Occupations and Careers
Occupations and Careers
Occupations may be defined as relatively continuous patterns of activities that provide workers a livelihood and define their general social status. Occupations emerge whenever division of labor is associated with a monetary economy and labor and commodity markets. Functional specializations within the family, tribe, and other units that are mediated primarily by ascribed relationships are not generally regarded as occupations. For example, the peasant, wife, slave, serf, shaman, and chief in isolated and economically self-sufficient localities are status rather than occupational designations.
The distinction between occupations and sta tuses is difficult to make in concrete situations. Within a given society the same functional specializations may be performed by people who have different status and market relationships; for ex ample, wives, slaves, and artisans may all manufacture cloth, part or all of which may be either used at home or sold in the market place. Therefore, occupations should be conceived as constructs against which particular situations may be com pared.
Status and occupational societies . Occupations existed in ancient cities, medieval towns, and estate societies. However, only a minority of the adult population in those societies participated in labor and community markets. In contemporary urban and industrial societies the great majority of adults at one time or another hold occupations which tend to be distinct from their other social statuses. Such societies usually have attained a high level of technological development, a highly differentiated division of labor, a highly developed exchange economy based on cash, and relatively free labor markets. These characteristics describe occupational societies.
Societies where the social status of the person determines his work are called status societies. Castes and estates represent functional specializations in status societies.
Medieval guilds and occupational corporations in early industrial societies also tended to be dominated by the status principle. Even in contemporary industrial societies some occupations, especially some professions, have estatelike attributes. For example, military, religious, legal, and medical bureaucracies tend to regulate the total life of both the worker and his family. For the dominant segment of the labor force, however, the occupational role tends to be differentiated from other statuses; it is freely contracted and subject to market conditions. In occupational societies the child, the unemployed, sick, aged, or retired person, and the fulltime housewife do not hold occupations. The general social position of each tends to be defined either by his past occupation or by that of the head of the family.
The historical shift in the West from status to occupational societies was largely the result of persistent application of scientific knowledge to production and other economic organization. The persistent pattern of change in the technology of production was accompanied by equally persistent changes in the social organization of production, distribution, and related economic activities. Since occupational routines are related to given technological processes and to given work organization, changes in the organization of either had consequences for the structuring not only of occupations themselves but also for related activities of workers and their organizations. All societies have some degree of functional interdependence; hence, basic changes in any one of their institutions produce change in other parts of the society. Thus, the growth of scientific knowledge, the changes in technology and work organization, the growth of markets, the rise of industrial and commercial centers, and other societal changes affected the composition of the occupational structure and the behavior of workers both within and outside the plant (Polanyi 1944).
Occupations in societies with relatively low levels of technological differentiation tend to be characterized by stable relationships, both at work and in the broader community. Thus, crafts, professions, and trades of earlier days were lifetime commitments, and they regulated work behavior, relations with colleagues, and life in the community. In highly differentiated occupational societies these stabilities are weakened. The mechanization and specialization of operations are so extensive that they render many occupational titles meaningless; make many occupations obsolete; reduce attachments to occupations; and make occupational retraining necessary. Moreover, temporary, intermittent, and multiple jobholding tends to grow, as do unemployment and residential mobility. Social mobility is also accelerated as the income, prestige, and social power of occupations change. New occupational associations arise to deal with these disturbing influences. When they are incapable of solving their problems, the community and state intercede.
The occupational structure may be thought of as a series of more or less permanently related occupational families that are hierarchically arranged according to complexity of skills. Typical classifications used today include professional, technical, managerial, clerical, sales, skilled, semiskilled, and unskilled. These, in turn, may be endlessly subdivided into particular occupations. The industrial structure, on the other hand, represents broad economic activities or areas, such as agriculture, manufacturing, transportation, communication, government, trade, and services of various kinds.
Comparison of occupational structures
Since there is no universally accepted taxonomy of occupations and industries, a comparison of different societies is hazardous. However, whenever there is rational, systematic, and instrumental application of scientific knowledge to the production and distribution of goods and services, occupational structures arise that have distinctive features at different stages of economic development (Kerr et al. 1960, pp. 33-46). This close relationship between occupational composition and industrial structure has been generally found in countries experiencing an industrial revolution. In short, a characteristic division of labor seems to be associated with the extent of industrialization.
Yet there are difficulties in analyzing the occupational structures of societies in different periods and in comparing different societies. Difficulties stem from several unresolved problems: disagreement on definitions of specific occupations, lack of consensus on the bases for classifying occupations, and differences in social policies regarding the occupational structures. In simple economic systems it is relatively easy to demarcate various types of product and labor markets. With increasing division of labor and trade, market boundaries become blurred. Questions therefore originate concerning which geographic unit is most useful for studying the occupational structure. Since nations collect the most extensive occupational data, comparisons can be made only between national economic systems, which may not represent the most useful unit of analysis. Additional difficulties are encountered not only because national systems of occupational titles and classifications do not agree but also because they are changed continuously. Occupational classifications are made to fit administrative needs, and scant attention is paid to criteria for identifying and classifying occupational families.
Several attempts have been made to arrive at a rational classification that would receive universal acceptance. The most widely adopted has been that of Alba M. Edwards (U.S. Bureau of the Census 1943). He ranked occupational families according to their education and income to arrive at a socioeconomic classification. This classification was used by the Census Bureau in 1940 and was subsequently adopted by various countries, including Canada, the Federal Republic of Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Sweden, and Panama.
Prestige rating of occupations
Sociologists have also attempted to classify occupations according to their general standing or prestige. Unfortunately, most of their research has used students as subjects or adults who did not accurately represent the total working population. A carefully drawn scale was prepared in 1947 by Cecil C. North and Paul K. Hatt (see Reiss et al. 1961, pp. 54-57). They asked a quota sample of the adult population of the United States to evaluate 90 occupations. Reiss (Reiss et al. 1961) and others carefully examined the representativeness of occupations used in the scale, as well as its statistical attributes. They found that although the scale was unevenly representative of various occupations in the labor force, it was sensitive to socioeconomic gradations among the occupations. They concluded that neither the occupations in the scale nor the general occupational structure constitutes a single ordinal scale.
Undoubtedly, different segments of the population valued the income and education associated with various occupations differently and, therefore, ranked certain occupations differently. This dissensus probably reflected the amorphous and dynamic social class system of the United States. Despite the disagreements, however, there was general consensus on the prestige ranking of occupations, even though different criteria may have been invoked in the ranking. Otis Dudley Duncan and Albert J. Reiss, Jr. (see Reiss et al. 1961) prepared an index of socioeconomic status for the 425 occupations in the detailed classification used by the U.S. Census Bureau and transformed the indexes into comparable North-Hatt prestige-scale scores. This operation has increased the utility of both scales in research.
Cross-cultural comparisons. A comparison of the prestige ratings of various occupations in different industrial societies reveals a general consistency of results (Inkeles & Rossi 1956). However, there are disagreements over the interpretation of the findings. Functional theorists have suggested that occupations vary in their importance to a society and that the more important ones tend to be scarce because they require more skill and preparation (Davis 1948, pp. 368-369). Therefore, people in these occupations tend to be accorded more prestige, income, and social influence. Acceptance of this theory in whole or in part has led some scholars to compare changes in occupational structures of various countries and to interpret occupational mobility according to local functional requirements (Lipset & Bendix 1959).
A detailed comparison of occupational prestige and other rewards in different countries reveals certain inconsistencies that challenge functional theory. Each society tends to assume that its occupational structure represents a hierarchy of skills socially legitimized by appropriate economic, prestige, and other rewards. This position has been attacked on theoretical grounds (Tumin 1953) and still awaits satisfactory empirical validation. Nevertheless, one may safely conclude that the occupational structure is not a uniformly graded ordinal scale representing a single, functional, economic, prestige, or influence hierarchy. The lack of hierarchical convergences arises from interacting and sometimes contradictory technological and social forces concerned with allocating occupations and their associated reward systems. Changes in occupational rankings reflect not only occupational fashions but also changes in the stratification position of various interest groups in the community. Highly diversified societies probably exhibit greater internal segmentation, less agreement on the objective and subjective criteria for ranking occupations, and more pervasive occupational politics.
In highly diversified societies the occupational structure does not automatically regulate itself to supply adequate numbers of workers for particular occupations, to meet market demands, or to fulfill specific community needs. Nor does it adjust rewards in accordance with objectively derived criteria. Consequently, various groups try to shape the occupational structure to meet their own interests or those of the state. Such efforts may result from various shortcomings in the occupational structure: failure of educational and other agencies to provide a sufficient number of qualified personnel to particular industries (steel, agriculture, science); failure to meet occupational quotas set by planning authorities during emergencies (war, reconversion, famine); inability to employ labor surpluses arising from technological or market changes (unemployment and underemployment); inability to meet political crises originating from demands to provide equal occupational opportunities for suppressed classes or disadvantaged ethnic groups; inability to overcome the grip of highly organized occupations on the recruitment and training of workers. Attempts to change the occupational structure are designed not only to meet the imperfections in the labor market but also to attack the social problems associated with economic change.
Pressures to change or plan the occupational structure have intensified with the increasing division of labor all over the world as occupational groups or the market fails to respond to economic and social changes quickly enough to recruit, train, and place workers. Three social systems are typically involved in occupational planning: the state, its educational institutions, and occupational associations. The state has traditionally operated through the schools to meet its manpower goals. With increasing industrialization, the state increases its pressure on school authorities to meet changing manpower needs. School authorities generally fail to respond quickly enough, because they place higher value on other educational goals and because they are institutionally incapable of resolving all problems of the occupational structure. Consequently the state sometimes bypasses the school system by establishing independent agencies to train or retrain workers, providing placement services, and subsidizing certain industries to train workers.
Occupational associations also attempt to regulate the school system (sometimes in conflict with the government) in order to control entry, training, placement, and retraining of workers. Since occupational groups sometimes have a monopoly of skills and knowledge, they are in a position to influence control over educational and governmental programs. Where unsuccessful, they tend to establish independent training and placement agencies.
Whoever controls manpower planning—school, government, or occupational associations—the results of their activities are similar everywhere. Training requirements are being increased; the retraining of adult workers is increasing; the scope of concern for the worker is being broadened to include his leisure, politics, mental health, and community participation; and the concern for the worker’s welfare is being extended into retirement.
An analysis of both industrialization and modernization of economies reveals a pattern of change in the demographic, industrial, and occupational composition of labor forces. The persistent application of scientific knowledge to improve production and work organization has required that workers be more highly educated and thus has delayed their entry into the labor market. The spread of universalistic norms in hiring practices has increased the proportion of women, both single and married, in the paid labor force and has extended their stay in it. Although their early entry is typically restricted to marginal occupations or occupations similar to their preindustrial roles, the general movement has been to equalize opportunities and to provide equal income and status benefits. With increasing urbanization the age of workers in the labor force rises, and retirement age is lowered.
When industrialization begins, the proportion of workers employed in manufacturing and urban services rises, and the proportion in agriculture declines, not only because factory workers are recruited from rural areas but because the mechanization of agriculture permits workers to be released. Eventually manufacturing may employ more workers than any other economic sector. Then, as manufacturing becomes more efficient, it needs relatively fewer workers to produce and more workers to service the economy in transportation, communication, trade, clerical, financial, governmental, professional, and related areas. In mature industrial economies these “service industries” eventually employ the majority of urban workers (Woytinsky & Woytinsky 1953, pp. 117, 425).
Evolution of occupational structures
Changes in the occupational structure accompany the changes that come with industrialization. The proportion of farmers decreases, as does the proportion of unskilled workers in manufacturing and the services. During the process of mechanization the percentage of semiskilled manual workers grows rapidly, while that of skilled workers rises slowly. After this pattern reaches a peak, the proportion of office workers and salesclerks multiplies dramatically, as does that of professional, technical, managerial, and administrative personnel. The percentage of service workers at all levels of skill also increases sharply. The expansion of the white-collar sector results from many forces, the most important of which is the need for more highly trained workers to handle the problems of an increasingly complex and interdependent economy.
These industrial and occupational changes accelerate the geographic mobility of workers, increase the rates of job change within and among industries, and quicken the mixture of socially and culturally heterogeneous populations in the work world. Such dynamics reflect not only a broadening and diversification of product and service markets in response to ubiquitous changes in consumption styles but also the growth in size and complexity of economic and social organizations.
Undoubtedly one of the major causes of change in the occupational structure is the relentless division of labor, which, on the one hand, lowers skill levels by accelerating specialization and, on the other, demands more technically qualified specialists not only in production but in the necessary supporting services of research, planning, personnel development, market analysis, and industrial relations. The very concept “division of labor” may be misleading because it implies a process of continuous job simplification, whereas, in fact, the diversification of labor occurs at all skill levels and often calls for higher skills.
Since the patterns of occupational changes in the industrial countries of the West have been strikingly similar, one might conclude that all industrializing nations would undergo similar evolutionary patterns. They do not, for three important reasons. First, the technology and industrial organization that is exported from economically developed countries to less industrialized countries is highly advanced; thus, receiving nations have no need to recapitulate the industrial changes of the exporting countries. Second, the organizational structure necessary for industrialism is also exported; thus, the independent evolution of such a structure is not required. This structure includes the necessary governmental apparatus for industrialism, such as employment services, educational systems, social security agencies, collective bargaining laws, regulatory agencies, and other paraphernalia of industrial society, such as occupational associations, learned societies, and administrative and professional services. Third, the demographic, social, and cultural milieus of newly industrializing nations differ; consequently, unique adaptations and inventions must occur in every society (Kerr et al. 1960).
Focusing only on the evolution of occupational structures masks the changes that occur in specific occupations. Many occupations are altered or eliminated, and new ones arise in response to both technological innovations and reorganizations of work systems. Continuous organizational and technological revolutions force changes both in occupational reward systems and in social relations in and out of work, which are contingent on occupational status (Hughes 1958, pp. 11-22). Traditionally, both technological and organizational innovations have been aimed at manual workers, often damaging their economic and social welfare. More recently, automation and rationalization of work organization have been applied at higher occupational levels, affecting successively skilled workers, office personnel, technical and professional personnel, and most recently, the managers and administrators themselves.
Inconsistencies. Since innovations have not been uniformly and consistently applied across the occupational structure, ambiguities and inconsistencies have been created in the reward and relational systems within both work organizations and organizations tangent to them. In the United States an income hierarchy still roughly parallels the prestige hierarchy of broad occupational families, even after age and income are controlled (Miller 1955, pp. 50-55). Ranking from high to low are professionals, managers, clerks, craftsmen, operatives, service workers, and laborers. Income differentials among these categories may have narrowed in the past twenty-five years. Nevertheless, important inconsistencies exist between the prestige and income of occupational families in the United States. The median annual income of salaried managers is higher than that of salaried professionals; the income of craftsmen is higher than that of clerical and sales personnel; and women operatives receive incomes equal to or higher than those of female proprietors and salesclerks.
When comparisons by sex are made, the anomalies are even greater. For example, female professionals, managers, proprietors, and white-collar workers all receive median annual incomes lower than the median for all semiskilled workers. Inconsistencies between the prestige and income levels of specific occupations are exacerbated when their social power is considered. Thus, occupations with strong unions generally have higher incomes and status than weakly organized occupations.
By comparing studies in various countries, Davies (1952) showed that incumbents of different occupations tend to agree on the prestige ranking of broad occupational families. Yet recent evidence suggests that such consensus declines when the traditional alignment of income and influence with occupations is upset. Such imbalances typically appear in communities undergoing industrial and occupational changes. Traditional stratification arrangements based upon local ownership of industry are undermined by the invasion of absentee or governmentally owned industries, which have altered not only the local occupational structure but also its wage and prestige markets. Moreover, as organized labor succeeds in raising the relative incomes of manual workers, these occupations become more powerful politically than many white-collar occupations.
Resistance to change
Alterations in traditional occupational stratification systems, whatever their origin, are resisted by occupational groups, first by informal means and later by formal collective bargaining. In its early stages, collective action tends to be protectionist; when successful, it aggressively seeks advantages over competing occupational groups. In large bureaucratic settings, formal bargaining is initiated by manual workers, while informal bargaining is practiced by white-collar and technical workers. As technological and organizational innovations are introduced in higher echelons, even professional and managerial employees begin to formalize the collective bargaining process.
Where free labor markets exist, collective bargaining institutions of different occupational groups grow at an uneven pace. However, persistent unresolved conflicts among occupational associations everywhere lead to restrictive legislation and direct governmental involvement in settling disputes and planning industrial-relations policies. Some governments grant certain occupational associations quasi-legal powers to resolve disputes; some may prohibit formal collective bargaining altogether, assuming direct administration of the occupational reward systems.
Occupational mobility may be discussed by examining both the mobility of the occupations themselves and individual movement from one occupation to another. Mobility may involve changes in locus, function, income, prestige, power, independence, or other occupational attributes. Most studies have focused on prestige changes, assuming incorrectly that other attributes change in the same degree and direction.
Although both occupations and individuals may exhibit mobility, there has been relatively little systematic research of the former. The downward mobility of barbers has accompanied the rising status of the physician. The upward mobility of nurses has been accomplished by the sloughing off of dirty work to new occupations lower in the medical hierarchy (Hughes 1958, pp. 42-55). Obviously occupations differ in capacity to determine either their rank or their social fate. In highly industrialized societies, occupations that legitimize the social order, have high political power, coordinate other occupations, or require long technical training have the greatest prestige and income and evidence the least downward mobility. Those occupations most exposed to changes in technology and in popular consumption patterns experience the greatest mobility.
While changes in income and power can be directly measured, changes in occupational prestige depend upon alterations in audience evaluations. Research shows that the prestige level of occupations is strikingly resistant to change (Hodge et al. 1964). However, changes in the size of an occupational group, its market demand, independence, and financial rewards affect how it is evaluated. Thus, sales and office clerks have lost prestige as millions have entered these occupations, and atomic physicists have gained social honor because of their short supply. Small businessmen have lost status with the growth of corporate management, and some professions have lost prestige as they have lost their independence and become bureaucratized. Conversely, the social standing of managers of big businesses and large governmental agencies has increased relative to that of proprietors of small business.
Studies of individual career mobility
Vertical occupational mobility increases in a dynamic economy. It may be measured in the space of the individual’s work life or over a period of two or more generations. Research on occupational mobility within the life span reveals that the majority of workers do not experience orderly and regular upward occupational movement. Most occupational mobility takes place within the first ten years of work life, and the worker generally finds his regular niche at this time.
Mobility studies have been made both for broad occupational categories and for specific occupations. Research results for broad categories are consistent in societies with free labor markets. Miller and Form (1951, pp. 541-765) have described patterns of occupational mobility for those in the labor force ten or more years. Professionals exhibit the most orderly patterns, for they begin their work life on the professional level. Proprietors and managers generally move in a rapid and orderly way to their positions, achieving long tenure on the job. Skilled manual and clerical workers change jobs relatively frequently in the first part of their work lives but exhibit great stability later on. Domestic and personal service workers and semiskilled and unskilled workers change jobs during their entire work life and rarely find security or stability; they do not have careers in the traditional sense.
Studies have also been made of mobility patterns within broad occupational families. For example, Reiss (1955) found that various types of professionals (established, new, semiprofessional, wouldbe, and marginal) have different patterns of mobility. The degree of instability, risk, and dependency increases as one moves from the established to the marginal professions, reflecting differences not only in their market and organizational conditions but also in their social origins.
Studies of intergenerational mobility
Some studies have pointed to the importance of the stratification position of the family for setting the occupational mobility patterns of the children. Children of manual workers usually neglect job planning at school, where they receive less and poorer vocational guidance than do children of white-collar workers; upon leaving school, they take any work offered them and move haphazardly from one job to another. By comparison, children of white-collar workers are more likely to plan their careers, receive better guidance in school, and exploit the informal occupational contacts that their families and friends have. In short, they live in a different opportunity structure.
The study of intergenerational mobility focuses directly on the extent to which children inherit the occupational level of their parents. In an open opportunity structure, assuming equality in ability and aspiration, the incumbents of all occupational levels should have fathers who represent the entire occupational structure.
In the United States the traditional ideology of an open class system has emphasized upward occupational mobility. The availability of free land and expanding industry allegedly guaranteed ample opportunity to all. The great depression called this ideology into question, however, and scholars began to measure the amount of occupational mobility that actually was occurring. Davidson and Anderson (1937) surveyed San Jose, California, and found that one-half to two-thirds of the workers at any given occupational level had fathers whose occupations were at the same or adjacent levels. That occupational inheritance was the rule rather than the exception was then demonstrated in a spate of studies of business elites, rural elites, people listed in Who’s Who, millionaires, and finally a national sample. The conclusion drawn from these studies was that mobility was decreasing and class lines were hardening.
Although the methodological crudeness of these studies casts shadows on the validity of some of their findings, subsequent research generally supported the conclusion that a completely open occupational structure does not exist. However, there is disagreement about the degree to which it is closed. Many studies of communities in the United States, as well as three national cross-sectional surveys, have documented that from one-half to twothirds of adult males are in the occupational levels of their fathers or in the immediately adjacent levels (Jackson & Crockett 1964). These studies also show that most mobility occurs within the manual-work sector and within the white-collar sectors, and relatively little occurs between the sectors.
Studies in western European countries, Australia, Japan, and the Soviet Union confirm these findings. Although these studies do not agree on whether or not vertical occupational mobility is increasing, they do suggest that economic prosperity and depression are at least partially responsible for changing rates of vertical occupational movement.
Early studies did not take into account the rising prestige level of the entire occupational structure as increasing proportions of workers moved into the white-collar, professional, and managerial occupations. Rogoff and Goldhamer devised a formula that takes into account changes in the occupational structure, while measuring individual mobility (Rogoff 1953). Applying this formula, Rogoff found no changes in the degree of vertical occupational movement in Indianapolis from 1912 to 1941. A comparable study for Rome, Italy, extending over almost the same period, provided almost identical results (Lehner 1954). Using the same formula, Warner and Abegglen (1955) found that an increasing proportion of the nation’s big business leaders were being recruited from lower occupational strata.
Comparisons of mobility rates
There has long been speculation on the amount of occupational mobility in different countries. Lipset and Bendix (1959) compared results of studies of the occupational origins of representative populations of the United States, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Japan. Although the methodologies of these studies were not precisely comparable, they permitted comparisons of occupational origins of farmers, manual workers, and white-collar workers. The data do not support the conclusion that occupational mobility rates of the United States are characteristically higher than those of industrial European countries. All countries showed high mobility of farmers’ sons into urban manual jobs and of sons of urban manual workers into white-collar occupations. Most of this mobility was in response to changes in the occupational structure. Probably the major differences in mobility rates of industrializing nations reflect differences in the degree and pace of industrialization.
Nations that are at the same level of economic development and are industrializing at the same pace tend to exhibit similar rates of vertical occupational mobility. However, the pace and level of industrialization do not bear a unitary relationship to the degree of closure of an occupational structure. Two nations with similar patterns of industrialization may differ in their degree of vertical mobility, because recruitment into any level may be from adjacent levels or from all occupational levels. Even where there is no structural mobility, the degree of generational occupational circulation may be high or low.
Jackson and Crockett (1964) measured the degree of occupational mobility in the United States as revealed in three national surveys for 1947, 1952, and 1957. Using three categories (farmer, manual, and nonmanual), they found that in all three periods almost half the sons had moved out of parental occupational levels. They concluded that about one-quarter of the movement was due to structural causes and one-fifth to other causes. Not enough differences were found among the three periods to establish a secular trend.
Evaluation of research findings
Conclusions from mobility studies must be tentatively held. The crude occupational categories that are used mask much of the mobility that actually occurs. Moreover, that all movement from skilled manual to white-collar jobs represents upward mobility in all stratification dimensions is questionable. Yasuda’s Japanese studies (1964) suggest that a more accurate method of studying intergenerational mobility is to compare the subject’s first job with that of his father, to pay special heed to the mobility of the first son where primogeniture is practiced, and so on. Moreover, the significance of the mobility must be determined by ascertaining whether relative changes in income and prestige in fact accompany occupational changes. It is even possible for nonmovement to represent mobility when the occupation itself is mobile.
Mobility may be examined either as a function of the occupational structure or in terms of individual careers. Three major types of definitions of “career” are found. The first emphasizes notable achievement in any occupation; the second, any pattern of occupational change; and the third, a succession of related occupations that are hierarchically arranged and through which a worker rises in an ordered sequence. The last definition most closely corresponds to the historic use of the word.
As a construct, a career is the opposite of random job mobility. Careers imply a long, if not a lifetime, commitment to moving upward through a series of related occupations and statuses according to a schedule. They are, therefore, associated with situations in which occupational mobility is considered the norm. Typically, a career involves not only systematic education for the initial occupation but also systematic occupational experience in which each occupation is considered as technical and social preparation for the succeeding ones. The cursus honorum in ancient, medieval, and later societies arose when the expertise needed to maintain certain private and public services could not be satisfied by isolated occupations. The very existence of careers implies the existence of occupational associations to regulate training and to supervise mobility. These associations stabilize not only the occupational order but also society itself.
Societal influence on individual careers precedes entry into the labor market and persists into the retirement period. Family socialization influences work values, occupational aspirations, amount of formal education received, the type of first employment, and later employment opportunities. Socialization continues on the job and affects future life chances and job mobility.
In traditional societies or in societies at early stages of industrialization, career sequences are more or less institutionalized from one generation to the next. Some instances survive in modern society. In these instances strong occupational associations assure the orderly recruitment, training, and movement of incumbents through a series of statuses.
Seen historically, the ability of different occupational groups to define and control careers varies enormously. The ability of the colleagueship to build full, firm, and lasting commitments varies according to its degree of control over the forces affecting the occupation. Career instabilities have been greatest in those occupations with the lowest skill and educational requirements, the most exposure to technological changes, and the weakest organizations.
Careers in industrial societies
In contemporary industrial society only a minority of the work force participates in careers. Yet the career remains a powerful ideal in the life plans of both individuals and occupational groups. Perhaps as a survival from status societies, some professions retain career characteristics (for example, law, military, clergy, medicine, and perhaps education). However, careers are possible for others, such as clerks in governmental bureaucracies, managers in largescale industries, and skilled workers and technicians in growing enterprises.
The very question of the nature and stability of careers in industrial society is the organizing framework for research on the subject. Wilensky (1960) has demonstrated that career opportunities are greater in work organizations that have more supervisory levels, a higher ratio of managers to workers, and a more rapid rate of growth. He also demonstrated (1961) that workers with orderly careers are more socially integrated not only in their occupations but in the broader community; compared to those who experience random job movement, they participate more in all forms of social organization, both formal and informal, in and out of work. Moreover, their nonwork and leisure activities are more closely integrated with their occupational life.
Industrialization and the growth of large-scale work organizations have had enormous but contradictory effects on careers. While the number of possible careers increases with the growth of bureaucracies, the instabilities introduced by technological and organizational changes impede orderly escalations in income and social honor. The growing complexities of the industrial order demand longer periods of educational preparation and more retraining during the career. The growing number of echelons and bureaucratic reorganizations creates more career stages but also more interruptions in orderly ascent. Increasing technical specializations make many careers less visible, thus shrinking their status audiences and enticements to recruitment. The dissatisfactions arising from unanticipated and often unwanted changes and the lack of status satisfaction lead to the abandonment or switching of careers. If these conditions are aggravated, careers may cease to exist.
Development of protective associations. Just as insecurities among manual workers stimulated the formation of labor associations, so insecurities among career-oriented white-collar workers have stimulated the formation of protective associations. The routinization of office work has prompted many white-collar workers to join unions, and the bureaucratization of professions has also stimulated the growth of protective associations. The so-called professionalization movement in many occupations represents in fact an attempt to reduce risks in planning careers. In seeking to specify educational requirements, conditions of work, payment, promotions, and benefits, “professional” associations seek to commit their members to the occupation, thereby decreasing their mobility and creating orderly careers. Success here varies according to types of work structures and their economic characteristics. Heretofore, it has been assumed that the managers responsible for introducing changes in large-scale industrial, political, military, religious, educational, and welfare bureaucracies would be able to secure their own careers. However, the introduction of operations research and the computer to solve problems of management has threatened even managerial careers. It is now problematic whether any occupation has its destinies in its own hands.
William H. Form
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"Occupations and Careers." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 15, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/occupations-and-careers
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