On The Job: Are Networkers Technicians or Professionals? Page 4

Deb Shinder

Should IT workers strive to become "professionals?"

There are certainly benefits to being considered a member of a profession. More clearly defined roles, better guidelines on how the job should be done, and higher status are a few of them.

On the other hand, there are also drawbacks associated with the professional model. Increased civil liability is one - a "professional" is held to high standards, and it seems that in today's litigious society, members of the professions are high profile targets - professional liability insurance (such as the medical malpractice insurance physicians must maintain) is a huge expense that has become an absolute necessity.

Government regulation, another characteristic of most professions, is also a worrisome prospect in a business where freedom to innovate has been the driving force since its inception. Although mandatory licensing of IT professionals might raise the quality of work, and provide for a certain amount of job security for those who are licensed, do we really want the government to dictate who can or can't hang out a shingle and pursue the modern American (and world-wide) dream of making it big in the computer industry? Should a talented young networking whiz be required to obtain a computer science degree before he can practice his craft/trade/profession or whatever the heck IT is?

Will the "professionalization" of the IT industry hurt or help us as individuals? Will it truly benefit the industry itself? These are questions we need to ask, as IT work struggles out of its infancy into an uneasy adolescence. The answers are not easy or clear-cut.

It may be that the traditional professional model will never be a comfortable fit. As with so many other things, technology may re-define the professional model.

This article was originally published on Sep 30, 2000

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