The Attributes of a Profession
There are five attributes that are generally associated with all recognized
professions, whether they be accounting, engineering, law, medicine and so forth.
- A Unique Body of Knowledge
- Standards of Entry
- A Code of Ethics
- A Service Orientation to the Profession, and
- A Sanctioning Organization
I am indebted to my good friend and PMI colleague, Dr. John Adams, for the
following elaboration of these attributes. It is taken from the text of a presentation
which he made to the 1987 National Conference of the Project Management Forum,
in Adelaide, South Australia, last March.
A Unique Body of Knowledge
This first attribute implies the existence of principles and concepts that
are unique to the profession and are codified and documented so that they can
be studied and learned through formal education. In most professions, the body
of knowledge is taught in graduate or professional schools; for example, the
specialized body of knowledge for the legal profession is taught in law schools.
A degree does not necessarily qualify an individual to practice in the profession,
but it does provide a means of assuring that the individual has at least been
exposed to the basic principles on which the profession is based. Every profession
has at least one degree that can be earned by those wishing a knowledge of the
profession's principles. Many professions have several different degrees, allowing
for specialized fields within the profession.
Standards of Entry
Defined minimum standards for entry into the profession imply progression in
a career; entry standards define the place from which a career path begins. All
professions must have an accepted route open to the public by which a person
can become a recognized member of the profession. Law, engineering, accounting,
medicine, teaching, all have entry standards. These standards typically involve
formal education leading to an academic degree; several years of experience,
as in an apprenticeship program or as a beginner in the profession; test score
requirements, which may or may not be legally enforceable; or some combination
of the three.
Code of Ethics
Ethical standards, or a code of ethics, are common to most professions. Their
purpose is to make explicit what is considered to be appropriate behavior and
to provide a basis for self-policing unethical behavior, thus avoiding or limiting
the necessity for legal controls on the profession.
Service Orientation to the Profession
The Service orientation actually reflects an attitude of the members of the
profession, an attitude by which members are committed to bettering the profession
itself. Professionals will commit their time, money, and energy to attending
conventions, publishing their ideas and experiences, and generally contributing
to the body of knowledge and the administration of the profession. A professional's
commitment to the profession is frequently stronger than to the employer. In
many cases professionals will leave their employing organization rather than
violate the profession's standards of ethics or practice.
A Sanctioning Organization
The authenticating body or sanctioning organization has many purpose. It sets
standards and acts as a self-policing agency. It promotes publications and the
exchange of ideas, encourages research, develops and administers certification
programs, and sponsors and accredits education programs. Through public information
and recognition of professionals, such organizations provide a voice for their
profession. In a word, the purpose of the authenticating body is to administer
Developing a structure to support a project management profession has proven
to be a major undertaking requiring the long term commitment of the Project Management
Institute and a large number of its senior members. The task is not one that
can be accomplished in a single planned effort and then be terminated as in completing
a project. Rather it is an ongoing set of interlocking programs, each of which
must be continually revised, adjusted and updated as the field of project management
evolves in the face of changing technologies and environmental opportunities.
The field is extremely dynamic. Programs designed to aid and guide its development
must be continuing and dynamic in themselves or be quickly outmoded and left
behind. Time does not permit me to elaborate on all of these, but PMI has established
ground work in each of these five areas.