In this paper the authors reflect on their experiences of being academic developers and suggest how our profession might advance in the future. Our inquiry focuses on academic development and how we can support our clients more effectively. We propose that the profession of academic development should aim for academic status with many more research-active staff contributing to its knowledge base. If this profession were located within the already recognized research field of higher education, we believe a number of potential benefits could accrue. These include a new level of professional standing, greater efficiency in our universities and a more substantial academic development community. Our thoughts and arguments on the nature of our work are framed within a discussion of professional identity, knowledge and academic freedom.