Both professional work and the sociological study of professional work experienced a “golden age” in the mid-20th century. When dramatic changes began to shake the professions in the 1970s and 1980s, however, old approaches no longer fit, and the research area became quiescent. Yet interest in professional work simply “went underground,” surfacing under other names in a variety of sociological and interdisciplinary fields. In the process, researchers’ focus expanded to include a broader range of “expert” or “knowledge-based” occupations as well as traditional professions. This essay brings these disparate research streams together and shows that they cohere around four central themes: expert knowledge, autonomy, a normative orientation grounded in community, and high status, income, and other rewards.
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