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Professionalisation and professional identities of environmental experts: the case of Switzerland

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This article examines professional identities of environmental experts. Do the professional identities of environmental experts mainly depend on affiliation to a particular professional specialisation (higher education, specialised occupation)? Or do they rather depend on individual work experience and expertise? To answer these questions, the article presents data from a re-analysis of a survey with Swiss environmental professionals (N = 406). Two approaches are discussed: a sociological one, comparing occupational groups of different grades of professionalisation; and a psychological one, comparing professionals with different grades of expertise. In the study presented, professional identity is operationalised according to Hausser (1995. Identitatspsychologie. Berlin: Springer), consisting of three components: self-concept, self-esteem and control beliefs. In general, both professionalisation and expertise show an influence on professional identities. Differences in professionalisation among environmental experts, however, exert a greater influence on professional identities than individual work experience or expertise. Discussion focuses on the consequences for an integrated environmental profession.

Keywords: Environmental experts; Switzerland; environmental profession; professional identity; professionalisation; sustainability

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Institute for Environmental Decisions, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, Switzerland

Publication date: January 1, 2008


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