The Coming of the Proto-Professions - A Third Stage of Professionalization?
School of Social Sciences University of Växjö Växjö, Växjö
Today a new category of occupations seek to attain status as professions. After the classical professions came the semi-professions. The occupations seeking professional status in this third wave can be defined as ?proto-professions?.
Two forces are driving this process:
(a) The ambitions of specific occupational categories to attain professional status, demanding societal recognition of their training and competence. The Police force is a typical case. In some countries policemen are already being trained at Polytechnics or University Colleges. We also find an ambition to develop ?police science? as a cognitive underpinning of the professionalizing ambition. The same link between occupation, university training, and the establishment of a specific scientific field can be found in other ?proto-professions?. This linkage is modelled on the classical professions and more directly on the semi-professions. Occupations within the fields of Leisure and Sports, in Human Resource Management, Health promotion, information and PR, as well a real estate agents fall in the category of ?proto-professions?.
(b) A second impulse comes from the institutions of higher education, esp. the University colleges (cf. the Community colleges and State Universities in the US). They seek to expand their student enrolment by creating new study programmes with a fitting, if only imagined, occupational destination. In Sweden University Colleges and new Universities embark on this route by defining themselves as a ?Profession University? (Växjö, Malmö and Borås, with Oslo University College as a model)
This paper develops Wilensky?s argument in ?The Professionalization of everyone?? (1964) in relation to the proto-professions. The empirical analysis is based on data on all relevant vocationally oriented study programmes (more than 260) in Swedish Universities and Universisty Colleges in 2008.
The argument is that ?proto-professionalization? links the strategy of some occupational groups to achieve professional status with the growth of vocational programmes developing in university settings. If the proto-professions are to reach professional status it seems necessary for them to link their ambitions to the emergence of (new) scientific fields, related to the training and the practice of the profession-seeking occupation.