Occupational closure

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In sociology, an occupational closure (or professional demarcation) is the process whereby a trade or occupation transforms itself into a true profession by closing off entry to the profession to all but those suitably qualified. This can be achieved by licensure, through barring entry to all except those who have passed certain entrance examinations and grades of training, or by allowing entry only to those who have gained membership of a specific professional body.

What this means in practical terms, is that an architect or physician, for example, will firstly be a university graduate in their main subject, second, will have passed entrance examinations to join a recognised professional body and thirdly, will also be licensed to practise medicine or architecture, usually also obtained through sitting examinations. Therefore, such professions are open only to those who satisfy these requirements and are closed to everyone else. It is thus illegal for any other person to practice medicine or to pose as an architect.

The origin of this process is said to have been with guilds during the Middle Ages, when 'professionals' fought for exclusive rights to practice their trades as journeymen, and to engage unpaid apprentices.

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