Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Sociology

Accreditation of Sociology Programs: A Bridge to a Broader Audience

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Sociology

Accreditation of Sociology Programs: A Bridge to a Broader Audience

Article excerpt

Abstract: As more individuals trained in sociology find jobs outside academia, the demands for appropriate training, particularly at the undergraduate and master's level, have increased. Sociology must become visible and pertinent to a broader audience beyond academia. This paper begins with definitions from the sociology of professions and then explores the problems facing sociology: its nebulous nature, its interests in professional jurisdictions, and the employability of sociologists outside academia in the United States. Accreditation is proposed as a foundation for credentialing and one method of improving the quality of applied and clinical sociological training.

Resume: Alors que de plus en plus de diplomes en sociologie trouvent un emploi en dehors de l'universite, le besoin d'une instruction convenable, particulierement au niveau licence et maitrise, a augmente. La sociologie doit se manifester pertinemment a un public plus vaste au dela du monde universitaire. Cet article commence par definir la sociologie des professions puis explore les problemes que confronte la sociologie: sa nature obscure, son interet marque pour les juridictions professionnelles, et les debouches des sociologues en dehors de l'universite. Une reconnaissance officielle est presentee comme la base de toute certification et comme moyen d'ameliorer la qualite de l'instruction sociologique clinique et appliquee.

The future of sociology may well rest on its ability to build bridges to different audiences in academia, government, and the private employment sector. Building bridges involves bringing some congruence to the value orientations and priorities of sociological scholars and practitioners. Sociology appears to lack an agreed-upon central core of knowledge and consensus on how to apply that knowledge to the service of society. As more sociologists find employment outside colleges and universities they apparently dissolve their ties with the discipline and, by implication, their identities as sociologists. Whether, how, and where to train people who will become practitioner-clinicians has emerged as an issue for disciplinary debate. In the United States, controversy centers on the need for and role of credentialing.

This paper presents a case for accreditation within the context of the sociological literature on occupations and professions. Distinctions are made between the three structural components of profession, discipline, and practice as well as the three credentialing procedures of certification, accreditation, and licensure. The literature on recent trends in sociology is reviewed as background for exploring two more general issues: the training of technicians and practitioners, and the accreditation processes in other disciplines. Accreditation of undergraduate and master's programs in applied and clinical sociology is then proposed as one way of meeting the challenge to both strengthen sociology and broaden its audience.

Sociology and the Sociology of Professions

Sociology has always had one foot in the real world. The early sociological theorists -- Marx, Durkheim, Weber, Simmel and Mannheim -- studied the relevant social problems of their day. Their theoretical constructs were the byproducts of their research interests, not a search for grand theory (Horowitz, 1993). And several prominent U.S. sociologists of the last half of the 20th century, including Lazarsfeld, Lipset, Blau, Duncan, Kanter, and Coleman, have done likewise. These individuals are boundary spanners between teacher researchers or colleague dependent-professionals and practitioners or client-dependent professionals (see Freidson, 1970: 75; 1986: 211-212). Freidson (1986: 82) maintained that the division between academics and practitioners in the professions is hierarchical in nature and one around which there has been a good deal of tension and resentment throughout history, at least in law, medicine, and engineering. …

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