The United States economy, over the course of the twentieth century, has taken on a highly professional cast. By 1988, professional, technical, and kindred workers made up 20 percent or more of the labor force in industries ranging from health care and education, to high tech manufacturing and business services, to government and entertainment. In terms of international competitiveness, income per worker, and technical advance, this group of professionalized industries forms perhaps the most successful sector of the U.S. economy.
This article provides an overview of the professionalization of the U.S. economy in the years since 1950. It looks at pace and timing of the professionalization process, paying special attention to recent changes, and examines its industrial source and demographic structure.