrid Neumann / Lorenz Schulz, Responsibility in Law and Moral , Supplement 74, 2005, p. 41 .
  3. Jan Kruse, History of Work and Work as History , 2002, p. 31 .
  4. Werner Conze, Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe , Artikel Beruf, Volume 1, 1972, pp. 490–508.
  5. Max Weber, Economy and Society , 1925, p. 80.
  6. Karin Rebmann / Walter Tenfelde / Tobias Schlösser, Vocational and Business Education , 2011, p. 92.
  7. Martin Honecker, Grundriss der Sozialethik , 1995, p. 469 .
  8. BVerfGE 7, 377, 397
  9. Gerhard Pfennig, The Concept of the Public Service and Its Relatives , 1960, p. 50 .
  10. ^ Gerhard Pfennig, The concept of the public service and its relatives , 1960, p. 51.
  11. ^ Gerhard Pfennig, The concept of the public service and its relatives , 1960, p. 51.
  12. Federal Constitutional Court , judgment of June 11, 1958, Az. 1 BvR 596/56, BVerfGE 7, pp. 377, 397 (online) .
  13. so the definition of the BFH in BStBl. 1958 III, 134, 137.
  14. ^ Jeannette Hron, Motivational Aspects from Professional Perspective , 2000, p. 77 .
  15. Marco Schneider, Reliableness and validity of the measurement of occupational status , 2008, p. 43 .
  16. data report 2008 labor market (PDF).