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Under professionalization in the broader sense is meant the development of a private or volunteer activity carried out in a professional (corresponds occupationalisation). Such professionalization is often accompanied by an increase in efficiency. In the course of professionalization, quality improvements and standardizations are often achieved. In a narrower sense, professionalization describes the development of a profession into a profession (from the Latin professio"Confession, trade, profession"). Every professional career has certain entry requirements, qualifications and development opportunities. A profession is considered to be an academic profession with high prestige that is practiced primarily because of the challenge inherent in the task. Further characteristics of a profession are: a high degree of professional organization (professional organization), personal and factual freedom of design and decision-making in the activity as well as its own professional ethics. The profession is differentiated from the job (temporary activity, exclusively for earning money) and the profession, which is supposed to secure a living in the long term. Initially, the professions included only a few professions such as doctor, lawyer, clergyman.

Other professions such as counseling ( Counseling ) or social work are on the way to the profession (keyword knowledge society , more scientific). The tendency of the advisory professions towards professionalization is not irreversible, however, because in many advisory areas, laypeople with practical experience who work with a method that is not too rigid and who are well networked achieve just as good success as professionals (e.g. employment counseling, job placement, career counseling , Health Counseling).

Historical development

Rudolf Stichweh describes the phenomenon of professions through the change from the class society to a functionally differentiated society , as well as their relevance in it. Professions developed differently depending on the country, an example of this is the difference between the Anglo-American and continental European regions. In America, great emphasis was placed on the administration of practical training and testing of the offspring. It is also important to take into account the regulations within the professions. Germany and France, on the other hand, make a strong distinction within the professional professions between practical and academic-scientific knowledge. Today professions are characterized by an academic and scientific training, are semi-autonomous, but at the same time influenced by the state. The professions of the early modern period were characterized by the inclusion of all social problems of the human being and therefore refer to the whole of society. The professions of the 20th century concentrate more on the function of sub-areas of society that deal with changing their personal environment.

Professional models

Classical professional sociology dominated the Anglo-American region until the 1960s and found its way into the German-speaking area in particular with the works of Hansjürgen Daheim and Hans Albrecht Hesse. According to Thomas Kurtz , in addition to the description of the external characteristics of professions (attribute model), five theoretical positions can be distinguished, which assign a different meaning to the process of professionalization.

Attribute model

  1. Scientifically sound special knowledge, special technical terminology,
  2. long-term, theoretically sound training courses at an academic level (state license),
  3. professional standards ( code of ethics ), self-interests limited by law (non-profit),
  4. exclusive authority to act,
  5. Field of activity consists of non-profit functions, tasks of fundamental importance,
  6. Autonomy in exercising the profession (technical and subject authority),
  7. Self-regulation by professional associations, interest representation.

Meanwhile, Hesse lists skills in his catalog of professional criteria that distinguish professions; these skills were acquired on the basis of theoretical knowledge and applied (in the interests of the common good) to the affairs of “other” people. Further characteristics of professions include the existence of a code of ethics as well as the organization in professional associations, which go hand in hand with a certain (self-) obligation to professional rules of conduct.

Knowledge-based approaches

Knowledge-based approaches, including those from Daheim and Kairat, offer another way of differentiating. They reduce to the knowledge base of professions, since they do not see moral and professional ethical components as a clear criterion for differentiating between occupations and professions. William Baer differentiates between scientific, professional and everyday knowledge as components of the knowledge base of professions. Winfried Hacker also emphasizes the importance of knowledge: “Top performers” as opposed to the average professional do not necessarily have more, but rather practice-oriented and, above all, holistically organized knowledge. You act in an interdisciplinary manner and draw on knowledge from related fields. You fall back on routine knowledge without limiting yourself to it.

The professional criteria approach is criticized with regard to the lack of selection and structural principles for the clear definition of professions. The listing of features in attribute models does not reveal how professions ultimately emerge.

Structural functionalist perspective

According to Talcott Parsons, professions consist and arise from an activity-specific value consensus, thus in the solution of certain problems, the pursuit of which is highly valued by society. Another premise for profession is for Parsons the risk of failure in this activity. He sees further similarities in the structural equality of the profession:

Symbolic-interaction-theoretical perspective

Working on people is a central characteristic of a profession from the interactionist point of view. Only the interaction with the client gradually defines the specific field of activity of the expert. Expert and layperson or client come from different worlds of meaning, the distance between which must be overcome in the discussion with one another and in subsequent or interim supervision.

Power theory approach

In this approach, the professions were given permission by society to encroach on certain areas of the privacy of their members. Since society is dependent on the achievements of the professions (healing, speaking justice ...), the relevant professional groups are granted special privileges. In addition to client-oriented skills, maintaining the privileges granted to them plays an important role in the professions. To this end, they also exercise control over their respective market.

Due to their exclusive body of knowledge, it was possible for representatives of professions to pursue successful efforts to professionalize their markets. The professions are made professional through social negotiation processes. Government support made it possible for representatives of the professions to transform their academic expertise into their specific capital. In this way, professions managed to get a direct route of converting their knowledge into capital. The special thing about the 'power approach' is the concentration on the accumulation of the power of the professions and their maintenance.

Structure theoretical approach

Ulrich Oevermann sees the profession as the “mediation between theory and practice with a view to solving the clients 'manifest problems.” The professional actor uses a representative interpretation to link his generalized rule-based knowledge and hermeneutic case understanding with the structural problems of his clients' everyday life. Oevermann accuses other professional theories of having a theoretical deficit, which lies in the fact that they are structurally unable to explain how the professional activities, whose task it is to overcome crises, work.

Systems theory perspective

According to Luhmann, professions develop in such functional systems in which people are to be changed with regard to the values ​​applicable in the functional system. The functional differentiation is the linchpin of professionalized functional systems, as a result of which dualisms (healthy / sick, true / untrue) develop. Unlike other systems, professionalized functional systems have no communication or success medium such as B. in the economy money, in politics power, in science truth and in the family love. Therefore, the positive side of dualism in professionalized functional systems, such as the health system, legal system, educational system or religious system must be professionally developed. People should be changed on the positive side. A sick person should be made healthy. An unbeliever should become a believer. Professional practice always carries the risk of failure because there is no defined action plan.

Compared to other approaches, the systems-theoretical point of view differs in terms of the intention pursued with the exercise of a profession. The primary goal of gaining knowledge or knowledge, increasing social appreciation or prestige, acquiring trust, power or a dedicated solution to a social problem is not pursued.

Newer models

In recent times, professional models have emerged that also do justice to the social and structural developments of (post-) industrial society. This makes it possible for other professions with a legitimate professional claim (such as social work ) to describe themselves as such. The more recent models concentrate on point 1 and point 3 of the "indication- theoretical model", ie on the scientific obligation to justify and the professional code. Examples of this are, on the one hand, the model of reflective professionalism according to Dewe / Otto and the value and scientific theory model according to Obrecht .

The professionalization of women's domains and the consideration of female-related requirements in job evaluation are considered a strategy for overcoming the division between the sectors for men and women.

In the modern media society, however, other professions have also emerged, such as that of the professional athlete , whose career depends significantly on the media impact. Using the example of developments in German basketball , Harald Fischer showed that the transitions are fluid, as the professional career is relatively short and the chances of success are relatively low. Whether this is a real professionalization process can be disputed according to the classical theories, since for most of the sport is an opportunity to gain income , but only for a very few is an opportunity to receive care .

Risks of professionalization strategies

The strategy of achieving a higher (professional) status by professionalising previously non-professional or semi-professional domains or by increasing access to attractive professions, however, has its limits. It can lead to a decline in wages and salaries due to the loss of the exclusivity of an apprenticeship or degree. Risks exist, for example, when universities pursue professionalization strategies for reasons of competition. Purely supply-side professionalization strategies of the universities can lead to worsening of the job market chances of non-academics (e.g. when substituting industrial clerks with bachelors in business administration or travel agency clerks with tourism managers). Are known, at least in relation to the UK, also problems of migrants who try to compensate for barriers to labor market access by an extended study what their individual labor market risks but often increased ( Überakademisierung , Eng. Over Education ).

See also


  • Michael B. Buchholz: Psychotherapy as a Profession. Psychosozial-Verlag, Giessen 1999.
  • Arno Combe, Werner Helsper (Hrsg.): Pedagogical professionalism: investigations into the type of pedagogical action. Frankfurt am Main 1996.
  • Dennis Faust: The Professionalization of Political Careers: An Empirical Study of Members 14-16 German Bundestag. VDM Verlag, Saarbrücken 2007, ISBN 978-3-8364-5198-7 .
  • Christine Freitag , Claudia Solzbacher: Paths to maturity - challenges of educational professionalization. Rasch, Osnabrück 1999, ISBN 3-932147-67-7 .
  • Ulfried Geuter: The professionalization of German psychology under National Socialism. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1984. (Paperback edition: 1988, ISBN 3-518-28301-4 ).
  • Doris Lemmermöhle, Dirk Jahreis (Ed.): Professionalization of teacher training. Perspectives and approaches in international contexts. (= The German School. 7. Supplement). Weinheim 2003.
  • Harald A. Mieg: Professionalization. In: F. Rauner (Hrsg.): Handbuch Berufsbildungsforschung. Bertelsmann, Bielefeld 2005, pp. 342-349.
  • Harald A. Mieg, Michaela Pfadenhauer (ed.): Professional performance - Professional performance: positions of professional sociology. UVK, Constance 2003.
  • Oevermann, Ulrich: Structural problems of supervisory practice. An objective hermeneutic sequence analysis to check the professionalization theory. Humanities Online, Frankfurt / M. 2010, ISBN 978-3-934157-21-7 .
  • Renate Osterchrist: Professionalization in the field of human resources. A qualitative study of learning and change processes as part of the training to become a systemic consultant. Diploma thesis in psychology at the University of Mannheim, 1996.
  • Michaela Pfadenhauer: Professionalism. A knowledge-sociological reconstruction of institutionalized competence representation competence. Opladen 2005.
  • Esther Ruiz Ben: Professionalization of Computer Science: Opportunity for the Participation of Women. German University Press, Wiesbaden 2005.

Web links

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

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Rudolf Stichweh: Professions in a functionally differentiated society. In: Arno Combe, Werner Helsper (Hrsg.): Pedagogical professionalism. Investigations on the type of pedagogical action. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt 1996, ISBN 3-518-28830-X , pp. 49-69.
  2. ^ Hans Albrecht Hesse: Professions in Transition. A contribution to the problem of professionalization. Enke, Stuttgart 1968.
  3. ^ Thomas Kurtz: The professional form of society. Velbrück, Weilerswist 2005, ISBN 3-934730-91-4 , p. 36.
  4. a b Michaela Pfadenhauer: Professions . Springer Fachmedien, Wiesbaden 2003, ISBN 978-3-8100-3700-8 , 2.1 The professional criteria approach - reduction to the knowledge base of professions, p. 238 .
  5. ^ Fritz Böhle, G. Günter Voss, Günther Wachtler (eds.): Handbuch Arbeitsoziologie. VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden 2010, ISBN 978-3-531-15432-9 .
  6. ^ Hansjürgen Daheim: On the status of professional sociology. Reconstruction of power theoretical models of the profession. In: Bernd Dewe, Wilfried Ferchhoff, Frank-Olaf Radtke (eds.): Education as a profession. On the logic of professional action in educational fields. Leske + Budrich, Opladen 1992, ISBN 3-8100-0840-0 , pp. 21-35.
  7. Barbara Stiegler: Gender in Relationships. Food for thought for working in gender mainstreaming processes . Ed .: Economic and socio-political research and advisory center of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung. 2004, ISBN 3-89892-211-1 , pp. 22 ( online [PDF; 225 kB ; accessed on June 6, 2008]).
  8. Arnd Krüger : Cui bono? On the effect of sports journalism. In: Arnd Krüger, Swantje Scharenberg (ed.): How the media prepare sport - selected aspects of sport journalism. Tischler, Berlin 1993, pp. 24-65.
  9. Harald Fischer: Sport and business. Professionalization in sport. Bartels & Wernitz, Berlin 1986, ISBN 3-87039-077-8 .
  10. Harminder Battu, Peter J. Sloane: Over Education and Ethnic majorities in Britain. IZA Discussion Paper no.650 . Bonn 2002. (online: , pdf, English).