Public Administration as a Professional Practice

  • Md Nazirul Islam SarkerEmail author
Living reference work entry



Professionalism is one of the core values of public administration. In considering its essence and prestigious nature with vision and stewardship of public funds and information, it becomes a profession. There are three essential items to be a profession like knowledge, skill, and license. The public administrator possesses knowledge and skill but still lacks a license. The administrator cannot practice openly like another profession, for example, doctor, engineer, lawyer, etc.


The meaning of profession varies from sector to sector. It means an indicator of trust as well as expertise. It also means a group of people who possess a special kind of knowledge and skills in an extensively accepted body of knowledge derived from education, research, and training with recognition or license from a professional institution or recognized organization.

A profession is a group of people who are disciplined and adhere to ethical standards. This group is possessing special knowledge and skills in a widely accepted body of learning derived from research, education, and training at a high level and is recognized by the public as such. A profession is also established to apply this knowledge and exercise these skills in the interest of others (Evetts 2011).

A professional is an individual of a profession. Professionals are followed by codes of ethics and profess obligation to competence, honesty and morality, selflessness, and the promotion of public goods and services within their expert domain. Professionals are accountable to those served and to society (Cruess et al. 2004). Professionalism means the person has beliefs about the individual’s own manner as a professional. It’s often connected to the keeping of the principles, laws, and ethics of a profession as a mean of practice. Professionalization is the process of becoming a profession (Farazmand 2012). Greenwood (1957) reported that a profession should have few elements like an established body of knowledge, authority and credibility, certain regulation and control, code of ethics and a culture of values, norms, and symbols. On the other hand, Jones (2012) emphasized singular assumptions not more than that. He argues that the main feature which differentiates it from other occupations is the position of legitimate control over work. Farazmand (2012) emphasized that public administration still suffers and will continue to suffer from a deficit of status and respect within and outside the university.

Professional Practices of Public Administration

The professional practice of public administration is related to the activities of the executive, the legislature, or the judiciary. Many thinkers seem it is only related to the executive. But some others argue that public administration practices as the activities of organization and management financed from the taxpayer’s money.


Accountability is the acknowledgment and assumption of responsibility for decisions, actions, products, and policies including the public, administration, governance, and implementation within the scope of the role or employment position with an obligation to report, explain, and interpret for output. In governance, accountability has expanded beyond the basic definition of being called to account for one’s actions (Mulgan 2000). The accountability of public administration also means the government, civil servants, and politicians are accountable to the public and to legislative bodies such as a congress or a parliament.

In developed countries, the level of accountability practices is very high, and the parliament is strong and capable to punish anybody who is not accountable. Hughes (2003) argues that every government needs an accountability system, so that it acts in such ways which are largely approved by the community. For being democratic it is a key component for a society. So, the public administration is created by the public, for the public, and need to be accountable to the public.


The public administrator should be responsible for regulatory commitment with due diligence. It should have a set of clearly defined and publicly available operating procedures. The practice of transparency is highly adapted to developed countries, but it is very rarely effective in developing countries. Though developed countries have corruption, developing countries’ corruption is worse than developed countries. Huque (1996) argues that public administration itself is liable to corruption since officials exercise a substantial amount of power. They are providing undue benefit to the people by interpreting or bending rules in favor of certain groups or individuals. A strong safeguard or transparency is necessary for deterring and dealing with corruption within administrative agencies. It has to develop ways and means to prevent and detect corruption in other sections of society. There is a possibility to loss the benefit of rapid economic growth or a stable political order due to a growing tide of corruption.

Coordination of Works

The coordination of works among different departments is the key practice of a good administration. The result of any work will not be achieved properly due to less or no coordination among different stakeholders. It should be engaged and consulted with key stakeholders in the development of policy and strategy.

Implementing Legislation

The legislation should be implemented in such a way that interprets it to facilitate changing public protection needs. It is widely practiced in developed countries but rarely used in developing countries. World Bank and the International Monetary Fund sometimes emphasize the structural adjustment of the administrative systems of developing countries which helps to develop a professional administrative system. Financial assistance from the international organization can help developing countries to comply with all related issues of governments to make the administrative system as a professional organization (Haynes 1996).


The advocacy of public administration is an activity to influence the decisions of political, economic, and social systems and institutions for the betterment of the public. It will promote professional issues for protection of the public. It is widely practiced in developed countries but rarely used in developing countries. Public administration should have a stronger advocacy role to earn public and private resources to maintain research and technical assistance which will develop administrators as professional (Rosenbaum 2014).


The public administrator should be consistent with related disciplines. It also maintains guidance, codes, standards, and expectation of the public. For getting a fruitful public administration, responsiveness is necessary.

Competence and Conduct

The administrator should have the competence to do their assigned job properly. The public administrator should be maintaining a standard of performance. The administrators of developed countries are competent enough and conduct their jobs according to the policy taken by the government. On the contrary, the administrators of developing countries are not competent and negligent to their duties.

Professional Bodies of License and Registration

The license is a mandatory item to be a profession. There is no professional body to give the license. In some cases there are some association of public administrators for discussing various issues and public affairs. Milakovich and Gordon (2007) reported that professional associations encourage lifelong learning of public administrators by training courses through offering annual training courses which allow administrators to work cooperatively with each other, to learn research results, and to apply them in their respective professional settings. Professional associations often offer other services to individual organizational members. These may include publications, technical assistance, brief notes, newsletters, updates rules and regulations, and other useful information to practitioners (Klingner 2000). Mexico is an example of professional practices of public administration where a well-developed network is available with national public administration centers and professional associations which are supported by government funding. Professional associations outside the United States can support these activities by showcasing Mexican public administration in their conferences, programs, and journals. But in developing countries, it is not available.

Ethics and Bureaucratic Behavior

The ethics and bureaucratic behavior are essential professional characteristics to maintain the hierarchy and achieve organizational goals. Hughes (2003) argues that some problems occur in developed countries, particularly where bureaucracies having technical experts. A tradition of the bureaucracy is being quite firmly compliant to the political leadership using various sources of information, as well as formal and informal rules to ensure ethical behavior. The bureaucracy is superior to the rest of society in developing countries. The principles of examination led to a closed bureaucracy open only to elites, formally educated, often in the West, but operating at a remove from their society of origin (Hughes 2003).

Law Implementation

The law implementation procedure is not the same in developed and developing countries. The rule of law is commonly practiced in developed countries. But it is very rare in developing countries. The law implementation is based on the desire of political leader in most developing countries. The recruited official administrator is not able to exercise law due to political interruption (Garrison 2000).

Professional Autonomy

There are some professional organizations available in developed countries. But these organizations are not like doctors’ association, engineers’ association, and bar association. So, these organizations can’t certify any administrators (Evetts 2011). As a result, we can’t compare the public administrator as a profession.

Professional Service Status

The professional service status of the public administrator is not the same as other professional. Though, professionalism is one of the major values of public administrators but not like another profession who are paid. They are providing service to the public but can’t claim money from them for delivering service. It is almost the same in developed and developing countries (Bellò and Spano 2015).

Nonprofessional Occupation

There are so many public administrators who comes from non-public administration academic background but working as a public administrator. Some of them are a good administrator and some are not a good administrator. So, there is no demarcation in the recruitment system that differentiates professionals from nonprofessionals. The nonprofessional administrator is common in both developed and developing countries.


It is the main fact that developing countries followed the traditional model of public administration during the colonial period and after independence. It is mentionable that most of the developing countries were under British colony. The main feature of the administration in developing countries is strict hierarchy norms and staff recruitment for lifetime career with good salary. On the contrary, the public administration practices in developed countries are more accountable, more transparent, corruption-free, and more interacted with a professional association. They are more devoted to their duties as a perfect professional. The reality is that public administration practices are very different in developed and developing countries. There are three essential items to be a profession like knowledge, skill, and license. Knowledge and skill are possessed by almost every public administrator which still lacks license irrespective of countries. The public administration is very much different from another profession like doctor, engineer, and lawyer. But the public administrator sees themselves a professional. It is good for a country. There are lacking some other criteria like professional autonomy, professional service status, license and registration, distinctive scientific theory, bounded-specific curriculum, specification of selecting administrator, membership of professional bodies, nonprofessional occupation, etc. irrespective of developed and developing countries.



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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Public AdministrationSichuan UniversityChengduPeople’s Republic of China