Is real estate a trade or a profession?

Lessons from one industry to another
  • Real estate and journalism struggle with a similar trade vs. profession debate.
  • If journalism's professional body were more willing to enforce its ethical code, the industry as a whole would be better off.
  • Real estate can learn from journalism by cultivating skills that can't be replaced by technology and by enhancing transparency.

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When my Journalism 101 professor first raised the "trade vs. profession" question, I was surprised by the very existence of the debate. He explained that trades and professions used to be defined according to whether one was manual labor and the other required a college degree -- blue-collar vs. white-collar; essentially a class divide -- but in recent years, the lines have blurred. It's no longer as easy to define a trade vs. a profession according to class. So he asked us whether we thought we were training for a trade or a for a profession. After all, he reminded us, one does not need a degree to be a journalist. There are laws regulating libel and individual privacy, and journalists are expected to comply with those, but there is no professional standards organization, no state or federal licensing, no real job requirements at all except, presumably, the ability to tell a story and convince an editor (and your readers) that you're good at it. This has become increa...