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J M (Mike) Nelson
Phone: 612-810-0157


We use the terms profession and professional in many different contexts in our daily speech, ranging in meaning from primary occupation, or occupational aspiration (e.g. I'm a professional wrangler, but for now I work at a car wash.), to the highest level of occupational requisites (e.g. Dr. Mozek is a licensed brain surgeon.). In ordinary language, the term is rather vague; however, more formally, profession refers to a paid occupation that involves extensive training terminating in some form of certification. Training and certification implies specialized knowledge, and specialized knowledge implies scholarly inquiry for the advancement of knowledge in the profession. The profession might also require some form of licensure. Hence, one might derive several characteristics of a profession not usually considered in ordinary conversation.

Professional Organization. Except for the isolated, self-proclaimed professional, profession implies that some aggregate of common practitioners have organized in order to further the objectives of members of the profession. Indeed, it is through the organization of such professionals that requisite knowledge, practitioner certification and related inquiry are validated. It might also be through the professional organization that governments develop criteria for practitioner licensure.

Requisite Knowledge. High on the list of assessing credentials would be the knowledge required for membership or certification, and this knowledge must relate to every aspect of professional practice. Anything less would be suspect. Though the professional organization might prescribe requisite knowledge, many aspects of such requisites are readily assessed by persons outside the profession. Indeed, public respect for the prescribed requisite knowledge is a primary measure of the integrity of the profession.

Certification. Though any entity might issue certificates, their value is determined by the integrity of the issuer. Therefore, for any certified professional, the first step in assessing their credentials would be to examine the credibility of the entity issuing the certificate. Certification, discipline, and practice are the primary criteria for assessing the integrity of the profession.

Scope of Inquiry. Requisite knowledge must come from sources recognized as authoritative by the profession. Clearly many of these sources would be related professions, such as communication and computation professions; however, the use of language, media, mathematics, and related intellectual and physical tools are determined by the profession itself, not by outsiders, who are not privy to professional intricacies. In addition, there is the implication that the profession holds considerable knowledge and skills that are unique, for it is just such knowledge and skills, or at least claims of same, that set the practitioners apart. Therefore, there must be some component within the profession that engages in inquiry regarding professional knowledge and practice; furthermore, such inquiry implies some mechanism for validating and disseminating the results of professional inquiry. Traditionally, such validation and dissemination is done through professional journals, independent of outside influence, and whose content is validated by peer review. This component is critical to any profession, for members of the profession should be those best prepared to initiate inquiry and evaluate findings.

Licensure. Many professions are deemed sufficiently important to public welfare as to require licensure from local, state, or federal agencies. Whether the result of public demands or political power within the profession, licensure typically adds legitimacy to professional certification.

When anyone purports to be a professional, one might legitimately ask about their professional organization, its certification requirements, its professional journal, and the results of the latest research in their field; otherwise, one might be dealing with a faith-based organization, a pseudo-profession that depends on tradition and lack of public understanding to maintain their standing, progress of related professions and associated knowledge advancement notwithstanding. Having a profession in the ordinary sense does not necessarily make someone a professional.

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