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What Is a Semiprofession?

By Maggie Worth
Updated May 16, 2024
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Jobs that fall within the category of "profession" typically include attorneys, teachers, doctors, accountants and similar occupations. A semiprofession is a job that is very similar to one considered to be a profession, but generally requires less education or experience. It also usually involves less responsibility than the full profession to which it is related and will likely have a lower pay rate.

Many professions have one or more associated semiprofessions. For example, in law, an attorney would generally be considered a professional, and a paralegal would be considered a semiprofessional. Likewise, a dentist would be considered a professional, whereas a dental hygienist would likely be considered a semiprofessional.

The term "semiprofession" has become controversial in some areas, particularly when applied to teaching and medicine. In teaching, a certified teacher would be considered a professional, whereas assistants and other specialists are often classified as semiprofessionals. In many places, the term "paraprofessional," or "parapro," has evolved to describe those who hold a semiprofession within the educational arena. This term, however, does not apply to higher education, wherein professors are still considered professionals, and teaching assistants and lecturers are generally considered to be semiprofessionals.

The lines between profession and semiprofession are often quite blurred within the medical community. Doctors, pharmacists and veterinarians are generally classified as full professionals. Assistants, however, including physician's assistants, are considered by some to be full professionals and by others to be semiprofessionals. Nursing is generally accepted to be a full profession in most of the US and Europe, but is still considered a semiprofession in some parts of the world.

A semiprofession generally requires fewer years of education than a full profession. For example, an accountant or actuary may require both an advanced degree and a national certification. An accounting assistant, on the other hand, may only require a two-year degree, or even a training course, and probably will not need to be certified.

Several additional factors are generally accepted as differentiating a semiprofession from a full profession. During training, full professionals often spend considerably more time studying theoretical aspects of their fields, whereas semiprofessional training usually focuses almost exclusively on practical aspects of the field. A semiprofessional will probably have more general and less specialized knowledge and skill within the field.

The income and authority levels are usually higher in a full profession than in a semiprofession. Full professionals may be accorded more respect within the industry. Semiprofessionals, on the other hand, tend to be more closely managed.

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Discussion Comments
By whiteplane — On Jul 16, 2011

Semi professional workers often get exploited, performing duties that are normally assigned to people with advanced degrees or qualifications but receiving none of the pay or benefits. It is essentially a sanctioned under class. There are people who toil in semi pro jobs for their entire careers perfectly capable of performing jobs above their own but getting denied promotions because of arbitrary deficiencies. I hope that in the future we can get organized and put and end to this exploitative system.

By summing — On Jul 16, 2011

I think the rise of semi professional workers can be best seen in the healthcare industry. Even though I do not work in health care this shift has become apparent to even an outsider.

I remember when I was younger there was a clear line between nurse and doctor and there wasn't much shift on either side. But it seems like now a number of jobs that doctors used to perform have been shifted to nurses, and technicians. Look at the catalog for any nursing school and you will see how many different kinds of nurses there are and how vital and complicated many of their duties are.

I don't have any feelings about whether this is positive or negative. It can see it both ways and I'm sure doctors and nurses have strong opinions.

By jonrss — On Jul 15, 2011

I work in a library and we have dealt with a number of issues related to semi professionals for years. About 25 years ago there was a push to have para professionals take over many of the duties assigned to professional librarians. These included cataloging, reference services, program planning and in some cases even management. It is now common for a librarian to employ as many paraprofessionals as professionals (those who have earned a masters of library science)

The effects have been both positive and negative. On the one hand the use of less educated staff allows libraries to pay them less and dedicate this budget item to other things. But on the negative there are now far fewer jobs for professional librarians as many of their duties have been "deprofessionalized". A lot of people get their MLS and then find themselves working for pennies and getting little recognition.

The situation is pretty controversial in the library world. A lot of people defend the use of para professionals and just as many others call for an end to the practice. The trend shows no sign of letting up. Who knows what will happen in the future.

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