Man, Work, and Society: A Reader in the Sociology of Occupations

By Sigmund Nosow; William H. Form | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IX
CAREER PATTERNS

The dynamics of technological and economic change account for much current job mobility. Many studies indicate that there is an increasing amount of movement from one job to another at the same occupational level and an increasing amount of mobility from one occupational level to another. For purposes of convenience, change of job at the same occupational level is referred to as horizontal mobility, while a job move resulting in discernible change in prestige, income, power, or other rewards is referred to as vertical mobility. Both horizontal and vertical occupational mobility are usually patterned. This orderly movement from one job to another may be referred to as a career pattern. Wilensky feels that career should refer primarily to the vertical mobility of white-collar workers, but sociologically the career refers to any pattern of occupational change (vertical and/or horizontal) of any occupational group.

Several basic types of career patterns are readily recognizable. In some occupations a career pattern represents orderly movement from one occupational level to another. For example, in academia, professors usually move up the ladder from instructor to assistant, to associate, and finally to full professor. A second pattern is one among unskilled workers, which entails movement from one job to another, with jobs having no apparent relationship with one another. A third type involves a series of job moves which are not closely related but which do form a coherent pattern. Thus a worker in a particular industry may move from a semiskilled to a skilled job, then to foreman, and perhaps later will return to skilled work in the latter part of his career. Still a fourth pattern is found wherein occupations themselves change over a period of time. Thus a semiprofessional or clerical job such as bookkeeping may be upgraded over time to become accountancy, the entire occupational group changing with time. In other cases, occupations become internally differentiated, making a whole new series of occupations.

Particular aspects of career patterns commonly studied are: recruit-

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