Is Public Administration a Profession?

Michael Davis


Public administrators are often said not to constitute a profession for one or more of at least ten reasons, for example, that they are not independent consultants but employees (and therefore lack “professional autonomy”). Yet, many public administrators seem to believe they belong to a profession. This paper argues that they are probably right. Doubts about the professional status of public administration seem to rely on one or another sociological definition having little to recommend it outside sociology. With a better definition, public administration looks very much like a profession. The question remaining is whether public administrators want their occupation to be a profession—and who they want to include in that profession.

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Public Administration Research  ISSN 1927-517X  (Print)  ISSN 1927-5188  (Online)  Email:

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